As one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe, Vilnius’ seat of learning opened in 1579 and has since been extended to incorporate just about every architectural style, from Baroque to Neo-Classical.
Built around a series of arcaded courtyards, the university also holds Lithuania’s oldest public library as well many suites of ornately frescoed and vaulted apartments. Like many other public buildings in the Baltic, the university has suffered or thrived according to the regime in power at any given time. Initially run by Jesuits, it was transferred to secular power in 1773 but closed in the late 19th century on the orders of Tsar Nicholas I.
The university reopened in 1919 just before Lithuania was annexed by Poland, who ran the university until World War II, when it was administered by the Nazis and subsequently by the Soviet Union. Today it has been safely back in local hands since 1990, when Communism finally collapsed.
Famous students at Vilnius University include the Polish Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz and Nobel prizewinner Czeslaw Milosz. Today there are 15,000 students procuring 5,000 degrees annually and contributing to the buzzing social life so evident on the city’s streets.
Vilnius University is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Admission for tours costs 5LTL.