Many travellers visiting Vilnius are surprised it is not very…. Soviet! Being a part of Soviet Union for almost half a century make people think there should be more grey buildings everywhere. However Vilnius Old Town was well preserved and the city centre is changing very fast. If you do not step out of tourist areas you might never believe Vilnius was actually a part of USSR. We invite you to explore not only famous tourist attractions in Vilnius Old Town, but also some fascinating late Soviet-era architecture buildings close by. We selected top 5 Soviet buildings you should see in Vilnius during your stay.
- Vilnius Palace of Concerts & Sports
- National Opera & Ballet theatre
- Palace of Weddings
- Office Building of the Cooperative Union of Lithuania in Vilnius
- Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania
Vilnius Palace of Concerts & Sports
Built in Brutalist style in 1971, this is probably one of the most impressive Soviet buildings that you can find in Vilnius. The roof in a shape of a wave attracts your attention already from some viewpoints in Vilnius. The building was included into cultural heritage list in 2006.
Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports was mainly used for sporting events and concerts. However it has some political importance as well. On the eve of independence of Lithuania, the palace was used by Lithuanian reform movement, and later, the funeral of victims of January 1991 events were held here. Since 2004 the building stands abandoned waiting for the decisions to be made about its future.
Before the Soviet building was erected, there was an old Jewish cemetery in the same area. Despite resentment from Jewish community, Soviets cleaned the area to use it for sporting events. Today the discussion is back. Jewish community wants to commemorate the site of old Jewish cemetery while others want to renovate the building and us it for events.
Until some decisions are made, you can still take a look at this impressive Soviet building just across the river from Vilnius Old town.
Find Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports on Google maps.
National Opera & Ballet theatre
Built in 1974 in late modernism style, this building was designed for ballet dancers and opera singers to have a modern theatre to perform in. Lots of glass was used in the exterior and “a crown” was put on the top. Unfortunately today you can just see a big screen with ads on one side of that “crown”. But you can still enjoy decorative chandeliers that catch the eye even from the outside.
On the façade of the main entrance you can find ten sculptures of famous characters from operas or ballets. If you are the fan of operas or ballets, check the list here, you might find some beloved characters (from left to right):
- King Philip II from opera “DON CARLOS” by Giuseppe Verdi
- Odette from ballet “SWAN LAKE” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- Eugene Onegin from opera „Eugene Onegin“ by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- Boris Godunov from opera „Boris Godunov“ by Modest Mussorgsky
- Violetta from opera “La Traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi
- Margiris from opera “Pilėnai” by Vytautas Klova
- Aida from opera “Aida” by Giuseppe Verdi
- Méphistophélès from opera „Faust“ by Charles Gounod
- Egle from ballet „Egle, the queen of grass snakes (serpents)“ by Mikas Petrauskas
- Otello from opera “Otello” by Giuseppe Verdi
Today the building still operates as Opera & ballet theatre. If there are any performances during your stay in Vilnius, use the opportunity to check out the interior. Also, it is a must to try the legendary hot chocolate during the break. Check for timetables here
Find National Opera & Ballet Theatre on Google Maps.
Vilnius Palace of Weddings
Completed in 1974 to register marriages in Vilnius, it is still used as a registry office today. The building was supposed to replace churches that were previously used for marriages thanks to atheist attitude of Soviet authorities.
It is a unique building designed by Lithuanians architects in Brutalist style. The purpose of the building was well shown on the architecture of it. The most famous part is probably the staircase that leads couple to the new beginning. All the guests congratulate the newlyweds going down the staircase.
If you like weddings, check out this building on Friday or Saturday. Those days are the most popular to register the marriages. Especially during the summer time when the weather is good.
Find Vilnius Palace of Weddings on Google maps
Office Building of the Cooperative Union of Lithuania in Vilnius
Designed in 1978, this building represents late modernism in Vilnius. It was built as an office building for the cooperative union of Lithuania.
The architect incorporated the building into the surroundings very well. The height of the building is hidden from the main street thanks to terraces and can be seen only from a few points. More interesting is probably the interior which almost did not change since Soviet period. Not that easy to get inside though. Today it is used by public institutions.
The intersection where this building stands, is interesting in general as it four corner building were all building during different periods – from Russian empire period, to Polish rule, Stalinist era & late modernism.
Find office building of cooperative union of Lithuania on Google maps
Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania
Built from 1976 to 1980, this complex of buildings was designated for authorities. Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania was signed inside one of the halls of this building. Today it is the place where Lithuanian laws are issued.
Around the building you can find little memorial signs showing you where anti–tank barricades were placed in January 1991 to protect Lithuania’s independence from Soviet paratroopers and tanks. Also, a memorial was made to show actual barricades on the left side of the main building.
It is possible to arrange a tour in Parliament building for free to learn more about the Parliament and Independence of Lithuania. However you have to book the tour at least two weeks in advance. Click here for more information.
Find Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania on Google Maps
If you want not only to see those buildings, but learn more about them and hear some stories from life under communist rule and recent history of Lithuania, you are very welcome to join our Soviet Vilnius walking tour.
You can glance at most of those buildings mainly from the outside. However once a year a festival is organize to see also the interiors of a lot of interesting building in Vilnius. It is called Open House. In 2020, the festival will take place on 11-12th of July. If you happen to be in Vilnius, you can join tours to see the interiors of those Soviet-era building and even more. The tours are usually in Lithuanian, but you can ask locals to translate it to you More about Open House