I have been visiting Lithuania for eight years and have spent many happy hours wandering around Vilnius (and particularly the “old town”) taking in the sites such as the Castle, Green Bridge, Gates of Dawn, Genocide Museum, Vilnius University and the glorious river Neris which flows through the city.
And of course one cannot ignore the glorious white cathedral of Vilniaus Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo arkikatedra bazilika which acts as a focal point for the city. Next to the cathedral is the clock tower which has been closed to the public since I made my first visit in 2006. However, recently and after much internal restoration the tower is now open to the public.
It is useful to know some of the historical background to the cathedral and tower. The square where the cathedral and the clock tower sits was earlier the area of the lower castle. The area was surrounded by a 1km long wall with four gates. The clock tower is the only remaining part of this fortification. One can clearly see that the lower part of the tower has traces of a defensive building.
It was presumably built during the 13th century. As it lost its defensive role during the 16th century, it got three octagonal floors and was transformed to a clock tower. The hight is 52m. The clock itself is regarded as a master-piece of perfection. It was constructed in the 17th century and still shows the time perfectly – it hasn’t been adjusted for decades, except for the summer and winter times nowadays used in the whole of EU.
My colleague and I decided we would go to the top of the building, not realising that unlike the university bell tower which has a lift, that this is all on foot up stairways which are sometimes very steep and narrow. It is not recommended for those with vertigo or aggrophobia. Although there are just over 140 steps to walk to the top it is quite physically demanding and totally unsuitable for anyone with a disability.
The bells are a sight to behold and at the top of the tower is the old mechanism that controls the clock in the tower.
Views across thew city are good (if not as spectacular as the University Bell Tower) and the staff open the windows and slide the safety meche to one side so that it is possible to take photographs (tourist attractions in the UK take note and stop the health and safety nonsense at many attractions) of views across the rooftops. At one vantage point it is possible to see the top of the cathedral, the castle and the three crosses which is quite stunning.
Entrance to the tower costs about £4.00 (with concessions for students and older people) and the two young ladies who were on the reception were extremely helpful with the history of the tower and both speaking excellent English. There are a few souvenirs to buy but nothing trashy.
If you are visiting Vilnius then do take the opportunity to visit both the cathedral and the clock tower and then retire to the cafe across from the square called a “Taste of Lithuania” which sells cakes, light meals and freshly squeezed apple juice that is wonderful.