cinematic streets of vilnius

Photo credits: Armands Virtbulis

Vilnius Film Office invites you to take a walk along the snowy streets of the Lithuanian capital. Did you know that cinemagoers all over the world have seen many of these streets and alleys on the big screen? Horse-drawn carriages swerve in the winding lanes of the Old Town, faux-protests were staged here, cars from the 80s zoomed around; and even bombs went off. Filmmakers undoubtedly find the picturesque streets of Vilnius very camera-friendly.

Bernardinų and Šiltadaržio streets

Bernardinų Street is one of the oldest ones in Vilnius; it connects the Lower Castle with the Bernardinų Gate of the city’s defensive wall. The street is lined with Baroque and Classicist houses and courtyards reminiscent of the 17th-18th century styles. The famous painter Mstislavas Dobužinskis once resided in one of the buildings.

Right next to it there is Šiltadaržio Street, previously called Malūnų (Mill) Street, as the royal mill that used to stand nearby. A little later, because of the botanical garden of Vilnius University, this street was nicknamed Šiltadaržio (Greenhouse).

During the shooting of the British restorative documentary series "The Royal Gang", various interiors of Vilnius became the homes of the English, German, and Russian royal families, and the series’ creative team chose Bernardinų Street to recreate the historical scenes of various foreign cities.

The film "Agent No. 24" co-produced by Lithuania and Norway, was also shot on Bernardinų Street. Agent No. 24 was the nickname of the Norwegian Gunnar Sønsteby, who led the most successful resistance group in Europe. He put aside his personal life, avoided women, alcohol, and leisure, and dedicated many years of his life to leading resistance to the German Gestapo.

Photo credits: Lukas Šalna
Photo credits: Lukas Šalna
Photo credits: Saulius Žiūra

Universiteto Street

Formerly called Vyskupų (Bishops) Street, today the street is known as Universiteto (University), and it has become the heart of Vilnius’ academic life. It’s architecture has been appreciated by local and foreign filmmakers for more than a decade.

Vilnius University, one of the oldest universities in Central and Eastern Europe, is located on this street. In the last decade it has incarnated various edicifes of the Vatican, Germany, the Russian Empire, Italy and even 19th-century Austria. One could take a glimpse at the university buildings and courtyards in various costume dramas and historical productions: "Sisi", "Hilma", "Rise of the Nazis", "Catherine the Great" and "War and Peace".

The US cable television network HBO worked in Vilnius University as well. The library, the oldest academic library in the Baltic States, has been operating since the 16th century, and its beautiful rooms were briefly turned into the Council Chamber of the Russian Empire for the series "Catherine the Great."

Ancient maps and documents, historical flags, and candlesticks were brought here as props. The famous British actress Helen Mirren, winner of "Oscar" and two Golden Globes, played the story’s protagonist.

Filmmakers also appreciate other sites of the university, such as the Italian Renaissance monument, the former Alumnat, also located on University Street, very close to the University’s central building. The Alumnat, dating back to the 17th century, is the former dormitory of the priests' seminary, where students from various European countries studied. Today, its courtyard is considered one of the most romantic spots in the city. In the series "Sisi" it became the Hofburg stables, and the kiss of the empress and Francis Joseph was shot against the backdrop of Italian arches. Meanwhile, important scenes of baptisms and weddings were filmed in St. John's Church, which beautifully combines elements of Gothic, Baroque, and Classicism.

Photo credits: Armands Virbulis
Photo credits: Armands Virbulis

The Didžioji Street

Didžioji Street, with a Catholic church, three Orthodox churches, and lots of museums, is one of the most prominent streets in Vilnius. Many houses on this street used to be inhabited by the intelligentsia: professors, nobles, or successful businessmen. In 1522, in house No. 19 Pranciškus Skorina printed the first printed book in the territory of LDK. The French writer Stendhal stayed on Didžioji Street when he came to visit Vilnius.

Undoubtedly, one of the most important architectural highlights on the street is the Town Hall. At the end of the 18th century, it was reconstructed for the last time in the neoclassical style by the architect Laurynas Gucevičius, however, the building that previously stood in the same place remembers much older times, from the stories of the magistrate that used to be based here to the former prison or the pillar of shame.

The Town Hall also hosted the first opera productions in Vilnius, and today various events and concerts take place here. US President George W. Bush (2002) and Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (2006) addressed Vilnius residents from the portico of the Town Hall.

The entrances and interior of the building often catch the eye of filmmakers. In the TV series about the legendary Swedish gangster Klark Olofsson, Vilnius Town Hall became the courthouse to which the main character was brought before his imprisonment.

The HBO and Sky TV series "Catherine the Great", depicting the life of the famous Russian empress, was also shot in Town Hall. In the square opposite the building, filmmakers staged a gallows scene, and Catherine the Great gave an inspiring speech on the Town Hall’s steps.

Meanwhile, the corridors, spacious halls, and staircase of the Town Hall appear in the TV series "Hilma", which tells the story of the Swedish artist and mystic, one of the first authors of abstract art in the Western world, as well as the pioneer of feminism, Hilma af Klint (1862-1944). Her mysterious, philosophical, and spiritist paintings still raise many questions.

Photo credits: Saulius Žiūra
Photo credits: Paprika Films

Aušros Vartų and Šv. Kazimiero Streets

These two streets are in fact a continuation of each other and quite often they become one big filming location. In the past, both of these streets connected to the main market square (now the Town Hall). Aušros Vartų (Gate of Dawn) street leads to the only surviving gate of the city’s defensive wall, known as Medininkai. Aušros Vartų Street is alternatively called Aštriavartė or Smailiavartė (Sharp Gate) Street.

Both streets often serve as a picturesque backdrop in both Lithuanian and foreign films and TV series: crime dramas, historical novels and mystical films. The architectural splendor of this part of Vilnius is beautifully revealed in the costume drama "Sisi, very well received in Germany, Italy, Austria, France, Holland, and Hungary. Various scenes for all three seasons of the series, centering on the life of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth, were shot here.

The streets bustled with soldiers, crowds welcoming Sisi and Francis Joseph I and the rising rebellion. Interesting - the horses used for the series needed quite some training to pull four-wheeled carriages before the shooting; the training and rehearsals took up to 8 weeks

Photo credits: Armands Virbulis
Photo credits: Armands Virbulis

Arklių Street and Pasažo Square

Right next Aušros Vartų Street one finds Arklių (Horse) Street and Pasažo Lane. Arklių Street is one of the oldest streets in Vilnius. The remaining Gothic style houses are testimony to its long history, and the name gives away its past function: the street once connected the Town Hall and the horse market. Today it’s home to two theaters, the Youth Theater and the Puppet Theater, as well as a handful of well-known bars.

Arklių Street and the adjacent Pasažo Lane are also very popular with film and TV series crews. Scenes for the aforementioned “Sisi” series were shot here, and these two narrow streets have “payed” the streets of Paris, Vienna and Oslo. In fact, not long ago, just this autumn, Swedish filmmakers came here to shoot their upcoming series "Whiskey on Ice", a political drama set in the tense period with Ronald Reagan and Leonid Brezhnev as the heads of two great world powers. The show tells us about the political crisis that arose at that time, and Pasažo Lane convincingly passes for a street of the Norwegian capital.

Vilniaus street

Vilniaus Street, which once led towards the Vilija (Neries) River, today is well known as the hub of the capital's nightlife. However, plenty of action takes place here during the day as well, especially when scenes for TV series and movies are shot.

Detective lovers have probably watched the “Netflix” series “Young Wallander”, inspired by Henning Mankell's wildly popular novels. Although the action of the story takes place in modern Sweden, the series was made exclusively in Lithuania. The creative team worked in Vilniaus Street as well, it was chosen for a huge protest scene. A lot of placard-carrying, chanting people appeared on the street, and on the other side of the protest barricades was the main character, detective Kurt Wallander.

Photo credits: Vilnius Film Office

Gedimino Avenue

Filmmakers often find various buildings, squares and monuments on Gediminas Avenue quite interesting. For example, Odminių Square played an important role in the Swedish series "Clark". The story is based on the autobiography of one of the most controversial figures in modern Swedish history, the criminal Clark Olofsson. In the series, Odminių Square became Normalmstorg Square, the epicenter of the world-renown bank robbery.

In 2023, the movie "Paradise", screened on “Netflix”, transported the audience to the dystopian city of Vilnius. Background actors speaking Lithuanian, Lithuanian store names and road signs, well-known Vilnius neighborhoods as well as the cities of Klaipėda and Palanga seen from unexpected angles - the film’s atmosphere is definitely unique. The audience is likely to spot a number of electric cars zooming back and forth along Gediminas Avenue. According to the filmmakers, finding so many luxury cars in Lithuania turned out to be quite a challenge! In the end, quite a few vehicles were shipped from abroad.

Photo credits: Audrius Solominas
Photo credits: Audrius Solominas

Kaštonų Street

Lately, this street has undoubtedly been one of the most popular locations in Vilnius among filmmakers, perhaps partly thanks to the impressive buildings of the largest Lithuanian biomedicine library. A famous musician and singer, beloved by many Lithuanians, Vytautas Kernagis, also lived on Kaštonų (Chestnut) street.

"Agent Hamilton", "Young Wallander", "Generation of Evil", "Kompromat" and "Hilma" were just a few films and series shot on this street. This part of Vilnius is also frequently turned into Swedish cities, including Stockholm and Malmö of various periods, as well as post-war Berlin. Most recently, during the shooting of the Lithuanian-Norwegian co-production "Agent number 24", the library building became the Oslo Parliament building, and a bomb exploded right next to it!

Photo credits: Lukas Šalna