Sisi – Austrian Empress Elizabeth coming-of-age historical drama that has gained huge popularity in Germany, Italy, Austria, France, Holland, and Hungary. The film, produced by Story House Pictures GmbH, deals with universal themes – following the life of Empress Elizabeth, it explores matters of love, duty, freedom, and family, as well as the complex choices a woman makes. Don’t be surprised if, while watching the series, you will see many familiar places – the drama that won the hearts of viewers all over the world was also filmed in Lithuania, and the Hofburg Palace was located in Vilnius itself.

The scenes were filmed in Vilnius, for both, the first and the second seasons of the series: for the first season to be filmed 19 shifts were needed, whilst for the second – as many as 20, and approximately 1000 actors appeared in the mass scenes. In the capital alone, an international team of several hundred people contributed to the filming: costume tailors, sound technicians, stuntpeople, make-up artists, lighting professionals, camera people, etc. A huge appreciation is the fact that Lithuanian professionals were also invited to join the creative team – in the 1st and 2nd seasons a Set Designer Algirdas Garbačiauskas, in the 2nd season – make-up artist Inga Raslanaitė and costume artist Daiva Petrulytė were permanently engaged.

According to the series’ producer in Lithuania, Milda Leiputė, it is hard filming a historical drama in Vilnius – it is difficult avoiding modern city architecture in the shots, and for the viewers to feel the 19th century Austrian atmosphere in Vilnius a team effort by the director, camera people and artists’ was essential. The period of filming itself raised some challenges – the first season was filmed immediately after the pandemic. “We had to ask traders, catering establishment and bar owners to close their businesses once again, to remove outdoor tables. Not even speaking of the fact that we had to follow very strict requirements whilst filming, accommodating actors and the whole team” – told M. Leiputė.

One of the most beautiful European women of the 19th century titled as Empress Sisi, was played by a Swiss actress Dominique Devenport. During the filming of the second season more than 40 dresses were made and hired for her, as well as costume pieces reflecting the period. “Sisi liked wearing diamonds, she was considered the fashion icon of the period, thus the dresses could not be made from a simple fabric – some of them were quite heavy and not always comfortable, exhausting the actress working long hours” – told M. Leiputė. To be able to store hundreds of actors‘ costumes and if needed remake them or try them on, the filming crew had to rent more than 1000 sq. m. premises.

Photo credits: Armands Virbulis

Sisi audiences, could see many places of Lithuania in the series – important scenes of battles, weddings, Christenings and rebellions were filmed in our country. Residents of Vilnius will most certainly recognise more than one location in Vilnius – from Vilnius University main building, Lithuanian Philharmonic Society to the Lithuanian Writers Union or Belmontas. Vilnius Film Office invites all to discover the 19th century Austria in Vilnius and to walk the route inspired by the series.

In the streets of the old town – the thudding of hooves

It is recommended to begin the route from the Gates of Dawn street and to descend it down to Jonas Basanavičius square. Here soldiers, the crowds meeting Sisi and Franz Joseph I, the uprising rebellion, and the horse-drawn carriages of the characters riding in the background of Vilnius were filmed.

Interestingly, the horses seen in the series had to be taught to ride in coach-and-four – animals were being prepared for the scenes 8 weeks in advance.

Photo credits: Armands Virbulis 

Hofburg palace at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society

Next stop – Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society, which in the series became the Hofburg Palace. Truth to be told, during the filming the team had to hide the manifestations of modern life; cover the windows of the building and the nearby cash machine, temporarily close the nearby outdoor cafes. A difficult task was also set for the actors who filmed in the mass scenes: “It is a process requiring a lot of energy and determination. The mass scene actors gather on set the first – they have their make-up done, are dressed in costumes. A few hours may pass until the camera is turned on”, – told M. Leiputė. The filming would draw the attention of passers-by as well – the costumes, riding horses and carriages were watched by many people.

Today the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society building is considered one of the most luxurious historicism style buildings in Vilnius. The building recalls the important periods of change in the city of Vilnius– here was once the Merchants’ club, the City Concert Hall, Wholesale Trade Building, and Hotel, until finally it became the Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society. The first Lithuanian bookshop also was opened in this building, and in 1906 the premiere of the first Lithuanian national opera took place here.

Photo credits: Armands Virbulis

In the series – the Vilnius University Ensemble

It is recommended to continue the route by going to the main building of the Vilnius University. Vilnius University is one of the oldest universities in Middle and Eastern Europe, currently attracting not only students from around the globe, but also the film and TV series makers. VU was established in the 16th century, during the spread of renaissance, reformation, and Catholic reform ideas. In the complex of buildings that took a few centuries to form, characteristics of gothic, renaissance, baroque and classicist architecture can be found. Present-day ensemble is made up of 13 courtyards and 13 buildings as well as the Church of St. Johns and the bell tower.

The university buildings could be seen by Sisi audiences more than once – VU great courtyard, as well as the above-mentioned Philharmonic, became a part of the Hofburg palace in the series. This location was chosen not due to architectural similarity, but because of the wide perspective and the possibility to film at 360-degree angles. The Church of St. Johns which features the characteristics of gothic, baroque and classicist architecture is the background of where the important scenes of Christenings and weddings were filmed.

Photo credits: Armands Virbulis

Stables established at Alumnatas  courtyard

The wonderful monument of Italian renaissance – the former Alumnatas – can be found on the University street, not far from the main building of the Vilnius University. The building dating back to the 17th century – a former accommodation building of the priest seminary, where students from various European countries studied. Today the Alumnatas courtyard is considered one of the most romantic places of the city. In the TV series Sisi it became the stables of Hofburg, and the kiss of the Empress and Franz Joseph I was filmed in the background of the Italian arcs.

Photo credits: Armands Virbulis 

Impressed by the spaces of the Lithuanian Writers’ Union

The route should be continued by walking to K. Sirvydas street. Here are the spaces of the Lithuanian Writers’ Union. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in Vilnius, The walls of the building are witnesses to the history if Vilnius’s literature – during the Soviet, and Independent period: here writers lived and created, a hotel was in operation and in the café on the ground floor artists would gather. Here you can find one of the most beautiful and impressive interiors of neo-baroque that survived in Lithuania, which impressed the creators of the series as well.


In the series one can see many more iconic places of the Lithuanian capital, the passing carriages filmed in Bernardinai courtyard, and Vilnius Town Hall interior sheltered one of the halls of Hofburg. A few scenes were filmed farther away from central Vilnius. In Belmontas located in Pavilniai regional park. The latter in the series played the role of Hungary – more precisely, the hiding place of Hungarian rebels, where preparations for a revolution took place.

Interestingly, one of the greatest fans of Vilnius is the actor playing the main role in the series – Jannik Schümann. He likes the atmosphere and energy of the capital so much, that the actor in his leisure time, happily spends the time in the city spaces with friends and relatives who are visiting him.

Photo credits: Armands Virbulis

Filming in Lithuania was organized by the “Nordic Productions”