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Vilnius University is one of the oldest universities in Central and Eastern Europe. Today, the architectural ensemble that seamlessly blends Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic and Classicism styles appeals not only to knowledge-hungry students from all over the world: filmmakers and TV series crews love it as well.

The current VU ensemble boasts 13 courtyards and 13 buildings, as well as beautiful St. John’s Church and the bell tower. Over the past decade, VU grounds have become one of the most popular filming locations in the whole city, a dozen films and television series by Lithuanian and foreign companies were shot here, mostly historical dramas. The cinema-friendly ensemble of Vilnius University has already to played the Vatican, Nazi Germany, the Russian Empire, Japan, Rome as well as 19th century Austria.

Vilnius University represented the latter just this summer when the hugely popular series “Sisi”, depicting the life of Empress Elizabeth of Austria was shot here. Those who watched the show had the chance to take a glimpse at the central compound of Vilnius University quite a few times during all three seasons of the series, as the large university courtyard played the part of the Hofburg Palace – soldiers, everyday life of the palace and even conflicts between the characters were shot here. This location is often chosen not only because of its architectural features but also for its wide perspective and the possibility of shooting in 360 degrees.

Photo credits: Saulius Žiūra
Photo credits: Saulius Žiūra

Filmmakers also quickly discovered other areas of VU, such as the former Alumnat courtyard, an Italian Renaissance monument located on Universiteto Street, very close to the University’s central building. The building dating back to the 17th century that stands out proudly in the neighborhood is the former dormitory of the priests’ seminary, where students from various European countries studied. Today, the courtyard is considered one of the most romantic places in the city. In the TV series “Sisi” it became the Hofburg stables and the scene where the empress and Francis Joseph kiss was shot right here, against the background of Italian arches. Meanwhile, important scenes of baptisms and weddings were filmed in St. John’s Church.

Photo credits: Armands Virbulis

The unique ambiance of Vilnius University was also noticed by the US cable television network HBO. The oldest academic library in the Baltic States established in the 16th century still operates and in the series “Catherine the Great” it was briefly turned into the Council Chamber of the Russian Empire. Ancient maps and documents, flags adorned with ribbons, as well as large candlesticks were brought here for the purpose. The main role in the series was played by the famous British actress Helen Mirren, winner of “Oscar” and two Golden Globes.

There are other VU facilities that videographers find equally interesting, such as the botanical garden in Kairėnai. The four-episode TV show “Tokyo Trial” was shot here. For this historical drama centered around a trial in Japan that started in 1946, right after World War II, the park’s Japanese garden, featuring a bridge, large stones and plants characteristic of the Asian region was turned into a stage for a women’s beauty pageant.

Photo credits: Artbox

A feature film about the revolutionary Swedish artist and feminism pioneer Hilma Klint, the Scandinavian noir genre Emilis Vélyvis’ film “The Wicked Generation”, the Norwegian political series “Occupied” and the BBC2 documentary series “The Rise of the Nazis” were shot in the buildings, halls and parks that make up the VU ensemble, as well as TV film based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace” and a number of other cinema projects.

You can read more about the most popular shooting locations in Vilnius here.

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