Queens, Artists, Empresses:
Footprints of Prominent Women Figures

They are powerful, brave, talented, sometimes cruel, but capable of captivating millions of viewers. The dramas of important historical figures filmed in Vilnius have sparked interest of many. From 18th-century rulers to 20th-century artists, the Vilnius Film Office invites you to walk in the footsteps of the most famous TV series and film characters.

Several highly acclaimed productions, centered around women’s stories, have been filmed in Vilnius. These include TV series and films such as “Catherine the Great,” “Sisi,” “The Royal Mob,” “Hilma,” “Blood, Sex & Royalty,” and others. Filmed in various locations, these productions have transformed Vilnius into various places around the world, from Austria and Sweden to cities in England.

Bernardinai and St. Mykolas streets

The streets of Vilnius became the main inspiration for the “Sky History” docudrama TV series “Royal Mob.” The documentary series reveals the colorful and mysterious story of England’s Queen Victoria and her four beloved granddaughters—the determined Hesse sisters. This impressive royal family ruled almost all of Europe. Over a few decades, the love stories, marriages, disputes, and intrigues of these relatives sparked one of the world’s largest military conflicts—World War I.

Various locations in Vilnius became home to the royal families of England, Russia, and Germany, and historical interiors were used to recreate the rooms of these countries’ royal palaces. For city scenes, the film’s creative team chose Mykolo and Bernardinų Streets. 

Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society

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.

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.

Armands Virbulis photo

Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society 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.

Armands Virbulis nuotr.

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.

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.

Saulius Žiūra photo
Saulius Žiūra photo
Saulius Žiūra photo

Library of Vilnius University 

One of the most famous TV series filmed in Vilnius is HBO’s “Catherine the Great,” which follows the story of Empress Catherine II, the longest-reigning female ruler of Russia. During her reign, there was a significant spread of Enlightenment ideas, culture, and science, with many universities and theaters being established. The series mainly focuses on the later years of her reign and her relationship with Grigory Potemkin. The lead role is played by renowned British actress Helen Mirren, an Oscar and two-time Golden Globe winner.

The authentic environment of Vilnius University caught the attention of the creators of this series. The oldest academic library in the Baltic States still operates in the beautiful premises dating back to the 16th century, 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, and beautiful candlesticks were brought here.

TV series photo

Vilnius Town Hall

Undoubtedly, one of the most important architectural highlights on Didžioji 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 series “Catherine the Great” also returns the Town Hall to a similar historical period.

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.

TV series photo

Meanwhile, the corridors, halls, and staircases of the Town Hall can be seen in the TV series “Hilma,” which tells the story of Swedish artist and mystic Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), one of the first creators of abstract art in the Western world and a pioneer of feminism. The artist’s mysterious, philosophical, and spiritualism-inspired paintings continue to raise many questions. About 1,300 of her artworks remained virtually unknown to the world for decades. The series is directed by Lasse Hallström, known for films such as “The Cider House Rules,” “Chocolat,” “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” and many others.

Paprika Films photo

Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

The series “Blood, Sex and Royalty” offers a modern look at the 16th-century love story between England’s monarchs Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The dramatic life and death circumstances of the queen made her a prominent figure in the English Reformation movement. She is the only woman to have been granted the title of Marquess. It is believed that her failure to produce a male heir for the king led to her being accused of incest and treason and sentenced to death. This docudrama series, supported by commentary from historians and experts, reveals many secrets of the royal couple’s life.

In 2022, the pages of English history brought the filming team to the Palace of the Grand Dukes in Vilnius, where they recreated Henry VIII’s office, Anne Boleyn’s bedroom, and the royal hall.

Trakų Vokė Manor Estate

The ensemble of Trakų Vokė Manor Estate is a unique architectural monument reminiscent of the Tyszkiewicz Count’s era. Initially, it served as a summer residence for this noble family, later becoming their permanent home. The Tyszkiewicz family owned Vokė for nearly 100 years. Trakų Vokė Manor is not only a picturesque location but also a cinematic spot suitable for various directors’ visions.

According to the manor’s director, Ieva Šiušaitė, although films and TV series from various periods have been shot here, the building and surroundings most closely resemble the estates of late 18th to 19th century Eastern Europe. The manor is often used in filming when a noble atmosphere or spacious apartments and public spaces are needed.

“Arguably, the most impressive project undertaken at Trakų Vokė Manor was ‘Catherine the Great,’ which was filmed intermittently for almost five months. There were many changes—we moved our office to another building, and it was agreed with the staff that they would not disclose information, maintain confidentiality, and not take photos or discuss the decorations. During such times, we become guests and fully hand over the manor to the creators,” I. Šiušaitė says about the filming.

Trakų Vokė Manor

Lithuanian Writers’ Union

The premises of the Lithuanian Writers’ Union, located on A. Sirvydo Street is one of the most beautiful palaces in Vilnius. The building’s walls bear witness to the history of Vilnius literature, both during the Soviet era and independence times. For decades, writers lived and composed their stories here, a hotel operated, and various artists would frequent the café on the ground floor. In this building, one finds one of the most beautiful and impressive neo-baroque style interiors preserved in Lithuania, which fascinates both Lithuanian and foreign filmmakers. They are very fond of the building’s halls, ceiling reliefs, furnace mouldings and the impressive lobby. The historical interior is perfect for depicting offices from different epochs and rooms of magnificent palaces. 

The impressive staircase is undoubtedly the major attraction. During the shooting of the HBO series “Catherine the Great”, the staircase became part of the luxurious palace interior

Lukas Šalna photo