Active Tours Lithuania - Užupis – Lithuania’s bohemian republic

Užupis – Lithuania’s bohemian republic

Užupis is an exclusive, unusual and most bohemian neighbourhood in Vilnius.

The self-proclaimed “Republic” of Užupis is Vilnius’ Bohemian and artistic district. It has its own anthem, constitution, president, bishop, two churches, the Bernadine Cemetery – one of the oldest in the city -, seven bridges, and its own guardian called The Bronze Angel of Užupis, who was put in the centre of the district in 2002.

Dating back to the 16th century, Užupis is one of Vilnius’ oldest districts and despite its current prestigious status, was formerly the city’s poorest area and home to a number of manual workers and a red light-district. During the Soviet era, the authorities let Užupis go to ruin, and it quickly gained notoriety as the roughest districts in the city. Since Lithuania regained its independence in 1991, artists came and took advantage of the cheap accommodation, and moreover, the city’s art academy is located across the bridge from Bernadinų Gardens. On 1 April 1997 Užupis claimed it's independence and became the “Užupis Republic”. Residents of this quarter commemorate this occasion every year.

The Užupis name means “beyond the river”, and it comes from the fact that it is protected by Vilnia River that encircles it. The Vilnia River, often called Vilnelė, is an integral part of Užupis. It is therefore quite natural that one of the symbols of Užupis is a bronze mermaid, also known as the Užupis Mermaid, created by sculptor Romas Vilčiauskas. The mermaid occupies a special niche on the embankment of the Vilnia. It is said that it is the mermaid who attracts people from all over the world to Užupis. Those who surrender to her charm remain in Užupis forever.

Uzupis has a valid unique republic constitution carved on the wall and notifying all the strangers about the Užupis rules. The constitution has been translated into many different languages so that more people can read the rules of the republic. The Uzupis sign – an open palm – symbolizes that this area is tolerant and open to the entire world.

One of the most visited places of Uzupis is situated between Polockas and Žvirgždynai streets and the Vilnia – the oldest cemetery around the city of Vilnius, Bernardine. It covers an area of 3.87 ha. This cemetery was established in 1810 and was administrated by the Bernardine monastery. In 19th century this place was a favourite place for Vilnius residents to go for walk, as the cemetery reminded of a park. Because of the gravestone originality and artistic value this cemetery was included in the list of Europe's most valuable cemeteries.

Your attention will also be attracted by the impressive Uzupis bridge with hundreds of small padlocks. They are brought here by wedding groups, newlyweds, believing that it will strengthen their feelings and connect hearts forever. The key is thrown into the river, so that they never can unlock the padlock of love.
Very close to the bridge is Uzupis gallery, the only specialized art gallery in Lithuania, representing the old silversmith traditions. The gallery also hosts professional debuts and exhibitions of young metal artists, and visitors can buy their works.
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