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Living in Vilnius

A comprehensive guide about living well in Vilnius

Lithuania has been independent from what was the USSR since 1991 and Vilnius has since emerged as a modern, thriving capital city in Europe. Vilnius has also benefited from significant investment, with many big headquarters now established there, including Air Lituanica and SEB Bankas.

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Life in Vilnius

There is still a mix of architectural styles due to the city’s varied history, so the city has old squares and buildings including Cathedral Square and the Vilnius University, with some modern or restored buildings as well.

Education in Vilnius

Education in Lithuania is both free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16, covering both primary and “basic” education. An unusual quirk within the Lithuanian education system is the taking of so-called “maturity exams”, which take place when secondary education is completed.

For expats about to start life in Vilnius accompanied by their kids, there are a number of international schools to be found in Vilnius, with teaching taking place in a variety of languages. Two of the more well-known international schools are The American International School of Vilnius and the Vilnius International School.

In general, following on from secondary schooling, many students decide to continue on to further education. More than 20,000 students attend the largest and oldest university in the city, Vilnius University, which is situated in the Old Town. Other key universities include the Mykolas Romeris University, which specializes in law, politics and economics, the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, known as VGTU, which is popular with foreign students, and Vilnius Pedagogical University, which is effectively a teacher training institution.

Transportation in Vilnius

Vilnius is the main seaport for Lithuania, lying 312 km inland from the Baltic Sea. There is no river transport, but there are highways connecting the city to other major Lithuanian cities including Kaunas, Siauliai, and Panevezys, as well as other European destinations such as Helsinki.

The road network is well-maintained and many Lithuanians drive. To drive in Vilnius, there are one or two things for expats to note, including driving on the right and keeping headlights on all day from the 1 November to 1 March. Drivers are also obliged to carry a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, and an emergency triangle in their cars.

Expats who prefer not to drive will be happy to hear that the public transport system in Vilnius is excellent, with around 45% of the local population using it to get to work. There are a large number of bus and trolleybus routes that are provided by Vilniaus Viesasis Transportas. Students, the elderly, and the disabled get discounts, and all passengers use an electronic card to charge up at transport hubs or kiosks and travel on.

Vilnius International Airport sits just 5 km outside of the city center and operates international flights to other key European cities. There is a direct rail link connecting the airport to Vilnius’ train station. The latter is key hub, with connections including routes to Minsk, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg.

Culture and Leisure

For the year of 2009, Vilnius was named the European Capital of Culture; a title it jointly shared with Linz in Austria. The city boasts some excellent museums and galleries, as well as castles and squares that expatriates living in Vilnius can explore in their free time.

With almost 50% of Vilnius being made up of green spaces, including parks, gardens, and nature reserves, it is no surprise that during the summer months, life in Vilnius is lived outdoors. Locals and expatriates alike enjoy exercising outside, barbecuing in the parks, and swimming in the many lakes. There are summer festivals, concerts, and exhibitions at Bernardinai Garden, too.

Expats looking to get involved with the local sports teams will find several to choose from. The largest one is the basketball club, BC Lietuvos Rytas, which plays both internationally and domestically, out of the stadium of the same name.

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Updated on: June 30, 2015
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