Gediminas Tower - History and Facts | History Hit

Gediminas Tower

Vilnius, Vilnius County, Lithuania

Gediminas Tower is an iconic fortified tower and the sole remaining part of the Upper Castle of Vilnius.

Peta Stamper

27 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Gediminas Tower

Gediminas Tower in Vilnius, Lithuania, is the only remaining structure of what was once the city’s Upper Castle. The Upper Castle was one of three castles in Vilnius, all of which suffered a series of attacks in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Named after the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Gediminas, who first built fortifications on this site in the 14th century, the remaining Gediminas Tower actually dates back to the 15th century when the Upper Castle was reconstructed.

Today, Gediminas Tower is open to the public as part of the Vilnius Castle Museum. Inside it houses models of what the castle once looked like and it has an observation deck from which you can get great views of the city’s UNESCO-listed historic quarter.

Gediminas Tower history

The first wooden fortifications at the site of Gediminas Tower were built by Gediminas himself, the Grand Duke of Lithuania. According to legend, Gediminas was hunting in the woods of the Šventaragis Velley and brought down a bull on a hilltop. That night, the duke dreamt of a wolf made of iron, and his magician said the dream meant Gediminas should built a great city in the spot, which would later become Vilnius.

The tower’s stone successor was completed in 1409 by Grand Duke Vytautas and was an imposing defensive structure overlooking the Neris River. Another pair of castles were built following Gediminas Tower: the Lower and the Crooked, which was burned down by the Teutonic Knights in 1390, never to be rebuilt. The Teutonic Order continued to attack Vilnius’ castles, yet were only able to capture the tower in 1655 during the Battle of Vilnius.

Following the battles, the damaged castles lost their importance and were abandoned.

Gediminas Tower today

Today, the Gediminas Tower remains as an important symbol of not only the city of Vilnius but of Lithuanian nationality. On 1 January each year, the tricolour Lithuanian flag is hoisted to the top of Gediminas Tower to commemorate Flag Day. From the tower’s viewing platform, visitors also get a fantastic panorama of the city.

Open 10am to 5pm, the tower houses a museum (opened in 1960) displaying many findings from the hill and its surrounding areas. Particularly interesting are several models of the Vilnius Castles between the 14th and 17th centuries, alongside armaments and iconographic material of the Old Vilnius.

You can reach the hilltop either on foot or by lift.

Getting to Gediminas Tower

Located in the city’s old centre near Vilnius Cathedral, you can reach Gediminas Tower by trolleybuses 2, 4, 10, 17 or buses 10 and 33, all stopping around the park where the castle stands. For those driving, there is parking across the Vilnia River, a 9 minute walk over the bridge and past the Old Arsenal.

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