I like to get surprised on my trips by discovering things that cannot be found elsewhere. I visited Vilnius for few days. I might have been unlucky with the weather just like my visit to Bordeaux, recently. But I was really fortunate to visit some interesting sights in the capital of Lithuania including the backyard of the Presidential Palace (Prezidentūra, as called by locals), which is used as an office for the Lithuanian president but is open for all on week-ends.
Presidential Palace for the nation
Every capital city I visited, has a stunning presidential palace and other fancy government buildings like in Tirana, Albania or London, UK. But generally closed for visitors. As I was walking in Vilnius, I see security guards screening people before entering a very cute garden at the middle of the Old Town.
I was curious but a voice in my mind said… “This must be a private event. No chance to get it”.
That voice was wrong. It was a public space just like every other bits of the Old Town. I’ve been told by security that it was the Presidential Palace of Lithuania which is open on all weekends, all year round with no special occasion but just people visiting for leisure.
Vilnius Presidential Palace is built on Daukanto Square in the Old Town. This 18th century building had many owners throughout history but since 1997, it has been renovated to host the President of Lithuania. There are free guided tours organised on week-ends. I didn’t do any guided tour (I wish I knew before) but I strongly advise you to check the palace’s website.
Democracy is meant to be shared
As Lithuania is a rather young country since it got independent in the 1990s, it is quite developed in terms of democracy compared to most current ex-Soviet states. What I really appreciated is that the Presidential Palace is not closed with all the secrecy that comes with politics. But instead, it symbolises an alternative and transparent approach to politics.
Let’s face it… all people pay for that palace with their own taxes, so I can only see why it’s fair it should be a public space on weekends. They work for it on the weekdays after all. It’s a way to get their share! I did investigate a little bit more and the president is Mrs Dalia Grybauskaitė and locals I met seem to be happy with her mandate. Obviously, I cannot judge a country’s democratic status by just visiting for 4 days but it’s an impression I got. Of course, if you are Lithuanian you might totally disagree with that and I encourage you to start a debate and give me your personal opinion!
Elegant garden and sophisticated architecture
The back of the palace there’s a very elegant garden. Even though doors are closed, visiting the garden and being able to roam freely is enough to feel satisfied. The grass on the floor looks like a carpet. The little trees are well-sculpted. And roses look like they are floating peacefully in this harmonious space. In addition, the building architecture is quite stunning with views over nearby churches in the Old Town of Vilnius.
All around the garden, there are some modern art sculptures, further proving the fresh and young state’s ambitions for youth development, art and culture. Overall, this was my highlight in Vilnius as it was not on my plans since all presidential palaces are made for one person that takes it all: money and power. But in Lithuania, I got a ray of hope that democracy exists somewhere in the world with just a casual visit of the Presidential Palace. I actually suggest to name it the “Nation Palace”, it sounds more realistic as it truly belongs to the nation.
Do you think presidential palaces should be open to public?