The “Republic of Užupis” - undiscovered district of Vilnius

Monika Grinevičiūtė | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Warsaw has its Jewish quarter, Copenhagen - the Freetown Christiania, and Vilnius has the Užupis. Narrow streets full of tempting smells of fresh bread, cookies and morning espresso, swing in the middle of the river, cozy concerts at the tiny squares full of lights and arts all around you - this is Užupis. This bohemian and artistic district is situated near the Vilnius old town, but to get there you have to cross the bridge, and that’s why the name of this district in Lithuanian means "behind the river". This district is so unique that it is even self-proclaimed as a republic with the inner constitution, president, and currency. So, take a break and imagine yourself walking around the small streets and riverside, drinking fresh coffee and feeling like an artist in the “Republic of Užupis” - undiscovered district of Vilnius.

How the poorest district became a Republic

These rights are taken from* the Užupis** constitution, and 41 of those articles can be found on the public wall of Užupis street translated into 30 languages. So, who created those rights and the constitution? Going back to the 16th century, Užupis was the poorest district in Vilnius. It was the home of impoverished workers, and the red light district. But, during the Soviet times, it gained a notoriety as the roughest district in the city. When the independence was restored, in 1991, because of the cheap accommodation and of the city’s art academy, which is located across the bridge of Bernardinai Garden, artists came and settled there. Thus, those artists and free spirits in 1997 *declared Užupis as a free Republic. From that times, Užupis has its guardian - The Bronze Angel of Užupis, as well as the anthem, the constitution and president, alsoa a bishop, two churches and seven bridges. Sounds like a constitutional republic, right?

Swing in the middle of the river & the backpacker Jesus

If you wonder where could the backpacker Jesus live, the answer is clear - in Užupis. Together with the washing machine from the stone, a nude woman sculpture and an old piano, rinsed by the river. And it even seems that the sister of the Copenhagen’s mermaid is also here. Sitting near the river Vilnelė and looking into the people of Užupis. If you want to visit those sculptures just stop by the Užupis Art Incubator, and you will find them in their courtyard. Later on, if you feel like being a child again - take off your shoes, feel the cold water of the Vilnelė river and reach the swing. But how to find it if it is hidden under the bridge? Look for the Užupio Kavinė, near the Cathedral of the Theotokos, and be brave enough to swing like never before.

Fresh Lithuanian bread and modern cuisine

Of course, without the food, it would be hard to feel the atmosphere of this district. For that, you have a lot of options - from fancy restaurants, Italian pizzas to the Lithuanian black bread bakery, cookies and caraway’s tea. Starting from the cozy place that offers tasty pastries, French macaroons, and canelés, and must try - caraway’s tea at “Kmyninė” - small cafeteria. Also, for a modern Lithuanian and seasonal cuisine, visit the “Sweet Root”.

Did you imagine yourself walking around the riverside and visiting the Užupis mermaid** or the backpacker Jesus? Or swinging like a child in the middle of the river? Or drinking the caraway's tea and enjoying the sun in the courtyard of the Užupis Art Incubator? I hope you did. But for the best experience, the “Republic of Užupis” - undiscovered district of Vilnius**, will be waiting for your visit.

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