Vilnius’ main boulevard stretches from the River Neris in the west to the sweeping expanse of Cathedral Square in the southeast, and is named after the country’s greatest hero, the legendary Grand Duke Gediminas, who is credited with founding the fledgling country of Lithuania in the 13th century. Built in 1836 as Vilnius expanded with the arrival of the railway line from St Petersburg, Gediminas Avenue was originally named Georgij Avenue and has been renamed several times according to the regime in power. The wide avenue is lined with trees and glamorous Baroque townhouses in pastel colors; these house many government ministries and courthouses as well as banks, the national library and several leading Lithuanian theaters. By day a popular shopping and meeting place, Gediminas Avenue comes into its own at night when it morphs into one of Vilnius’ most upmarket dining spots.
As the street bisects Vilnius city center, landmarks along Gediminas Avenue include Seimas Palace, built in 2007 in modernist style as befits the seat of the new, independent Lithuanian Parliament. The 17th-century Lukiškės Square borders the avenue to the north; now a tranquil green lung of the city, it was the site of public hangings in the 19th century and during World War II, dissidents were executed here by Soviet troops.