Before World War II, the working-class district of Uzupis south of the River Neris and west of the River Vilnele formed one of the main Jewish communities in Vilnius. This was abandoned during the Holocaust and during the Soviet Occupation between 1944 and 1990, it filled up again with bohemian artists, political rebels and other freewheeling thinkers, in the process garnering a reputation as the Montmartre of Lithuania.
In 1997 this little enclave declared its independence from the rest of Vilnius, in a similar manner to Christiania in Copenhagen. Ever since, the Republic of Uzupis has elected its own president and run its own constitution. The tiny state even has its own national anthem, flag and toy army.
Today Uzupis has some of the most edgy, most vibrant streets in Vilnius, with façades covered in graffiti, pavement cafés, wacky art galleries, underground bars and buzzing multi-ethnic restaurants, while Thursday’s Tymo Market sees organic producers flock into Uzupis from all over Lithuania to sell their ecologically sound goodies. Uzupis Independence Day is April 1, so if you’re planning to visit on that date, take your passport; the republic’s soldiers may ask for your ID before granting you access.
Uzupis is best explored on foot or as part of a guided tour.