The largest square in Vilnius has its origins in the 17th century, when it formed part of a separate suburb of the city and surrounded by countryside, wooden houses and the occasional mosque. Lukiškės Square has been the focus of much conflict in its history; in the 19th century it was a place of public hangings, and during World War II many Vilnius dissidents were executed here by Soviet troops.
Long since swallowed up by the urban expansion of Vilnius, the square is now bordered by Gediminas Avenue to the south, and most of the elegant Baroque buildings of yore are long gone. A lucky few, including the Church of St James and St Phillip, escaped demolition, but the majority have been replaced by massive civic buildings constructed largely in the 1950s under Communist occupation, when the square was renamed Lenin Square. A huge statue to the Soviet leader had pride of place here, but it was toppled when Lithuania regained its independence in 1991. Today Lukiškės Square is a tranquil green lung in the heart of the modern city, although there are plans afoot to redesign it once more, while possibly renaming it Freedom Square.
Lukiskiu Square is always open to visitors.