One of the most thrilling and interesting HBO series called Chernobyl was a total success for the HBO company and visiting all Chernobyl series filming locations in Lithuania can be a great experience.
The miniseries were so tense, so well depicted and the whole scenario was incredibly good. It is a must-see series.
It has its twists, cliffhangers and so much more, even though I knew the whole story before seeing the show. Lithuania was a part of the Soviet Union in those dark times and quite many Lithuanians went to clean up the place after the Chernobyl tragedy.
I visited Chernobyl a year before the series was aired and all the places in the series looked so familiar even though the whole series were not filmed in Pripyat or Chernobyl – it was mostly filmed in Lithuania. Let us explore Chernobyl series filming locations in Lithuania.
The Chernobyl mini-series consists of 5 episodes and was viewed by millions all around the world. The show as well won multiple awards in many categories in the Emmys.
In the series, you will see famous actors such as Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, and Paul Ritter (he said the most iconic phrase: “not good, not terrible”).
The series took almost a thousand hours to make, was shot in more than 40 different locations, and more than 5,000 people participated in the filming. Actually, the Chernobyl miniseries is by far Lithuania’s biggest movie production to date.
Why was Chernobyl miniseries filmed in Lithuania?
Let’s have a short history lesson.
First thing is that Chernobyl then stood not in a free and independent Ukraine, it was in the Soviet Union and Lithuania was as well a part of that, till it finally got its independence in 1990 March 11th.
Once the tragedy of Chernobyl happened back in 1986, the whole Soviet Union was affected and actually, quite many people from Lithuania were sent to clean the site and do other various jobs. We will not talk about the safety of that job in the Soviet Union in 1986. It was terrible.
But Lithuania was chosen not only because of that, Lithuania was chosen because Lithuania as the whole Soviet Union had very very similar architecture all around. We are talking about all 15 countries: from Azerbaijan to Ukraine, from Estonia to Ukraine. And I am not talking about old architecture from the 1800s, I am talking about Soviet Union period architecture. It was even calculated that for this huge country (the biggest country in the world), the Soviet Union used just 100 different apartment house designs. We have now more house designs in one year in Lithuania.
So if you visit some older apartment houses areas in Lithuania, they will be very similar to the ones in Ukraine or in Estonia and so on. It is all very boringly similar.
The city close to Chernobyl plant is called Pripyat and it was built just for people working in the plant. As I visited Pripyat I was surprised how actually similar it is to the old areas in Lithuania. Of course, Pripyat is deteriorating, there are trees in the middle of the street or on the roofs, but the structure and houses – are completely the same.
As it is not safe to film in Chernobyl (as Pripyat city is not livable and full of bushes and trees and cracking down houses) they looked for a place which has similar architecture, structure, and so on. And voila, Lithuania has it. As well the nuclear plant in Lithuania had the same architecture of reactors as in Chernobyl (luckily it didn’t explode and is now being decommissioned).
Then adding that Lithuania has a quite strong and growing movies industry, it was an easy choice for HBO – to film all of it in Lithuania.
HBO miniseries Chernobyl filming locations in Lithuania
Fabijoniškės is one of the city quarters in the capital of Lithuania – Vilnius.
This area is all good and I actually lived there back in 2011. This area is not that far from the city center (15 minutes by car) and very close to the biggest shopping mall called Akropolis in Vilnius.
The area was built back in the late 1980s (remember, Pripyat was well built in the 1980s as well) so it is very similar to the surroundings of Chernobyl nuclear plant.
At the moment Fabijoniškės are getting more and more modern, but it is full of soviet era apartment buildings and that is not going to change very soon, even though quite many of that era’s houses are being renovated.
When you see shots from Pripyat city in the miniseries, it was mostly filmed right there in the city of Vilnius, in Fabijoniškės.
The houses, the streets, kindergartens, playgrounds, and so on. Of course, in the series, they didn’t show any restaurants or newer buildings, but back in 1986 Fabijoniškės was as close to a copy of Pripyat as possible. So it was very easy for movie people just to clean up the space a bit, put some old soviet era cars, dress people accordingly, and voila – we have a soviet-era Pripyat city.
You can easily visit Fabijoniškės today and wander around. The whole area is not really big, you can visit all of Fabijoniškės in 1 hour easily. You will even find a capitalism nightmare (that was the idea back in soviet times) – McDonald’s in the area.
Bridge on the first episode in the city of Pripyat
In the first episode of the miniseries, there is a scene where the people of Pripyat are standing on the bridge and are completely unaware of what is actually happening in Chernobyl nuclear plant. They live their life as the day before, even though a huge tragedy is happening just a couple of kilometers away from them. And of course, no one warned them. It is the Soviet Union, not Sweden.
It was a pretty mysterious scene as they show that radiation kind of falls on the people (even though in real life it is not visible at all). It is a quite powerful scene.
The director of the movie was looking for a location that kind of doesn’t have any purpose and appears out of nowhere. And he found that location in Kaunas (the second biggest city in Lithuania).
This bridge is actually not popular in Lithuania at all – and yes it appears kind of nowhere, it looks pretty industrial and was built back in the Soviet days. Right below it goes the rail and the bridge is located in the middle of the wooded area. The exact location is next to M. Gimbutienė Street and Buriuotojų Street in Petrašiūnai, Kaunas.
If you go to Google maps, you will find it as Chernobyl Movie Bridge. It is nice that this nameless bridge got such a nice name: Chernobyl Movie Bridge Location. It is a very beautiful location to visit as right next to it you will find one of the biggest bodies of water in Lithuania – Kauno Marios. Yachtclub and a huge monastery as well are very close to it, so this place is worth a full-day visit.
Valery Legasov apartment
The main character in the miniseries is Valery Legasov and he is a nuclear scientist. He takes care of all the mess which is happening in the power plant.
Shortly in the miniseries, his apartment building is shown and that was as well filmed in Kaunas in a very characteristic art-deco building in Vytauto Ave. 58.
Do you want some first-level Soviet knowledge? In the miniseries, the show that Mr. Legasov was feeding his cat some kind of cat food from a can in the apartment. That is a huge mistake because in the Soviet Union we had no such food (remember, no capitalism). And special canned food for cats? Are you kidding? Getting a Snicker was a luxury, getting a banana was an exception! But it was an honest mistake and we understand it, other than that, everything was depicted flawlessly.
The 6th Clinic in Moscow
One of the most unhappy places in the miniseries is the clinic in Moscow where they treated the affected firemen who were the first to put out the fire in the nuclear plant.
At first, it was quite a happy place as radiation doesn’t show up its teeth for the first week or two and we see firemen happily playing cards, but later on the tragedy happens and radiation completely destroys these young men’s health.
The scenes were filmed in Kaunas as well at Kaunas Technical University at Kęstučio St. 27. Now the house does not belong to the university and is privately owned, so not really possible to visit. But you will recognize the exterior facade.
KGB prison was a place for nightmares back in the Soviet era – many brave people of Lithuania from priests to teachers, from scientists to politicians, were held in that tragic place. Everyone who wanted Lithuania to be free could or ended up there.
Now KGB prison is one of the most famous museums in Lithuania and I really recommend you visit it once you are in Vilnius – it really well represents the brutality of Soviet times, you will find many artifacts, stories and will wander and these horror movie corridors and cells.
You can find all information about the museum right here: KGB museum.
Pripyat hotel – The former guest house of the Lithuanian government
In the miniseries, it was the place where Mr. Legasov, Boris Scherbina, and others spend a lot of time making hard decisions.
The former guest house of the Lithuanian government was as well built in the Soviet era and now is pretty much unused.
Back in the day, both the leader of the Soviet Union and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and the President of the USA Richard Nixon stayed here on their visits to Lithuania. So this place has its own important history.
The house is situated in one of the greenest and most expensive areas of Vilnius called Žvėrynas. It is a really nice area to stroll around, visit the biggest park in the capital and see some older wooden Lithuanian architecture. The exact location of the houses is Latvių st. 70. The location can be easily reached on foot from the city center in 20-30 minutes.
The former cultural and sports center of the Ministry of Interior – Pripyat Hotel Restaurant
The former cultural and sports center of the Ministry of Interior is yet another Soviet-era building built back in 1982. It still has not only the Soviet-era exterior, but the interior as well is pretty much untouched – so you can see and feel how it all looked 40 years ago. And what about these chandeliers?
Actually, you could see such chandeliers in quite many other big buildings (especially if it had something to do with the government) in Soviet times.
This location was used as the restaurant of the Pripyat hotel.
The exact location of the building is Žirmūnų g. 1E, Vilnius, a 15 minutes walk from the city center.
Faculty of architecture – a courtroom in the last episodes
The faculty of architecture is actually not a soviet-era building, but in the miniseries, it played a quite dramatic part – very sensitive information was revealed in that courtroom and the miniseries did an important twist.
The building was built back in the 18th century and to this day is used as one of the faculties for our architects.
You can find the building in Pylimo g. 26, Vilnius – it is in the old town. Do not forget to visit the famous modern art MO museum which is right across the street.
Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant
As I mentioned before, the same structure reactors were used as well in a nuclear plant in Lithuania. The nuclear plant is called Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, but it is actually situated in Visaginas city. Ignalina is a small city a bit further away, but the name Ignalina was used to confuse the enemy. Strange times. Like the enemy would not know that the plant is actually in Visaginas.
The story is quite similar to the Chernobyl one – Visaginas was built for people who worked in the nuclear plant and is actually still the youngest city in Lithuania – established just in 1975. Pripyat was established in 1970.
Similar story, different endings. Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant was used till 2009 and now is being decommissioned, the works will be finished in 2038 and it will be just a field as if nothing has ever stood in that place. It takes 30 years just to safely dismantled that monstrosity.
For over 4 days HBO shot some scenes with firefighters, divers, and miners right there – in the nuclear plant in Lithuania.
Some good news – you can visit the nuclear plant and they do excursions in English. I have visited the nuclear plant myself and was astonished by the sheer size of it, the safety procedures, and many other things. Really worth visiting it: Ignalina Nuclear Plant Excursions.
Chernobyl series filming locations in Lithuania tour
HBO filmed in quite many locations in Lithuania and if you want to do the whole tour – it can take up to two days to visit all the locations, especially if you do a detour to Visaginas and visit the nuclear plant.
If you really loved the miniseries I really recommend doing it, because you will visit the two biggest cities in Lithuania on the way and will see many other things: monasteries, castles, old towns, lakes and so on.
KGB prison in Vilnius is really a special place and is worth a separate visit.
I would do the whole tour in this direction: Vilnius – Kaunas – Visaginas – Vilnius. It would be around 500 kilometers – so a perfect weekend escape to explore some of the Soviet stories and see where the great HBO miniseries was filmed.
If you are a movie buff, why not visit the filming location of the Netflix series “Stranger Things” in Lithuania? Check this out: Filming locations of Stranger Things season 4 in Lithuania.