Žvėrynas name means "Land of the Beasts" and reminds of a time when this forest inside the bend of Neris river was the hunting ground of the nobility. By the early 20th century however it was built up as a wooden suburb. Many of its wooden houses have elaborate architectural details that made this district famous. Most of the homes here are still detached private houses owned by a single or several families.
In 1990s Žvėrynas became a prestigious neighborhood. It is within a very easy reach from all main districts of Vilnius and yet next to the greenery of Vingis park and its tree-lined streets are never overcrowded. Therefore, many new multistorey apartment buildings were built while numerous old houses were repaired. This is in stark contrast to Šnipiškės where wooden homes still stand in a sorry state.
Žvėrynas still has its old charm however and a stroll around its parallel streets is definitely rewarding. Here you can see the only Karaite Kenessa of Vilnius (and one of two in Lithuania; 1923), two Russian Orthodox churches (the larger one, known as Znamenskaya, was built by the Russians in 1903 to counterweight urbanistic importance of the Catholic Cathedral at the opposite end of Gedimino Avenue) and a towerless Roman Catholic church (1925). Its interior has been decorated cladestinely while under the Soviet occupation by self-taught artists in both religious symbols and images of Vilnius. The iron arch Žvėrynas bridge which joined then-suburb to the city in 1906 is also still standing.
But these buildings may only serve as a pretext for your explorations as it is likely be so that you will find some of the ordinary houses that line the side-streets to be even more compelling.
Several embassies are located in the calmness of Žvėrynas.