Top 6 sights to see in Vilnius, Lithuania
The second largest city in the Baltics and the capital of Lithuania is not the most popular destination, which is a shame. Of course, this is not Paris or London, there are no world famous monuments and museums. Even so, Vilnius hides monumental buildings and places that you will fall in love with.
Lithuania is one of the Baltic republics in Eastern Europe, and also the largest. It has a population of about 2.8 million people on an area of 65,200 km2.
What to pay attention to when traveling? Definitely the weather . Lithuanians are quite nice and hospitable people, but the weather can be treacherous. In winter it reaches -20 ° C, in summer you can wear a T-shirt, but the temperature is quite variable. So don’t forget to wear warm clothes at any time of year.
The official language is Lithuanian , the language of the Baltic branch. Frankly, it is unlike anything you have heard so far (if you have not been to Latvia), but you have nothing to worry about, the younger generation in particular speaks excellent English. Also, the country has a strong Russian minority and some Lithuanians (mostly in Vilnius) speak Russian, so if you don’t speak English or Lithuanian, try Russian.
Top 6 sights to see in Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius, City of Churches
Vilnius is located in the southeast of the country, at the confluence of the two rivers Neris and Vilnius, and has a population of over 570,000. In addition to the many monuments and especially churches that you’ll find on every corner, there’s plenty of greenery and parks.
It is said that the city was founded by Prince Gediminas, who got lost in the area while hunting and had a dream about an iron wolf. So he went to the priest for an explanation and told him that he had to build a castle on the hill. Whether this is true, no one knows, in any case the castle on the hill still stands to this day and is one of the symbols of Vilnius.
There are different ways to get to Vilnius . The most convenient and fastest way is by plane. There are many options and combinations. Another inexpensive option is to take a bus from us to the Baltics. There is also a rail connection that goes through Belarus, so there is a fee for transport visas. The road leads through Warsaw.
No matter how many days you arrive in Vilnius, there are definitely 6 things you can’t miss when visiting .
Vilnius, City of Churches
The heart of Senamestis, Vilnius’ Old Town, is the large Cathedral Square. Its dominant feature is the beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Stanislaus and St. Wladyslaus, beautifully decorated outside and rich inside. In front of the cathedral stands a special reddish tile with the inscription “Stebuklas” (Miracle). Legend has it that if you step on it at 10 a.m. and wish for something, your wish will come true. Next to the cathedral there is a bell tower, on top of which you can climb and see the Old Town, the bell towers of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist churches. Behind the square is the entrance to the Royal Palace and a monument to the founder of the city, Prince Gediminas.
The view of the whole Vilnius in the palm of your hand opens from the hill in the center of the city, which should not be missed. It is the hill under which Gediminas slept and on which Gediminas Castle or the rest of it – the red tower – still stands. The trail can be hiked or a cable car can be used, but the reward above is worth it. However, in January 2018, major rebuilding began on the hill , which has begun to deteriorate, so it is possible that the castle will be closed. A few more steps and you will find a similar view and wonderful atmosphere on the slope of Three Crosses Mountain. Just cross the river and follow the winding road.
St. Anni and Užupis Church
When walking around Vilnius, it’s a must to visit the beautiful example of Baltic Gothic – the brick church of St. Anni. Behind it are the Bernardine Gardens, an oasis of peace and nature. A great place for a romantic walk. Next to the church of St. Anne is on the other side of the river in Užupis, which on April 1, 1989 declared its independence as the Republic of Užupis . Not only does it have its own flag, but it also has a constitution and a president. You can find the institute in one alley with several metal plaques with the constitution in different languages. Užupis is a lively neighborhood of artists who have managed to turn a dilapidated part of town into a vibrant social place with many cafes and stores.
St. Anni and Užupis Church
A few steps from Cathedral Square hides the white Presidential Palace, the residence of the Lithuanian presidents. Like other mansions, this palace offers tours of the interiors and a glimpse into the life of the head of state. Next door is the old campus of Vilnius University.
Museum of the Victims of the Genocide
Lithuania’s most famous museum is located in the building of the former KGB headquarters and tells powerful stories . On three floors you can learn about the course of the Nazi and Soviet occupations and the lives of people under the auspices of the Soviet Union. After World War II, the Republic of Lithuania was incorporated into the USSR and remained under its control until 1990, when it was the first Baltic republic to declare independence. During communism, Lithuanians survived various persecutions, including deportations to Siberia, all reminiscent of the museum.
Museum of the Victims of the Genocide
On the easternmost tip of the city is the large Värkiai Nature Park with numerous lakes and forests. Its main attraction is a large lake Balsis, which shines in the sun as a sapphire. Lake Balsis is a recreation area – you can take a bath, rent a boat or have a picnic on a wooden pier.
The capital of Lithuania in a few days. What to see in Vilnius on your own?
Budget travelers often choose Vilnius as a stopping point – the local airport is home to low-cost airline Ryanair, which has a wide route network. However, Vilnius itself also deserves attention. The city has enough interesting places to visit which you can spend more than a day.
What sights you can visit on your own?
In 1 day
There is a railroad museum in the building of the railway station – the exposition tells about the history of development and expansion of railroads and transportations in Lithuania.
One of the oldest markets of the city, Hales Turgus, is located not far from the railway station. The market building has been restored and inside you can buy fresh vegetables, fruits, local cheeses and meat.
The Ostra Brama gate is a little further on, and used to be the ceremonial entrance to the city and was part of the city wall. There is a functioning chapel built into the gate, which houses an icon of Our Lady of Ostrobrama.
Back in the Soviet times it was a semi-abandoned quarter. In 1997 Užupis, populated by artists, artists and poets, declared itself an independent republic with its own constitution, flag, anthem, president and army. The symbol of Užupis is an angel, whose sculpture is located in the central square.
The neighborhood is close to the train station and is a good place to start exploring the city. There are countless creative studios, art galleries, and cafes located in this quarter.
A must-see is the observation deck on Castle Mountain. From a height of 48 m you can get an overview of the old city. In the Gedeminas Tower there is also an exhibition of the history museum – the entrance fee is 5 euros.
You can get to the observation deck on the funicular railway for 2 euros or on foot on the stairs. The observatory is open from October to March – from 10-00 to 18-00 hours, from April to September – from 10-00 to 21-00 hours.
Practically opposite the Castle Mountain on the other side of the river there is a monument of the Three Crosses. Legend has it that on the mountain three monks were brutally murdered, in whose honor a monument was later built. From here you can see both the Old Town and the tower of Gediminas. The Three Crosses are located in Nagorny Park, where you can walk and discover ritual pagan temples.
The National Museum presents expositions devoted to the history of Lithuania. tickets from 2 to 5 euros, the museum is open from 10-00 to 18-00 daily, except Mondays.
Nearby is a large Cathedral Square – here is the Cathedral of St. Stanislaus, a monument to the founder of the city Gediminas, the Palace of the Lithuanian Princes, which now houses the museum. The cost of a visit to the Palace Museum is €3. The 57-meter high bell tower of the cathedral is also accessible to visitors every day from 10-00 to 19-00, except Sundays and holidays. The cost of ascent is 4.5 euros.
The red-brick Church of St. Anne in fiery Gothic style is the landmark of the city. Nearby is Bernardine church. There are about 30 Orthodox and Catholic cathedrals of different architectural styles in the city; in addition, one choral synagogue has survived in Vilnius – before World War II there were more than a hundred of them in the city.
Piles Street is an old pedestrian street in the Old Town. There are a variety of souvenir stores, museums, and art galleries at every turn.
In the cafes and restaurants of national cuisine you can try zeppelins – a dish made of potatoes, – soup in bread and Lithuanian beer.
The buildings of Vilnius University occupy almost an entire block, and are built in various architectural styles. You can visit the library, where the original editions of the first printer and philosopher Skorina are kept, climb the observatory tower to look at the city from above, and admire the frescos of Riapšis in the philological faculty building.
In two days.
On the second day, you can see these sights.
The Contemporary Art Center has the largest collection of exhibits in the Baltic States. Admission to the exhibitions costs 3 euros, admission is free on Wednesdays.
The National Museum of Art displays the largest collection of Lithuanian paintings and architecture. The entrance fee is only 2 euros. The museum building is located on the bank of the river, and is surrounded by a Japanese garden with sakura trees.
Physics enthusiasts can recommend the Museum of Energy and Technology – it is located in the building of the first power plant in Vilnius. The museum has preserved original equipment – steam boilers, turbines, and generators.
The museum of genocide victims is located in the former prison. Here you can see what the interior of the prison looked like and where the sentences were carried out.
A bird’s-eye view of Vilnius is available at the Vilnius TV Tower. There is a rotating restaurant Milky Way at a height of 165 meters. Admission costs 7 euros on weekdays and 9 euros on weekends. The tower is located in the residential area of Karoliniskes. You can get to it from the station by trolleybus number 16.
The road to the TV tower goes through the experimental residential area Lazdinai. The local school was used to film the Soviet film “Adventures of Electronics”.
In good weather you should take a walk in the largest park in Vilnius – Vingis. The park is home to the Zelibera Botanical Garden – there are more than 3,000 plants, including a large collection of tulips and Japanese sakura. The park stretches along the Neris River and smoothly passes into the Zverinas neighborhood – a wooden block of one-story buildings.
One of the largest and oldest quarters of the city is Antakalnis, which stretches along the left bank of the Neris River. In the 18th century, this area belonged to the princely families – some palaces and parks have survived to this day in these areas. The Baroque church of St. Peter and Paul is located here.
Or you can stroll through the small Bernardine Garden, behind the Cathedral Square.
For those who want to go on a grandiose shopping spree, head to Akropolis, a huge mall with a wide variety of stores, a cinema and a bowling alley.
In three days
If we have three days to spare then it’s even possible to go out of town, there’s plenty to see there as well!
From Vilnius we can organize an outing for half a day or a whole day to one of the neighboring towns.
The town of Trakai is located 29 km from Vilnius. Bus tickets cost Euro 2, the trip takes 30-45 minutes. The town is situated among many lakes and forests, attracting travelers with its fresh air and the ancient Trakai Castle.
It is the largest surviving medieval fortress in Lithuania. In the Middle Ages, the castle was the residence of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the capital of the country. The Karaites, a Turkic people, live in Trakai and have preserved their folk traditions to this day. In the folk cuisine restaurant you can taste the national Karaite pies – kibin.
You can also go to Anykščiai, which is located north of Vilnius. Buses leave from the bus station every hour, tickets cost 8-10 euros, travel time is just over two hours. In Anykščiai you can climb the observation deck of the highest cathedral in Lithuania – the Church of the Holy Apostle Evangelist Matas. The towers of the cathedral are 79 meters high. There is a museum of narrow gauge railway, where you can take a ride on the rail bike.
But the main attraction of the city is the trail in the trees. The hiking trail is located in Anykščiai boron and is situated in the treetops – its length is about 300 meters, it ends with a 35 meter high lookout tower, from where you can admire the view of the valley of the Šventoji River. In the pine, the air is clean and the nature is beautiful. In the city you can taste the local fruit and berry wine Voruta.
Kaunas is also not far from Vilnius and it takes about an hour and a half to get here. A bus or train ticket costs 6.5-10 euros.
The city was once the capital of the country and now claims to be the cultural capital of Lithuania. There is an unusual museum of devils and an atomic bunker, which also houses a museum. You can take a funicular up the mountain and admire the sunset with a view of the Old Town. Kaunas has the largest oak park in Europe.
Sweet tooth might stop by for a trip to Siauliai. It is the fourth largest city in the country and is a two-hour drive from Vilnius. You can get here by bus (8-15 euros) or by train (you have to pay 10 euros for the ticket). The Ruta Chocolate Factory, one of the oldest in Lithuania, is located there. In the chocolate museum of the factory you can learn the history and technology of chocolate production, as well as try to make your own chocolate.
Siauliai is home to the Hill of Crosses, a place where pagan and Christian traditions are closely intertwined.
There are about 50,000 crosses of different sizes and materials mounted on the mountain. Among others, there is a cross erected by the Pope himself in 1993.
Vilnius is a relatively small and compact city, but it has many attractions and nice places. In one day you can walk around the entire Old Town. If more time is allotted to visit the city, you can cover the historical sites on the other side of the river and visit a couple of museums.
If you want to enjoy nature, you can go to Trakai or Anikščiai for half a day. If you are interested in unusual museums, Kaunas or Šiauliai would be a good choice. Vilnius offers a great choice, no matter how much time you spend there.