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Vilnius is the vibrant capital of Lithuania, a small and charming city nestled in the heart of Eastern Europe.
Vilnius is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With a rich history, charming architecture, and thriving cultural scene, there is no shortage of things do in Vilnius to suit any travelers style and budget.
You can step back in time and wander through the UNESCO-listed Old Town, where cobblestone streets and Gothic-style buildings transport you to a bygone era, or delight in the culinary offerings from Lithuanian dishes such as cepelinai.
Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply seeking a relaxing city break, Vilnius has something for everyone.
To help you decide on what to do in Vilnius, we interviewed Ele Pranaityte, a local who was born in Vilnius in 1981, who shares her insider tips on the best attractions in Vilnius and where to eat, stay, drink, and explore.
- Is Vilnius Worth Visiting?
- Things to Do in Vilnius
- 1. Visit The Lithuanian National Museum
- 2. Explore The Quirky Neighborhoods
- 3. Try Some Lithuanian Cuisine
- 4. Experience The Vilnius Nightlife
- 5. Attend An Annual Festival
- 6. See Amazing Views from St John's Church Bell Tower
- 7. Check Out The Church of St. Peter and Paul
- 8. Eat Cake At Mint Vinetu Bookshop
- 9. Check Out The Trakai Island Castle
- 10. Wander Around The Presidential Palace
- 11. Marvel At Vilnius Cathedral
- 12. Visit The KGB Museum / Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
- 13. Take the Kids to Museum of Illusions
- 14. Walk Up To The Hill of Three Crosses
- 15. Relax In The Peaceful Squares
- 16. Marvel at The Gate of Dawn
- 17. Take A Free Walking Tour of Vilnius
- Best Time of Year to Visit Vilnius
- Getting To And Around Vilnius
- Where to Stay in Vilnius
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Vilnius, Lithuania
Is Vilnius Worth Visiting?
If you’re not sure whether you should be visiting Vilnius, then here are some reasons why it’s absolutely worth visiting!
This charming Baltic capital offers a unique blend of history, culture, and beauty that is definitely worth experiencing.
Vilnius was founded in 1323, stretched to be the largest country in Europe, and housed a number of cultures, religions and traditions as well as received the best architects and artists from all over Europe.
It‘s a mix of beautiful nature, historical landmarks, good food, and kind people.
Vilnius has been praised as one of Europe’s most underrated cities, with its picturesque Old Town and relaxed vibe, it’s a city that can be explored on foot, allowing you to immerse yourself in its ancient history while enjoying modern entertainment and delicious cuisine.
It may be small, but it’s a place that will leave lasting memories.
Things to Do in Vilnius
Whether you’re looking for the highlights of Vilnius or you want to discover some hidden gems, we have all this in our list below.
1. Visit The Lithuanian National Museum
Vilnius is a very European city, so my advice would be try to see traditional culture. One of the best places to see this is at the Lithuanian National Museum, otherwise known as The New Arsenal of National Museum of Lithuania, which has an extensive collection of artifacts, documents, and artworks.
From prehistoric times to the present day, you can delve into the country’s past and learn about its cultural heritage.
Also behind the National Museum of Lithuania is the iconic Gediminas Castle Tower, which offers breathtaking views of Vilnius.
You can climb to the top of Gediminas Tower and take in panoramic vistas of the city while immersing yourself in the historical context of this landmark.
The tower has been a staple monument in Vilnius since 1409, and is the only remaining structure from the Upper Castle, and was rebuilt in 1933.
Another great museum if you have more time is the National Art Gallery, which houses collections by Lithuanian artists.
2. Explore The Quirky Neighborhoods
Tourists usually enjoy the bohemic Republic of Uzupis, where a lot of artists live and work, and you can even see some examples of street art in this area.
They consider themselves as a separate republic and even have their own Constitution, some items of which are very interesting, like: “a cat does not have to love its master but must help in time of need“.
For wooden architecture lovers I recommend checking out the Zverynas (Menagerie) neighrborhood for its wooden houses heritage.
And, naturally, the Old Town, that goes without saying.
3. Try Some Lithuanian Cuisine
If you want to try some of the national dishes, your best choice are places called Cili Kaimas, simple Cili mainly cater for international food like pizzas or spaghetti.
Some popular Lithuanian dishes you should try are Fried Bread Sticks, Cepelinai (a type of Lithuanian dumpling) or Kibinai (similar to a pasty).
You should also make sure to sample some local cheese and honey.
Vilnius has also seen a number of sushi places opening. Chinese restaurants are all over the city with cheap food in big portions, so if you decide to explore Uzupis, do go to the one there, it‘s great!
Vegetarians will appreciate Radharane. I would not recommend eating street food from street vendors as they usually sell rather greasy and difficult to digest food in terms of foreign visitors stomachs.
4. Experience The Vilnius Nightlife
If you are up to a relaxed evening, I recommend Sky Bar. It‘s got panoramic view and good cocktails mid-priced. Do wear a shawl or a jacket as the conditioning might be crazy.
There‘s a good pub called Portobello in the Old Town near the Gates of Dawn, they have good beer but can get crowded when there‘s a match on TV.
Practically all cafes and restaurants serve wine, beer and stronger drinks, so you will not be thirsty in Vilnius.
5. Attend An Annual Festival
Vilnius is a lively place and full of fun and exciting events, all year round.
Kristupas Summer Festival is held every year between June-September and offers a number of concerts to everyones taste. If you’re visiting in the summer, do check their free concerts times and venues.
“Skamba skamba kankliai” is an annual folk music and dance festival that is held on the last weekend of May, and features local groups and guests from abroad.
A number of fairs takes places, the best known is St. Casimir‘s Fair in early March. Also, don‘t miss out on Palm Sunday.
6. See Amazing Views from St John’s Church Bell Tower
In high season you can see an amazing Vilnius panorama from St. John‘s Church Tower.
Standing at an impressive height of 69 meters (226 ft), the St. John’s Church Tower offers stunning panoramic views of Vilnius Old Town and its surroundings.
Whether you prefer climbing the authentic wooden stairs or taking the modern lift, reaching the observation platform is easily accessible for visitors of all ages.
From the observation platform, you can admire the city’s historic rooftops and picturesque landscapes.
The tower itself is a masterpiece of architecture, with its five gradually decreasing portions. It stands as the tallest building in Vilnius Old Town and is a prominent landmark in the city.
7. Check Out The Church of St. Peter and Paul
Head over to Antakalnis and see the Baroque Pearl of Church of St. Peter and Paul.
The church is widely considered one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in the world. Its stunning Baroque architecture and intricate design make it a sight to behold.
Step inside the church, and you’ll be mesmerized by its special interior. Filled with around two thousand statues, the church’s interior is a testament to artistic craftsmanship.
The Church of St. Peter and Paul has a rich history dating back to its construction, which started on June 29, 1668, and was completed in 1676. It stands as a symbol of Lithuania’s cultural heritage.
Whether you’re a believer or not, the church radiates a peaceful and serene atmosphere. Many visitors find solace and inspiration within its walls.
8. Eat Cake At Mint Vinetu Bookshop
Pay a visit to Mint Vinetu, a second hand bookshop that offers a really delicious mint tea and carrot cake (sells out quickly, so be early).
As well as having a great cafe, Mint Vinetu offers an extensive collection of new and used books covering various genres, from literature to philosophy, history to art.
You’ll find hidden gems and rare editions that will delight any avid reader.
The bookshop provides a warm and inviting atmosphere, with cozy nooks and comfortable seating where you can lose yourself in a good book.
It’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
9. Check Out The Trakai Island Castle
If you’re looking for a day trip from Vilnius, head over to Trakai Castle.
The castle is famous for its stunning gothic architecture. It stands on an island in Lake Galvė, creating a picturesque and fairy tale-like setting.
Being situated on an island in one of the deepest lakes in Lithuania makes Trakai Island Castle a truly unique attraction. The surrounding natural beauty adds to the charm of the castle.
It was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, and played a significant role as the residence of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.
Exploring its halls and chambers offers a glimpse into the history and grandeur of the past.
Trakai Island Castle is not just a historical site; it’s a symbol of Lithuania’s rich heritage and a testament to the architectural prowess of the past.
10. Wander Around The Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace is the official office of the President of Lithuania, and sits in the Simonas Daukantas sqaure.
The building was built in the 18th and 19th century in a Classical style, and was once a a former nobleman’s house.
If you’re visiting Vilnius on the weekend, be sure to head over to the palace on Sunday’s at 12pm, when a flag hoisting ceremony takes place.
You can witness soldiers of the Honour Guard Company of the Lithuanian Armed Forces dressed in reconstructed uniforms worn by the guards of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in the 14th century, hoist the flag.
There are also free tours of the palace on Saturdays and Sundays at 10am – 3pm, though you need to register at least 3 days before.
11. Marvel At Vilnius Cathedral
Another striking monument in Vilnius is the Vilnius Cathedral. The cathedral holds immense historical and cultural significance, making it a true gem of Lithuania.
With its stunning architectural design and grandeur, the cathedral stands as a symbol of the country’s rich heritage.
Inside the cathedral, you can explore the beautifully decorated chapels, admire the intricate artwork, and learn about the fascinating stories behind each element.
The crypts beneath the cathedral hold the remains of various notable individuals, adding to the sense of reverence and importance.
12. Visit The KGB Museum / Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
The KGB Museum, also known as the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, is a significant historical site in Vilnius.
It is situated in the former KGB headquarters, where crimes of the Soviet regime were planned and executed for fifty years.
The museum offers visitors a glimpse into Lithuania’s tumultuous past, showcasing artifacts, records, and exhibits from the Nazi occupation period and the Soviet Era dictatorship.
One of the highlights of the KGB Museum is the exploration of the former KGB offices, which provides insight into the operations and methods of the secret police.
13. Take the Kids to Museum of Illusions
If you’re looking for things to do in Vilnius with kids, then a visit to the Museum of Illusions is a must.
The Museum of Illusions in Vilnius is a fascinating and mind-bending attraction that promises to challenge your perception and ignite your curiosity.
This unique museum offers an immersive experience where reality seems to bend, twist, and defy logic.
Visiting the Museum of Illusions allows you to explore a variety of optical illusions, interactive exhibits, and mind-boggling installations.
From rooms that appear to change size to gravity-defying displays, each exhibit is designed to trick your senses and provoke wonder.
It’s a fun and entertaining way to spend a day out with your family.
14. Walk Up To The Hill of Three Crosses
For another viewpoint of the city, head up to the Hill of Three Crosses, which is also an important religious site in Vilnius.
Legend has it, that three wooden crosses sat on top of the hill, which were placed there in the 17th century as a memorial to seven Franciscan friars that were beheaded there.
The Soviets removed them in the 50s during their occupation of Vilnius, in which all religion was banned.
When the Soviet regime fell, a memorial was rebuilt in the late 1980s, which has now not only become a symbol of religious importance but also to symbolize the nation’s rise up against the Soviets.
15. Relax In The Peaceful Squares
Vilnius is also home to several relaxing and beautiful squares, where you can sit back in a cafe and admire the architecture and ambiance.
Cathedral Square and Town Hall Square are two iconic squares in Vilnius that are steeped in history and charm.
Cathedral Square is the main square of Vilnius and is surrounded by several significant buildings, including Vilnius Cathedral and the Gediminas Tower.
It serves as a gathering place for locals and tourists alike, with its open space and beautiful architecture creating a sense of grandeur and tranquility.
Town Hall Square, on the other hand, is located in the heart of Vilnius Old Town and is home to the historic Vilnius Town Hall.
The square is adorned with charming cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and outdoor cafes, creating a lively and inviting atmosphere.
It is a vibrant hub for events, festivals, and markets, where visitors can experience the local culture and immerse themselves in the city’s vibrant energy.
Both Cathedral Square and Town Hall Square offer a delightful blend of history, architecture, and a bustling atmosphere.
16. Marvel at The Gate of Dawn
The Gate of Dawn, known as “Aušros Vartai” in Lithuanian, is a significant religious and historical site located in Vilnius.
It is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Lithuania and holds immense cultural and spiritual significance.
The gate is part of the city’s defensive walls and is the only remaining gate from the original nine that once encircled Vilnius.
The Gate of Dawn is renowned for its miraculous icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Mother of Mercy.
The icon attracts thousands of visitors each year who come to pay their respects and seek solace. It is believed to have healing powers and is considered a symbol of hope and protection.
17. Take A Free Walking Tour of Vilnius
A great way to experience the city if you are short on time is by taking a free walking tour, which is one of the best free things to do in Vilnius.
The Old Town free walking tour is a 2.5-hour tour that takes you past some of the most iconic sites, such as Cathedral Square, Vilnius University, The Presidential Palace, The Town Hall, The Republic of Uzupis, and the St Anne Church which is said to be so beautiful Napoleon Bonaparte said he wanted to take it back to Paris with him.
Simply rock up to Cathedral Square any day of the week at 10.30am and look out for the free walking tour flag.
Best Time of Year to Visit Vilnius
The best time to visit Vilnius is in the summer and early autumn.
Generally, it has a wet climate with rain and snow, our springs are wet and late.
Summers can be hot and rainy, autumn is very warm and has beautiful trees. It gets dark early in late autumn and winter, at 3-4 p.m. you need lights on.
Getting To And Around Vilnius
You can arrive in Lithuania at the international bus station, railway station or Vilnius International airport.
Bus and train stations are in the city, so you can walk or take public transportation to your hotel. From the airport you can take buses 1 or 2 and there is a train that links the airport and the railway station.
Mind that luggage on public transportation is payable if it exceed limits of 60x40x20 cm.
Airport train schedule can be checked here. Buses 1 and 2 can be checked here.
This area is the most frequently reformed, so check the newest info before you get on it. They are supposed to start e-ticket only system this year, so if you want to take public transport you will have to buy a special e-card to hold your ticket.
The good news is that there are 24 and 72 hour tickets available.
If you are based in the Old town, you will not need any public transport as it is easily walkable.
Where to Stay in Vilnius
This is a question to be taken care of in advance as Vilnius has rather few budget accommodation places compared to the number of people that visit in the high season.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Vilnius, Lithuania
I love Vilnius because it’s the most beautiful city in the world. What I love about it is there are plenty of free attractions, allowing visitors to spend a day sightseeing without breaking the bank.
Not to mention the city exudes a unique charm with its cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and quaint cafes.
Whether you’re interested in history, culture, art, or simply exploring a charming European city, Vilnius has something to offer anyone who visits.