About Vilnius City
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and was first mentioned in writings in 1323 as a city that grew from a trading post, it now has around 575,000 inhabitants. The old town was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994.
There are many options to visit Vilnius, there is an international airport and many cheap airlines throughout europe fly into the country. It is also easy to get buses from nearby countries.
I had booked my Vilnius Riga bus ticket with Lux Express for 30 Euro return. The bus had free wifi and coffee!! The 4 hour drive was beautiful and I was surprised how similar to the UK the scenery was.
Top Things to do in Vilnius Lithuania
If you are planning on having 2 days in Vilnius then follow this Vilnius itinerary on how to spend your time in Vilnius. If you only have one day in Vilnius or 36 hours in Vilnius then pick the best things to do in Vilnius that interest you.
Museum of Occupations and freedom fights – formerly called the Museum of Genocide Victims (KGB Museum)
My first stop in Vilnius was the Museum of Genocide Victims. KGM Museum Vilnius opening hours are from Wednesday until Saturday 10am to 6pm and Sundays 10am to 5pm. Admission is 4 euro for adults and 1 euro for students.
It is set in a former KGB prison where many Lithuanians died during the Russian and Nazi occupations and documents the time from the 1930’s until 1991 when it became an independent country. I had no idea what had happened in this country during that time and the museum documents it very well.
Walk along the river
As I was close to the river and the weather was lovely, I decided to go for a walk along the Neris river and to cross White Bridge and chill out in the park before walking along the other side and back across at Green Bridge. The paths have been recently renovated and so it is a beautiful place to walk and forget you are in a city.
If you enjoying cycling then an option is a cycling tour along the river.
If you like river cruises then you can also do a Vilnius river cruise.
I then decided to walk up to Gediminas Tower as I had heard that the views of the city from the top are amazing. There is a funicular up to the top but it’s really not too difficult a walk or long. It costs 2 Euro for a return ticket. It is the last remaining part of the upper castle that has survived and was rebuilt in 1930.
The views of the city are spectacular and this is a must while you are visiting Vilnius Lithuania. The tower itself is a museum and costs 5 Euro, you can also go stand on top of the tower and get a 360 view of the town.
The main roman catholic cathedral is located just off Cathedral square and is named the Cathedral Basilica of St Stanislaus and St Ladislaus of Vilnius. The original cathedral on the site was built in 1251 though the one currently standing was rebuilt in 1779 and many previous cathedrals had been destroyed by fire and war. During the soviet regime 1949 to 1988 the cathedral was closed and reopened as an art gallery.
Visit the Old Town
While visiting Vilnius you must visit the palace, university, town hall and walk to the city wall of Vilnius. From there you can see the Barbakanas Bastion and amazing views of the city (photo at the top of the page is the view from here). The historic old town has buildings from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods and it became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994.
Gates of Dawn
The Gates of Dawn are the only remaining city gates from the former city wall that surrounded Vilnius and a must see while you are visiting the old town.
The Republic of Uzupis
On the 1st April 1997 the Republic of Uzupis declared itself an independent republic and even has it’s own president. As you walk through the area you can see it’s own constitution written on the wall in different languages!!! (Have a read of it below, see what you think!!) It’s a great little part of the city and was once filled by artists, now it’s a great place to walk around with some great restaurants and art galleries.
St Anna’s Church
Across the bridge from The Republic of Uzupis and past Bernardine Church you will find St Anne’s Church. It is a prominent landmark in Vilnius and a great example of gothic architecture. The current church on the site was finished around 1500 AD.
This small street has tributes lining the walls to poets and writers who have influenced Lithuanian literature. It is believed to have been named in the 1950’s as a tribute to Adam Mickiewicz a poet who lived there and was revived in 2008 by a group of artists who decorated a wall with artworks from different writers who had a link to Lithuania.
The presidential palace was originally built in the 14th century for the Bishop of Vilnius. Over the years it has been extended and renovated to what we see today. Since 1997 it has operated as the official office of the President of Lithuania. Every day at 6pm you can see the changing of the guard. On Saturday’s there are also free excursions around the palace and every sunday a flag hoisting ceremony takes place at midday.
Free Walking Tour vilnius
While I was in Vinius I heard that there was a free walking tour of the old town with Vilnius Free Walking Tours. We met our guide by the monument of Gediminas in Cathedral square at 10.30am. The tour is held daily and is a great way to see the old town and learn the history.
St John’s Church
After the tour I decided to walk through the university grounds, I went inside St John’s church. You can climb the tower and see the view of the city for an extra 4 Euros.
Bernardine Gardens are located along the river Vilnele between Gediminas Hill and Bernardine monastery. It’s a great place to read your book for a bit and have a bit of lunch in the Cafe. As there is a crossing for the river just outside the park you can climb up to the Three Crosses to see the view of the city from there.
Hill of the Three Crosses
Just outside of the Bernardine Gardens is a crossing for the river, where you can start the hike. It is quite a steep hill but there are steps and it only takes maybe 20 minutes to get to the top. It looks a lot higher and further away than it actually is, and is another worthwhile view point as you get to see Gediminas Tower from there.
After I had finished the walk I went and sat back down in the park and read a bit more of my book, before popping into Bernardine Church, Vilnius Cathedral & St Casimir’s Church to have a look at their interiors. There are a lot of churches in Vilnius and it’s worth going in and seeing the great architecture in them.
The next day I did a day trip to Trakai, a town about 40 minutes away from Vilnius on the bus. It’s a great Vilnius day trips and a stunning area.
If you have 3 days in Vilnius or 4 days in Vilnius then this is a great option for one of those days. You could also try and see some of weirdest places in Lithuania, such as Stalin World, where you can see statues of Stalin and a museum about the devil.
If you are planning on travelling from Vilnius to Riga then a great alternative is to do a day trip incorporating The Hill of Crosses, Rundale Palace and Bauska Castle.
Where to stay
There are lots of options of hostels and hotels in Vilnius. Click here for more information and latest prices.
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