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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Vilnius…. hidden gem in europe! One of my favo cities in europe. Much underrated!
It is such a beautiful city, I loved it there 🙂
I had no idea there was a huge genocide in Lithuania up until the 90s! I’m glad they fought and got their independence! I would love to walk around the old town.
This is great! I’ve always wanted to visit Lithuania!
What a beautiful city! I think the architecture of the churches is particularly stunning.
I still haven’t visited the Baltic states but I keep hearing great stories about them. Your pictures are beautiful and definitely inspired me to try and travel there soon!
Excellent guide! I’d love to explore around the Baltics and I haven’t heard many people do it from Europe yet. I think Vilnius would be a good place to start or just for a short weekend break.
I’ve never visited the Baltic States or even considered it before but it looks beautiful so I think that I should visit after all.
Wow! What a great historical insight into Lithuania this article provides. I really need to explore the Balkans more. Had no idea about the genocide, thanks for the education
Lithuania is very popular now isn’t it? I guess it’s quite cheap. There seems to be a lot of variety from gothic style church to soviet-era buildings. I love your photos 🙂
I haven’t been to the Balkans yet – would love to go! Very interesting about The Republic of Uzupis – I had no idea it existed!
Great info. I also think about visiting Riga and Vilnius and am already looking forward to the bus ride, haha (am a huge UK fan so I am sure I will enjoy it).
I didn’t know there was a genocide in Lithuania 🙁 As sad as it is, I always think it is important to visit museums like that so you get the full history- the good and the bad. To be honest, I don’t know much about this country but I think your guide did it justice 🙂 Looks like an amazing and unique trip!
Vilnius looks like an amazing city! The architecture looks beautiful. I’ve never been to any of the Baltic states but I would love to go someday
Those are beautiful pictures of monuments and cathedrals in the city. I was specially fascinated by the architecture and interiors of the pristine white cathedrals. A lot to do in 2 days!
I had an Estonian friend growing up in the 80’s. The two things I remember most about him were his fantastic mustache and how much pride / anger he felt with Soviet occupation. He was always talking about “free the three”. I lost track of him before the fall of the USSR but he was the first person I thought of when I heard the news. The Baltic States went through hell and they very much deserve a genocide museum.
I was just thinking about going to those countries too!
Thanks for the tips!
The city seems to have a lot of history and I always love to know more about that (even though like you said it can be a bit depressing to visit certain places)
Your post made me want to go even more ! thanks !
The churches are really cool
Thanks for this tour of Vilnius! I’ll definitely need to add it to my list of destinations.
I keep hearing all the best about Baltic countries. Vilnius looks fantastic and I can’t wait to hear more about your day trip to Trakai!
Oh wow, we went to Vilnius and the rest of the Baltics over 4 years ago. Where did the time go? 😀 This post took me right back, thanks so much!
Looks like such a great place to visit. I will save your post for when I go! It’s definitely on my list. The whole Baltic region for sure:)
You’re killing me! I hitchhiked straight through on account of trying to stick to a bit of a schedule, but that’s never the right choice! At least I have some ideas for next time I’m passing through!
Looks like a gorgeous place to visit. Some of the architecture is wonderful and it seems so cheap. Definately want to visit when we are back in Europe. Its horrific to think of what went on during the genocide.
For 5 Euros that’s one heck of a great view from the tower! Amazing architecture too.
Cool, I’d love to go to Lithuania. I was intrigued by the Republic of Uzupis – entering the Wikipedia wormhole now! Thanks 🙂
I’ve always wanted to visit Lithuania. So much history that we don’t really get taught in schools and beautiful architecture. Add in some amazing scenery and you’ve got the perfect break! Thanks for sharing!
I’ve never read about Vilnius so this was a fun article! I actually saw some affordable plane tickets to Lithuania not too long ago. I guess I’ve just added another place to the list!
Just love the history to these places. The old architecture is fabulous and would love to just wander through all of those. Has a beauty all its own. Would love to visit and thanks for sharing.
Sounds like a great trip to Vilnius ? Loved the photos! Great read, thanks for sharing!
I’ve wanted to go to Lithuania! Thanks for some travel inspiration. I also want to thank you for helping me enter the Wikipedia wormhole for “Republic of Uzupis.” Interesting history there!
I didn’t realize there is so much you can do in Vilnius. Love the view from the top of Gediminas Tower. The Genocide Museum would be a place I would lose my husband in. He is so into WWII history and crimes. Your two day itinerary is exactly what we would have done too.
Vilnius comes across as a charming and endearing place. A place where the past and the present seem to meet. I would love to take a walk along the river and also explore the old town.
Looks like you had a lovely time – so nice to see that Gediminas Tower offers a beautiful view – most of the time it is just a cityscape and nothing quite so lovely! Both churches look stunning as well.
It seems that you got the most out of Vilnius! Inspiring post for people who wants to discover the Baltic countries like me. Thanks!
We *almost* moved to Vilnius for my husband’s work three years ago until he moved companies. Reading your post takes me back to all those nights researching a new life there! It looks like such a cool city, thank you for sharing!
Fantastic post. I have been to Vilnius for a weekend and this article brings back such a great memories 🙂