With all of the different things to do in Vilnius you would think that you could spend a week or more just wondering around and checking everything out.
Some people, myself included, would have no problem doing this but others might get bored after a few days and might be interested in checking out something nearby.
When it comes to day trips from Vilnius there are quite a few interesting options worth considering and there’s something for everybody to see regardless of what you’re interested in.
You can choose to head deep into Lithuania nature and do some great hiking, check out another one of the largest cities in the country, explore a beautiful castle, or get tossed back to the Soviet era in an open-air sculpture park.
Of course it’s going to be a lot easier to access these different places if you have rented a car but many of them are quite easily accessible with public transportation such as the bus or train.
All of the different day trips that I recommend you’ll be able to reach in 3 hours or less of travel time so it’s really up to you to decide what your time frame is like and how long you willing to spend to get to a specific destination.
Alternatively, you could choose to spend the night in one of these different day trip locations and just get a better feel of Lithuanian culture.
Vilnius Day Trips
Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania and it’s only an hour away by both train and bus.
The bus leaves more regularly with a more direct route and it’s what I’d recommend taking although you can also take the train if you prefer a more scenic journey.
The city is quite lovely, with a very small and easily walkable old town area, and if you visit during the spring or summer then you’ll love walking down the many tree-lined avenues that are dotted across the city center.
Despite being much smaller than Vilnius, Kaunas is a very popular student town so there was a lively vibe throughout the school year as well as a decent selection of different museums and art galleries worth checking out.
Cutting right through the heart of the city is Liberty Avenue, or Laisves aleja, and this is the popular tree-lined street is that you’ll hear so much about whenever you bring up visiting Kaunas to any other Lithuanians that you know.
Apart from this beautiful avenue there is also the impressive Kaunas Castle, which is a city fortification dating back to the 14th century, as well as Vytautas Church, one of the oldest churches in the entire country.
There are a few other churches and interesting religious monuments that you’ll see when you’re walking around so be sure to take the time to stop and admire them before making your way to the next tourist site.
For those of you interested in museums, there are quite a few different options to choose from in Kaunas and some of the more popular ones include the Lithuanian Aviation Museum, the War Museum of Vytautas the Great, and the Devils Museum.
Once you get tired of walking around and exploring there is a wide range of different cafes and small restaurants that you can stop by to grab a quick bite to eat or drink.
Hill of Crosses
Another one of the more popular Vilnius day trips is the Hill of Crosses.
This unique pilgrimage site can be found just 12 kilometers north of the small town of Siauliai, although it’s not that easy to reach.
Getting here involves a reasonable length journey of about two and a half hours so if you want to visit this attraction you’re going to want to leave early in the day and leave yourself plenty of time to explore and make your way back.
Like I mentioned, this is a popular pilgrimage site in Lithuania and the small hill that’s covered with all the crosses gained its notoriety all the way back in the 19th century when people started placing crosses down on the ground near the top of the hill.
It became a lot more popular during the Soviet era of oppression when religious freedom wasn’t really allowed and the crosses ended up being removed.
After that happened, almost every night Lithuanians would head out to the hill under the cover of darkness and put more crosses down as an act of unity and defiance against the Soviets.
Since then, the Hill of Crosses has become an important to cultural site and even until this day it’s a pilgrimage site that’s often frequented by Christians.
Although it’s one of the longer day trips, the Hill of Crosses is something very unique and its history is very important to the Lithuanian people and culture.
For those of you that have been spending too much time wandering around medieval cities and are looking for a little bit of a nature break then I would recommend heading to Trakai.
This is one of the only national parks in Lithuania, with only four others apart from this one, and it’s so close that you can be there in just 45 minutes by bus or train.
Once you’re there you won’t be able to help but admire the incredible landscapes and crystal blue lakes that are lined with rows and rows of trees making it seem like you stepped into a fairy tale rather than into the Lithuanian countryside.
During the summer Trakai is very busy with locals and this is when a lot of tourists make their way to the National Park as well so it can be quite crowded, especially if you’re visiting on the weekend.
One of the best things to see here is the picturesque Trakai Island Castle.
This castle was built on an island right in the center of one of the lakes at the park during the 15th century and it’s one of the more unique castles that you’ll be able to find here in the Baltics.
Originally, the castle was used for a defensive purpose given its prime location along various trading routes and it was frequently used up until the 16th century when defense was no longer an issue in this area.
These days there’s now a museum inside that has a collection of items and other artifacts dating back from the 15th and 16th century, so if you’re into museums and Lithuanian history you’re definitely going to want to take a look.
There’s also a small town to check out nearby, the town of Trakai, and it’s here where you’ll be able to get a nice look at Karaite culture.
Interestingly enough, the Karaite people were originally Turks that settled along the lake here and the surrounding lakes in the area all the way back in the 14th century.
They actually brought a local specialty with them, something known as kibinai, and this is a small pie that’s filled with vegetables, meat, cheese, or jam and is readily available at all of the different restaurants and eateries in the town.
There’s also a Karaite church, a range of different small wooden houses that have been painted in bright colors, and the museum if you want to learn more about them.
A short distance away from the city center of town is, about six kilometers give or take, is the Ninth Fort.
This is both a fort and memorial and the original fort here was built during the early 20th century as a defensive structure for the city of Kaunas by the Russian Empire.
At the time, Kaunas was the capital city of Lithuania and it was important to safeguard preservation as the political and cultural capital of the country.
Eventually, the fort was no longer needed for defense, and unfortunately during World War II it was used as a hard labor prison that Jews from the surrounding area were sent to.
The event that made it a well-known location is that on October 29th, 1941 more than 9,000 Jewish people were murdered here in a single day and during the entirety of the war more than 50,000 people lost their lives here.
It’s a horrific place to visit if you think about it history and today, opened since 1959, there’s a museum and there’s a memorial as well that opened later on in 1984.
At the museum you can get a better look at what life in Exile was like when the Russians occupied all of Lithuania during the 1940s and 1950s Soviet era.
Quite a few Lithuanian locals, numbering into the thousands, were exiled during this time period and were sent to Siberian work camps where the majority of them never returned.
The memorial today stands 32 meters tall and was put in place to pay respects to all of those killed during World War II and as well of those that were killed by the direct aftermath of what happened in Lithuania because of the war.
It’s a very impressive memorial and combined with the fort itself as well as how easy it is to reach here from Kaunas I would definitely recommend checking it out.
Grūtas Park is another interesting day trip, especially if you’re interested in Soviet history.
This is an open-air sculpture Park as well as a museum where you can go walk around and admire a wide range of different old Soviet statues of famous historic figures such as London, Stalin, and other popular Soviets.
What happened was that after Lithuania gained their independence all of the old statues and monuments from around the country were removed and rather than melt them down or simply destroy them they were brought here and put on display.
It’s quite unique feeling walking around the park and staring up at the immense statues and monuments that once dominated city squares and small town meeting points.
Interesting me enough, there are also some watchtowers at the park that play Soviet music to make it feel like a more legitimate experience and you can also check out a few other exceptions such as some old tanks and other relics from the Soviet era.
For those of you that have already spent time in Vilnius, or check out some of the other more popular areas in Lithuania, then you’re going to love seeing the old photos of where the statues were originally placed.
Reaching Grūtas Park isn’t that difficult and it’s very close to the small town of Druskininkai, which is the popular resort town for Lithuanians.
The town of Druskininkai is quite nice as well and you definitely going to want to take some time to walk around before making your way to the park.
It’s possible to take the bus but it’s better to reach the area by car if you have been to have access to one and it’s only about 130 km away and definitely possible to get here from Vilnius and make it back in just one day.
The district of Zarasai is a beautiful area just 2 hours away from Vilnius by car.
The small town itself is located right on the edge of Lake Zarasa and this is a great place to visit if you’re looking to escape the city life and take in some picturesque and beautiful natural areas.
There are few places in all those Lithuania that you can enjoy as much unspoiled nature and close by to the district are two regional parks that offer plenty of opportunities for hiking and other outdoor activities.
Zarasai itself is located quite close to the border of Latvia, so it’s a great place to visit for a day trip and also if you’re doing a road trip through the Baltics.
In the town there are a few restaurants and small cafes that you can check out if you’re looking for something to eat or drink but the highlight is the overlook bridge that offers an incredible view of the nearby lake.
The bridge stands 17 meters in height and it curves out over the lake providing an unobstructed view of the water and the large island in the middle.
During the summer it’s possible to rent some small boats or even bicycles if you want to explore the nearby town or just paddle on the water while enjoying the summer heat.
I’m not sure if I would recommend visiting during the winter unless you are specifically driving through the region and looking for somewhere to stop to quickly explore.
Rumsiskes is another interesting place to check out just 20 kilometers east of Kaunas.
It’s here where you’ll find one of the largest open-air ethnographic museums across all of Europe and it’s home to the Open-Air Museum of Lithuania.
At this Museum you can get a better look at Lithuanian history and learn more about the traditional ways of life across the entire country.
You can explore some historical villages, authentic farms, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, mills, and even some old buildings.
It’s definitely somewhere you’re going to want to consider checking out if you’re interested in learning more about Lithuanian culture and history.
Also nearby you can find the Kaunas Reservoir and after spending some time at the Museum this area makes for a great place to walk and enjoy the outdoors before heading back to Vilnius.
Panamune Road and Castles
Located along the well-known Panamune Road are a series of castles and chateauxs that you can spend the whole day exploring and checking out.
This area and the castles are a lot easier to reach if you have your own rental car or if you’re doing a guided day trip and I’m not quite sure how you can do it on your own using just public transportation.
The road follows a very scenic route along the Nemunas River Valley and it runs between the two towns of Klaipeda and Kaunas so there is no shortage of interesting things to check out along the way.
Between the two towns you can find a series of different castles, manors, and chateauxs that you can stop by and visit depending on how much time you have and whether or not they seem interesting to you.
The manor was built during the 16th and 17th centuries from red bricks that were quarried.
It’s quite close to Kaunas and if you’re leaving from there it’s likely going to be one of the first stops for you.
As you continue along you’re bound to run into the popular Raudone Castle.
This Castle was built during the 16th century but it was unfortunately heavily damaged during World War II and has been reconstructed and renovated since.
One of the main highlights of the Castle is the 33.5 meter high gothic tower and during the summer or fall it’s quite picturesque with all the leaves and nature around it.
One more interesting stop is the Panamune Castle.
This impressive structure was built at the beginning of the 17th century in a Renaissance style so it might look quite familiar to other castles that you’ve seen across Europe.
Today at the castle there is a museum and you can check out the towers for a better view of the surrounding area.
Don’t forget to stop at one of the restaurants along the way for a very local dining experience as well as reasonable prices.
The UNESCO Kernave Archaeological Site
The Kernave Archaeological Site is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lithuania and it’s only about 45 minutes away from Vilnius by car.
It’s here that you can explore a variety of different remains Left Behind from more than ten Millennia of human settlements in the area and if this is an important historical example of human settlements in the Baltic region since Paleolithic times.
The town where you can explore the archaeological site, Kernave, features a variety of different settlements, forts, hill fortification mounds, and burial sites that you can all check out.
There are a series of paths throughout the area and walking around you’ll be able to thoroughly explore everything and even enjoy some great views of the site.
For those of you interested in learning more about Lithuanian history this is somewhere I would definitely recommend checking out