Vilnius, the unassuming capital city of Lithuania, is an interesting place to visit that’s still undiscovered by the hordes of global tourists.
The old town was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, so you know it’s definitely worth checking out, and with just five hundred thousand or so people living in the city it’s never really that busy.
What this means is that you can explore all of the different things to do in Vilnius without other tourists getting in your way and you rarely have to wait in line to get into a museum, get on the bus or tram, or get a seat at a nice restaurant or cafe.
Despite not being as popular, Vilnius has a really nice and unique charm to it and I would definitely recommend visiting if you’re ever going to be in the area.
The prices for things are quite reasonable, accommodation is readily available and quite cheap as well, and it’s easily possible to spend a few days exploring the city and still not really see it all.
Whenever you’re walking through the Old Town you’re bound to find a new cobblestone street that you have yet to discover and throughout most of the city are a wide range of different eateries, small shops, and great cafes all worth checking out.
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the different things that there are to do in Vilnius.
Things to Do in Vilnius
The Old Town
The Old Town in Vilnius is definitely going to be one of the first places you head to as soon as you drop off your bags, freshen up, and you’re ready to start exploring.
The entire old town area is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and this shouldn’t be surprising considering that it’s one of the largest surviving medieval towns still remaining in all of Northern Europe.
Around the historic center are plenty of different neighborhoods and interesting attractions that you can check out and it seems that every time that you walk a block you’re presented with a new architectural style.
It’s possible to catch glimpses of Neoclassical, Gothic, Baroque, and even Renaissance architectural styles as you’re wandering through the Old Town so it’s quite a treat for history and architectural lovers alike.
The main walkway in the old town, Pilies Street, is where you’re going to find the greatest amount of tourists and locals alike because it’s here that there are plenty of different cafes and nice restaurants where people can relax, enjoy a bite or drink, and just people watch.
Rather than having a dedicated Central Square, there are actually two squares in Vilnius – the Cathedral Square and the Town Hall Square – both of which are equally picturesque and worth taking a look at.
It’s a good idea to venture off the main streets anytime that you get a chance because that’s when you’re going to be able to wander around the quiet and narrow laneways that really bring you back to medieval Vilnius.
Churches and Other Religious Monuments
One thing you’ll notice quite quickly after arriving in the city is that you don’t have to walk very far to come across our church or another religious monument.
Lithuanians are seemingly quite religious and this really shows itself in the beautiful churches throughout the city center.
Some of the more picturesque and lovely churches worth checking out include St. Anne’s Church, the Vilnius Cathedral, the All Saints Church, and St. Nicholas Church.
Thankfully, out front of each one is a small little stand where you can learn more about the history of the church that you’re standing in front of rather than having to pull out your phone and Google it or look at a map/travel guide.
Apart from the churches there are a few other interesting religious monuments including the Gate of Dawn and the Hill of Three Crosses.
The Gate of Dawn in Vilnius is one of the most important historical, cultural, and religious monuments in the entire country and whenever you’re there you’re definitely going to see people crossing themselves or even praying as they walk through the gate.
This gate was actually built at the beginning of the sixteenth century as a defensive fortification for the original fortress that once stood in place in the city and while almost everything else was destroyed over the years the Gate of Dawn still remains.
Today it stands as a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary and there is some interesting artwork and details on the gate that you’ll want to spend some time admiring.
The Hill of Three Crosses
Right at the edge of the old town is where you’ll find the Hill of Three Crosses as well as the Three Crosses Monument.
This is another religious monument in the city and once you climb to the top of the hill you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the city down below.
Depending on what time in the day you visit you can also catch the sunset setting behind the Vilnius and this is a very beautiful experience.
Over the years there have been quite a lot of different monuments placed on top of this hill with the most recent ones having been built in 1989 right as the Soviet Union began to collapse.
During the summer you’ll find a lot of locals here enjoying the nice weather, taking in the view, and just relaxing after a long day.
It’s definitely worth visiting, especially for the amazing photo opportunities that you’ll have from the top of the hill.
From the old town it’s only about a 10 or 15 minute walk to reach the top depending on where you are so it’s really not that far at all and the walk up isn’t that steep either.
Cathedral Square is the main Square in Vilnius and it’s here where you’ll find the beautiful Vilnius Cathedral along with the postcard picture perfect Bell Tower.
Both of the structures are absolutely stunning and if you get a chance you should definitely head up the Bell Tower for an amazing view of the square and surrounding old town area.
During the year there are plenty of different events, parades, and other exhibitions held here in the square and at Christmas time this is where you will find the wonderful Vilnius Christmas Market.
In the summer there are going to be quite a few different vendors selling different snacks, trinkets, drinks, and if the weather is nice I recommend grabbing something to drink near by and just relaxing on one of the many benches while watching everybody walk by.
One interesting thing that you’ll find here at the square is that there is a little stone marking on the ground right near the tower.
Legend has it that if you stand on the stone and turn around three times that your wish will be granted so it’s pretty funny to watch people walking up to it and turn it around a bunch of times.
The square here is also a popular meeting place so if you’re hoping to meet somebody or you want a good base to have for exploring the city then I recommend starting here.
Look for Street Art
In Vilnius I was surprised to find a number of different street art exhibits, mostly murals, located throughout the city center.
I really love finding street art whenever I’m traveling abroad so cities that have a lot of it really make it a much better experience for me.
I couldn’t find any maps online that show all of the different locations of the best pieces of street art and most impressive murals so I really just recommend walking around and venturing away from the main tourist streets to see what you can find.
Some of them might seem hidden but make sure to always check behind you whenever you’re walking down the street to see what you might have accidentally missed.
Of course, you could always ask some young locals if they know anywhere in particular that they recommend for you to check out, but it’s always a lot more fun to explore on your own to see what you can discover.
Walk Along the Vilnia River
Skirting along the outside edge of the old town and splitting the modern and historical parts of the city and half is the Vilnia River.
This river actually connects both of the historic capitals of Lithuania and supposedly along the banks are plenty of different burial places of Lithuanian pagans.
Along with the burial places there are also mythological stones and other interesting religious and historical features that can be quite hard to discover unless you know what you’re looking for.
From the old town with the banks of the river are less than five minutes away and throughout the year they offer a great place to walk, relax, and just enjoy the nice scenery.
There wasn’t much to see when it comes to the old town but from the banks there is an amazing view of the modern skyscrapers and more contemporary buildings in Vilnius located on the far side of the river.
In the summer you’re definitely going to see quite a lot of people enjoying a nice picnic and just laying down on the grass while relishing the warmth of the season.
This is another picturesque and popular street in the heart of the city.
Not only can you find some great restaurants and cafes here but it’s also where a few government offices and public institutions are located given its location and historical importance.
Many of the buildings date back to the 19th and 20th century and at the end of the street is the beautiful Cathedral Square so it’s not hard to see why this is such a busy area throughout the year.
At night and on the weekends when traffic dies down you’ll see plenty of people walking in the street and if you’re looking for a drink or something quick to eat then don’t hesitate to drop into any one of the number of mid-range to higher class establishments that you’ll find here.
Be sure to walk up the street a little bit away from the square, and when you turn around you’re going to have an amazing view of Cathedral Square that’s definitely worth taking a photo of.
High up on a hill overlooking the city is the Gediminas’ Tower.
This is basically one of the only remaining still standing parts of the original upper castle that was once located at the top of the hill.
Over the years some other parts of the old castle that was once here have been restored but this is the best kept relic that still exists today.
The tower is a very important symbol of both the city of Vilnius and as well as for Lithuania.
These days you can actually check out the tower by climbing up the hill on foot or taking the funicular if it happens to be running.
On the inside is a museum where you can see some of the different archaeological findings that were discovered on the hill itself as well as in the surrounding areas.
From the top of the tower you can also enjoy a wonderful view of Vilnius down below.
Is Vilnius Worth Visiting?
I know that there are a lot of people apprehensive about visiting Vilnius and I think that most travelers would rather head to Riga or Tallinn to spend a few days exploring.
Even though those other two Baltic cities are more popular I still would argue that Vilnius deserves a visit, especially if you’re looking for somewhere a little bit more off the beaten path without so many English-speaking tourists wandering around.
I do believe that the city gets a lot of visitors from some of the surrounding countries, such as Poland and Latvia, and I also saw quite a few Bulgarian license plates as well.
The medieval old town is very nice, well-kept, and the prices here in Vilnius are quite reasonable so it’s a very affordable European destination.
The city itself is small but surprisingly spread out so even though it’s possible to walk around the old town and just a few hours you can really spend a few days here wandering around all of the different neighborhoods and checking out all of the different tourist sites.
Apart from that, there are quite a few good options when it comes to day trips from Vilnius so you can get a better look at the Lithuanian countryside as well as some of the other cities in the country.
Maybe 10 or 20 years ago it wasn’t such a nice place but these days Vilnius is a beautiful city and I would definitely recommend checking it out if you get the chance.
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