Best things to do in Vilnius, Lithuania
Several places in Europe fascinate, one of them is Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Vilnius is a city rich in history, in street art, and which in addition has some very good places to reconnect with nature and have fun.
Wondering what are the best things to do in Vilnius?. Then you are in the right place, let’s start!
Top 15 Best things to do in Vilnius
1. The Three Crosses
Located to the east, across the Vilnia River, the hill of three Crosses is a symbol of Vilnius. Near the hill, you will find several places to explore such as Kalnai Park, Gediminas Tower, and what remains of a castle which was built there by this Grand Duke.
The hill of Three Crosses is a place to commemorate the martyrdom of Franciscan monks who came to evangelize Vilnius. The inhabitants, not finding proselytism to their liking, massacred fourteen monks.
According to legend, seven were beheaded on the hill then their bodies had to be thrown into the Neris and the other seven were crucified.
When the Christianization of Lithuania was complete, a cult developed around these monks and the three crosses. Apart from the history of the place, it is the panorama from the observation post that fascinates, offering a splendid view of the capital’s Old Town.
The spectacle is even more formidable at sunset, so I urge you to discover the hill of the Three Crosses.
2. Trakai Castle
Located 30 km from Vilnius, exploring Trakai Castle is a perfect half-day or full-day excursion. Dating from the 14th century and renovated in the 20th, it was one of the most important places in Lithuania at that time.
Trakai Castle was built on a small island in the middle of a lake. It is one of the most photogenic places and discovering it is one of the best things to do in Vilnius.
To get to Trakai Castle from the city, I recommend taking the bus. Moreover, on the way between the castle and the bus station, you will come across several chocolate factories, so do not hesitate to treat yourself before going on an adventure.
3. Town Hall Square
Vilnius Town Hall Square is one of the most charming corners of the capital of Lithuania. In winter, the Town Hall Square turns into a spectacle of charming little streets, breathtaking buildings and churches all more beautiful than the next.
Also, you will have the opportunity to admire the igloos covered in snow. Igloos are individual stalls such as bars, cafes, etc. Each Igloo in Vilnius Town Hall offers a unique atmosphere and the opportunity to enjoy a special Christmas in Vilnius.
Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the colorful christmas tree of 24 m in height at the center of Town Hall Square. Also don’t miss the famous George bush Plate on the wall of the City Hall. It is a tribute to the visit of the American President, who remains the only American president to have visited Lithuania.
4. Gediminas Castle Tower
Gediminas Castle, once the residence of the Grand Duke, was built at the beginning of the 15th century. The tower is one of the only parts of the building that have survived; it was rebuilt in 1933 by a Polish architect.
Gediminas Castle Tower houses an archaeological museum with discoveries of the surroundings as well as models of the castle through time. It is possible to climb to the top of the tower to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire Lithuanian capital.
The history of the castle, according to legend, dates back to the interpretation of his dream by the pagan priests who advised Gediminas to build a fort on the hill at the mouth of the Vilnia and Neris rivers.
5. Old Town Vilnius
Listed since 1994 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Town Vilnius is one of the oldest medieval towns in Eastern Europe and one of the most beautiful Baroque towns in Europe. To discover it, nothing better than to let yourself be guided by your footsteps.
With its small cobbled streets, its pastel houses, and rather unique mix of style, the Old Town Vilnius does not lack charm. In its heart, you’ll find the oldest of the streets, Pilies Street which leads from Vilnius Castle to the south of the city.
Also visit Didzioji, as well as Literati Street, dedicated to Lithuanian writers. Additionally, within the Old Town of Vilnius, you will find Vilnius University, founded in 1568 by the Jesuits.
The university is one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe and an architectural gem with Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical influences, containing one of the most esteemed libraries in Eastern Europe.
6. A walk along the river
If you are looking to stroll through a movie set without being disturbed by the massive influx of tourists, I invite you to walk along the river. It is the ideal place to see the sunrise and to discover the Lithuanian capital with its colors.
Additionally, you can discover Kalnai Park, Bernardine Park, the splendid Uzupis district, and lots of great places.
7. Vilnius Cathedral
Vilnius Cathedral is the main Roman Catholic church in the capital of Lithuania. Located in the main square, this is the place in which all the Grand Dukes of Vilnius were crowned; It is also here that many of them were baptized or buried.
It was Mindaugas, the first of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania who ordered its construction in 1252 when he had just converted to Christianity, but as often in the history of religious buildings.
The Vilnius Cathedral was partially destroyed during the Russo-Polish war of the 17th century, experienced moments of glory with the coronations of the rulers of the alliance between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and during the period communist was transformed into a hangar, then into a museum.
8. Purnuskes - Center of Europe
Purnuskes is a small village in Lithuania which lies about 25 km north of Vilnius. Purnuskes gained its fame in 1989 following a study that revealed that the true center of Europe lay just outside the village.
A stone memorial was erected at the calculated location. However, the researchers realized that Malta had been omitted from the calculation.
As a result, after a subsequent overhaul, the location changed by about 100 meters. A brand new commemorative pillar was erected in 2004 to mark Lithuania’s accession to the EU.
Visiting museums is one of the best things to do in Vilnius. The capital of Lithuania is home to several museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, which since 2018 hosts the works of Lithuanian artists from the 1950s to the present day through 5,000 works.
Also, the Lithuanian Art Museum is the most important art museum in the country. It is separated between several places and themes: Fine arts, applied arts, popular arts.
However, the museum not to be missed is undoubtedly the KGB or genocide museum. It highlights one of the darkest periods in Lithuanian history. From 1941 to 1944, the building was occupied by the Nazis as the headquarters of the Gestapo.
Then, the KGB took over the premises until 1991. The prison cells are as they were left. The rest of the building presents visitors with the Lithuanian resistance, the deportations as well as the daily life of the people during the second half of the 20th century.
10. Vingis Park
Vingis Park is one of the best outdoor spaces available in Vilnius. The stroll there is particularly pleasant, it is also the ideal place for a small family picnic. Within Vingis Park, children can enjoy various entertainment and activities.
The Vingis Park is not only unique for its vegetation, its size, its beauty, and the peace that reigns there is very pleasant. Here you have a large amphitheater. This place is the cradle of all kinds of events. A few shows are performed there several times a year.
11. Other Churches
Discovering churches is, without a doubt, one of the best activities to do in Vilnius. you must take the time to enter one or more churches. Take at least a few minutes to admire the beauty of the interior of St. Peter and St. Paul Church.
It is an imposing building in the heart of the capital of Lithuania. If its exterior architecture is already impressive, its interior decorations are even more so. Real works of art are displayed on its walls.
Additionally, take a short trip to St. Anne Church which is located in the center of Vilnius. You can’t miss it. Due to its size and its rather unique baroque style, its brown color, this building is one of the city’s must-sees.
Užupis is a utopia, a microstate proclaimed as a joke on April 1, 1997, in a formerly infamous neighborhood. Tucked into the hollow of a bend in the Vilna, this small space of compact houses was neglected during the Soviet era.
The area was predominantly inhabited by the Jewish population, and the empty houses after the Holocaust had not aroused the interest of the new authorities. Užupis has become a district for squatters and artists.
This independent and rebellious spirit prompted the residents to proclaim the Republic of Užupis, which has all the attributes of a state. A short stroll In Užupis will allow you to lose yourself in the maze of streets with a very bohemian atmosphere.
13. Hales Market Vilnius
Hales Market is one of the best places to visit in Vilnius. Built in 1906 by architect Vaclovas Michnevicius, it is one of the oldest markets in the city.
Today, Hales Market Vilnius spans 8,400 square meters and its parking lot can accommodate up to 150 cars. Hales Market Vilnius is the perfect place to find many local and artisan products. Additionally, it is a great place to discover Lithuanian culture.
14. Christmas Market
If you have the opportunity to visit the city in December, do not hesitate to discover its Christmas market. This is one of the best things to do in Vilnius. In the evening, head to Cathedral Square, where the largest of the two Christmas markets is held.
You will be amazed by the avenues lit by the light of street lamps. You will also find a wide avenue lined with Baroque buildings as well as a large square illuminated with a thousand lights by a huge fir tree.
Also, you will be overwhelmed by the smell of cinnamon, mulled wine in every corner of the Vilnius Christmas market. Additionally, don’t miss the Cathedral of Vilnius show.
This is a 3D Christmas Fairytale projection that traces the customs and traditions of Lithuania using new technologies. A perfect mix between modernity and traditions!
15. Lithuania National Drama Theatre
We can’t finish the list of the best things to do in Vilnius without mentioning the Lithuania National Drama Theater. No need to spend an evening there, however, Lithuania National Drama Theater needs to be seen at least from the outside.
Passing through Gedimino, the entrance to the theater is unmissable. The three black statues in Soviet styles with their golden masks, guardians of the place, represent, from left to right: Tragedy, Drama, and Comedy.
Besides plays, the Lithuania National Drama Theater also hosts festivals such as jazz.
Vilnius is a real gem in Eastern Europe. It is a city that isn’t yet a very touristic destination but it is also one that has a unique beauty. I hope you enjoyed learning about things to do in Vilnius.
Let me know what is your favorite activity and place in the Lithuanian capital. I look forward to reading your comments.