Julie Van Praet
What to visit in Vilnius?
In the hidden corner of Europe lies Vilnius, one of the most tranquil capitals you’ll ever have the pleasure of visiting. Surrounded by green forests, hills, and valleys. Rivers wind through the cobblestones of this historic city.
Witness history first-hand in the old town and marvel at its vibrant nightlife. Let The Walking Parrot give you a rundown on what not to miss.
Discover with us:
What not to miss?
One of the oldest surviving medieval capitals of Europe, Lithuania’s Vilnius was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. The Old Town boasts gorgeous Gothic and Baroque architecture. Thanks to being surrounded by pristine nature, the Old Town will transport you back to medieval times.
The Gediminas’ Tower is Vilnius’ most prominent landmark. Towering over the Old Town this tower is one of the best places to catch a beautiful panorama of Lithuania’s capital. Gediminas’ Castle Tower is part of the National Museum of Lithuania and offers many interesting exhibitions.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St. Ladislaus serves as a shrine of Lithuanian baptism. The cathedral can be found in the very centre of the city and used to be the site of a former pagan temple right next to Vilnius’ defensive castle.
Inside the tower is an exhibition recounting the cathedral’s storied past.
Gate of Dawn
The gorgeous entrance of the capital is the Gate of Dawn. Ages ago the city had 10 gates guarding the centre, only one remains. The imposing gate hosts Lithuania’s most famous Renaissance painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy. This symbol of Vilnius is the perfect backdrop to mark your visit to the city.
We have mentioned Vilnius Cathedral previously, but Vilnius boasts plenty more. The Church of St. Anne and Bernardine Complex is the bricked Sagrada Familia of Vilnius. The church has held ground for over five centuries and is one of the most famous buildings in town. It is a gothic masterpiece boasting many legendary tales. One of them recounts how Napoleon wanted to take the church back with him to Paris in the palm of his hand. Perhaps you will think the same?
The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is recognized as one of the most beautiful Catholic churches on the globe. Its baroque interior is filled with more than two thousand statues is reason alone to pay it a visit.
What else to visit?
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
Lithuania has known a complicated second half of its 20th century. The Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, also known as the KGB Museum shines a light on exactly that. The museum is located in the same building where the KGB used to work half a century ago. The building’s basement actually still contains the original cells where Lithuanian residents were occupied. An interesting stop to witness this part of Lithuanian history first-hand.
Uzupis is the smallest district in Vilnius. Separated by the Old Town and the Vilnele River lies the artistic heart of the capital. Uzupis used to be a quite troublesome neighbourhood but has grown into one of the most tightly knitted artistic communities in Lithuania. Just as Denmark holds Christiania, Uzupis also fought for a small piece of independence. They made their wishes come somewhat true by defining their unique character on the streets. The Uzupis Art Incubator is famous for open-air sculptures and unique installations. A unique space everchanging.
Hill of Three Crosses
Standing atop the Hill of Three Crosses, you will find just that. The 12-metre tall monument is the symbol of Lithuania’s national identity illuminating its vibrant capital. The Baltic nation has had a strong religious identity attached to crosses for centuries. Up north, you can find the pilgrimage site of the Hill of Crosses. Where thousands of metal and wooden crosses have been placed over the course of more than 200 years.
Trakai Castle sits on an island on Lake Galve, one of many lakes in Lithuania. The castle is reached by crossing a wooden bridge. In wintertime, the water freezes over creating a natural skating rink. Don’t miss out on the Castle in the summertime when there are medieval festivals and various events hosted in the courtyard.
Palace of the Grand Dukes
The Palace of the Grand Dukes’ main square is the starting point of many historic routes. The palace hosts multiple expositions with its special treasure hall as a centrepiece. In between these walls you will learn more about the dukes ruling the lands and the daily life of its inhabitants.
How to travel there?
Lithuania is accessible by plane, train and even by ship. The Baltic country holds three main airports, but the one in Vilnius might be easiest to find a direct flight to. From the port city of Klaipeda there are three international ferry connections if you’re thinking of hopping from Finland or other nations bordering the Baltic Sea.
Once in Lithuania, we would advise you to rely on renting a car or the bus network. There are bus stations in every city and connect frequently to Vilnius. There is no metro or local trains in Lithuania, this means that getting around on foot is a great way to explore the main cities. Taxis are cheap and plentiful as well as local providers such as Bolt and E-Taxi for a more convenient stay.
Interesting ways to explore the woodsy country are by enjoying a Hot Air Balloon trip or by renting a bike and pedalling along the quaint streets of Vilnius.
When to travel there?
For the brave, temperatures can drop up to 20 degrees in wintertime.
Spring and autumn get quite rainy, but the Lithuanians do get to enjoy sunshine days in summertime, with temperatures rising from May to September.
Making Lithuania absolutely gorgeous in summer.
Lithuania is the perfect choice for a low-cost holiday. With amazing food averaging 15 euros daily and your standard hotel only costing 60 euros a night for two. Transportation in comparison to more popular travel destinations is a bargain as well.
Do carry some change on you for smaller rural towns or traditional marketplaces. You are sure to find surprisingly quaint shops along your travels.
In short, Vilnius makes for a gorgeous cultural city trip without breaking the bank. How long this will stay a secret for, remains a mystery.
Where to eat?
A pub like no other. Snekutis serves up traditional Lithuanian dishes alongside a good pint of beer. Enjoy local warmth in this establishment.
Hidden behind an unimposing façade is another down-to-earth spot leaving an everlasting impression. Pas Zilvina is the owner of this kitchen and might just be the friendliest guy alive. Here the meals are equally fulfilling as the conversation.
Augustas Ir Barbora
Augustas and Barbora are Lithuania’s Rome and Juliet. The café bearing the same name is located in the heart of the Old Town and basks in an interior reflecting their everlasting love. Couples visiting this romantic spot be ware, because this establishment shares a room with a diamond boutique.
The oldest still-running restaurant in Lithuania is Stikliai. A combined culinary institute serving up the best of several local chefs with at its heart French cuisine. Chef Gerdvilas Zalys used to run one of the best restaurants in the world, and that is reflected in its price tag.
Deivydas Praspaliauskas is one of the most renowned chefs devoting his menu to Scandinavian cuisine. The Lithuanian chef encourages people to try his degustation dinners with a basis of zero waste and ecological balance at its base.
A classic Lithuanian canteen only open for lunch and serving the most delicious inexpensive hearty meals. An easy stop on your way to the Naujamiestis neighbourhood and a great way to try classic Lithuanian staples.
Not much has changed in Sultiniai since its inception in 1969. The authentic interior and affordable menu draws in all the locals wanting to experience long lost nostalgia as well as curious youngsters and tourists.
Paupys is a modern oasis hidden right in the Old Town. A garden filled with delights, this urban jungle serves up an eclectic plate in beautiful scenery. Paupys Market is not just any dining location, it prides itself as a shared experience.
Pilies Street is the oldest street in Vilnius. This cobbled road is lined with quaint restaurant leading up to Vilnius Castle. Scared of the placard menus in English, try to keep an eye out for the side streets branching out of Pilies.
Christopher Summer Music Festival
The Christopher Summer Festival is the largest music festival in Lithuania. Lasting over two summer months more than 30 original concerts are presented to the public taking place all over the capital and Lithuanian districts. This music festival plays all sorts of music ranging from classical pieces to experimental projects.
Proving that there is still life during wintertime in Lithuania.
Uzgavenes celebrates the end of winter in the month of February with hot tea, sizzling bonfires, wild lively dances.
St. Casimir's day
Saint Casimir is the patron saint shared by Lithuania and Poland and is celebrated on 4 March with a grand procession through the streets of Vilnius. Certainly, try to catch this celebration as miracles are reported to happen on the faithful day.
St. Johns Day
Every 24 June people gather to celebrate the shortest night of the year in Lithuania. This midsummer night people feast, sing, dance, and light huge bonfires once again. The main centre of celebration is found in the towns of Kernave and Jonava celebrating this ancient tradition.
Christmas in Lithuania equals ice and cold. Christmas Eve is a more important day than actual Christmas, Lithuanian Kucios is celebrated with a huge meal marking the end of Advent. This evening family and warmth sit at the centre by serving up traditional dishes, music and attending a midnight mass. Try to catch site of one of many elaborate nativity cribs around Vilnius during this time.
Be sure to visit this hidden gem of the Baltic before everyone else does! Not sure yet? Check out our guides on Slovenia or Montenegro. Follow us on Instagram @thewalkingparrot to stay notified of new content!