Prior to visiting the Lithuanian capital for the first time, I kept wondering what to do in Vilnius, mainly because I didn’t know much about the city. I had rather low expectations, as my research and reading on the city in advance had been slim to none. I pictured a grey city with strong hints of Soviet occupation still roaming the streets, and figured it would be a trip filled with shopping and spa days, and not much else.
I was extremely wrong and sincerely apologise to any Lithuanian readers out there.
Vilnius proved to be an incredibly beautiful and vibrant city, with adorable cobblestoned street, stunning churches on every corner, nice people, great food and lots of interesting sights to see for the culturally interested. There were so many great things to do in Vilnius that I had to write this guide!
A day well spent in Vilnius is a day spent strolling around the Old Town. The houses were adorable, with tiny cobbled streets going in all and any direction (we didn’t find one straight corner there), and small parks and green areas scattered around. The last part particularly surprised me – there were so many pretty parks and green squares wherever we went.
Still wondering what to do in Vilnius? Well, I’ve written several post about things to do there, and below is a quick list where you can find the ones that are of interest to you! There are so many great things to do in Vilnius, I know this city will take your breath away like it did mine!
One thing I do recommend from the get-go, is checking out a Vilnius coffee guide and trying out some of the great coffee places in the city!
Perched upon a hill, near the centre of Old Town, Vilnius you will find a magnificent building – reminding you of something out of an old Disney movie (I’m thinking the Sword in the Stone). According to the legend, Gediminas was a Grand Duke in Lithuania ages and ages ago, and the night after an exhausting hunt he had a dream about one of the hills where he had shot a taurus.
He asked a mage what the dream meant, and was told that he had to build a city centering around that hill. The dream was an omen about the future capital of Lithuania, and so Gediminas got to building a castle on the hill, and a city slowly started growing around it. The city was named Vilnius after a nearby river (Vilnia) and became the capital of Lithuania, just as the mage had predicted. It’s funny when you’re a Grand Duke and can decide where the capital is, right?
Story time is over and so is the time of Grand Duke Gediminas. There isn’t much left of the castle on the hill today, but the main tower still stands tall. It is today known as Gediminas’ Tower, and boasts amazing panoramic views of the entire city of Vilnius. On one side you’ll see the charming Old Town, with its picturesque houses and uneven streets. Make a 180 degree turn and you’ll see the up and coming commercial centre of the city, with skyscrapers on their way up, shopping malls and lots of traffic. Vilnius truly is an adverse city!
The views alone is reason enough to visit the tower, and they just get better as you climb the three floors to the top. Gediminas’ Tower itself has been made into a museum (€2 entry fee – the view is well worth it) with depictions of the castle that once stood on the hill throughout the years. Make sure you bring your camera.
Top tip: Visit during sunset! There were barely any other people when we were there, and the lighting made everything look extra dramatic. It was also nice to catch the last rays of heat before the sun went down, it’s windy at the top!
Getting to the top is not as hard or dramatic as it seems. You can walk along the path that snakes around the hill, or you can pay €1.50 to catch a ride in the funicular/tram like box that will bring you straight up the hillside. The walk was really nice, as it takes you along the back of the hill, letting you see the tower from all angles on your way up.
All in all, Gediminas’ Tower is definitely one of the top things to see in Vilnius, and one I strongly recommend!
Bernadine Gardens is a favourite on the list of what to do in Vilnius. The gardens are vast, and you can spend quite some time walking around them. The musical fountain in the park are also great fun, so make sure to catch one of the shows if you can! There’s a bunch of information in English here.
Out of all the things to do in Vilnius, don’t miss spending some time walking around Old Town. This part of Vilnius is absolutely beautiful, and you can spend a whole day strolling around, taking pictures and just enjoying the history of the city and the streets surrounding you.
Head this way to read my guide to Vilnius Old Town!
This may surprise you a little, as shopping isn’t what you’d expect to find on a list of what to do in Vilnius, but trust me when I say you should definitely set aside some time for this! Hit up the massive Acropolis Shopping Centre if the weather is bad, or stroll along Gedomino Prospektus – seemingly the main shopping street of the city.
Visiting The KGB Museum, Vilnius is a must when you are in the Lithuanian capital, and probably one of my favourite things to do in Vilnius. It was an impactful visit, and one I won’t forget. Visiting the museum will teach you so much of Lithuanian history, and of the hardships during WWII and the Cold War.
Head this way to read my guide to visiting the KGB Museum.
As mentioned, it didn’t take me very long to discover that Vilnius is an incredibly special city. I carried my camera with me most days, mainly because there was something to see around every corner. That something was usually a church or cathedral – they were everywhere!
I noticed a similar trend in St. Petersburg; small (and large) religious houses scattered all over town, all with their own details, art work and interesting names. In Vilnius it wasn’t possible to round a corner without stumbling upon a beautiful church, and even though I wasn’t planning on them being the motive for 80% of my photos from the trip – I couldn’t help myself.
Thus, this is mainly a picture post, where you can have a look at some of the gorgeous churches I found walking around Old Town, Vilnius. This is only a handful of them, though, as there were loads I didn’t see, didn’t have the time to capture, or simply didn’t have my camera around to snap a photo of.
The colorful Saint Catherine church (1743) was closed by the Soviets and now serves as a concert hall.
Vilnius Cathedral (1783) and its bell tower stands at the end of Old Town on one side and the new (main) shopping street Gedimino Prospektas on the other. It is the main Catholic Church of Vilnius today.
Gothic Saint Ann Church (1500) is a highly detailed masterpiece, with the larger Saint Francis’ Church (1516) immediately behind it. The latter includes a monastery who actually run an internet news site! Every Sunday Roman Catholic Mass is celebrated in English inside.
The Saint Michael Church (1594) was closed and turned into an architectural museum by the Soviets. It has never been reopened as a church, and today serves as a museum of religious art.
I love this picture as it really show what I mean when I say ‘churches everywhere’. Along this street you see two church towers (and also some random cars and awful electric wires ruining the picture), and the nearest one is quite interesting. The Shrine of the Divine Mercy is its name, and it is dedicated to an important painting hanging above the altar. All though a ‘regular’ church before the painting was hung there in 1934, it has since been adapted to a complete place of worship for this painting – The original Divine Mercy. It has been acknowledged by the Pope (which one I do not remember) and has world-wide recognition within the Catholic community.
There are some great spas scattered around the city of Vilnius, and I strongly recommend visiting one of them during your trip! Pamper yourself with a massage and a manicure, and you’ll be returning home as a new person.
Wondering where to eat in Vilnius? These two Vilnius Restaurants were my favourites during my trip to the Lithuanian capital, and I’m so excited to share them with you!
We had a table booked here one evening, as we found the restaurant on TripAdvisor in advance. We ended up having an amazing time, eating great food and being thoroughly entertained by the staff! The restaurant is family owned, and you could really tell that the server was proud of this. He told us about all the courses, about his favourites, the local food they served and which beer to drink with it. The service was perfect, in other words – which is an impressive feat considering we were 16 people.
The restaurant is located in a rather dead street outside of Old Town, so I would advise you to catch a taxi there and back. It didn’t seem like an ideal neighbourhood to be walking around in, but the food at Senoji Trobele was worth it. Some of my friends were completely blown away by the lamb shanks, I loved the chicken stuffed with broccoli, and their chicken Kiev was apparently killer too! You must also order their ice shot after dinner – served in a shot glass made entirely of ice, keeping the spirit at a perfect -20 Celsius.
We ended up eating here twice during our short stay, the food was just too good! It is extremely easy to find, and located just a 2 minute walk from the Cathedral square. Blue Lotus serves Thai and Indian food – you’ll notice a lot of Asian fusion restaurants around the city, they seem to be very popular. On our first evening eating there I was actually so torn about which menu to follow that I ended up ordering a Thai chicken meal with Naan bread, and none of the staff even batted an eyelash! I was extremely happy, and the Garlic Naan was absolutely amazing.
The restaurant did a great job with keeping up with us all when we were sixteen around the table, and offered great service the first evening when there were only four of us dining there. They were friendly and helpful, giving us the impression that they didn’t find us obnoxious Norwegians irritating at all, even though our sound levels rose accordingly with the wine bottles we emptied. I strongly recommend the Blue Lotus, and am positive that you will enjoy it as much as we did!
Bonus: Across the street from the restaurant is a salsa bar called ‘Mojito’, with fun dancing, cheap drinks and a great atmosphere. We may or may not have met Captain Morgan himself there during our after dinner drinks! They are open until 6am on weekends, so don’t worry if dinner drags out a little.
Taxis are very cheap in the city, but they are more expensive when you hail them off the street than if you book them in advance. Download the free ‘Taksi’ app to order taxi’s to wherever you are, straight from your phone!
For example: from the airport to our hotel (near Old Town) we paid 20 Euros including tips, but from the hotel to the airport, a booked taxi cost 6 Euros including tips! The taxi rates are considerably higher when catching a taxi from the airport though, so don’t feel like you’ve been tricked or ripped off.
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