For those spending only a short amount of time in Vilnius, we’ve created a list of 10 things to see and do to get the most out of the city. To really get a feel for Lithuania’s capital, we’ve included a mix of historic sites, museums, experiences, and of course, traditional Lithuanian foods to taste!
The only remaining city gate from the former city wall that surrounded Vilnius, the Gates of Dawn is both historically relevant for Lithuania and important to Christianity. The small chapel inside the Gates holds an icon of the Virgin Mary without baby Jesus. For those who don’t have time to enter the chapel, you can see the icon, which is shining gold, from the street.
The Hill of Three Crosses is another two fold destination, this time of both historic and national importance. The three crosses on this hill in the city center are thought to have been erected in the 17th century by Franciscan monks, to pay tribute to fellow monks that were murdered. The original crosses where wooden but started to rot and were replaced with stone ones. Those crosses were later destroyed by the Soviets but have since been rebuilt by the sculptor Henrikas Silgalis.
Though most of Gediminas’ Castle no longer remains, a tower from the Upper Castle is still standing. Originally built in the 1400s, the Upper Castle is one of Lithuania’s most famous historical landmarks. A walk up the hill to take a closer look at this brick structure provides stunning views of Vilnius’ historic old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Formerly one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Vilnius, home to prostitutes and drug addicts, Uzupis was revitalized in the 1990s when bohemians and artists moved in. Now when travelers pay a visit to Uzupis, they’ll be treated to colorful street art, small art shops, cute cafes, and tasty restaurants.
This main, cobblestone thoroughfare leads to Gediminas’ Castle. With examples of some of the best architecture in Vilnius lining the street and cafe seating spilling out over the sidewalks, Pilies Street is the perfect place to people watch over a cappuccino. One of the best souvenir shops in Vilnius, Aukso Avis, is also located on Pilies Street.
Vilnius Cathedral and its neighboring Bell Tower and Square are symbolic of Vilnius. Located near Gediminas’ Castle and the Hill of Three Crosses, Vilnius Cathedral is worth a visit to see the beautiful architecture and interior decor of the building.
To fully immerse yourself in all Vilnius has to offer, visitors should opt for a tasty Lithuanian meal. Traditional Lithuanian cuisine mostly consists of potatoes, pork, dairy, and dill combined to create hearty meals. Cepelinai, fried bread, and potato pancakes are some of the many Lithuanian foods to enjoy.
Lithuanians are very proud of their traditional mead and of the locally brewed beer. New local breweries are popping up all the time and beers can be tasted at bars all around the city. For a wide variety of local Lithuanian beers, Bamb Alyne is a great option. Svyturys is one of Lithuanian’s oldest beer companies and makes several crowd pleasers, and Raudonu Plytu brews some fantastic options.
Underneath Vilnius Cathedral are crypts that hold the remains of famous historical figures who played important roles in the development of Lithuania. The crypts also hold the royal mausoleum. Tours of the crypts provide visitors with the history of of Vilnius Cathedral, important historical figures, and facts about the impressive artifacts on display.