15 Amazing Things To Do In Vilnius, Lithuania

Thanks to a charming Old Town and its youthful population, Vilnius makes a romantic introduction to the Baltic States. 

In recent years, the Baltic States have been on the radar, especially for those who’ve traversed through much of Scandinavia and Central Europe. Lithuania’s capital is a wonderful preface, a quieter debut as you gear up for both Riga and Tallinn.

Out of the three major cities in the Baltic States, Vilnius was, by far, my favorite. Strolling through its reticent Old Town or shopping for nuts and fruits as Halle Market was about to close, reminded me of a decade ago’s Budapest. Before hefty groups of tour buses took over hushed streets, peppered by locals going about their everyday lives.

There’s much to do in Vilnius for a simple, romantic weekend getaway. Keep in mind that the city is full of students under the age of 25, but this means a colorful nightlife and youthful energy which juxtaposes a tragic past. Lithuania’s history may be dark, but its capital city is certainly worth a visit, as a charming introduction to your own story in the Baltics.

Three days in Vilnius is perfect: 

Some may say that 24 hours in Vilnius is enough, since the city is on the smaller spectrum compared to other capital cities around the world. But Vilnius is where you’d want to take some time to enjoy, and slow down the pace a bit. I highly recommend spending 3 nights with 2 full days in the city. If you want to add Trakai into your itinerary, then an extra day is definitely needed.

Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum

Naugarduko g. 10/2, 01309 Vilnius, Lithuania

The Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum was established in 1989, it honors and preserves Lithuanian Jewish history and culture. In 1997, the museum was renamed in remembrance of Talmudic scholar, Vilna Gaon. Vilnius itself has a limited number of museums, which provides even more reasons to visit this one since it not only displays copious artwork, it also includes historical artifacts and extensive information regarding Jewish community in Lithuania throughout history.

Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum
Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum
Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum
Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Halle Market

Pylimo g., 01136 Vilnius, Lithuania

One of the best places to shop for groceries and local produce in Vilnius is certainly the Halle Market, or Halės Turgus, located in Old Town. It is the oldest and largest market in Vilnius, originally constructed in 1906 by architect Vaclovas Michnevicius. The 8,400 square meter indoor space is home to fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese stands, cured meats, bakeries…and much more. The marketplace is the hub of its own butchery, and abundant organic products, making it one of the best places to learn about Lithuanian food culture.

Halle Market
Halle Market. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Gate of Dawn

Aušros Vartų g. 14, 01303 Vilnius, Lithuania

One of the must-see sights in Vilnius has to be the Gate of Dawn, built as a defensive fortification from 1503-1522. The gate is embellished with religious artifacts meant to protect the city and travelers from attacks. Here, the Chapel features The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, believed to have magical powers hence this has become a stop for hundreds and thousands of pilgrimages throughout centuries.

Gate of Dawn
Gate of Dawn. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Church of St. Theresa

Aušros Vartų g. 14, 01303 Vilnius, Lithuania

Just a few steps away from Gate of Dawn, the Church of St. Theresa displays an imperative sculpture of the Crucified, which is often surrounded by local chatty ladies speaking either Polish or Lithuanian. The legs of the sculpture appears faded since many kisses have been placed there for blessings and gratitude. Underneath the chapel lies the graves of the Pociej family – Polish noble descendants.

Church of St. Theresa
Church of St. Theresa. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Town Hall Square

Rotušės a., 08107 Vilnius, Lithuania

Home of the city’s main events and exhibitions, Town Hall Square is the focal point enveloped by outdoor cafés and busy restaurants. The neoclassical design was deliberated by architect Laurynas Gucevičius during the 18th century. This was where Vilnius’ very first opera was showcased, and where the city’s Museum of Fine Arts once called home.

Town Hall Square, Vilnius
Town Hall Square, Vilnius. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Vilnius Museum of Illusions

Vokiečių g. 8, 01130 Vilnius, Lithuania

For a fun experience you can enjoy with the kids or on your own, the Vilnius Museum of Illusions is full of interactive surprises. There’s a 2D café, numerous fascinating and educational displays that showcase colorful art, physics and creativity. You can also opt for a personal guide (at free of charge) to accompany and explain each station throughout the entire museum.

Vilnius Museum of Illusions
Vilnius Museum of Illusions. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Vilnius Museum of Illusions
Vilnius Museum of Illusions. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Vilnius Museum of Illusions
Vilnius Museum of Illusions. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights

Aukų g. 2A, 01400 Vilnius, Lithuania

Located in the former KGB building, the multi-floor Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights remembers five decades of Soviet’s occupation of Lithuania. Inside, there are various artifacts that depict anti-Soviet Lithuanian partisans as well as victims of imprisonment, deportations and executions. The walls outside are dedicated to the names of victims killed during the occupation. The execution room in the basement explains where prisoners died then buried in graveyards located outside the city of Vilnius.

Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Cathedral Square

01143 Vilnius, Lithuania

In addition to Town Hall Square, the Cathedral Square in Vilnius Old Town is one of the main plazas that features city fairs, parades and major activities. Here, you’ll see the beautiful Vilnius Cathedral and an iconic Bell Tower which has become an emblem of Lithuania’s capital.

Cathedral Square
Cathedral Square. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Cathedral Square
Cathedral Square. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Cathedral Square
Cathedral Square. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Literatų gatvė

Literatų gatvė

You can find Literatų gatvė, or Literary Street, charmingly tucked in a curvy alley inside Old Town. It is dedicated to famous writers and poets throughout Lithuania’s artistic history. There are decorative plaques and plates that you can admire up close. The name of the alley refers to several bookstores and printing houses situated on the same street where Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz once lived during the early 1800s.

Literatų gatvė
Literatų gatvė. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Užupis

Užupis

Užupis, or the Republic of Užupis, is similar to Christiania in Copenhagen – an independent republic within a capital city of a country. True to its name, Užupis means “the other side of the river,” and it can be discovered on the other side of the Vilnia River where most of the Jewish population living in this neighborhood were completely killed during the Holocaust. Afterwards, the abandoned houses were occupied by prostitutes and the homeless.

During the Soviet’s occupation of Lithuania, this area became the hub of bohemians and artists. In 1997, Užupis officially became an independent republic ruled by its own laws and constitution. Today, it is worth a whole day of visit. The neighborhood boasts cute cafés, artist studios, concept stores and cool bars.

Užupis, Vilnius
Užupis. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Užupis, Vilnius
Užupis. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Užupis, Vilnius
Užupis. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Bernardine Garden

Barboros Radvilaitės g. 8A, 01143 Vilnius, Lithuania

Not too far from Užupis is the Bernardine Garden where the city holds many festivals, exhibitions, fairs and outdoor events.

The park began when the Bernardine monks visited the city after receiving an invitation from the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Casmir IV Jagiellon in 1469. During their trip, the monks organized a botanic exposition and several events at the park. During WWII, the garden was destroyed but the Soviets later rebuilt it again and named it “The Youth Garden.” In 2013, the European Union reconstructed the park once more to the structure that locals can enjoy today.

Bernadine Garden
Bernadine Garden. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

St. Anne’s Church

Maironio g. 8, 01124 Vilnius, Lithuania

To view one of the most fascinating Gothic architectures in Vilnius, stop by St. Anne’s Church. The Roman Catholic Church is situated in Old Town, and it’s a blend of Flamboyant Gothic (seen from its main façade, rectangular-framed arches and symmetrical dynamism) and Brick Gothic styles since the church was built by using 33 varieties of clay bricks.

St. Anne's Church
St. Anne’s Church. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

Katedros a. 4, 01143 Vilnius, Lithuania

Be sure to plan at least half a day to visit the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania due to its extensive size. During the 15th century, the structure was originally built for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Kings of Poland. Many glamorous and beautiful artifacts displayed throughout the premise are from the 16th and 17th centuries when the rulers prospered during the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Today, there are several museums, landmarks and important sights to see within the grandiose palace. 

Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Gediminas Castle Tower

Arsenalo g. 5, 01143 Vilnius, Lithuania

Hike up to the Gediminas Castle Tower for a panoramic view of the city. There’s a cable car that transports visitors to the top, where legend depicts the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas who brought down a bull after hunting in the woods. Later that night, he had a dream of a wolf made of iron, howling loudly on the same hilltop where Gediminas had hunted earlier in the day. When he woke up and asked the court magician for a translation of his dream, the interpretation comprised of an omen that Gediminas should build a spectacular city which eventually became Vilnius. 

Gediminas Castle Tower
Gediminas Castle Tower. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Gediminas Castle Tower
Gediminas Castle Tower. PHOTO WENDY HUNG
Gediminas Castle Tower
Gediminas Castle Tower. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Three Crosses Monument

Kalnų parkas, 01100 Vilnius, Lithuania