Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania with over 580,000 inhabitants, making it the largest city in the country and the second-largest out of the Baltic states.
Appreciated for its ornate architecture and rich history, Vilnius is home to some of the world’s most unique works of art dating back to the Gothic period during the 14th and 16th centuries.
Vilnius offers a healthy mix of old and new and features stunning views, must-visit landmarks, and an abundance of character with much to explore. It is recommended to spend at least 2 to 3 days to soak in everything this interesting capital has to offer.
Best Time To Visit Vilnius
The prime time to check out some of the best things to do in Vilnius, is during the Spring and Summer seasons when the weather is warm and welcoming.
While the winters can be consistently cold, the warmer months can sometimes surprise you with a sudden change in weather, so be sure to bring a light jacket just in case.
Not sure what to do in Vilnius? From the charming Vilnius Old Town to a funky Republic Urupis, here are some fun things to do in Vilnius that you should not miss.
Most Popular Things To Do In Vilnius
The Gediminas’ Tower is the last surviving piece to the Upper Castle and is quite visible from many parts of the Old Town. The renowned historical structure is characterized in numerous works of art.
Some of the city’s best panoramic views can be seen from Gediminas’ Tower. The tower shares a historical exhibition that displays reconstructed models of the original castles of the Lithuanian capital.
Gedminias’ Tower has become an iconic symbol of Vilnius. The admission price starts at around 5 euros and is available to the public daily from 10 am to 8 pm.
Vilnius Old Town
Head into the medieval times by visiting the Old Town of Vilnius, the largest existing medieval town in all of Northern Europe. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This enchanting little town is filled with a colorful variety of architectural styles, including Baroque, Neoclassical, Gothic, and Renaissance. This picturesque and well-preserved historical town is easy to navigate.
It offers a copious amount of cafes, elaborate medieval architectural buildings, and colorful cobblestone streets, making it a treat to explore and one of the most sought-after things to do in Vilnius.
Local Things To Do In Vilnius
Situated in the heart of Vilnius Old Town is Hales Market, one of the largest and oldest markets in the city first established in the year 1906.
The market is loved by locals and tourists alike and has become quite popular for locally grown and fresh produce, baked treats, meats, manufactured home goods, and more. Hales Market is an excellent place to get a taste of authentic Lithuanian cuisine and learn more about the local culture.
Guests can visit Hales Market Tuesday through Sunday from 7 am to 6 pm.
Known as one of the oldest streets in Vilnius Old Town, Pilies Street embraces the traditional architecture of Vilnius and features many cafes, restaurants, and little shops.
Pilies Street is the most popular destination for market traders to sell unique creations made by folk artists, such as jewelry, fabrics, pottery, and glassware.
Festivals often take place on Pilies Street, including the famous Kaziukas Festival that takes place every year in March, typically the nearest Sunday to March 4th. To get the best experience at the festival, plan to arrive ahead of schedule to beat the crowds or visit during the Vilnius nightlife.
Try Lithuanian Parmesan – Džiugas Cheese
This is like Lithuania’s version of Parmesan Cheese, and I have to say it is super tasty. If you are a fan of cheese, you definitely need to give Džiugas Cheese a try at Cheese Džiugas House (Sūrio Džiugas Namai).
They have cheese ice cream which is popular as well, but I’m more impressed by the actual Džiugas Cheese. There are different varieties and premium levels to choose from. The gourmet ones are worth it. I revisited a second time to stock up after trying the first batch.
This can also a good souvenir or gift to bring home. I even carried some with me to my next destination – Poland.
Cheap And Free Things To Do In Vilnius
Established in the 16th century, Vilnius University is the oldest university to exist in all of the Baltic states and the largest in Lithuania. It is known to be a public research university, and a portion of the campus resides near the Presidential Palace in Vilnius Old Town.
he impressive campus showcases various intricate architectural styles from different historical periods and up to 13 courtyards, with the most popular being the Grand courtyard.
Vilnius University includes St. Johns’ Church, the Bell Tower, and a magnificent library. A visit to this historical university is a great way to appreciate the beautiful architecture Vilnius is known for. The book store is also worth a look with its exquisite interior roof.
Hill Of Three Crosses
The Hill of Three Crosses is an influential monument in Vilnius. Originally known as the Bald Hill, it has since become a notable piece of the city’s history.
The landmark was established in the 17th century and was initially constructed out of wood. However, as time went on, the wood began to rot, which resulted in the crosses being renovated as a concrete structure to help extend their lifespan.
The view from the Three Crosses is one never to forget. Stretched for as far as the eye can see are endless views of the stunning architecture that makes up this quaint city. It’s easy to understand wonder why this site is one of the highlights Lithuania is famous for.
A trip to the Three Crosses makes one of the most scenic things to do in Vilnius. I must warn you, the walk up the hill can be a steep one, but the views are so worth it. Additionally, it is entirely free to visit!
The Presidential Palace is a Classical style building first built in the 16th century. Its stark white exterior, massive courtyards, and lush gardens create a lively atmosphere for its visitors. At night, the building lights up with colorful lights that shine bright.
Situated in Vilnius Old Town, the Presidential Palace has been the official residence of the President of Lithuania since 1997. Over the many years, the palace has experienced historical events and underwent multiple architectural touch-ups to maintain its stability and historical significance.
Free tours are available on Fridays from 4:30 pm and on Saturdays starting at 9:00 am. You do need to make reservations for free tours in advance. It is good to arrive at least 15 minutes before your tour slot.
Cultural Things To Do In Vilnius
Gate Of Dawn
The Gate of Dawn is a city gate and one of the most significant historical monuments in Vilnius.
Originally built between 1503 and 1522, the gate was created to serve as a defensive structure and stands for Catholic pilgrimage in Lithuania.
If you are not sure what to do in Vilnius first, I recommend starting with the Gate of Dawn. What better way to start the medieval adventure than at this prime location in the city?
The gate protects an essential religious artifact and symbolizes the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy. Located just down the street are great souvenir shops selling handcrafted goods.
Town Hall Square
Also known as the Market Square, the Town Hall Square was the leading marketplace of Vilnius back in the 19th century.
Featured at the one end of the Town Hall Square is a historic fountain. The Town Hall Square used to be a place for public punishment. Fortunately, nowadays, it has transformed into a celebrated destination for entertainment, starring markets, performances, and festivals.
Republic Of Uzupis
Located in Vilnius Old Town across from the Vilnia River, Uzupis is a popular neighborhood in the capital. It wasn’t until 1998 the residents of Uzupis declared it as the Republic of Uzupis and even included their own president, constitution, flag, and unofficial currency, among other things.
There is also a rubber stamp that you can stamp in your passport. Although I don’t really recommend it as some immigration officers can get picky about weird stamps in your passport.
Standing tall in the main square is the Angel of Uzupis, a statue of the archangel Gabriel with a trumpet and a legendary symbol of freedom of expression and art. Spotted throughout the eclectic neighborhood is local street art that celebrates everything Vilnius is about; authenticity and creativity.
The Republic of Uzupis gives bohemian vibes and is absolutely one of the fun, artistic things to do in Vilnius.
Museum Of Occupation And Freedom Fights (KGB Museum)
Also recognized as the Genocide Museum, this is another monumental destination that exudes the country’s dark and rich history.
Originally built to serve as the Gestapo headquarters in 1941, it used to be a place of imprisonment, torture, and detainment for those who objected to the Soviet Rule.
The structure has since then evolved into a famous museum stacked with three floors featuring exhibits that portray the Soviet Rule from 1940 to 1941. The basement level houses the original cells where the torture and execution occurred.
The museum serves as a reminder of Lithuania’s dark history and how far the emerging country has come. Admission is affordable at just 4 euros, and accessible from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Visit The Miracle Tile
It was at this specific spot where a significant historical event occurred.
The Miracle Tile was the start or endpoint of the cross-section where two million people came together to make the Baltic Way. It formed the record-breaking human chain that stretched well over 370 miles in tribute for their independence.
The Miracle Tile is located in Cathedral Square. Today, it is popular for visitors to step on while dreaming up their biggest wish to come true. The theory is if you stand and spin three times on the tile, the wish will come true.
Day Trips From Vilnius
There are a few destinations that makes for a great day trip from Vilnius.
Vilnius To Trakai
Trakai is probably the most popular day trip destination for visitors. The town is just west of Vilnius and best known for the Trakai Island Castle. Sitting in the middle of Lake Galvė, this 14th-century fortress now serves as the Trakai History Museum.
This is a good destination for a mix of history and nature. A boat cruise around Lake Galvė is a great activity if the weather is in your favor.
You can get to Trakai from Vilnius by bus or train.
Buses run from the Vilnius Central Bus Station and has great frequency (one every 10-20 mins). Buses usually depart from platforms 6, 7, 8 (suburban), 28 and 29 (intercity) but definitely double check this as it might change. The journey takes around half an hour and then it is a long but scenic walk to the castle. Check for timings here: https://autobusubilietai.lt/en
You can catch the Vilnius to Trakai train at the railway station. Check the train timings and tickets at https://www.traukiniobilietas.lt/portal/en. The tickets can be bought at the train station counter as well, but note the opening hours if you plan to do so.
Vilnius To Hill of Crosses
The legendary Hill of Crosses is another popular day trip from Vilnius. It is further away and harder to get to with public transport. A guided tour is probably worth saving the trouble. The hill boosts an incredible sight of more than q00,000 crosses.
While it certainly serves as a pilgrimage site, the impressive monument is an attraction for visitors and tourists as well.