What to do in Vilnius?

Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a hidden gem in Europe’s Baltic states. With its picturesque Old Town, stunning architecture, and rich history, Vilnius is a must-visit destination for any traveller. The city is steeped in culture, and there is no shortage of things to see and do. What to do in Vilnius?

Visitors to Vilnius can explore the city’s charming Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Old Town is home to numerous historic landmarks, including the Vilnius Cathedral and the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Visitors can take a stroll through the narrow cobbled streets and admire the beautiful architecture, which ranges from Gothic to Baroque.

In addition to its historic landmarks, Vilnius is also a vibrant modern city, with a thriving arts and culture scene. Visitors can explore the city’s many museums and galleries, or take in a show at one of its theatres or concert halls. With its mix of old and new, Vilnius offers something for everyone, and is a destination not to be missed.

Historical Overview

Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has a rich and fascinating history that spans over seven centuries. The city was founded in the early 14th century and quickly became an important centre of trade, culture, and politics in the region. Over the centuries, Vilnius has been shaped by various historical events, including the rule of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, the occupation by foreign powers, and the Soviet Union.

During the Grand Duchy period, which lasted from the 13th to the end of the 18th century, Vilnius was the political centre of Lithuania. The city played a crucial role in the cultural and architectural development of Eastern Europe. Many of the buildings in the historic centre of Vilnius were built during this period and reflect the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical styles.

In the 20th century, Vilnius was occupied by foreign powers several times. During World War II, the city was occupied by Nazi Germany, which led to the persecution and murder of thousands of Jews. After the war, Vilnius became part of the Soviet Union, which brought significant changes to the city’s architecture and culture.

Today, Vilnius is a vibrant and modern city that celebrates its national identity and rich cultural heritage. Visitors can explore the city’s historic landmarks, such as the Gates of Dawn, the only remaining portion of the former city wall that surrounded Vilnius in the 16th century. The Gates of Dawn houses a chapel built in the 1800s, which holds a famous icon called the Madonna of Mercy. This icon draws pilgrims from around the world because it uniquely features the Virgin Mary without baby Jesus.

Overall, Vilnius is a city with a rich and complex history that is reflected in its architecture, culture, and people. Visitors to the city can explore its many historical landmarks and learn about the events and people that have shaped this fascinating city over the centuries.

Landmarks and Attractions

Vilnius is a city steeped in history, and there are plenty of landmarks and attractions to explore. Here are some of the most notable:

Old Town

Vilnius’ Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Europe. Visitors can wander the narrow streets and admire the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. The Old Town is also home to many restaurants, cafes, and shops.

what to do in vilnius

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square is the main square in Vilnius and is home to Vilnius Cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century. The square is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike, and often hosts events and concerts.

Gates of Dawn

The Gates of Dawn is one of the most important religious, cultural, and historical monuments in Vilnius. It is the only remaining portion of the former city wall that surrounded Vilnius in the 16th century. The Gates of Dawn houses a chapel built in the 1800s, which holds a famous icon called the Madonna of Mercy.

Gediminas’ Tower

Gediminas’ Tower is a symbol of Vilnius and is located on a hill overlooking the city. The tower is part of the remains of the Upper Castle, which was built in the 14th century. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the city.

Hill of Three Crosses

The Hill of Three Crosses is a popular viewpoint in Vilnius. Legend has it that the crosses were erected in the 17th century to commemorate three monks who were martyred on the hill. Today, visitors can climb the hill for stunning views of the city.


Užupis is a bohemian district in Vilnius that declared itself an independent republic in 1997. Visitors can explore the area’s quirky streets and alleyways, which are lined with street art and sculptures. Užupis is also home to many cafes, bars, and shops.

Overall, Vilnius is a city rich in history and culture, and there are plenty of landmarks and attractions to explore. Other notable points of interest include the KGB Museum, St. Anne’s Church, and the Presidential Palace.

Museums and Galleries

Vilnius is a city with a rich history and culture, and its museums and galleries are a testament to that. Here are some of the top museums and galleries to visit in Vilnius:

what to do in vilnius

National Museum of Lithuania

The National Museum of Lithuania is the oldest and largest museum in the country, with a collection of over 800,000 objects. The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of topics, from Lithuanian history and culture to archaeology and natural history. Visitors can explore the museum’s extensive collection of artifacts, including ancient coins, weapons, and traditional clothing.

Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania is a reconstructed palace that was originally built in the 15th century. The palace was the residence of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, and it played an important role in the country’s history. Today, visitors can explore the palace’s many rooms and exhibits, which showcase the history and culture of Lithuania.

Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights

The Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights is dedicated to the history of Lithuania during the Soviet and Nazi occupations. The museum’s exhibits include photographs, documents, and personal stories that provide a glimpse into life in Lithuania during these difficult times. Visitors can also explore the museum’s underground prison, where political prisoners were held and interrogated.

Museum of Illusions

The Museum of Illusions is a fun and interactive museum that explores the science of perception. Visitors can explore a variety of exhibits that play with perspective, light, and color. The museum’s exhibits include a room that makes visitors appear to shrink or grow, an infinity room, and a vortex tunnel.

MO Museum

The MO Museum is a contemporary art museum that showcases the work of Lithuanian and international artists. The museum’s exhibits include paintings, sculptures, and installations that explore a variety of themes and styles. Visitors can also attend lectures, workshops, and other events at the museum.

Whether you’re interested in history, art, or science, Vilnius has a museum or gallery that will pique your interest. From the National Museum of Lithuania to the Museum of Illusions, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.

Religious Sites

Vilnius has a rich religious history and is home to several stunning religious sites that are must-visit destinations for tourists. Here are three of the most popular religious sites in Vilnius:

Vilnius Cathedral

Vilnius Cathedral is one of the most important religious sites in Vilnius. It is a beautiful Baroque-style cathedral that dates back to the 13th century. The cathedral has been through many changes over the centuries, including being rebuilt in the 18th century after a fire destroyed much of the original structure. Visitors to Vilnius Cathedral can explore the stunning interior, which features intricate artwork and ornate decorations. The cathedral is also home to the tomb of Saint Casimir, the patron saint of Lithuania.

St. Anne’s Church

St. Anne’s Church is another must-visit religious site in Vilnius. The church is a stunning example of Gothic architecture and is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. Visitors to St. Anne’s Church can admire the intricate stonework and beautiful stained glass windows. The church has a rich history and has been through many changes over the centuries, including being used as a stable during the Napoleonic Wars.

Gate of Dawn

The Gate of Dawn is a historic Catholic church and one of the most important religious sites in Vilnius. The church is famous for its stunning artwork, including a painting of the Virgin Mary that is said to have miraculous powers. The Gate of Dawn is also home to a museum that explores the history of the church and its role in Vilnius’ religious history. Visitors to the Gate of Dawn can explore the stunning interior and learn about the church’s rich history.

Overall, Vilnius is home to a rich collection of religious sites, including stunning cathedrals and historic churches. Visitors to Vilnius should make sure to explore these beautiful sites and learn about the city’s rich religious history.

Outdoor Activities

Vilnius offers a variety of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll through a park or an adrenaline-pumping hot air balloon ride, there is something for everyone.

Walking Tours

One of the best ways to explore Vilnius is on foot. There are several walking tours available that take visitors through the city’s historic Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These tours typically last around two hours and cover the main sights and landmarks, such as Vilnius Cathedral, Gediminas Tower, and the Presidential Palace. Visitors can also opt for themed tours, such as the Jewish Heritage Tour or the Soviet Vilnius Tour.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

For a unique perspective of Vilnius, visitors can take a hot air balloon ride over the city. The ride typically lasts around an hour and offers stunning views of the Old Town, River Neris, and surrounding countryside. Flights usually take place in the early morning or late afternoon, when the weather is calmest.

Bernardine Garden

The Bernardine Garden is a beautiful park located in the heart of Vilnius. It features walking paths, flower gardens, and a pond with ducks and swans. Visitors can relax on the benches and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The park also has a playground for children and a small outdoor stage that hosts concerts and events during the summer months.

Overall, Vilnius offers a range of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you prefer walking tours, hot air balloon rides, or relaxing in a park, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Food and Drink

Vilnius is a food lover’s paradise, with a range of restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops to choose from. Whether you’re looking for traditional Lithuanian dishes or international cuisine, you’ll find something to suit your taste buds.

One of the must-try dishes in Vilnius is Cepelinai, also known as Lithuanian potato dumplings. These dumplings are made from grated potatoes and filled with meat, cheese, or mushrooms. They are then boiled and served with sour cream and bacon bits. For a taste of Cepelinai, head to Snekutis, a popular restaurant that serves traditional Lithuanian food.

For those who prefer something lighter, Vilnius has a range of cafes and coffee shops that offer delicious snacks and drinks. Mykolo 4 is a family-run restaurant-bistro that serves Vilnius ‘bourgeois cuisine’ inspired by the pre-war gastronomy of noble citizens. This gorgeous bistro, heavy with wooden beams and brick walls, specialized in dishes inspired by 19th-century traditional recipes.

If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, head to the Skybar, located on the 22nd floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel. This rooftop bar offers stunning views of the city and serves a range of cocktails and snacks.

Overall, Vilnius has something to offer for every food lover. Whether you’re looking for traditional Lithuanian dishes or international cuisine, you’ll find it in this vibrant city.


Vilnius is a great destination for shopping enthusiasts. From designer boutiques to traditional markets, there is something for everyone.

One of the most popular shopping destinations in Vilnius is Pilies Street. This charming pedestrian street is lined with shops selling everything from handmade crafts to high-end fashion. Visitors can browse through the many boutiques, souvenir shops, and art galleries that line the street. Pilies Street is also a great place to stop for a coffee or a bite to eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants.

For those looking for more modern shopping experiences, there are several shopping centres in Vilnius. Panorama is a popular choice, with a wide range of shops selling clothing, shoes, and home goods. The shopping centre also has a selection of restaurants and cafes, making it a great place to spend an afternoon.

Another great shopping option in Vilnius is the local markets. The Hales Turgus market is a must-visit for foodies, with vendors selling fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and more. The Kalvariju Market is another popular choice, with vendors selling everything from clothing to electronics.

Overall, there are plenty of shopping options in Vilnius, from traditional markets to modern shopping centres. Visitors are sure to find something that suits their style and budget.

what to do in vilnius

Getting Around

Vilnius is a relatively small city, making it easy to get around by foot. However, there are several other options available for those who prefer not to walk.

Public Transport

Vilnius has an extensive public transport network that includes buses and trolleybuses. The city centre is well connected, with frequent services operating throughout the day. A single ticket costs €1 and is valid for 60 minutes. Alternatively, a day ticket can be purchased for €3.50, providing unlimited travel on all public transport services for 24 hours.


Driving in Vilnius is straightforward, with a good road network and plenty of parking available. However, traffic can be heavy during peak times, particularly in the city centre. Visitors should be aware that Vilnius operates a one-way system in some areas, so it’s important to plan routes in advance.


The heart of Vilnius is its historic Old Town, which is best explored on foot. The area is compact and easy to navigate, with cobbled streets and charming architecture. Visitors should also take the time to explore the city’s other districts, including Užupis, which is known for its bohemian atmosphere.


Vilnius is well connected to other parts of Lithuania by bus, with regular services to destinations such as Kaunas and Klaipėda. Buses depart from the city’s main bus station, which is located close to the city centre. It’s advisable to book tickets in advance, particularly during peak travel periods.


Vilnius has a central train station that provides connections to other parts of Lithuania and beyond. Services are operated by Lithuanian Railways, with frequent trains to destinations such as Kaunas, Klaipėda, and Šiauliai. Tickets can be purchased in advance online or at the station.

Overall, Vilnius is an easy city to get around, with a range of transport options available to visitors. Whether travelling by foot, public transport, or car, visitors are sure to enjoy exploring this charming and historic city.

Planning Your Visit

Before embarking on a trip to Vilnius, it is important to plan your visit to ensure you make the most of your time in this charming city. Whether you’re looking to tick off items from your bucket list, or simply want to explore a new city, Vilnius has something for everyone.


To make the most of your time in Vilnius, it is recommended to plan your itinerary in advance. Start by researching the top attractions and landmarks in the city, such as the Vilnius Cathedral, Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, and Gediminas Castle Tower. Consider how much time you want to spend at each location and factor in travel time between destinations.

It is also worth considering day trips from Vilnius, such as a visit to Trakai Castle or the Hill of Crosses. These can be easily accessed via public transport or with a guided tour.


To navigate Vilnius with ease, it is recommended to bring a map or download a map application on your phone. Vilnius is a compact city, and many of the top attractions are located within walking distance of each other. However, a map will come in handy when exploring the winding streets of the Old Town.

New City

While Vilnius is steeped in history, it is also a modern city with a vibrant nightlife scene. Be sure to explore the new city, where you’ll find trendy bars, restaurants, and shops. The Užupis district is a particularly popular area, known for its bohemian atmosphere and street art.


When planning your visit to Vilnius, consider your accommodation options. The Old Town is a popular area for tourists, with many hotels and guesthouses located within the historic city walls. However, there are also plenty of options in the new city, which may be more convenient for those looking to explore the nightlife scene.

Overall, with a bit of planning, a trip to Vilnius can be a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you’re looking to explore the historic Old Town or discover the city’s modern side, there’s something for everyone in this charming Lithuanian capital.

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