5 Top Sites To See In Vilnius, Lithuania

5 Top Sites To See In Vilnius, Lithuania
Elizabeth
Elizabeth
Updated

Lithuania is an off the beaten path destination in Eastern Europe that most travelers overlook. But you shouldn’t, as there is much to see and do in this budget-friendly destination. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a small, easy to get around, safe city that has had a long and tumultuous past. Learn more about Vilnius and Lithuanian history - both recent and past - through these top 5 places to visit in Vilnius.

1. See Gediminas' Tower and Pilies St

Gediminas' Tower

Pilies gatve (gatve means street in Lithuanian) is a bumpy cobblestone street that leads you to Gediminas’ Tower and Cathedral Square (see below for more about Vilnius Cathedral). Along Pilies gatve, you’ll find souvenir shops galore that sell amber jewelry, woolen goods, and wooden handicrafts. There are also many cafes and restaurants along this street, but my favorite (and a favorite of both locals and tourists alike) is Pilies Kepyklele. Pilies Kepyklele is a restaurant, cafe, and bakery that serves delicious light meals, tea, coffee, and desserts – be sure to try their cake! Also, be sure to walk down the side streets off of Pilies gatve as there is much to discover! For example, on Literatu gatve keep your eyes open for the numerous creative plaques that commemorate Lithuanian authors.

At the end of Pilies gatve you’ll gaze up at Gediminas’ Tower, the remains of the Upper Castle. Walk through the park and up to the tower for great views of the city. Also don’t miss the museum inside the tower where you’ll learn about Lithuanian history. It is free to walk up the hill to Gediminas’ Tower, though if you want to enter the museum you will be required to pay a small fee (4 EUR / ~4.50 USD). For an additional fee (2 EUR / ~2.25 USD), you can take a funicular to the top of the hill, though this is not advisable, as the hill isn’t very tall. I would suggest allocating approximately 2 hours to walk up the tower, appreciate the view, and see the small exhibit at the top.

2. Walk to the Hill of Three Crosses

A view from the Hill of Three Crosses

Another great spot to see a panoramic view of Vilnius from above is the Hill of Three Crosses. The Hill of Three Crosses supposedly remembers monks that were killed on the hill. The crosses were first erected in the 17th century, but were destroyed during Soviet occupation (in the 1950s), and later re-built in 1989. To get to the Hill of Three Crosses, you’ll walk through the gorgeous Bernardine Gardens, cross a bridge over the Vilnia River, and hike up a rickety wooden staircase. This hike takes approximately 30 minutes and does require a bit of physical exertion. In the Bernardine Gardens you’ll see people pushing strollers, children playing, and couples sitting on benches. This park is popular all year round, though is especially full in the summer. The Bernardine Gardens and the Hill of Three Crosses are free to visit.

3. See any of the 100s of churches

St. Anne and Bernardine Church Complex

Lithuania is a predominantly Christian country with the majority of people being either Catholic or Orthodox. As a result, you’ll see hundreds of churches scattered throughout Vilnius. One of the most famous churches is Vilnius Cathedral, which is located in Cathedral Square (you’ll see it easily from Pilies gatve). This gorgeous cathedral is free to enter and you’ll see numerous chapels along the side of the structure.

My favorite church in Vilnius is the St. Anne and Bernardine Church Complex located on Maironio g. This massive brick structure was built in the end of the 14th century in the Gothic style and was originally made completely of wood, though that original structure burned down. It was again built in the 1500s in the Gothic style and this time, made of brick. Be sure to enter the church complex as the interiors are stunning!

Another church that is interesting to see is the Church of St. Peter and Paul, located on Antakalnio gatve. The exterior of the church isn’t as marvelous or grand as the previously described churches; however, it is the inside that wows. The interior is completely white and the walls are covered with about 2,000 hand-carved statues. The most chilling of the statues is Death located beside the front entrance.

Just keep in mind that all of these churches are working churches, so please be respectful of religious customs and keep noises to a minimum. Many churches in Vilnius allow photos to be taken inside, just follow any no photography signs that you may see. Entrance into all of the churches mentioned above is free, as is entrance to many other churches in Vilnius, although a donation of a few coins is always appreciated.

4. Cross the river into an independent republic

Uzupis Constitution

The Republic of Uzupis is a haven for artists and creatives (though due to its popularity many are moving elsewhere in the city) and it is here that you’ll find numerous works of street art as well as cool boutiques and tasty restaurants. Keep your eye out for the Uzupis Constitution on Paupio gatve. If you happen to be visiting Vilnius on April 1, you are in luck as it is the Uzupis Independence Day. Celebrate by getting your passport stamped, listen to free street performers, and drink beer from a fountain.

5. Learn more at the KGB Museum

The Museum of Genocide Victims

The Museum of Genocide Victims (also known as the KGB Museum) is one of the most well-done and informative museums in the city and I always suggest that every visitor take the time to see the exhibitions here. The museum is housed in the former KGB building and the lower floors of the building have preserved the former KGB prison and death chambers. The upper floors provide information about Lithuania’s difficult past. The Museum of Genocide Victims is open Wednesday through Sunday and costs 4 EUR for adults (~4.50 USD). Guided tours (6 - 20 EUR / ~6.71 - 22.37 USD) and audio guides (3 EUR / ~3.36 USD) are also available for an additional fee.

So much to do in this budget-friendly destination

During your visit to Vilnius, you should also walk the tree lined Vokieciu gatve, see the Vilnius City Hall, and explore the former Jewish ghetto. Make the most of your trip by taking an alternative (free!) walking tour.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Elizabeth is a travel writer and grammatical editor currently based in Florence, Italy. She writes on family-friendly, affordable travel with a focus on cultural exchange experiences. You can catch...Read more

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