12 Best Things to Do in Vilnius, Lithuania: Top Attractions to Visit

by Reyna
The best things to do in Vilnius
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While many travelers flock to the well-trodden paths of cities like Amsterdam, Prague, or Venice, there’s a gem in the Baltics that often flies under the radar: Vilnius. Nestled in Lithuania, this city is a delightful fusion of history, art, and modernity, offering a fresh and unique European experience.

I first stumbled upon Vilnius on a Baltic backpacking trip, and it quickly became one of my favorite stops. Why? Because Vilnius isn’t your typical European city. It’s got an amazing UNESCO-listed Old Town that’s brimming with history, but it also boasts a vibrant arts scene, especially in the quirky Užupis district. And the best part? It’s not overrun with tourists, so you can truly immerse yourself in the local culture.

From its medieval architecture to its modern cafes, from its historic churches to its lively festivals, Vilnius offers a unique blend of experiences. And the locals? They’re some of the friendliest folks you’ll meet in Europe.

If you’re looking for a beautiful European destination that’s off the beaten path but packed with charm, history, and culture, Vilnius is a hidden gem that few know as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. In this guide, I’ll share my top picks for the best things to do in Vilnius, based on my own adventures and tips from local friends. So, grab your backpack and let’s explore Vilnius together! To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in Vilnius.

Best Places to Visit in Vilnius

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Vilnius? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this beautiful vacation spot in Lithuania. So keep reading to discover all these unique Vilnius places to visit.

Are you looking to explore historic Old Town streets, admire Baroque architecture, and indulge in local cuisine? Or would you prefer to walk in scenic parks and engage in vibrant nightlife at local bars and clubs? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Vilnius can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Vilnius that you should know about.

The best things to do in Vilnius right now

1. Gediminas Castle Tower

When you first set foot in Vilnius, the Gediminas Castle Tower is hard to miss. Dominating the city’s skyline, this 14th-century tower is a living testament to Vilnius’ storied past and its enduring spirit. Over the centuries, it’s been a silent witness to battles, sieges, and the ever-changing tapestry of life in the Lithuanian capital.

One of the best things to do in Vilnius is to make the climb to the tower’s summit. Trust me, the effort is worth it. At the top, you’re rewarded with a panoramic view that’s nothing short of spectacular. The city stretches out below, a mix of historic architecture and modern buildings, all bisected by the meandering Vilnia River.

But the tower isn’t just about the views. Inside, a well-curated museum awaits. Here, you can dive deep into the annals of Vilnius’ history. Exhibits showcase artifacts, paintings, and documents that tell tales of heroism, tragedy, and everyday life.

For any traveler looking to truly understand Vilnius, the Gediminas Castle Tower is an essential stop. It’s not just a historical monument; it’s a vibrant chapter in the city’s ongoing story.

Gediminas Castle Tower and its museum takes visitors on a journey back in time
Gediminas Castle Tower and its museum takes visitors on a journey back in time

2. Užupis Republic

Užupis is one of those places that makes Vilnius unique. It’s a bohemian neighborhood that declared itself an independent republic in 1997. While it’s not recognized by international bodies, the spirit of independence is palpable here. Užupis has its own flag, currency, president, and even a constitution. The constitution, displayed on a wall in multiple languages, has quirky articles like “Everyone has the right to be unique.”

Walking through Užupis, you’ll notice art installations, murals, and sculptures at every turn. The local artists have turned this district into an open-air gallery. There’s also a rotating calendar of events, from art exhibitions to music festivals, that keep the area buzzing with energy.

Visiting Užupis is a must when in Vilnius. It offers a glimpse into the city’s creative side and showcases the importance of art and self-expression in the local community. While here, don’t forget to grab a coffee at one of the many cafes and watch the world go by. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the best travel experiences come from simply soaking in the local vibe.

Užupis' bright colored buildings and unique statues makes it one of the best sites to visit in Vilnius
Užupis’ bright colored buildings and unique statues makes it one of the best sites to visit in Vilnius

3. Vilnius Old Town

Exploring the Vilnius Old Town is undoubtedly one of the coolest things to do in Vilnius. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a maze of narrow streets, historic buildings, and bustling squares. It’s like stepping back in time, with architecture that spans several centuries, from Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque.

The Old Town is the heart and soul of Vilnius. Here, you’ll find landmarks such as the Vilnius Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, and the Town Hall Square. Each building has its own story, and wandering around, you’ll get a sense of the city’s rich history and cultural heritage.

But it’s not all about the past. The Old Town is also alive with modern energy. Trendy cafes, artisan boutiques, and vibrant bars dot the landscape, offering a mix of old-world charm and contemporary flair. For foodies, this area is a paradise, with restaurants serving up traditional Lithuanian dishes alongside international cuisine.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast or a shopaholic, the Vilnius Old Town is a destination to consider. It has something for everyone, especially if you’re looking to soak in the local atmosphere. The Old Town is a place where the past and present coexist, making it a must-visit on any trip to the city.

Vilnius Old Town's hot air balloon rides are one of the best things to do in the city
Vilnius Old Town’s hot air balloon rides are one of the best things to do in the city

4. Trakai Island Castle

Just a short drive from Vilnius, Trakai Island Castle is a destination that deserves a spot on every traveler’s itinerary. Situated on an island in Lake Galvė, this medieval castle is a stunning sight, with its red brick walls and wooden towers reflecting off the water.

Trakai Castle is a window into Lithuania’s grand duchy era. Built in the 14th century, it played a pivotal role in the country’s defense and political affairs. Today, it houses a museum showcasing artifacts, weapons, and exhibits that paint a vivid picture of life during those times.

But there’s more to Trakai than just the castle. The town itself is a treat to explore. With its wooden houses, scenic lake views, and the unique Karaim community, Trakai offers a blend of history and natural beauty. Don’t miss out on trying kibinai, a traditional Karaim pastry, while you’re there.

For those looking to escape the city’s hustle and dive into history, Trakai Island Castle is the perfect day trip from Vilnius. It’s a blend of architectural marvel, historical intrigue, and natural beauty, making it a must-visit for anyone touring Lithuania.

Trakai Island Castle is a beautiful medieval castle in the center of a lake
Trakai Island Castle is a beautiful medieval castle in the center of a lake

5. Literatų Street

Literatų Street, often overlooked by the typical tourist, is a narrow alleyway in the heart of Vilnius that pays homage to the literary greats connected to Lithuania. As you stroll down this lane, you’ll encounter a collection of plaques and artworks. These are dedicated to writers, poets, and translators who’ve significantly contributed to Lithuanian literature.

The project began in 2008 when local artists decided to celebrate the rich literary history of the country. Since then, the street has become an ever-evolving outdoor gallery. New artworks are added regularly, ensuring that the legacy of Lithuania’s literary talents continues to be celebrated.

What’s fascinating about Literatų Street is the diversity of the artworks.From metal and wood to stained glass, each piece stands out. They are unique, each reflecting the artist’s interpretation of the literary figure it represents.

Vilnius has many historical sites and attractions. However, wandering down Literatų Street and exploring its artistic treasures is a distinct experience in Vilnius. It’s a quiet tribute to the power of words and the individuals who’ve shaped Lithuania’s literary landscape.

Literatų Street's diversity of artworks makes it a must see location for art lovers
Literatų Street’s diversity of artworks makes it a must see location for art lovers

6. Museum of Genocide Victims

The Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius is a powerful place. Housed in the old KGB headquarters, it tells a dark tale of Lithuania’s past. During the Nazi and Soviet occupations, many Lithuanians faced brutalities. This museum doesn’t shy away from those truths.

Inside, you’ll find rooms that were once prison cells. They’re cold, stark, and give a real sense of the suffering that took place. Photographs, personal testimonies, and artifacts line the walls. Each one tells a story of resistance, pain, or loss.

The basement is especially chilling. It’s been left as it was during the KGB’s use. Here, you can see the actual cells where prisoners were kept. The conditions were harsh, and the atmosphere was heavy.

But this museum isn’t just about the past. It’s also about resilience. It shows how Lithuania has faced its history, learned from it, and moved on. It’s a place of reflection, understanding, and, ultimately, hope.

For anyone wanting a deeper understanding of Lithuania’s history, this museum is a must-visit. It’s a sobering experience, but it’s essential for grasping the country’s journey to the present.

The Museum of Genocide Victims gives a look into Vilnius' harrowed past, making it the perfect site for history enthusiasts
The Museum of Genocide Victims gives a look into Vilnius’ harrowed past, making it the perfect site for history enthusiasts

7. Bernardine Garden

Bernardine Garden is a breath of fresh air in the heart of Vilnius. Once a part of the Bernardine Monastery, this park has transformed over the years into a serene urban oasis. It’s a place where locals and tourists alike come to relax, stroll, and enjoy nature.

When looking for Vilnius things to do, a visit to Bernardine Garden should be on your list. The garden boasts a variety of attractions. There’s a botanical exposition showcasing plants from different regions of Lithuania. For those with kids, the playground is a hit. And if you’re into history, remnants of the old city fortifications can be spotted here.

The garden also features a musical fountain. In the summer, it becomes a focal point with water shows synchronized to music. It’s a delightful spectacle that draws crowds, especially in the evenings.

Bernardine Garden is more than just a park. It’s a reflection of Vilnius’s commitment to preserving green spaces and its rich history. Whether you’re seeking a quiet spot to read, a place for a leisurely walk, or just a break from the city’s hustle, this garden delivers.

Bernardine Garden is a zen oasis ideal to escape the hustle and bustle of the city
Bernardine Garden is a zen oasis ideal to escape the hustle and bustle of the city

8. St. Anne’s Church

St. Anne’s Church is one of Vilnius’s architectural marvels. Built in the late 15th century, this Gothic masterpiece stands out with its intricate red brick design. It’s said that Napoleon admired the church greatly. During his invasion of Russia, he expressed a wish to take the church back to Paris on the palm of his hand.

Located near the Vilnia River, the church’s facade is a sight to behold. With 33 different types of clay bricks arranged in various patterns, it showcases Gothic architecture at its finest. The interior, though simpler, offers a peaceful space for reflection.

One of the highlights is the neighboring Bernardine Church. While St. Anne’s often steals the spotlight, there’s another noteworthy site. The Bernardine Church, with its blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, is also worth a visit. Together, they form a unique religious complex in the city.

For travelers interested in architecture and history, St. Anne’s Church is a must-see. It’s not only an iconic landmark but also a testament to the city’s rich architectural heritage. When you’re wandering the streets of Vilnius, make sure to stop by and admire this historic gem.

St. Anne's Church is an architectural marvel worth seeing
St. Anne’s Church is an architectural marvel worth seeing

9. Vilnius University

Vilnius University isn’t your typical academic institution. Founded in 1579, it’s the oldest university in the Baltic states and holds a special place in Lithuania’s history and culture. Nestled in the heart of the city, its sprawling campus is a blend of architectural styles, from Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque.

The main courtyard, known as the Grand Courtyard, is a popular spot. With its arched walkways and historic buildings, it’s easy to feel transported back in time. The university’s library is another highlight. Housing ancient manuscripts and rare books, it’s a treasure trove for history and literature enthusiasts.

But what many visitors find most captivating is the St. John’s Church bell tower. Climbing to the top offers panoramic views of the city, making it a favorite among both locals and tourists.

Visiting Vilnius University is like taking a step back into Europe’s academic past. It’s a place where centuries of knowledge meet modern-day education. Whether you’re an architecture lover or a history buff, this university is a place to visit. It offers a unique glimpse into Lithuania’s academic traditions and the country’s intellectual soul.

Vilnius University gives visitors a stunning look into the city's rich history
Vilnius University gives visitors a stunning look into the city’s rich history

10. The Gate of Dawn

One of the best things to do in Vilnius is to visit The Gate of Dawn. It’s a symbol of the city’s faith and resilience. Built in the 16th century as a part of the city’s defensive walls, it’s the only gate that remains out of the original nine.

The real draw, however, is the chapel inside the gate. It houses an iconic painting of the Virgin Mary, believed by many to have miraculous powers. Pilgrims from around the world come to pay their respects, making it a significant religious site in Lithuania.

Walking through The Gate of Dawn, you can feel the weight of history. The walls have witnessed wars, occupations, and countless processions of faith. Nearby, the bustling streets of the Old Town offer a lively ambiance. This contrasts with the gate’s solemn atmosphere, presenting a mix of the sacred and the everyday.

For travelers, The Gate of Dawn offers a moment of reflection. It’s a place where history, faith, and culture converge, making it a must-visit spot in Vilnius. This gate stands as a testament to Vilnius’s enduring spirit.

The Gate of Dawn offers a moment of reflection and tranquility for visitors
The Gate of Dawn offers a moment of reflection and tranquility for visitors

11. Three Crosses Hill

If you’re after a mix of history and panoramic city views, Three Crosses Hill is the spot. Just a short hike from the city center, this hill offers a vantage point that showcases Vilnius in all its glory. From up here, the city’s spires, rooftops, and winding streets stretch out below, framed by the natural beauty of the surrounding greenery.

The hill gets its name from the three white crosses that stand at its peak. These crosses have a long history, with the original ones dating back to the 17th century. They commemorate a group of monks from a nearby monastery, believed to have been martyred on this spot.

Over the years, the crosses have become a symbol of Vilnius and its resilience. They’ve been torn down and rebuilt multiple times, reflecting the city’s turbulent past and its ability to rise again.

For travelers, a visit to Three Crosses Hill is both a historical journey and a chance to connect with nature. The trail up is lined with trees, and the sounds of the city fade as you ascend. Once at the top, it’s a spot to pause, reflect, and take in the beauty of Vilnius from above.

Three Crosses Hill is a beautiful symbol of Vilnius's resilience and rich history
Three Crosses Hill is a beautiful symbol of Vilnius’s resilience and rich history

12. Halės Market

Halės Market is where the pulse of Vilnius beats strongest. Housed in a grand, century-old building, this bustling market is a sensory delight. From the moment you step inside, you’re greeted with a vibrant atmosphere. Sounds range from vendors hawking their wares to the chatter of locals catching up.

Stalls are laden with fresh produce, from vibrant fruits and vegetables to locally-sourced meats and cheeses. Each vendor is a master of their craft, with generations of knowledge about the products they sell. As you wander the aisles, you’ll also find a range of Lithuanian specialties, including cured meats, pickled vegetables, and traditional pastries.

But Halės Market isn’t just about food. There are stalls selling crafts and textiles. Additionally, you can find souvenirs, making it a go-to spot for travelers wanting to take a piece of Lithuania home.

For those seeking unique things to do in Vilnius, a visit to Halės Market is a must. It offers a glimpse into the daily lives of locals and is a place where traditions and modernity coexist. Whether you’re there to shop, eat, or simply observe, it’s an experience that captures the essence of Vilnius.

Halės Market and its diversity of food options makes it a must-visit location in Vilnius
Halės Market and its diversity of food options makes it a must-visit location in Vilnius

Frequently Asked Questions about Vilnius

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Vilnius? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Vilnius:

Is Vilnius safe for tourists?

Absolutely. Vilnius is considered one of the safest cities in Europe. Like any city, it’s always smart to be aware of your surroundings, especially at night, but most visitors find their stay to be hassle-free. The locals are friendly, and the city has a low crime rate.

What’s the best time to visit Vilnius?

The ideal time is during the late spring and summer months, from May to September. The weather is pleasant, and the city comes alive with outdoor events and festivals. However, if you’re a fan of winter sports or love a snowy landscape, December to February offers a different kind of charm.

Is English widely spoken in Vilnius?

Yes, especially among the younger generation and in areas frequented by tourists. Most restaurants, hotels, and attractions will have English-speaking staff. However, picking up a few basic Lithuanian phrases can enhance your experience and is always appreciated by locals.

What is Vilnius best known for? 

Vilnius is best known for its stunning Old Town, which is one of the largest preserved medieval old towns in Northern Europe. It’s a place where history comes alive through its Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. The city is also renowned for its religious heritage, with a plethora of churches like St. Anne’s and the Vilnius Cathedral. Additionally, Vilnius has a reputation for its vibrant arts scene, with numerous galleries, theaters, and events like the Vilnius Film Festival. The city’s rich tapestry of culture, history, and modernity makes it a beautiful standout destination in the Baltic region.

Vilnius Cathedral is an excellent example of the city's rich religious history and unique architecture
Vilnius Cathedral is an excellent example of the city’s rich religious history and unique architecture

What’s the local cuisine like?

Lithuanian cuisine is hearty and flavorful, with dishes like cepelinai (potato dumplings) and šaltibarščiai (cold beet soup). Local eateries and markets are the best places to try authentic Lithuanian food. Don’t miss out on the local beers and mead too!

Are there good public transport options in Vilnius?

Definitely. Vilnius has an efficient public transport system comprising buses and trolleys. Tickets are affordable, and routes cover the entire city. For those looking to explore at their own pace, renting a bike or walking is also a great way to see Vilnius.

Is Vilnius Lithuania worth visiting?

Without a doubt, Vilnius is a hidden gem in Europe. It’s a city that seamlessly blends centuries of history with a vibrant modern culture. The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a maze of cobblestone streets, baroque churches, and quaint cafes. Beyond its historical charm, Vilnius boasts a lively arts scene, eclectic festivals, and a welcoming local community. It’s a destination that offers a unique mix of experiences, making it a must-visit for any traveler seeking something off the beaten path.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Vilnius

Vilnius isn’t your typical European city, and that’s what makes it so captivating. Wander through its streets, and you’ll find a city that’s alive with stories, from ancient tales etched in its architecture to the buzz of contemporary life in its cafes and bars.

The locals? They’re some of the friendliest you’ll meet, always up for a chat and ready to share a hidden gem or two. Dive into the food scene, and you’re in for a treat with hearty Lithuanian classics and modern twists. And if you’re a culture buff, the city’s got you covered with its rich tapestry of arts and events. No matter what type of travel you are into, Vilnius has something for everyone to cross off their bucket list.

So, if you’re looking for a destination that’s both rich in history and buzzing with modern energy, Vilnius is the place to be.

The best things to do in Vilnius for all types of travelers
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