25 of the best things to do in Vilnius, Lithuania

I’ve just got back from an AMAZING 2 weeks away in the Baltics region of Europe. It was one of those holidays that will stay with me for life, and I’m so grateful to have been able to explore such a wonderful part of the world. It will take me a while to write everything up, but I’ll start with the first stop of the trip – Vilnius.

Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania, a country that has Kaliningrad just beneath it (part of Russia, detached from the main body of the country), Belarus to the east and Latvia to the north. We absolutely loved our time in Vilnius, and found it to be a vibrant, interesting city full of history (although as you can see, our weather went from cold rain to bright sunshine during our visit!).

Overall we found the city to be fairly off the tourist trail, we weren’t aware of too many foreign visitors and it wasn’t particularly busy. This made it all the more fun, and here are 25 things to do in this under the radar European capital city.


1. Gediminas Castle & Funicular

Right on the hill overlooking the city is Gedminas’ Tower and the Funicular to get up there. The Castle was built not just as a defensive vantage point, but also as the ruler’s private home during the days of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Today there is a small exhibit inside, with a room dedicated to Lithuanian independence in 1991 – where a human chain of 2,000 people joined hands in peaceful protest from Vilnius all the way to Tallinn. Gedminas Castle was the start point.

Joining in the freedom line

2. Vilnius Cathedral Square & Cathedral

Cathedral Square is one of the most famous sites of the city. The cathedral itself was built in the 1700s, and is home to many famous Lithuanians, including Vytautus himself – one of the most famous rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the Middle Ages.

The Bell Tower and Cathedral

3. Bell Tower Climb

After visiting the Cathedral, its time to climb the Bell Tower. If you’re scared of heights or unsteady on your feet though this one isn’t for you – the steps are narrow, not very stable and require some upper body strength to pull yourself up. The views are stunning though.

4. Palace of the Grand Dukes

The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was originally constructed in the 1400s for the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and future Kings of Poland, and prospered during the 16th and mid-17th centuries. For four centuries the palace was the political, administrative and cultural centre of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but was eventually demolished in 1801 as Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire (1795-1918). Work on a new palace started in 2002 on the site of the original building and it took 16 years to complete it, opening in 2018 as a museum

The Palace

5. Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace is the official seat of the Lithuanian President. Nicely, the gardens are opened for everyone to enjoy each evening for a few hours, with garden games like chess and Jenga on offer (I lost at both).

6. House of Signatories

This interesting museum is all about Lithuanian independence after WW1, the agreement for which was signed in 1918 in this building. The museum tells the story of the build up to the signing and the people themselves involved. This independence didn’t last long as by 1940, Russia were back as occupiers – it is truly terrifying how history seems to be repeating itself on loop in the region (you can read more about it HERE).

The signing spot

7. Old Town

Vilnius Old Town is a gorgeous area, being one of the largest old towns in all of Europe. It’s well worth spending a couple of hours strolling the cobbled streets and enjoying the old buildings and architecture. There are also lots of nice cafes and places to stop in the old town to just watch the world go by – on a sunny afternoon we enjoyed doing just that.

8. St Anne’s Church

St Anne’s Church is just stunning. Built in 1495 it’s the most famous church in Vilnius and its easy to see why!

The incredible church

9. Augustas & Barbora Love Story Café

A cafe in tribute to the biggest love story of the 16th century in Lithuania – between the Grand Duke of Lithuania, King Sigismund Augustus, and Barbara Radziwill, Queen of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The bond between the rulers was very strong, their behaviour in the society of the time was scandalous and dramatic (he had already been married), and the story was short and tragic as Barbara died a painful and slow death bleeding internally. Today’s historians believe it was either an ectopic pregnancy (Thank god I live in the 2000s and not 1600s), cervical cancer or an advanced STI.

Just an aside my husband absolutely LOVED crouching down in roses to take photos of me (not)- so shout out to him for being patient and wonderful.

10. Alumni Courtyard

Alumni is one of the most beautiful remainders of Renaissance architecture in the city. It was built a papal missionary seminary established in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. In 1798, it was closed and the Alumni transferred to Vilnius University. It’s now open to visit.

The stunning courtyard

11. Artillery Bastion & Gates of Dawn

The Artilltery Bastion was originally built in the 1500s as a defensive wall against the Crusaders, and later Russian invaders. Initially consisting of 10 dates (only one of which survives, The Gates of Dawn, this 500 year old structure has been converted in to a museum on weaponry. We enjoyed our visit and spent around 2 hours exploring the exhibits.

View of the Bastion

12. St Casimir Church

One of the most instagrammable spots in Vilnius is this beautiful pink church built in the 1600s. It’s also worth nipping inside as it’s very ornate.

The pretty church

13. Museum of Genocide Victims & KGB Prison Cells

Another heavy hitting museum in Vilnius is the Museum of Genocide Victims, which documents the recent history of Lithuania and the genocide largely at the hands of the Soviets from 1940 until independence in 1991. It talks about forced exile of families to Siberia, systemic persecution and murder of anyone against the Soviet regime, and mass killings of opponents. Also on the site are the ex-KGB prison cells, where thousands of Lithuanians lost their lives at the hands of the Soviet Union.

14. National Museum of Lithuania (New Arsenal)

The New Arsenal is part of the Lithuania National Museum and covers Lithuanian history from the formation of the state in the late 1200s through to the present day. It talks through the various wars of 1200-1795, when Lithuania was absorbed as part of the wider Russian Empire, and then the journey to independence again in 1918. It also has some really moving exhibits on the wars, and people forced to live in Siberia by the Soviet government in the 1940s-80s.

At the Museum

15. The Green House

This museum was my favourite in Vilnius. It’s all about the holocaust in Lithuania – I’ve been to many holocaust museums but this was the best one. It’s so beautifully done, really well documented, with harrowing photos of the victims before, during and after their murders. It’s the kind of place you leave feeling like you cannot possibly comprehend how these people lived, how they just got through day to day. Really we have nothing to complain about in life.

Outside the museum

16. Wine tasting at the Grand Hotel Kempinski

The Grand Hotel Kempinski – full review of our stay HERE (post coming soon)- is one of the best hotels in Vilnius, sitting right on the main square. It’s home to Atelier, a wine bar which has the best wine selection in the city. An evening wine tasting is the perfect way to spend a few hours – and you can combine it with dinner as well if you’d like.

17. Sample local Lithuanian food at Lokys

There are some beautiful restaurants in Vilnius, and our favourite traditional restaurant was Lokys, set in a basement cellar and serving traditional game meats. I had the game sausages and they were delicious.

18. Enjoy some of the best food & cocktails in town

There are so many amazing restaurants in Vilnius and its food and drink scene is incredible. We particularly loved the cocktails at Greys, and the food at Fiorentino (Italian), Blue Lotus (Thai & Indian), Narushi (Sushi) and Telegrafas (upmarket).

19. Relax at a spa

Lithuania is known for its many spas and wellness retreats, and you can get a wide range of treatments for a really good price. I had a deep tissue massage and it was absolutely amazing (and painful in a good way – they don’t mess about here!)

20. The Hill of Three Crosses

The Hill of 3 crosses (not to be confused with the famous Hill of Crosses below) is a viewpoint in Vilnius, which is dedicated to the memory of some Franciscan Friars who were beheaded here.

The Three Crosses

21. Kudru Park

A lovely green space in the city, Kudru Park is perfect for relaxing and having a break amongst nature. I really liked the views out across the city too.

Views from the park

22. Street art in Uzupis

One of the coolest areas of Vilnius is Uzupis, self declared as independent. It’s home to open air art galleries and lots of graffiti so is fun to just stroll around.

23. Take a day trip to Kaunas

A great day trip option from Vilnius is to head to the nearby city of Kaunas – you can read my full guide on a day trip HERE (post coming soon). Kaunas is the 2022 European city of culture and is a beautiful place to spend the day exploring.

24. Visit Trakai Castle

Another wonderful half day trip option is to visit Trakai Castle – the full guide to which is HERE. This fairytale island castle is not just picture perfect but also houses a really interesting museum on the history of castle through the ages.

25. Explore the Hill of Crosses

Not to be confused with item 20 above, The Hill of Crosses lies a few hours north of Vilnius and is hard to get to without a car, but is doable as a day trip. One of the most special places in Lithuania (in my opinion), it’s well worth it. You can read my detailed post on my visit HERE.

At the Hill of Crosses


What do you think of Vilnius? We really enjoyed exploring this wonderful city. We spent 5 days here, but you could squeeze everything in to 2 days if you needed to by dropping a couple of the museums and the day trips.

I hope you enjoyed the tour – stay safe and happy travelling!

35 Comments

  1. So interesting to read on this city that I knew nothing about before now. I would happily take that stairway to top for the views. It looks like something out of gothic novel. The old town looks charming and the food delicious. I am anxiously awaiting your next post on this beautiful country! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Meg, and I’m glad to have shown you somewhere new. I agree, there was a really strong gothic influence all over the place in Lithuania actually (though it was the last pagan country in Europe so maybe it’s deliberate!). I hope you enjoy the many posts to come. Thanks for reading and hope you had a nice weekend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such wonderful travels you’ve documented in Vilnius, Lithuania! All of your 25 highlights would be very nice to visit, especially (in my opinion) #’s 2, 3, 8, 11, 12, 20 & 24. Marvelous post, Hannah!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. WOW! You visited so much more than I did, and it’s very impressive! The Augustas & Barbora Love Story Café looks gorgeous (very Instagram-worthy, haha!). I had no idea that you could wine-taste at Grand Hotel Kempinski, but that’s something I’ll have to consider if I ever return to Vilnius! I did visit Uzupis during my time in the city, and it’s a very-charming little place: I even got a passport stamp of it at one of the bookstores! Can’t wait to read about your day trips in Lithuania (especially the Hill of Crosses)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw so glad you enjoyed the article Rebecca, thank you for commenting. I’m definitely the kind of traveller who likes to see lots in a place and never rush – it means I don’t get around as many places though haha! Ahhh I didn’t get the passport stamp, I definitely should have done that! Lots more posts on the Baltics coming up, it’s just finding the time to write them all! 🙂 Hope you’ve had a great weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great list! I’m so glad that you go on this trip, and I can’t wait to read everything! We are staying at a Kempinski hotel in Germany and I’m so excited! I had remembered your post on Eagles Nest and added that to my itinerary 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thanks Lyssy, I’m just sorry it was when you were in London of all times! Eeeeek Kempinskis are just beautiful. Ahh are you staying in the Kempinski Berchtesgaden? I love it there! And I’m so glad you thought of Eagle’s Nest – the hiking and views are insane, plus the interesting history. Let me know when you’re in Germany, I’m due to be there a few times later in the year so maybe just maybe we might overlap! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m bummed I missed you but am so happy you got to go on your trip!!! Yes that is the hotel, it looks so serene and amazing! We will be there around the last week of August, doing mostly the Bavarian Alps and a day in Salzburg. It looks so pretty and will be nice to have a nature focused trip after Paris/London. Perfect balance 🙂

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  5. That’s a lovely feeling to have the city to yourself and not be surrounded by other tourists. I’m such a fan of climbing those bell towers, especially when it’s not very busy and you can take your time. The views from above look beautiful. The cafe with all the roses looks stunning.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You managed to do even more than us during your stay in Vilnius Hannah though we only had three nights. I’d like to return and see more, we also went out to Trakai Castle and thought it was beautiful. I also recall climbing up to the top of that tower, some of the steps were really difficult with step ladders with wide gaps in places! It’s a wonder I got down in one piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading Marion – we are definitely ‘slow’ travellers who would rather feel like we’d seen places in depth than rush around so we were glad to have 5 days there. Though 3 days is a really good amount of time too – enough to see all the major sites for sure. That made me laugh, I also struggled to get down in one piece as I tripped at one point and thought I was going to face plant the wall. Thankfully I regained my footing! Hope you’ve had a nice weekend and enjoyed the sunshine 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am glad to see you had a fantastic time exploring the Baltic States and Lithuania’s capital. You don’t meet many people who choose Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania as their travel destination, but there are so many reasons to do it – the Baltic seaside, capital cities, history, castles and nature just to name a few! Can’t wait to read more about your 2-week trip! Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree Aiva, it’s not that well known in Western Europe and other continents, but it’s such a rewarding area to visit. It’s been top of my husband’s list for so long so I’m really glad we managed it. We loved everything about it and it had such variety to offer as you say! Lots more posts to come 🙂 Thank you for reading xx

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Two weeks in the Baltics sounds amazing. Vilnius looks like a wonderful place to visit. I wonder if the lack of tourists is the norm or if depressed COVID travel accounts for it. We’re here in the state of Colorado and it seems tourism is way down, in large part (we’re all speculating) to the huge rise in gas prices and other effects of inflation. Anyway, I look forward to your detailed posts coming soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was such an amazing trip 🙂 I was surprised there were no COVID restrictions at all, no tests on entry or exit, no social distancing or masks or anything. I definitely think inflation is playing a part and the media coverage of the airport chaos and strikes too across Europe. Plus the Baltics are surrounded by Russia so I’m sure that puts a few people off. We definitely visited at a quiet time, so would be interesting to go back one day to see!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The cathedral’s inside is beautiful – almost simple, but yet so elegant (can one say that about a cathedral, I wonder)? And it’s always great when a city has an “old town” area … and it seems Vilnius didn’t dissapoint in this aspect.
    Haha, yes I can just imagine how “great” it must have been for your husband between the roses (just as it was for my husband to live for 3 weeks in a cottage surrounded by roses 😄). Wow Hannah, so many things to do and see (and then I have not even mentioned the wine tasting, food and cocktails) … that’s what you call “exploring in abundunce”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We definitely explored every little corner of Vilnius, and it’s nice to be able to showcase it a bit having spent so much time there. Hehe yes I’m sure Berto loved being surrounded by roses in the cottage just as much as Chris did taking photos of me amongst them haha! Thanks as always for reading and hope you’ve had a great Saturday.

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