Incredible Things to do in Vilnius, Lithuania
Christina Guan May 11, 2018
I’ve made it absolutely no secret that I fell hard for Vilnius during my short visit in April with the folks at Travel Addicts Club.
Like, a borderline restraining order kind of love.
Naturally, this obsession is linked to all the many, many awesome things to do in Vilnius. My three day break whizzed by like nothing, leaving me with intense withdrawal symptoms from the hearty comfort food, the beautiful churches and of course, the endless parade of perfect cafes.
Eager to see what I mean? If you’re wondering what to do in Vilnius, here’s a list for you, from sightseeing and attractions to activities a bit more off-the-beaten-path.
Vilnius: The Practical Scoop
How to get to Vilnius: We flew in with airBaltic, who offers direct flights to Vilnius from many major European cities. FYI, the airport in Vilnius is ridiculously close to the city (only a ten minute drive) which means you’ll be able to able to faceplant into delicious Lithuanian food right away.
Sightseeing and Attractions in Vilnius
If it’s beautiful sights and cool attractions you’re after, lucky you. Vilnius has them in abundance. Here are some things to do in Vilnius on the attractions/sightseeing side. Enjoy!
Tour around Vilnius on foot
I love walking tours for a simple reason: they bring a place to life. You can be in the most beautiful city, looking at the most stunning architecture and buildings, but without historical context and local stories to bring them to life, you miss out on a huge chunk of what makes travel so magical. Especially in a city like Vilnius, with such an interesting history, exploring with a guide is a must.
We luckily had our friends from Travel Addicts Club with us during our stay, so we got to learn not just what sights we were drooling over, but also some personal stories and context that brought them to life. If you want the same experience, these guys offer a free walking tour several times a week.
Where to stay in Vilnius: We stayed at the Comfort Hotel Rock and Roll, and it was perfect! Awesome decor, really friendly staff, comfortable beds and a nice location just outside of Old Town.
Go church hopping
In Vilnius, one could throw a rock and inevitably hit a jaw-dropping church. It’s just science. After all, with 28 churches in the Vilnius Old Town alone, there are more than enough to fill your time and SD card – some are abandoned, some boast spectacular interiors, and others find themselves surprisingly bare (a legacy left by the Soviet Occupation, during which churches were repurposed as various spaces like music halls and museums). Here are a few I recommend you don’t miss:
The Cathedral of St Stanislav and St Vladislav (AKA Vilnius Cathedral) – Undoubtedly one of the most iconic sights of Vilnius, although strangely looking more like a museum than a church. Well worth a stop.
Saint Casimir Church – pretty, pink and perfect (though a lot more spectacular on the outside than in). Fun fact: a photo of this church I posted on Instagram inspired one of my followers to bake a pink cake!
Saint Ann Church – a super beautiful Gothic church that seems to glow red in the sun. Absolutely spectacular (so spectacular in fact that legend says Napoleon wanted to bring it home!). The Saint Francis of Assissi church is also super close by, which makes it a double whammy for your DIY Vilnius Church bingo.
The Church of Saint Philip and Saint Jacob – a lovely red church that has the most magical bells chiming. Its carillon (a multi-bell instrument) has 61 bells, making it the largest in the Baltics.
Our Lady of the Sign Church – a little out of the city center, but really beautiful, and right by the river too which makes for a picturesque walk.
Enjoy a killer view
The beauty of Vilnius is best appreciated from a higher vantage point. Perch and gawk to your heat’s content at one of the following viewpoints:
My personal favourite – the Subačiaus Street Lookout, AKA
Subačiaus Gatvės Apžvalgos Aikštelė: Provides an amazing view over the Old Town and Užupis, and with a little cafe nearby so you can enjoy a nice cold bevvie with your view.
The Hill of Three Crosses – A local favourite for catching romantic sunsets, and the perfect place to get up close and personal with one of Vilnius’ most important monuments: three gleaming white crosses that stand as a symbol for national identity and resistance to the Soviet occupation.
The view from the Cathedral Bell Tower (Vilniaus Katedros Varpinė): A great view, but it loses points for me because of the netting and barriers set up on the upper floor viewing platforms. They make it quite tough to properly enjoy the view (and snap any photos).
NOTE: The Gediminas’ Tower is a viewpoint highly recommended by many, but since late 2017 it has been closed for repairs (with no definitive re-opening date just yet).
Visit the Museum of Genocide Victims
It’s certainly not a pleasant visit, and one that will inevitably leave you feeling miserable, but the Museum of Genocide Victims is a definite must-see, and an eye-opening look into the dark struggles of Lithuania’s past. This museum is housed in the city’s former KGB building, where horrific plans were hatched and executed over 50 years. The visit takes you down to the actual cells of the former KGB prison, an eerie step back in time that presents a real, and unsugarcoated look into the atrocities committed throughout the regime. In the upper floors, detailed displays lead you through the history of the occupation, bringing to life a piece of history that (to me) was never taught in school. A harrowing visit, but a must.
Spin three times and make a wish
In the centre of Cathedral Square is where you’ll find the Stebuklas Miracle tile, which is said to have wish-granting properties. Spin around three times on the tile and wish your heart away – who knows, it might just come true