When people head to Europe they often overlook the beautiful Baltic States. The Baltic States include Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Lithuania is the first of the Baltic sates and has the gorgeous capital city of Vilnius. Vilnius is a beautiful capital city, it is filled with history and culture and you can also visit one of the world’s smallest Republics right in the middle of the city.
Lithuania is a relatively “new” country as it has only had it’s independence since 1990. The people of Lithuania are extremely warm and welcoming, and many of them speak English.
Vilnius is a very affordable capital city, if you are travelling Europe on a budget this is the perfect city for you. You can still explore beautiful old buildings, eat amazing food and immerse yourself in a lot of culture without the price tag of Paris or London.
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- 1 Where to stay in Vilnius
- 2 Getting around Vilnius
- 3 General Travel Tips for Vilnius
- 4 Things to do in Vilnius
- 4.1 Cathedral Square and the Bell Tower
- 4.2 Vilnius Town Hall and Town Square
- 4.3 The Republic Užupis
- 4.4 St Anne’s Church
- 4.5 Literature Street
- 4.6 Gediminas’ Tower
- 4.7 Stroll along Pilies Street
- 4.8 Pink church of St Casimir
- 4.9 Church of St Peter and St Paul
- 4.10 Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
- 4.11 The Gate of Dawn
- 5 Share it!
- 6 My BEST Travel Resources
Where to stay in Vilnius
The Radisson Blu Royal Astorija Hotel is a 5-star hotel located in the middle of Vilnius Old Town and will set you back roughly $100 a night.
Getting around Vilnius
Vilnius is a very walkable city and super easy to navigate. If you need to go a little further a field, you can take a taxi or an uber for a very reasonable price.
The airport is a 20 minute drive from the city center or you can catch the train. The train station is only a ten minute walk from the old town.
On a side note, you will get a feel for how cute Vilnius is as soon as you land at the airport! It is one of the cutest airports I have ever seen.
General Travel Tips for Vilnius
Lithuania uses the Euro (€) and most places take both cash and card. You will easily find cash machines located around the city.
The official language of Lithuania is Lithuanian. However, many people do speak English and it is common for the younger generation to be fluent in English whilst the older generations are more likely to be fluent in Russian.
Generally speaking Vilnius feels very safe. However, when you’re travelling you should always be mindful of your surroundings and of your belongings. As we were travelling in winter in was dark very early, we didn’t feel unsafe at nighttime, but like with every city, be careful if you are travelling by yourself at nighttime. We did get told to avoid areas such as Naujininkai, Snipiskes and Savanoriu street at night.
Despite Vilnius being relatively safe, I would recommend purchasing travel insurance before your trip. Although a boring part of travel, travel insurance is a super important part of travel. Make sure you are protected for lost/stolen items and of course your medical costs.
Things to do in Vilnius
Vilnius is such a cool city and there are so many things to do and see. Here are some of our favourite things to do in Vilnius.
Cathedral Square and the Bell Tower
It is hard to visit Vilnius without coming across Cathedral Square and the Bell Tower at least 100 times. Most roads in Vilnius lead directly into Cathedral Square.
Cathedral square is more or less then center of the Old Town and for this reason is quite often the meeting place for locals. Within Cathedral Square you will find the Bell Tower and Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.
During the summer the square comes alive with concerts and in the winter you can visit the unique and beautiful Christmas markets fill the square.
Even if you’re not a lover of Christmas Markets, I would stop by Cathedral Square at night time just to see the lights on the Bell Tower and the bright Christmas Tree.
Vilnius Town Hall and Town Square
The Town Hall was built as Flemish rule at the time declared some members authority within the city of Vilnius. Because of this Flemish rule Vilnius needed some where to house the authority and hence, they built the Town Hall.
It used to be the house of the local magistrate, held city meetings and even had a prison underneath it.
Today, it is used as a community gathering place where there are art exhibitions, concerts and much more.
During the winter “igloos” pop up in the Town square. You can visit the shops and bars that are inside in the igloos and visit yet another Christmas tree.
The Republic Užupis
One of the cool things about Vilnius (there are many but I particularly like this one!) is that there is a tiny Republic in the middle of the city. If you cross the river in Vilnius you will come across The Republic of Užupis.
Many years ago this part of the city was home to some of the poorest residents. The residents were mainly labourer’s and Jewish migrants, sadly, many of these residents were deported to concentration camps during the Nazi occupation.
Once the residents were deported it feel into disrepair and became a very unsavoury part of town.
When Lithuania was granted independence many artists moved into the area due to the cheap housing. It then became an artists quarter.
In the 1990’s 12 artists managed to have the area declared a republic. Whilst, it is seen as a little bit of fun, The Republic Užupis does have its own flag, church, parliament and boarder control.
If you would like to collect another stamp in your passport head to the gift shop/tourist information center and have your passport stamp.
We didn’t get our passport stamps so does that mean we entered The Republic Užupis illegally?
We were told that if you get your passport stamped on the way in you MUST get it stamped on the way out to avoid have any issues at further immigration stops.
St Anne’s Church
Vilnius has a lot of buildings built in Gothic Architecture and a beautiful example of this is St Anne’s Church, you can’t miss the big red brick Church.
The Church was built over 500 years ago for Anna, the Grand Duchess of Lithuania and it hasn’t changed since. St Anne’s Church is one of the reasons that Vilnius is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
St. Anne’s Church is open daily from May – September from 11am – 6pm and October – April from 5-7pm. Luckily you can enter the church for free.
A very unique thing about Vilnius is Literature Street (Literatu street). In 2009 a group of artists decided that Literatu Street should live up to it’s name and began mounting works of art dedicated to Lithuanian writers.
What once was a small display with a few plaques, painting, symbols and yes, grossly, false teeth, is now a street filled with over 200 plaques dedicated to authors who not only have a connection to Vilnius but also around the world.
Literatu Street is open 24 hours and is free visit. I highly recommend talking a walk along the street. It is great to see and the surrounding streets are super cute.
For unbeatable views of the city you want to climb up to Gediminas’ Tower. The best part is, it is free to admire the views of Vilnius from Gediminas’ Tower.
Gediminas’ Tower is named after Duke Gedimaina who was essentially the founder of Vilnius. The tower is all that is left of the Upper Castle that was built by Gedimaina’s grandson and was used as the main fortification of the city for many years.
However, I recommend paying to access the museum and climb to the top of the tower. Lithuania has a very interesting history and some of this history has happened not too long ago.
Read about how approximately 2 million people joined hands to form a human chain that spanned 675km across the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
The human chain was formed to help them fight for their freedom and independence from soviet union.
Stroll along Pilies Street
Once upon a time this gorgeous cobblestoned street lead down to the castle. Hence the name Pilies, in Lithuanian Pilies means Castle.
Today you will find this bustling street filled with historic architecture, coffee houses, shops, restaurants and so much more. Even if you are not a shopper, it is well worth a visit to see the beautiful buildings that line the cobblestones. Keep an eye out for the streets that lead off Pilies street and enter the gorgeous courtyards as you pass.
At the end of Pilies Street you will find the Vilnius Town Hall.
Pink church of St Casimir
A pink church? Yep, only in Vilnius. The Pink Church of St Casimir is a Roman Catholic church located just off the Town Hall Square in the old town of Vilnius.
The Church was built during the 17th century and has had quite the history. During the rule of the Soviet Union the church was converted into a museum about atheism before being rightfully converted back to a Roman Catholic Church.
Even if you think you have church fatigue (is that a real name?) I highly recommend heading to the Pink Church of St Casimir to snap a few photos.
The Church opening hours is dependent on the season. From October to April the Church is open Monday to Friday from 4pm – 6:30pm and 8am – 2pm Sunday. In April until September the Church is open from 10 am until 6:30 pm Monday to Friday and then on a Sunday 8 am – 6:30 pm.
If the Church is not open you can still visit the outside and snap a few photos.
When visiting the churches please be mindful that locals do visit these sites as their place of worship. Please be respectful!
Church of St Peter and St Paul
The Church of St Peter and St Paul is another beautiful church in Vilnius. Apparently before the church was built the site was a Pagan temple for Milda.
However, the Pagan temple was burnt down when the Russian’s invaded Vilnius.
Today, the Church is famous for the stucco figures (there are over 2,000) and the Rococo pulpit.
Make sure you walk around the outside of the Church as well to enjoy the stunning architecture.
The Church is open Monday – Friday from 6 am until 6:30 pm.
Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania that we see today was destroyed in the 18th centaury is now a reconstruction of the palace that was built between the 15th and 17th centaury.
Once upon a time the Palace was known as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and joined forces with states such as Poland, Germany and Russia. The state was one of the strongest warriors at the time and they used Vilnius as it’s capital.
The Palace is so big that it is split into four sections. Unlike most places, you don’t have to visit all sections. You can choose the sections you would like to visit and just pay for those sections.
If you would like to explore the whole palace you will need a few hours! It will cost you 2€ to tour one section of the Palace or 7€ if you would like to see all four. There is also the option to have a guided tour through the Palace and this will cost you extra.
The Gate of Dawn
The Gate of Dawn, also known as Sharps Gate, is one of the most important cultural, historical and religious monuments in Vilnius.
However, a few hundred uses ago, the Gate of Dawn was part of the cities defensive wall. Originally, the cities defensive wall had 10 gates but the Gate of Dawn is the only gate to have survived.
Above the arch way in the gate is a small chapel! It is worth a peep inside but I would avoid mass times.
The chapel is free to visit and is open every day from 6 am until 7 pm.
Have you been to Vilnius? Let me know in the comments below what your favourite thing was
My BEST Travel Resources
Here are my favourite travel resources for planning travel like a pro
Accommodation: I always use booking.com (I love their price match and flexible cancellation policies) or Airbnb (if I want a little more space) to book trip. If you prefer hostels, I suggest Hostelworld.
If you are new to Airbnb you can get an awesome discount using this link
Travel Insurance: After a few hairy moments on my travels, I ALWAYS purchase travel insurance. It may seem like a big cost now, but if the worst happens, it will save you a lot of money and heartache. I personally use World Nomads (and love them!), but I recommend that you do some research to find the insurance company that suits your needs.
Tours: While I prefer to travel independently, I do love doing some tours once I’m in a destination. It is a great way to find out history, hidden gems, taste local food and get a local insight into your destination. I always use Viator to book my tours.
Car Hire: Planning an epic road trip across the US or through Europe, or anywhere! Check out Europcar, they are my go to for car hire all over the world!
Luggage Storage: Some times when we are travelling our check in and check out times don’t match with our departure times so we have to put our luggage into storage. Stasher Luggage Storage is the biggest Luggage Storage Network across the UK, France and Germany