Lithuania – one of our eastern neighbours, is a country tangled with Poland for years of history. In Vilnius, we will still encounter many Polish traces, for example in The Gates of Dawn with the painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary or at the Vilnius University.
Every year Vilnius is visited by crowds of Poles, probably due to the short distance and possibilities of travelling by car (check the useful information about travelling by car in Lithuania) or prices similar to Polish. Vilnius is a picturesque city which old town has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It has many charming corners and is undoubtedly a great option for a city break.
What are the most interesting attractions in Vilnius?
Gate of Dawn
Visiting Vilnius is worth starting from the Gate of Dawn. This Gothic building is a remnant of the city’s defensive walls and opens up the Old Town. On the north side, there is a chapel with a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy. This is one of the most outstanding Renaissance paintings in Lithuania called “Vilnius Madonna”.
Since the middle of the 17th century, it has been said to have miracle-working powers. It was worshipped and considered miraculous by Catholics as well as by Orthodox believers and Uniates. It is known all over the world, and its copies are found e.g. in Paris and many churches in Poland.
Vilnius is called the city of churches. Although visiting them is not one of our favourite activities, skipping the most important ones would be a sin. When we put the jokes aside, looking into Vilnius churches you can easily change your mind. The atmosphere that is inside is unique, shrouded in mystery and a heavy fragrance of incense.
Orthodox church of the Holy Spirit
One of the most important temples is the Church of the Holy Spirit – the main Orthodox temple in Lithuania. It is hidden in the gate at Aušros Vartų street. The construction of the church of St. King b
Church of St Casimir
Peachy Church of St Casimir is the first baroque church in Lithuania. The construction lasted 14 years and was completed in 1618. Church of St Casimir was the main Jesuit church in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Church of St Anna
Church of St Anna is a Gothic masterpiece. Legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte, delighted with its architecture, wanted to move it to Paris.
Following further along Aušros Vartų street, we reach the Town Hall Square with the Town Hall in the classical style, and then to the most famous street in Vilnius – Pilies. It is full of stalls, restaurants and bars – it is a Vilnius promenade.
If you want to eat something good, we suggest not going to the first better restaurant. It will be full of tourists, more expensive, and the food may not be delicious. We will prepare a post dedicated to food in Lithuania with a list of great restaurants in both Vilnius and Trakai – keep an eye for it!
The side streets of the old town are quieter and very charming. Stiklių Street is seasonally decorated with colourful balloons. Bernardinų street is decorated with colourful teapots. Different sizes and colours, they are very cute and worth seeing or beeing captured on the pictures. You can admire them sitting at the table and drinking wine – away from the crowds but still in the Old Town.
Vilnius University is also located in the Old Town. Founded in 1579 by King Stefan Batory, it is one of the oldest universities in Central and Eastern Europe. Famous students include Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Slowacki and Czeslaw Milosz.
The complex was built between the 16th and 19th centuries and surprises with architecture. It consists of 16 buildings built in different styles and 13 different-sized courtyards.
When strolling, it is worth visiting the hall leading to the Lithuanian Center. On its walls and ceiling, there are beautiful frescoes showing scenes from Lithuanian mythology.
When visiting the university, it is worth taking a look at the St. John’s Church. Close to the church, there is a campanile and at the same time a great viewpoint. The cost of admission is EUR 3.
Cathedral Square in Vilnius
The heart of the city is the Cathedral Square,
The tower standing next to the cathedral is a former tower rebuilt in 1530, which in the past was part of the defensive walls of Vilnius.
Castle of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Very close to the Cathedral Square is the Castle of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. At the National Museum of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, you can see two permanent exhibitions reflecting the functions of a historic residence. The cost of admission is EUR 7.
At the top of Mount Gediminas is the Gediminas Tower – a tower and at the same time the only remnant of Gediminas Castle. Take the cable car up and watch a panorama of the city with the Neris river in the background. The cost of entry is EUR 5.
The Hill of Three Crosses
In our opinion, however, the best (and free!) way to see the panorama is to climb the Hill of Three Crosses. There used to be a castle called Crooked, which was taken over and burned by the Teutonic Knights in 1390. According to legend, on the mountain once stood three wooden crosses, which were later replaced by concrete ones.
Climbing up is quite a challenge, but it’s worth it – the view is beautiful! Ideally, do it at sunset, then the view of the Old Town is even more unique.
It is worth considering visiting the Rossa cemetery, picturesquely situated on the hills. Rossa is the oldest cemetery in Vilnius, founded in 1801. Even if your relatives do not rest there, a walk through the cemetery filled with Polish history can be moving. Here is the grave of Pilsudski’s mother and also his heart is buried here.
An interesting place in Vilnius is Užupis. It is one of the oldest districts of Vilnius and once very poor. For some time, however, it has been one of the most representative in the city This is a very hipster location and meeting point for artists who announced their republic here on April 1, 1997.
Republic of Užupis, has its anthem, president, flag, post office, 17-man army and constitution. Here you will find interesting street art, art incubator and Angel of Užupis.
The Halės market in Vilnius brings us memories of Mercado Central in Valencia. The idea is very similar – apart for stalls with fruits, vegetables, meat, Lithuanian cheese or other local products, you can also drink coffee, beer or eat something here (e.g. steak, bagel or … pho soup!). This is where you can buy authentic local products that you can take home or… eat on the spot! 😀
Are you after something more alternative? We invite you to Keulė Rūkė – a barbecue pub, famous for its graffiti showing kissing Vladimir Putin with Donald Trump. Because of damage, graffiti was moved inside and unfortunately, during our stay it was under renovation. Don’t worry, in Keulė Rūkė you’ll see a lot of other graffiti! You can also eat Lithuanian pork ribs or hamburger with long smoked meat and drink Lithuanian beer. The choice is huge!
If you want to visit as much as possible, it’s worth buying the Vilnius Pass. card.
Thanks to it you will be able to visit museums for free, take free guided tours or get many discounts, e.g. for renting a bicycle, boat trip or to specific restaurants. There are 3 card options – for 24, 48 and 72 hours.
- 24-hour card – 19.99 € (online price 17.99 €)
- 48-hour card – 26.99 € (online price – 24.99 €)
- 72-hour card – 34.99 € (online price – 32.99 €)
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