Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania is a 43-minute flight from Minsk, Belarus and an hour flight from Tallinn, Estonia. There aren’t many direct flights to the country and currently, there are only 15 airlines that fly into Vilnius. Usually, people who visit Lithuania also include the other Baltic states – Latvia and Estonia. The country has just under three million people and over half a million lives in Vilnius.
Vilnius is famous for its medieval Old Town. Its baroque architecture, narrow cobbled alleys and large squares are very much the postcard images of the city. Vilnius has a unique appeal for travelers of all ages and if you’re wondering what there is to do, here are five:
1. Take a walking tour in the Old Town
A walking tour in the Old Town is a must when visiting Vilnius. Enjoy the very best that Vilnius has to offer:
Ensemble of Saint Anne and Bernardine Church
Saint Anne Church is a good example of late Gothic-era architecture. This 500-year-old red brick church survived the wars and much of the original work is intact. Check out the Baroque-style interior. Next to Saint Anne is Bernardine Church built in the 16th century. A Neo-Gothic bell tower was added in the 19th century.
It’s the oldest and largest university in Lithuania. Founded in the 16th-century, the university has 13 courtyards, an old library built in the 16th-century and a late Baroque-style church, St John’s Church.
Other highlights to include in your walking tour:
- The former Little Jewish Ghetto – former trade and craft center
- Presidential Palace
- Cathedral Square
- Pilies and Didzioji Streets – the oldest and most colorful streets in Vilnius
- Ausros Vartu Street – a street filled with churches and also Gates of Dawn (also known as Sharp Gate)
- The Church of St Peter and Paul – 17th-century Baroque-style architecture
- Vokieciu Street and Town Hall Square
- Gediminas Avenue – main avenue in Vilnius that runs from the Cathedral Square to Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament)
2. Explore Uzupis Art Incubator
During the Soviet era, Uzupis was a rundown and an undesirable place to live. When Lithuania became independent, artists and free-spirited locals took advantage of the low rent in Uzupis. They began to transform the place that was once a Jewish neighborhood into a Bohemian enclave that is unconventional and creative. They called it the Republic of Uzupis and created their own flag, constitution, and anthem.
Nowadays, this quirky part of the city located by the Vilnia River (with seven bridges) celebrates their special day on April 1st. It’s a fun place to visit if you like art and unique shops.
3. Visit Museum of Genocide Victims (KGB Museum)
Lithuania was under Soviet rule for 50 years. You can learn a lot about the Soviet occupation, KGB’s role, and Lithuania’s shocking past. The Museum of Genocide Victims is located in the former KGB headquarters. Visitors will see actual prison cells, interrogation chambers, execution room, and more. It is hard to believe that these prison cells and rooms were used until 1991.
Other objects of interest include artifacts and photographs found in Lithuania during the Soviet occupation. The museum has three floors. The basement is the most chilling floor in the museum featuring graphic videos of execution, the actual prison cells, and the execution room. Definitely not suitable for young children.
4. Enjoy Vilnius street art
Vilnius Tourism Board has an online Street Art with map brochure that you can download. The brochure shows 20 street art pieces to visit. The most famous one is Putin and Trump with the words “Make everything great again.” This iconic street art is located on Pylimo Street in Vilnius. The Os Gemeos brothers from Brazil also painted a beautiful mural on the same street in honor of their grandfather who is a Lithuanian descent.
5. Day trip to Trakai
Trakai is a place for relaxation for both tourists and locals alike. Located 20 miles west of Vilnius, the town is surrounded by mountains, nature reserves, and lakes. But the most famous attractions in Trakai is Trakai Castle. The castle was the military and political center for Lithuanian Grand Dukes. You can visit the castle and also try out the unique Karaim food like kybyn in one of the restaurants near the castle.
The Karaims, a minority group of people settled in Trakai since the 14th-century. They still preserved their language and religion, Karaite Judaism.