Lithuania’s capital is quite a diverse city. Equal parts historic and rowdy, it has something for everyone. If you’re squeezing a visit to Vilnius into one weekend, there’s more than enough sights and fun to keep you pretty busy. These are some of the activities you don’t want to miss.
Take a free walking tour
The best way to see the major sights of Vilnius and decide which sights or neighborhoods you’d like to revisit on your own is to take a walking tour. There are several different walking tours, some in different languages. One of the most popular and highly rated city tours is the Vilnius with Locals walking tour. It’s free and it runs daily from Vilnius Town Hall at 10 am and 12 pm. The tour includes the major sites in Old Town and the independent artist district of Užupis, as well some off-the-beaten-path sights and areas. It lasts 2 to 2.5 hours and is entirely tip-based, so you can pay what you feel the guide deserves for their knowledge.
Visit Cathedral Square
Cathedral Square is where several of the city’s main streets converge into a wide area where people gather to celebrate events, hold concerts, and parades. This is where a giant colorful Christmas tree blankets the markets in December. The square’s most impressive structure is the Vilnius Cathedral and Bell Tower. The cathedral holds many artworks from the 16th-19th centuries, as well as the remains of Lithuania’s patron saint and many of its rulers like the Grand Duke of Lithuania.
Though the Roman Catholic cathedral itself is free to enter, you’ll have to pay 4.5 euro to see the crypts. This also includes entry to bell tower, which you can climb to get a view of Vilnius from above. The top floor is 164 feet high, so prepare your stair climbing shoes. The bells of the Bell Tower ring every day at 5 pm.
Hang out in Užupis
Užupis is a special neighborhood in Vilnius, because in 1997, the bohemian district of artists and hipsters declared itself its own republic. They have their own president, flag, cabinet, and constitution, which you can read in its entirety on the wall of Paupio Street, where it’s translated into different languages. The articles of the Užupis constitution range from the absurd to the existential. From “A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in a time of need,” to “Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance.” Their independence is celebrated annually on April 1.
Aside from enjoying the art, which is everywhere along the river, in the neighborhoods, and on the sides of buildings, Užupis is a good place to come have a meal or at least a coffee. The creativity that you see in the art is also evident in the food. If you’re only there for the art, you can visit the Art Incubator or one of the many galleries in the neighborhood, where you can enjoy and even buy local art.
Eat Lithuanian food
If you’re visiting Vilnius and you’re not trying every Lithuanian dish you can get your hands on, you’re missing out on one of the most unique cuisines in Europe. The country is known for its zeppelins, potato pancakes, and cold beetroot soup. And yes, it looks like Pepto Bismol and it’s a flavor you’ve probably never imagined, but it’s delicious. One of the most locally recommended places to try some traditional Lithuanian is Forto Dvaras. For some truly spectacular modern seafood cuisine, check out Selfish Bistro.
All the churches in Vilnius are free to enter. Despite Vilnius Cathedral being the largest, the most famous is probably the Church of St. Anne, which is a brick Gothic Catholic church. As one of the most unique churches in Vilnius, it’s also one of the most visited. It’s also adjacent to the Bernardine Church. If you really love churches, you can enter all the religious sites in the city for free. This includes the St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church and Church of St. Nicholas, which is the oldest in the city.
Visit Gediminas Castle Tower
From the center of the city, you can see the only remaining structure of the Upper Castle in Vilnius. It’s part of the National Museum of Lithuania, which includes many buildings throughout the city including the Old Arsenal, the New Arsenal and the Bastion of the Vilnius Defensive Wall. Because Vilnius is still in the process of repairing and renovating many of its historical sites, Gediminas Castle Tower has been inaccessible since November 2017. This includes the Funicular to Gediminas Hill. So before you attempt to visit, check the opening status from the official website.
Climb the Hill of Three Crosses
According to legend, the hill where the Three Crosses now sit, was the location of the murder of seven friars. Three wooden crosses were built on the site at some point in the 1600s, becoming a symbol of Vilnius over time. It’s since been destroyed and rebuilt several times due to German and Soviet occupations. The current monument has been in place since 1989. From this hill, there’s a beautiful view over the Vilnia River of the city’s Old Town. The hill is in the middle of a beautiful park and garden, which is in and of itself, worth visiting.
Party all night
Vilnius knows how to have a good time. If you want to drink and dance all night, Vilnius has an abundance of places to do that. Many of the nicer bars in town do have a dress code, cover, and a line halfway around the block. So if you’re looking to get into a place like Pantera or Mojito Nights, you will need to dress the part. Even some quiet-looking cocktail bars like Alchemikas are choosy about who they let in. A reservation might also help.
Of course, there are some hipster areas of the city where you can get a drink without being dressed to the nines, like Monstro (pizza place by day, boozy warehouse by night) and Bukowski Bar. Even the sporty Dirty Duck has some pretty good cocktails, if you want to get whiskey drunk and play foosball table.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Vilnius guides on GPSmyCity here.