One of Lithuania’s most beautiful and treasured sights is Trakai Castle, which is just 30 minutes outside of Vilnius. The gorgeous red castle sits on an island in the middle of Lake Galvė in Trakai, Lithuania. Visiting Trakai makes for a great day trip full of history and lovely views of the fairytale castle.
How to get there
The castle is easily accessible by car, but if you’re visiting Vilnius without a car, you can also get there using public transportation. There is a train from the Vilnius Railway Station, and a bus from the Vilnius Bus Station. They’re both practically next to each other, and the cost is nearly the same, under 2 euros a ticket. The bus is slightly faster and there are more schedule options, so this may be a slightly better choice.
Of course, you can easily take a day tour from Vilnius, though this would be the most expensive option, aside from being the least flexible.
Visiting Trakai Castle
The 14th century castle is accessible by a foot bridge that connects Trakai Island with the mainland. One of the most striking things about the look of the castle is that the stones that make up its façade change as you look up. That’s because the castle was built in parts. You can see the stone that made up the original castle base underneath the red brick that makes up the rest of the castle. It was in this bright red brick that the 6-story tower was built along with two new wings during the second phase of construction. In the 15th century, in a third phase of construction, Trakai got three defensive towers.
Since 1962, the castle has housed the Trakai History Museum, turning its gorgeous halls into exhibitions that showcase the history of Trakai and the castle. So you can visit many of the structures mentioned above, including the tower, once inside. The exhibitions include furniture, clothing, jewelry, weapons, decorations, and art that are part of Trakai’s history. You’ll also learn a lot more about the construction of the castle through the historical lens of medieval Lithianua and the rulers that built the castle.
Aside from the museum exhibitions, the grounds of Trakai make for an interesting visit. The main courtyard of the castle has several devices of punishment, seeing as how part Trakai was once a prison. You can test out the stock and human-sized cages for yourself.
Perhaps even more fun than that is Trakai’s archery range, where for only 2 euro, you can shoot a bow and arrow, a crossbow, or an air rifle. This alone makes Trakai the most interactive castle I’ve ever visited. If you take your time, you could easily spend several hours browsing the exhibits and wandering around the grounds, so it’s well worth the 7 euro price of admission.
Around Trakai Castle
Save some time to explore the area off the island, too. Since Trakai is located in the center of a lake, boating is a popular daytime activity around Trakai Castle. There are paddleboats that you can rent yourself, as well as boat tours that can take you all around the castle in around 30 minutes. One of the best ways to appreciate Trakai is to see all around the exterior from a boat on the lake. This will also give you a good look at some of the other structures that sit on the edge of the lake like Užutrakis Manor Palace. After a lot of walking around inside, sitting on a boat on a sunny day really hits the spot. The only thing I would have done differently is bring drinks.
While you’re all the way in Trakai, it’s not a bad idea to walk around the city to see something different from Vilnius. I have it on good authority that the best Šimtalapis is in Trakai, so if you want to try the Lithuanian poppy seed cake, this would be a good place to do it. There are plenty of places to grab a bite around the castle.
Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Trakai guides on GPSmyCity here.