Vilnius is a city that isn’t very well known internationally, but it should be. The Lithuanian capital, and 2009 European Capital of Culture, is home to well over half a million people and is actively working to be a hotspot for artists, young professionals, academics, and techies alike.
The city is a remarkable blend between classic and contemporary. The Old Town area is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is lined with cobblestone streets and charming cafes, while the New City Center is home to skyscrapers, banks, and other signs of a modern global city.
Since it’s a focus city for budget airlines such as RyanAir and WizzAir, it’s easy to get to Vilnius from just about anywhere in Europe. Once you find yourself in this charming city, here are some things that you can’t miss.
17 Best Things To Do In Vilnius, Lithuania
1. Visit Užupis District
There aren’t many places in the world like Užupis, and the locals seem intent on keeping it that way. This quirky neighborhood (republic?) is predominantly home to artists, students, and young professionals. Part of the local feeling comes from there not being any big-box stores, government facilities, or shopping centers. Everything is done by the locals, for the locals. They live in their own world.
When visiting Užupis, plan on spending lots of time just taking in the sights. With all the artistry, cafes, and quirky things to see, the neighborhood almost demands its visitors to be present and observant. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Užupis for more details.
2. Wander through Old Town
The Old Town area of Vilnius is one of the best preserved historical centers in Eastern Europe, so there is a reason this 887 acre part of town is a protected UNESCO World Heritage site. When walking through Old Town, it feels like going back in time. The winding cobblestone streets are so well preserved it’s easy to spend hours on end taking in the views and snapping plenty of photos.
In addition to the sights, Old Town is home to some fantastic restaurants. Like the rest of Vilnius, the Old Town food scene is a wonderful mix of old and new, so there is something for everybody. From fancy white tablecloth eateries, to dine and dash vegan spots, and of course, plenty of traditional Lithuanian spots too. You certainly won’t go hungry in this part of town since every block is home to at least a few restaurants.
3. Admire the Church of St. Casimir
The Church of St. Casimir is one of those beautiful churches that you can’t miss while visiting Vilnius. While there are no doubt tons of beautiful churches in Vilnius, this one really takes the cake for us.
4. Try traditional Lithuanian food
A country’s cuisine is representative of the climate and conditions of the country, so Lithuanian food is comprised of products that can survive the cool and moist climate. The dishes here feature plenty of potatoes, beets, grains, and berries. Plenty of things are pickled too.
An easy introduction to Lithuanian food is Kibinai. These little pastries are dough stuffed with meat, vegetables, cheese, or a combination or all three. Another traditional Lithuanian food is Šaltibarščiai. It’s a cold beet root soup and has a glowing neon magenta appearance.
5. Have a beer at Šnekutis
Šnekutis is a really cool pub that is loved by locals for its fast wifi, cheap beers, and delicious food. Stop by for a beer in this local pub chain and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
6. Hike up to Gediminas’ Tower
It’s well worth the hike up to Gediminas’ Tower to see the panoramic views of the city. It’s not that far of a walk, but you can also take the gondola up if you’re unable to make it up the cobblestone path and stairs. Admission into the castle is 5 euros for adults.
7. Take a walk in Bernadine Gardens
The Bernadine Gardens are easily the most beautiful park in all of Vilnius. Head here to take a leisurely stroll next to the Vilnia River and take in all the amazing sights.
8. Check out Vilnius University
The largest university in Lithuania is also one of the oldest universities in Europe. Founded in 1579, Vilnius University has plenty of history to go along with its incredible architecture.
Today, the university has over 20,000 students, and the courtyards and libraries are well-preserved for students and visitors alike. The current president of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, is a Vilnius University alumni.
9. Cheer on the local team, BC Rytas
A major part of Lithuanian culture is basketball. For such a tiny country, Lithuania is actually extremely good at basketball! Make sure to check the schedule to see if there is a game during your visit.
10. Visit Cat Cafe KaciU Kavine
Do you like cats? Then you definitely need to plan a trip to Cat Cafe KaciU Kavine. You can make a reservation on their website, although no reservation is necessary–but you’ll want one in case it’s super busy. We should note that there is a 5 Euro minimum that you have to spend on food/drink during your visit.
11. Take a nighttime stroll down Vokiečių Street
If you’re looking for a pretty place to take a nighttime stroll, then look no further than Vokiečių Street. This street has a pedestrian walkway in the middle, and is lined with great restaurants, shops and cafes.
12. Enjoy blazing fast internet speeds
Vilnius was once home to some of the fastest internet speeds in the world. Although it has been dethroned of the top spot, it still maintains some of the best download speeds in the world. It’s on par with Sweden and Finland, and ranks higher than the United States.
The best part is the fast internet isn’t just limited to internet cafes or universities. On a visit to a local pub, we saw quite a few people with their laptops out working away while having a pint. There is a reason that Vilnius is a growing technology hub!
13. Explore the HALĖS MARKET
The HALĖS MARKET is a massive market and it’s a really great place to head on a cold and rainy day. On the main floor, there is fresh produce, meats and goods for sale. There are even some great restaurants and cafes located along the perimeter. Downstairs, there is a massive clothing bazaar with everything from shoes and belts to sweaters and hats.
14. Visit the Choral Synagogue
Before WWII, there was a large Jewish community in Vilnius with other 100 synagogues. It was even called the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Post-War, there is only one synagogue left: The Choral Synagogue. It’s a beautiful synagogue so it’s worth a visit to pay your respect.
15. Visit the new modern Vilnius City Center
Believe it or not, not everything in Vilnius exists in Old Town! In fact, there is a beautiful new modern city center located on the other side of the Neris River. Go check it out if you have time. Needless to say, it is very different from Old Town.
16. Explore Cathedral Square
Cathedral Square is the main square in Vilnius’ Old Town. It’s a great place for pictures since it features a cathedral, bell tower, and museum. You can even climb up the bell tower for better views of the square and surrounding areas.
17. Stroll through the Gate of Dawn
The Gate of Dawn is one of the most important historical sites in Vilnius. This is the only surviving gate of the first five original gates that were built back in the 1500’s to protect the city.
Vilnius is a super cool city that is sure to surprise you. We really weren’t sure whether we would like it, but it quickly blew away all our expectations. The health-conscious movement makes eating out in Vilnius both healthy and delicious. And nothing beats exploring the Republic of Užupis.
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