Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is one of the most underrated capital cities in Europe. You may not have heard of Vilnius, and if I am being honest with you, I hadn’t, until September this year when I booked a three-day trip with my husband. When trying to research what to do there I soon realised there was fairly little written about travel to Vilnius in comparison to places like Paris, Barcelona or Rome, but I later realized this is what makes visiting Vilnius so great. This city is a mix of old and new. It is brilliant if you are on a budget, and the lack of tourists makes it one of the quietest destinations I have ever been to. Here is a list of 6 things you should do if you visit Vilnius.
1) GET A VIEW OF THE CITY
Vilnius is small in comparison to other European capitals but there are loads of places where you can get a breathtaking view of the city. The most popular view is from Gediminas Tower, part of a castle dating to the 15th Century (and worth a visit in its own right, not just for the view). The walk up the cobbled path gives a number of viewpoints of the city and once you reach the top you can go inside the tower (it costs 5 Euros) and climb to the top.
However, in my opinion the best view of the city comes from the three crosses. I must warn you this is a bit of a trek, there are a lot of steps to climb but when you reach the top you will see why I think this is the best view of the city. From here Gediminas Tower looks tiny.
2) VISIT AN INDEPENDENT STATE
Uzupis means ‘the other side of the river’ and is an Independent State in Vilnius Old Town. Uzupis has its own constitution which can be found displayed in a number of languages. This part of the city has a number of small restaurants, a lot of street art and even a book shop with cats in it (if you are a fan of cats, which unfortunately I am not). Make sure you take a walk through Uzupis, read the constitution and I would recommend eating here too. We stopped at a place called Uzupio Kavine which is the first restaurant as you enter Uzupis and has tables outside which overlook the river. We sat here for about 3 hours eating and drinking, the food was amazing and the menu was fairly extensive.
3) GO TO THE GENOCIDE MUSEUM
Ok, so bare with me on this. If you are into your history then the Genocide Museum is a great museum to learn about the effects of the world wars and the cold war on Lithuania. The museum is housed in a former KGB building and entry costs only 4 euros for an adult. The displays are all in English and there is a lot of information to take in, after looking at all the displays you can head downstairs to see the former prison cells. This is where things get a little dark, you can see graffiti of the prisoners and where the walls have been painted a number of times to hide as much writing as possible. Special torture chambers can also be seen as well as a room used for executions where the bullet holes still remain.
4) TRY THE LOCAL FOOD AND DRINK
There are so many restaurants in Vilnius as well as the one mentioned above. In the Jewish quarter we found a restaurant (high budget) called Lokys and here we ordered a starter called ‘starter to accompany beer’ which included fried bread, smoked pigs ears, beer sausage and cheese doughnuts, all these things sounded and tasted amazing! The main courses were largely meat based and rustic. I had a stew of beaver (yes beaver) as I am not one to shy away from new foods and it tasted good, trust me. Also, in the same district, there was a small Lithuanian bar called Leiciy Bravoras, which if you are a fan of beer, you should definitely visit. Here you can buy a paddle of beers where you can sample four half pints.
Pilies Street is one of the main streets in Vilnius and is full of bustling restaurants, we chose to go to Pilies Katpedele because it said it served traditional Lithuanian food and that was what we were after. We went all out with soups and mains, washed down with beer and wine. I tried a cold beetroot soup followed by meat dumplings- I am not sure I could have got any more traditional and the food was delicious. Just to prove that Vilnius is a good budget destination: the meal here, of two courses each, two glasses of wine and three pints of beer only came to 29 euros.
5) VISIT THE BELFRY TOWER
There are so many historical places and museums to visit in Vilnius, all centrally located and easy to find. In my opinion the one place you must make sure you visit is the Belfry Tower, found outside the Cathedral. Entry to the Belfry costs only 4 euros for an adult. The first two floors have information about the tower, which originated in the 13th century, and some amazing views. Then it gets better, as long as you don’t mind heights, as you climb up some rickety wooden stairs to the top of the bell tower where you can be among the bells.
6) WALK EVERYWHERE
Vilnius is a fairly small city and there is no need to use public transport here when you can get around for free on foot. This is the best way of making sure nothing gets missed. We managed to stumble across so much more this way. For examples churches are everywhere. I don’t think it would be possible to see them all but we definitely saw a large number of them by walking.
There is even one within the University, St John’s Church. The other University buildings are great to visit on a weekend (cost 1 Euro 50) as it’s really quiet here and a place I hadn’t seen mentioned anywhere else when researching this trip. The Neris River is incredibly fast flowing, and incredibly picturesque. We stopped here for a few moments to take everything in and the photos I managed to take are breathtaking.
So there it is. There is no excuse not to visit the amazing city of Vilnius. There is so much to do here and everything can be achieved on a budget!
Have you ever been to Vilnius or Lithuania? We’d love to hear your stories, tips or questions in the comment section below! Read Next > The Eternal City: 9 Picturesque Sights in Rome