I started off the month of June in a new country. After a quick stop in Kaunas, I spent three lovely days in Vilnius. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, and the city looked wonderful. What’s more, Vilnius is celebrating its 700th anniversary all throughout this year. An abundance of cultural events are taking place during 2023 and I managed to catch a few while in Vilnius!

old town vilnius

As I always try to, I found many hidden gems in the Lithuanian capital. You can read about them in more detail in this blog post! I found Vilnius to be an underrated destination hiding many beautiful places. One of my top recommendations would be Vilnius University. I had so much fun roaming around the university complex, trying to find the prettiest corners. In particular, the Philology department is hiding some beautiful frescoes, as shown in the aforementioned blog post.

I settled in at the foot of Old Town, perfectly situated for exploring the city. On two of the three mornings, I was ready at 7 AM for a long walk through the city. By the time the city was awake, I was sitting down for a refreshing drink after three hours of walking. I’m always motivated for such morning strolls by finding pretty architecture. And I have to say that Vilnius had plenty of examples of that!

As you probably know by now, I’m always on the look out for Art Nouveau wherever I travel. Consequently, I found some in Vilnius. Mostly scattered throghout the city here and there, it’s a unique example of Art Nouveau. It was more popular in villas outside of the city center than in official city buildings. Not that I minded that because it resulted in discovering more of Vilnius!

The best museums to visit in Vilnius

Thanks to the Vilnius Pass, I visited a ton of museums during my visit. Discovering the history of Vilnius through all those museums gave me a clearer picture of the city. First up, at the Old Arsenal, I learned about Lithuania’s pre-history. Across two floors, you can witness archeological finds from the Stone Age and learn about Baltic tribes forming during the Iron Age. If you’re remotely into archeology, this is a great starting point for a 12,000-year journey through Lithuania’s history!

square of vilnius cathedral

Next up, the New Arsenal offers a look into Lithuanian ethnic culture. What I found most interesting were the exhibits of Lithuanian homes and traditional costumes. Overall, it makes for a quick and engaging visit. I also stopped by The House of Signatories. It’s a place where the Act of Independence of Lithuania was signed on February 16th, 1918. Situated inside a beautiful building, the museum focuses on the re-establishment of Lithuania’s independence.

However, if you’re only choosing one museum, then I urge you to go pick the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. This gigantic museum complex will take a whole afternoon to get through. With four separate areas focusing on different subjects, it’s a brilliant museum. Originally, the entire building was a 15th-century palace that unfortunately got demolished in 1801. What you see today is a brilliant reconstruction that took 16 years to complete.

While there, I was lucky to catch an exhibition on the tapestries of Sigismund Augustus. Funnily enough, so many of them were Belgian works of art! On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed the grand rooms of the palace. The stoves covered in tiles were particularly intriguing! In total, there are around twenty types of tiles depicting coats of arms or mythological or biblical characters. These antique tiled stoves make up an important part of the Lithuanian cutlural heritage and they’re remarkable!

Following museums, I spent quite a while chasing down churches in Vilnius. While a bit out of the way, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is a must. With an interior containing more than 2000 stucco decorations, this Baroque church is a true marvel. Unfortunately, the facade was undergoing renovation during my visit but luckily, the interior is equally, if not more impressive. The crazy amount of ornaments never feels overwhelming because the white color dominates the interior. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful church interior in Vilnius. Rest assured that the remaining churches are nothing short of amazing!

While I’m on the subject of churches, there are 28 churches in the Old Town of Vilnius alone! Four of those are Russian Orthodox churches, one of which I made sure to visit. I just had to see that unique green altar dominating the interior! In total, there are over 52 of them in the whole city. This is most noticeable from any viewpoint in the city. Most of the churches in Vilnius are picturesque, a lot of them in shades of pink. My favorite church in the city was the Church of St. Anne, an exquisite example of the Flamboyant Gothic style.

The best viewpoints in the city

When it comes to viewpoints, Gediminas Hill offers a 360° view of the city. On top of the hill, you’ll find the Gediminas Castle Tower, a little museum where you can learn more about the history of Vilnius. You also get a slightly higher vantage point from the museum but the view from the hill itself is equally good. Obviously, the museum hours are much shorter. On the other hand, the gates of the hill close at 23:00 and open at 7:00 so this is a great viewpoint for sunsets. You can brave the uphill walk or take the funicular to the top of the hill.

view of vilnius from gediminas castle hill

Another great viewpoint is the Three Crosses Monument, albeit it requires a lot more climbing. In fact, the three white concrete crosses are so visible that you can easily spot them from Gediminas Hill. Rising from the same-named hill, this place offers a beautiful vista. Not only was I treated to a beautiful golden sunset but someone was filming a music video there. Basically, we all got to enjoy a little live concert at sunset!

view of the sunset in vilnius

Finally, my favorite viewpoint is hiding up the St. Johns’ Church Bell Tower. Situated inside the Vilnius University, you pay a small fee to climb up the stairs or take the elevator. In my opinion, this is the best viewpoint in Vilnius. From a height of 45m, the obervational platform offers 360° panoramic views. I liked this one the best because I had the historical buildings in the Old Town right under my feet, as opposed to far away. I always prefer to be in the middle of an Old Town and trying to distinguish all the details so close to my eye!

Where to eat in Vilnius

When it comes to food, I focused on finding genuine Lithuanian dishes. In short, I was up for anything I had never heard of before. And Lithuanian cuisine had quite a few of those! My very first dinner in Vilnius included šaltibarščiai. A popular dish, it’s a cold beetroot soup with a dash of kefir, which is what gives it that pink color. Usually accompanied by a hard-boiled egg and hot potatoes, I have to admit it’s a rather unusual dish. Either way, I was glad to have tried something new and would recommend you do the same!

In addition, I tried potato pancakes at Grey restaurant. Served with sour cream and prepared in a Samogitian style, which is the western part of Lithuania, they were quite delicious. At Etno Dvaras, I tried cepelinai, the famous potato dumplings that are Lithuania’s national dish. Usually filled with meat, I went with a vegetarian option filled with curd and loved it. For my last dinner in Vilnius, I got a terrace table on one of the busiest pedestrian streets. You could tell summer had arrived in the city and everyone was out and enjoying it!

Lastly, I made sure to explore the Užupis neighborhood. This small bohemian district covered in street art has always been associated with artists. Its most interesting aspect is the fact that it actually calls itself an independent republic. Technically speaking, this started off as an April Fools Joke back in 1997. With a constitution and all other requirements for a republic, it’s a fascinating part of the city that you shouldn’t miss!

On the whole, those three days in Vilnius were delightful. I often say cities look their best at the beginning of June and Vilnius was no exception. With a background of gentle summer, the city was at its most appealing. Vibrant and intriguing, Vilnius is such an underrated destination. Inadvertently, visiting Lithuania and learning more about its country prepared me for my trip to Poland. The two countries shared a long history and I love that this rather random visit to Vilnius provided me with more knowledge on both countries. In one way or another, I hope life leads you to the delightful capital of Lithuania!

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