Vilnius Attractions and Tourist
Attractions in Vilnius
The large open square in front of the 14th century cathedral in the north of
the Old Town has been an important gathering place for the residents of Vilnius
for centuries, and you are guaranteed to pass here several times, en route to
the castle or as you stroll through Pilies gatve. Here the public ceremonies and
announcements took place in the Middle Ages, and here markets were organized up
to the 20th century. The 58-meter-high tower west of the square is a remnant of
the Defense Force.
If you walk up the long, winding cobblestone streets to the top of Gediminas
kalnas, the 50-meter-high hilltop behind the cathedral, you get a glorious view
of Vilnius and the Old Town.
Here was the region's center of power in the Middle Ages, but today there is
not much left of the once mighty castle. The 20 meter high stone tower still
standing here, with the flag of Lithuania towering at the top, has almost become
a national symbol that you will recognize from postcards and posters. Affordable
Vilnius Castle Museum
If you visit Vilnius Castle Museum which is just below Vilnius Castle, you
can see among other things a model of what the castle once looked like in the
1300s. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 6 p.m. 1100 to 1700. Entrance 10 kroner.
National Museum of Vilnius
Vilnius National Museum was founded in 1855 and today has over half a million
objects on display, many of them excavated by Gediminas kalnas, which is right
next door. Here, the history of the city is told from prehistoric times up to
the present, with the main focus on the Middle Ages. The old weapons and armor
department is especially popular. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 6 p.m. 1000 to
1800. Entry 10 kroner.
- See DigoPaul for dictionary definitions of Vilnius,
Lithuania. Includes geographical map and city sightseeing photos.
St. Anne's Church
Although the cathedral is the most important religious building in Vilnius,
it is the Gothic and impressive St. Anne's Church (Sv Onos baznycia) that
adheres to the retina of most tourists in retrospect. The church was originally
built in wood in honor of King Vytauta's wife Anna, but burned down in 1419 and
rebuilt in today's stone structure at the end of the same century.
Its most striking feature is undoubtedly the facade, which is constructed in
33 different types of red stone. It is a well-known legend in Lithuania that
Napoleon must have been so captivated by the building that he must have
expressed his desire to take it home with him to Paris. In reality, he let his
cavalry use it as a stable.
Ausros Vartai (Daytime Gates)
Vilnius' oldest street is the Ausros Vartu Gatve shopping street,
and in the southern part of it is the only gate in the original city wall that
remains intact. The gate, which is called the Ausros Vartai (Daggryporten),
dates from the 16th century and has a small chapel just above the arch. The
chapel has become a destination for Catholic pilgrims, among them the very Pope
John Paul II, thanks to a renaissance painting by the Virgin Mary that
supposedly has healing powers.
During the Nazi occupation, around 95% of Vilnius' Jews were exterminated,
and this museum's simple exhibition is a reminder of what this persecuted people
was exposed to. In Pylimo 39, the only remaining of over a hundred synagogues is
located in Vilnius, and it was saved because the Nazis used it as a warehouse.
The Jewish Museum is located both in the so-called Green House in
Pamenkalnio 12 and in the Jewish Community House in Pylimo 4. Free
admission, but a voluntary donation is received with thanks. Open Monday to
Friday from 1 p.m. 1000 to 1700.
High in the 325-meter-high TV tower in western Vilnius, you will find a
rotating restaurant that offers panoramic views of the city while dining. For
dessert, you can throw yourself into Europe's highest knit jump. In December,
the otherwise beautiful little tower is transformed into the world's tallest
Christmas tree with the help of several thousand light bulbs.
The TV tower has also become a memorial symbol of the 12 residents of Vilnius
who were killed here by Soviet forces in January 1991. Outside you will see
hundreds of small crosses and candles set in memory of these modern martyrs.
Open daily from 2 pm 1000 to 2100, entry 35 kroner.
KGB Museum in Vilnius
In the former headquarters of the dreaded KGB is now located Genocido Auku
Muziejus (Museum of the Victims of Genocide), or the KGB Museum, as it is also
called. During World War II, Gestapo had its headquarters here. You can now
visit the soundproof torture chamber, the small cells and the execution cellar,
and many of the guides are former inmates.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 6 p.m. 1000 to 1700. On Sundays the museum closes
at. Entrance costs only a few dollars, but it is recommended to spend extra
money on an English-speaking guide who can tell you the story of the different
The university was founded by the Jesuits in 1579 and is the oldest in
Eastern Europe. For over four hundred years, Vilnius University has been the
center of science in Lithuania, and is built in a mixture of Gothic, Baroque and
Renaissance style. In 2006, the university had over 23,000 students. The address
is 3 Universiteto St.
Tourist in Vilnius
Vilnius city center is so small and compact that it is no problem for a
fairly pedestrian to get around on foot and yet get to most of the attractions.
If you prefer a guided sightseeing tour, there are several operators in Vilnius
who can help you with this.
Day 1 in Vilnius
Since most of the attractions in Vilnius do not open to the
public until 10 pm. 1000 or 1100, there is little point in getting up early.
After a hearty breakfast, we head to the heart of the city, the Cathedral Square
in the Old Town, where we start today's tour. This place was used in
pre-Christian times to worship the god of thunder Perkunas. Lithuania was one of
the last pagan countries in Europe, and was not Christianized until in 1387.
Today's cathedral dates from the 16th century, after numerous restorations and
reconstructions due to fires.
East of the cathedral, the path starts at Gedimino kalnas,
the hilltop where Vilnius Castle once majestically roamed the
city. Today, there is not much left of the castle, but the 20 meter high stone
tower with the flag of Lithuania waving at the top has become a national symbol
and you have glorious views of the city from this place. Just below is Vilnius
Castle Museum, where you can see, among other things, a model of what the castle
looked like in its heyday.
On the way down again you can take a detour east and cross the river
Vilnia. Then you come to another of the city's landmarks, the Three
Crosses. This is a large white cross with three crosses to commemorate fourteen
Franciscan monks who, according to a legend here, must have been murdered by
local pagans in the 1300s.
From the hilltop, you can easily see the spiers at your next visit
destination, the magnificent Gothic St. Anne's Church, which often makes a
greater impression on people than the more important cathedral does. The facade
with its sky-striking red stone tower is its most impressive feature, though you
should definitely take a walk inside the St. Anne Church as well.
Continue south from the church and turn left across the bridge, where you
will possibly come across some sort of Moorish border guards who will see and
stamp your passport. But relax, they just joke, and follow up the Uzupio's
semi-parodic declaration of independence. This area is often called Vilnius'
answer to Montmartre, with its many art galleries, studios and bohemian cafes.
If the weather is nice, you might have lunch on the cozy outdoor terrace of
Uzupio Kavinč, overlooking the Vilnia River.
After looking around here and perhaps visiting the art gallery Stiklo
Karoliukai, you return to the center via Uzupio gatve westwards, and
turn north into Boksto gatve. You will now come out into Vilnius's most
charming but popular pedestrian street Pilies gatve (Slottsgaten). In
this cobblestone street you will find many small market stalls selling crafts,
postcards and souvenirs. Amber jewelry is a classic here, and amber from
Lithuania is considered the best in the world, which is proven to be full in the
city's amber museum / gallery in the side street Mykolo gatve 8.
In the afternoon you can continue north, past the cathedral, and you will
come to the National Museum of Lithuania. If you would rather sit down and relax
with a drink, go right past the museum, turn left into the Zigimantu gateway
and reach the Zaliasis Bridge with its working statues from
Lithuania's Communist era. On the north side of the river you can see the
22-storey Reval Hotel Lietuva, and at the top there is a bar where you can enjoy
a drink and the view while watching the darkness descend over Vilnius.
After a trip back to the hotel room, it's time to think about dinner. Back in
the pedestrian street Pilies gateway in the Old Town you will find the
Argentine restaurant El Gaucho Sano under the Atrium Hotel, and they serve some
of the juiciest and darkest steaks to be found in Europe. Afterwards, if you're
ready to taste Vilnius' nightlife, you'll have countless bars and restaurants
Day 2 in Vilnius
Today we start the tour of the relatively newly built Gedimino Prospektas
shopping street, where you will find the city's more exclusive shopping chains,
shopping centers and designer shops. But in the middle of the main square of
Lukisiu is also the old headquarters of the first Gestapo and later the
KGB. This has now been turned into a museum, and it is definitely worth NOK 100
to hire one of the former inmates to guide you around the building and tell you
what he was exposed to here. You will see soundproof torture chambers, small
naked prison cells with water floors, tiny juniper cells, the execution cellar
If you think this was depressing, you will hardly be more excited by the next
stop. As you exit the KGB Museum, head east and turn south into Vilniaus
gatve. Then you will come to the Jewish districts, where the Holocaust
Museum in Pylimo gives you a bleak introduction to the tragic history of the
Jews in Vilnius. The Jewish quarters are otherwise pleasant enough to stroll
around, with its narrow cobblestone streets and low, colorful houses with small
cafes where you can have lunch.
Afterwards you can walk out on the city's oldest street, Ausros gatve,
where you will find many shops. This street leads south to the Dawn Gate (Ausros
Vartai), the only remaining of the nine gates in the city wall that originally
surrounded the city. At the top of the gate is a small chapel that has been the
target of Catholic pilgrims, thanks to a Renaissance painting by the Virgin Mary
who is said to have healing powers. Pope John Paul II was here during his
As the evening approaches, it's time for a taxi to the western district of
Karoliniskes, where an express lift will take you up to the 325-meter-high TV
tower. 190 meters above the ground lies the rotating restaurant Pauksciu
Takas, which you have foresaw enough in advance to
call (+370) 2525338 to book a table. Here you can have dinner with panoramic
views of Vilnius.