Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania. As a matter of fact, the Medieval old town of Vilnius is a UNESCO site. Here are a few things to do in Vilnius;
- Town Hall
- Vilnius Cathedral
- Gate of Dawn
- Vilnius Castle Complex and Gediminas Tower
- Hill of Three Crosses
- St Anne’s Church
- River Neris
You’ll find hotels in Vilnius are excellent value, especially if you travel off season.
Vilnius Town Hall
At the center of Vilnius is the Town Hall which is located in Town Hall Square. Today it’s a Neoclassical style building but its history dates back to the 15th century. An interesting fact about the Town Hall is that Queen Elizabeth II has been on a state visit. Additionally, the UNESCO buildings surrounding the square are very picturesque.
Vilnius Cathedral is the most important one in Lithuania. In fact, it has an underground chapel and crypt area. Historically important Lithuanians are buried within the Cathedral. Today, it houses art and you’re welcome to enter and view it.
Gate of Dawn
The Gate of Dawn is the last remaining Vilnius city gate. Essentially, it’s the southern entrance to the old city. Vilnius used to be the fortified capital city of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. However, this particular city gate is much more than a fortified entrance. It contains religious artefacts with the idea of blessing travelers as well as protecting the city. Finally, the most significant religious artefact is a painting called ‘Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn’. Walk through the gate and receive your blessings!
Vilnius Castle Complex
The Vilnius Castle Complex and Gediminas Tower are a short walk, slightly uphill from cathedral square. From the top are panoramic viewing points of the old town, river Neris as well as cathedral square. As a matter of fact you can see many of the things to do in Vilnius from the Castle Complex. From the 10th century, the fortress protected the city from invaders. Despite being such a strong fortress it was eventually overpowered in the 17th century by Russia. Much of the complex then became obsolete and was destroyed. Today, Gediminas Tower is the last remaining structure and the rest now lies in ruins.
Hill of Three Crosses
The Three Crosses has become a famous landmark of Vilnius but what is it? In the 17th century, seven friars were beheaded at this point and the crosses are here in their honor. The crosses were originally a wooden structure which rotted therefore a more permanent monument was created. Furthermore, there were seven more friars who were nailed to crosses and thrown in the river Neris.
St Anne’s Church
The UNESCO old town of Vilnius is home to a must see red Gothic church. It’s 500 years old but has recently been restored therefore looks exceptional. You’re welcome to go inside and explore the picturesque interior.
I highly recommend you take a walk along the adjacent banks of the River Neris. You can easily walk across the pedestrian friendly King Mindaugas bridge, as well as the White Bridge. Because the river was freezing over I managed to get a decent reflection photo of some of the UNESCO old town buildings. In addition, you can get some decent shots of the castle complex from the far side of the river as well.
Vilnius Train Station
Vilnius train station is a point of interest in itself. If you decide to visit Minsk, Belarus, it’s a 3 hour train ride from here. Read about my journey from Vilnius to Minsk by train. From Vilnius airport there’s a minibus for €1 to the bus station which is right opposite the train station. Finally, there’s also a convenient McDonald’s opposite the station with free WiFi and clean toilets.
How to get from Vilnius to Riga by Bus
Lux bus and Ecolines offer direct bus services to Riga which take less than 4 hours. The standard price is €17, but it is possible to find prices as cheap as €5 on some days. Both companies offers services with an entertainment system on the back of each seat. As a result, you can watch movies, listen to music, play games and view your current location via GPS. You can also enjoy the free WiFi and charge your phone. I also read that if you take a selfie next to the Ecolines bus and post it on Instagram with the hastag #Ecolines, they give you free ticket for your next ride.