About Vilnius


Skylines and views
  from Gediminas Castle, Bell Tower and bridges        



Old Town part 1


Old Town part 2

  Gedimino Avenue
Cathedral Square
Gate of Dawn, Russian-Orthodox Churches,


Town Hall Square
Pilies street/Didzioji/Ausros Vartu street
Presidential Palace, University


St Anne's and Bernardine Churches, Maironiu street Litterature street,

V.Kudirkos Square
Lukiskiu Square


Genocide Museum

  Gediminas Castle and views   Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania  




Užupis Republic       New Town (Naujamiestis)   Our apartment, Russian-Orthodox Cathedral, Snipiskes

Vilnius by night       Zverynas   Airport

ABOUT Vilnius:

Population: 543 000 (metro 806 000)
Lithuania - capital and largest city
Tallest building:
Europe Tower (129m, 33 floors)
Tallest structure:
Vilnius TV Tower (326m)
Founded year (city rights):
401 km²
Year visited: 2015


Vilnius is the capital and largest city of Lithuania, the southernmost of the 3 Baltic countries, that were part of the Soviet Union until the early 90s. It is the second largest of the Baltic cities (after Riga). The city has one of Europe's largest Old Towns, Senamiestis, that has been a UNESCO Heritage site since 1994 so the city is full of historic churches and other buildings, as well as brand new business districts with small skyscrapers, and a very tall TV tower. In 2009 Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture. The city had a great Jewish influence until the 20th century. Vilnius is situated in the inland, near the border to Belarus in the Eastern part of Lithuania. A river, Neris, divides the old part in the south from the new part. To the west of the Old Town (Senamiestis), you find the New Town (Naujamiestis) with newer and more neglect buildings from the Soviet times, as well as modern brand new buildings. This is the part were we stayed. Just to the east of the Old Town, a smaller river, Vilnia, is flowing. The city was named from Vilnia.

The southern gate to the Old Town (Senamiestis) called Gate of Dawn. From there you can walk Northwards on Didzioji gatve, a nice pedestrian street filled with beautiful churches, open air restaurants, luxury hotels and souvenir stores. Halfway along the street you pass the Town Hall Square (Rotušės aikštė), where you find the classicist Town Hall, the Astoria Hotel, Ramada Hotel, restaurants and some beautiful churches like the Church of St Casimir. From there the street changes name to Pilies gatve before it ends at Cathedral Square (Katedros aikštė), that is the heart of Vilnius. Here you find the Vilnius Cathedral and the Bell Tower, as well as the Kempinski Hotel. The cathedral is impressive and built in neo-classicist style. At the Cathedral Square you find the Lower Castle. Part of it is called the Palace of the Grand Dukes, a white 15th century palace that houses the National Museum, that we visited. Lately it has been used as one of the main venues for the meetings of heads of European countries. From the backside of the square a funicular takes you up to a hill where you find the Gediminas Tower, a ruin that was part of the Upper Castle. Inside the tower you will find an exhibition and great 360 degrees views of Vilnius old and newer parts. From Cathedral Square, Vilnius main avenue begins. It is called Gedimino Avenue and goes westwards towards River Neris. Here you find brand stores, modern cafés, Swedish banks (most banks in the Baltic countries are Swedish or Danish!), a shopping mall, modern hotels and the Genocide Museum, that we visited. The beautiful building that today houses the Genocide Museum was a place for torture and exhicutions for many years, used both by KGB and the Nazis. It was interesting, and will not leave anyone untouched. Along Gedimino Avenue you will pass V.Kudirkos Square and Lukiskiu Square. Just before it ends at the river, you find the modern Parliament building. On the other side of Neris you will find the Zverynas district, with some futuristic glass highrises, rundown residential buildings and another beautiful Russian-orthodox church. Just Northeast of the Old Town, you find the well maintained park Bernardine Garden that features a large fountain. From the park you can walk up to the hill with The Three Crosses Monument, overlooking Vilnius.

Other notable buildings in the Old Town are the Presidential Palace (situated close to Cathedral Square) with it's garden that is open to public, the gothic St Anne's and Bernardine Church ensemble, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral (there are several of them, the largest of them have golden cupolas) and the white baroque buildings of Vilnius University. There is also a notable Frank Zappa statue close to the Old Town, a popular replacement for statues of Lenin and Stalin!

Vilnius has similarities with the other Baltic capitals, that I visited in 2013; a historic old town with beautiful buildings, more rundown buildings outside the city center, and a small collection of brand new skyscrapers. Several new apartment blocks and shopping malls are being built, and just like in the other Baltic capitals you will find many Swedish banks and stores, and a lot of amber sold in souvenir shops. Just like Tallinn, Vilnius has it's skyscrapers more clustered in one area then Riga, creating an impressive skyline for a Northern European city. The Old Town is not as cut off from the rest of the city as in Tallinn, but not as integrated as in Riga either. Despite similarities, I found Vilnius more similar to Krakow (Poland) and Bratislava (Slovak Republic) then the other Baltic capitals. That is probably because it is not a port city, like Riga and Tallinn. There are a lot of interesting museums in Vilnius, and historic buildings in different styles. Vilnius feels very light, probably because of the large numbesr of white buildings, many of them in Baroque and Neo-Classicist style.

In the East end of the Old Town you find the Literatu Street, a short street that has walls with with pictures made by important persons in litterature. From there you can cross the bridge across the Vilnia River and enter the Republic of Uzupis. Uzupis is a bohemic district just to the East of the Old Town, that has declared itself an own republic in 1997, complete with it's own president, flag, national anthem and independence declaration. This should not be taken too serious though, it is part of the inhabitants humour. Rundown buildings, graffiti, galleries paint shops, abandoned buildings and nice cafés can be found in Uzupis, as well as painters, drunks, homeless and bohemians. To our surprise most buildings looked quite normal, and not at all like Christiania in Copenhagen for example. It also seemed to be a bit of traffic chaos there, while we expected it to be almost free from cars, and we didn't see that many art galleries. Since two modern art centers were built in Uzupis in 2013, the distirct has been a bit gentrified. A statue of the archangel Gabriel blowing a trumpet was erected on the most central square in 2002. There is also a small square called Tibeto Square.

The airport, Oro Uostas Airport, is very small, it is situated in the southern part of Vilnius, not very far from the city center. There are no subway and no trams in the city, but trolley buses are common. Some of them are modern, but some of them are very old and in a bad condition, a relic from the Soviet times. However, the city is very walkable so you only need to take the bus if you are going to the outskirts. Once you leave the beautiful old town, you will pass many grey and rundown buildings, as well as brand new apartment buildings and supermarkets in New Town (Naujamiestis) and other districts. The tallest structure of Lithuania is the TV tower in the outskirts. At a height of 326m this is the second tallest tower in all of the Baltic countries (after Riga's TV tower). There is an observation deck in the tower, but since it is so far from the city center, we didn't have time to visit it.


We visited Vilnius in September 2015 for two and a half days, plus one night. We travelled by plane, a Wizzair flight from Malmö Airport. We stayed in an apartment owned by an apartment hotel called Natalex Apartments. The apartment was situated in a brand new residential building at Mindaugo gatve in Naujamiestis, to the East of Old Town. A large supermarket, Iki, was sitauted opposite our apartment, a great advantage since we had our own kitchen so we could basically live as locals. There was also a bathroom with jacuzzi (!), washing machine, dishwasher, stove, balcony, double bed, coach with table, good wi-fi connection and flatscreen TV. That only costed a few hundred euros a night. The only downside was that the apartment was extremely hot, despite it was not that warm outside, and there was no air condition, so we had to sleep with the balcony door open, making it too cold! Upon our arrival we were driven by a taxi from the airport for an extra fee. That was good since we arrived late in the evening so we didn't have to look for taxis and buses.

I think Vilnius is one the most underrated of the European capitals, it is the least known of the 3 Baltic capitals, yet it is very beautiful, very cheap, very walkable and has a lot of museums, buildings, nice parks and other sites. You can easily discover the city in 2 or 3 days on foot, since the city center is compact, so you don't have to spend money on buses or taxi. During the second day of our visit we came in the middle of Vilnius Marathon, a large event making it hard to cross some streets. We also saw a robbery from an open-restaurants, not a very violent one and soon the police arrived. Despite that the city felt very safe. Even at night, but outside the old town we passed some really dark streets on the way to our apartment. We visited two museums, the National Museum and the Genocide Museum. There are many good restaurants in Vilnius. The prices are very low, you can get a good three course meal with two brandys and a beer for the same price as one drink in Sweden! It is not hard to find traditional food, but the most popular dish seems to be Italian. Japanese and Chinese food are also quite common. There are not many fastfood restaurants, and the ones that can be found are not allowed to use big signs. People in general, at least in restaurants and so, were friendly (though very quiet), depsite what we read before in travel guides.

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