The Great COVID Quarantine of 2020 has an upside: I finally had time to sift through and update my older blog posts! This was super helpful at bringing in traffic to my website while all travel bloggers have been taking a hit, and it also helped me be re-inspired to create fresh material from some of my most favorite travels!
One of the most surprisingly lovely places we’ve ever visited was not even on my radar. Steve chose it, and I was skeptical, but then it turned out to be one of the best places we’ve ever been. Vilnius, Lithuania, here’s to you, and here are the top things to visitors to do there!
10. Take in Views from Above
Like many historic cities around the world, getting a view from above helps to transport you to the old world. Old Towns all over the world have bans on (and no room for) skyscrapers and new construction, so getting that sweeping view of yesteryear is a beautiful introduction almost anywhere you go! Vilnius was fortunately very well-preserved during and after the World Wars, so the buildings you see range from medieval all the way up to seventeenth or eighteenth century architecture. There are several accessible towers and rooftops in Vilnius to choose from, so pick one and take a sweeping peek into the past!
9. Visit the National Museum of Lithuania
Lithuania and the Baltics in general have a past that’s worth learning about, and this museum does a wonderful job of highlighting it all. Their exhibits on the history, art, culture, archaeology, and more will help you understand Lithuania and its people. They have been through so much in their history, and particularly over the last 100 years, and that’s something I knew very little about before visiting the region myself!
More here: So, What are the Baltics?
8. Hike Up the Hill of Three Crosses
Three crosses were constructed here during World War II, and they have become a symbol of national identity. The crosses also sybmbolize Lithuanians’ valiant resistance to occupation. You can walk about 3/4 miles here from the Old Town and get beautiful views, or you can get the view of these crosses from any tower or high building in the Old Town as well if you’re not onboard for an up-hill walk!
*Not to be confused with the Hill of Crosses, which is not within walking distance of Vilnius, but is worth visiting if you can!
7. Visit the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
Fittingly, this museum is located in the former KGB Deputy Chief of Internal Prison’s Office. The Baltics, including Lithuania, were occupied by the Soviet Union from 1940 until 1991. The people from this region were rounded up and taken to gulags, or prison camps, where they were imprisoned and forced to work in Siberia and other remote places.
This is such an interesting and overshadowed part of world history, and people were actually severely punished for ever discussing it while the KGB was there. It will be well worth your time to learn more about what these people went through. You will admire them more than you could possibly imagine! A book that does an amazing job of describing this is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. I highly recommend reading it before you visit the Baltics. Get your copy from Amazon here, and you’ll be supporting my small business at no additional cost to you!
6. Visit as Many Churches as Possible
There are 28 churches just in Old Town Vilnius, and they are all beautiful! That’s one church per 700 residents, and they range in architectural style from gothic to art neuvou and beyond! There will likely be weddings going on, particularly on Saturdays, so be on the lookout for brides and the like roaming around town, too!
5. Explore Old Town Vilnius
It’s no secret: I’m a sucker for an old town! Vilnius struck me because it’s so clean, so walkable, so beautiful. The little shops and cafes are charming, the people you pass are happy you’ve come to visit their country, and you can tell the town has been well-loved and cared for through thick and thin!
4. Walk through the Gate of Dawn
This gate in the old city wall of Vilnius is the only one of ten to survive to present day. It’s been around since at least the 1500s, and it’s become a symbol of the town! Fun fact: the painting of Mary on the outisde of the gate is one of the most famous Renaissance paintings in all of Lithuania.
3. Visit Vilnius Cathedral
I know I already mentioned churches, but if you only visit one, it should be this one. This cathedral is a shrine to the symbol of baptism in Lithuania. Their patron saint is actually buried in here, too! It’s been rebuilt several times because of various fires, wars, and natural factors like unstable soil through the centuries.
2. Go Up in the Vilnius Cathedral Bell Tower
This is one of those places where you can go to get the amazing views of Vilnius Old Town! There is a charge to visit, but there’s a museum inside, and you get to see the bells up-close! The tower dates from the 13th century, and the clock at the top is the oldest clock in Lithuania.
1. Visit the Gediminas Castle
The castle fort on top of this hill is one of the most recognizeable parts of Vilnius, and you can go inside! There’s a funicular that will take you all the way up, or you can just walk if you don’t mind quite an incline. There’s a museum inside that is part of the National Museum of Lithuania, and the views from on top and outside the castle tower are beautiful! I definitely recommend visiting, especially if you get a clear and beautiful day like we did!
Are you inspired to visit Vilnius? I am itching to go back! Check out my Baltic States Page for more!
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