Sights of Vilnius, Lithuania

This post starts a series on a 16 day road trip through the Baltics, beginning in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and ending in Tallinn, Estonia.

The small walkable city of Vilnius has one of the largest medieval old towns in Europe, making it a delightful destination to meander through for the day. To add structure to your wandering, the Lonely Planet walking tour, starting at Cathedral Square, guides you through the streets and sights of the old town. Filled with churches you may be in heaven or churched out by the end of the walk.

Cathedral of St Stanislaus and St Ladislaus

The main Cathedral, the Cathedral of St Stanislaus and St Ladislaus, sits on the site of the 14th century original wooden church. The current 18th century rendition has a modern vibe compared to other cathedrals of the time, with a flat plain exterior combined with insets containing stylized sculptures of the four evangelists.

Gediminas Hill

The climb up Gediminas Hill rewards with views of the new town. Currently, for views overlooking the old town you’ll have to pay the entrance fee to climb the tower as there is a major construction project that limits access to the old town side of the hill.

Vilnius University

Vilnius University is considered a highlight on the tourist route. The 16th century complex is worth the 1.5 Euro entrance fee. We particularly liked the multi-columned baroque apse of St John Cathedral. The interplay of the columns creates a strange three-dimensional effect when viewed from different positions.

The bookstore, known for its 1978 frescoes, was closed during the time of our visit. However, there are also creepy frescoes painted from 1976-85 in the vestibule of the Philology Center.

Museum of Genocide Victims

Also called Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, this small museum housed in the former KGB headquarters documents the sad story of the occupation of Lithuanian, the displacement of 10s of thousands of people, the brutally of the Soviet Union and the brave souls that fought back. Although the museum displays a wealth of information and a fabulous collection of photos, I found the information given more of the Wikipedia variety rather than personal accounts that could bring the heart breaking stories to life.

The layout of the museum, using the original floorplan of the KGB offices and the prison beneath it, results in many small rooms packed with memorabilia making it difficult for large numbers of visitors to flow through the museum. Even one group crowds the place. Despite the minor shortcomings the museum is an important reminder of the terrible atrocities suffered by the Lithuanians.


Uzupis, the free republic just across the river from Old Town, is supposed to be an artists’ community with streets lined with street art and galleries. Although there are a number of cozy shops, restaurants and bars we found little art in this section of town.

My favorite stop in Uzupis was the Bernadine Cemetery, an atmospheric jumble of grave sites and crosses in the shade of large trees.

Contemporary Art Center

The Contemporary Art Center, supposedly the largest in the Baltics, was a big disappointment. Thank goodness it’s free on Wednesdays. Most of the works were in one large space – a nothing display of posters with single words or short phrases and poorly pickled vegetables. If art is in the eye of the beholder I did not behold art.

More Photos from Vilnius:

September 16-18, 2019

For links to all the posts in this series see the Baltics Road Trip page.

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