Vilnius is the capital and largest city of Lithuania and it offers a rich experience for those looking to explore the east and Baltics region of Europe. Vilnius is only a small city with a population of around 600,000 but it is the cultural center and capital of this small country. Vilnius's Old Town is a UNESCO-listed site. One of the fun things one can do is travel through all three Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia). If you are feeling adventurous then consider taking the ferry from Tallinn, Estonia (another overlooked country) to Helsinki, Finland.
Vilnius was historically part of the Russian empire and as it collapsed in World War One, Vilnius became a contested city between Poland and Lithuania. In the Interwar Period, it was part of Poland. After World War Two it became a part of Lithuania. Additionally, before WW2, Vilnius was one of the main Jewish centers of Europe. The history and architecture are accordingly mixed here.
- Visa: Lithuania Is Part Of Schengen - Visa-Free For Americans
- Currency: Euro
- Independence: 1991 (From The Soviet Union)
Lithuanian Song Festival
Part of what triggered the demise of the Soviet Union was the Singing Revolution in the Baltic States. This is where the Baltics peacefully protested Soviet rule by holding hands and singing in defiance of Moscow. Today the Lithuanian Song Festival has become one of the most important events marking their independence. Perhaps something like the 4th Of July in America. There can be as many as 40,000 participants in these singing festivals. They are held once every 4 years, the next one is scheduled for 2022.
- Number Of Singers: Approx. 20,000
- Number of Dancers: Approx. 9,000
- Next Festival: Summer 2022
Trakai Island Castle
For a great day trip from Vilnius consider visiting the Trakai Island Castle. This magnificent island castle was built around 1409 and only a short drive from Vilnius. This Castle complex is a must-see if you are visiting Vilnius and looks like something straight out of a Disney cartoon. It has been fully rebuilt and lies on an island surrounded by a lake. The whole lake is a stunning park.
The Castle is connected to the mainland by a wooden bridge and is considered one of the national treasures of Lithuania. This is a museum with full exhibitions and so is perfect for learning about Lithuanian history.
- Opening Hours: 10.00 am - 7.00 am (Summer Times)
- Admission Fee: 12 Euros ($14) Summer Price - 8 Euros ($10) Winter Price
In Vilnius, it is best to relax and explore the city while feeling its vibe. If you would like nightlife there's plenty of that here. Vilnius is a city famous for its artistic flair and one should really see and explore the treasures in this city. Be sure to frequent the many restaurants on the streets in the old city (like other cities in Europe, dining and drinking beer is popular outside).
Do: Join A Free Walking Tour Of The City
Gediminas Castle Tower
One of the main landmarks in Vilnius is the Gediminas Castle Tower. This is the remaining part of the Upper Castle in the city and it is considered one of the parts of Lithuania. From here you can have fantastic views of Vilnius and the characteristic red roofs of its Medieval Old Town.
- Opening Times: The Surrounding Castle And Site Are Always Open - Admission Is Not Controlled
The first castle here was built in the 13th-14th centuries to guard the city, but the original wooden castle burnt down in the 15th century during a fire that ravished the city. The three brick towers and a Gothic palace were rebuilt in its place. The castle is easily reached either by car or by a leisurely stroll up the gentle hill it's built on.
Fun Fact: Out Side Of The Old Town Is Dominated By Soviet Architecture
Film: Vilnius Was The Site Of Filming HBO's Cherynobol Miniseries
St. Anne's Church
One of the more impressive buildings of Vilnius (and included in UNESCO's list of buildings), is St. Anne's Church. This is one of the most impressive examples of Gothic architecture in Vilnius and is one of the must-see cathedrals of Europe.
- Opening Hours: 11.00 am - 6.00 pm
This awe-inspiring church was completed more than 500 years ago back in 1500. According to legend, when Napoleon saw this church during his invasion of Russia, he wanted to carry it back with him to Paris in the palm of his hand.
The old city of Vilnius is small and is best discovered by just walking around and seeing visiting the many interesting buildings. One of the more interesting places not to miss out on is the Cathedral Square in the center of the Old Town. This is the site of many of the national events and festivals like parades, large concerts, New Year's celebrations, and the like. There is the neo-classical Vilnius Cathedral and its free-standing bell tower. One can consider this the heart of the nation.
In short, there are many things to see and do in Vilnius, and these are just a few of them. The Old City is well worth visiting for a couple of days.