vilnius City Breaks
One of Europe’s smallest and less well known capital cities, Vilnius seduces visitors with its old world charm. The city which has a long history of being occupied is now enjoying a new freedom and independence which, in combination with its interesting history, make it a fascinating place to become acquainted with.
The main attraction for many visitors is the charming medieval old town, which has been described as a living museum. A maze of irregular cobbled streets, the old town is filled with charming squares and majestic churches, synagogues and monasteries. Cathedral Square, which lies in the heart of the old town, is dominated by the Cathedral of St. Stanislav & St. Vladislav and its bell tower. The tower of Gediminas Castle can be seen from all over the city. With its prime hilltop location it offers panoramic views over Vilnius. Not far away is the Presidential Palace, the official residence of the President of Lithuania. This attractive building dates back to the 14th Century but was largely rebuilt in the early 19th Century.
Many cultures and customs have influenced Vilnius over the years and there are a large number of cultural attractions in the city. Of the numerous city centre churches in addition to the Cathedral, one of the most impressive is the Gothic Church of St. Anne which has survived, unchanged, for over 500 years. Museums are many and varied and include the Amber Museum and the museum in Gediminas Castle which traces the history of the castle over the centuries, complete with scale models. For something different, head to the Museum of Genocide Victims, the former headquarters of the KGB in Lithuania.
Eat and Drink
Whilst restaurants in Vilnius offer many menus with an international flavour, the strong Eastern European influence on Lithuanian food is also evident. One of the main specialities is Bigos, a traditional stew whose ingredients may include fresh and fermented cabbage, tomatoes, different cuts of meat and sausages, honey and mushrooms. Bigos is usually served with bread and potatoes and often accompanied by a glass of vodka or dry white wine or sometimes a locally produced beer.
Wander along Pilies Street to find a good selection of gift and souvenir shops, as well as plenty of cafés with outside tables where you can sit and watch the world go by. Vilnius is known for it’s high quality amber and there are a number of jewellers throughout the city which specialize in this beautiful gemstone. Spread throughout the Old Town are small shops selling handicrafts and local souvenirs.
Just ten kilometres north of Vilnius and easily reached by public transport from the city centre is Europos Parkas. Founded in 1991 by the Lithuanian sculptor Gintaras Karosas, this park is said to lie at the “geographical centre” of the European continent. The park contains a monument on which is inscribed the name, direction and distance to every European capital. This “outdoor museum” also exhibits a large number of pieces of art from over 25 countries
Trakai Castle enjoys a picturesque location on an island in the middle of Lake Galve, less than 30 kilometres away from Vilnius. This Gothic castle was built by Lithuanian dukes in the 14th Century and served as their residence. Hence Trakai was the capital of the country at that time. As well as being a major tourist attraction, nowadays the castle hosts festivals and concerts on regular occasions.
Moderately warm summers, cool springs & cold winters.
Any time of year; this city always represents good value.
Goes well with
The other Baltic capitals of Riga and Tallinn.
Having had the pleasure of becoming familiar with one of Europe’s least known, but most charming, capital cities.
In Our Opinion
Vilnius is a rising star on the city break scene. Definitely worth fitting in a visit before word gets out!
Easy to book – very helpful consultant on the end of the phone – excellent...Vilnius
Architecture spanning the centuries
Combining with a stay in Tallinn and/or Riga