Visiting Vilnius: Top Tips from Locals

Like A Local Guide • 3 Dec, 2015

There’s so much more to Vilnius than first meets the eye. Although it’s tiny compared to other European capitals, there are still plenty of interesting things to see and experience.

Diverse neighbourhoods will take you through the centuries, green parks will help you relax and Soviet-style residential areas and markets will remind you of Lithuania’s recent history. Additionally, there are countless churches, museums, cafés and restaurants to enjoy.

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Here you’ll find a condensed version of our Vilnius city guide including an overview of several popular highlights, as well as tips for eating off the typical tourist trail, alternative places of interest and fantastic things to do and see for free.

For me, travelling is not about photo shoots next to famous statues. Instead, it’s mostly about taking the chance to smell, taste, see and hear aspects of different cultures. Let us guide you through our city – a city with something for everyone. We hope to see you around!

Žydrūnė Vitaitė / Like A Local Guide ambassador for Vilnius

TOP ATTRACTIONS

Get great views from Gediminas Tower

This imposing structure is all that remains of Vilnius’ medieval Upper Castle. It’s a long-standing symbol of Lithuania and one of the capital’s most prominent landmarks. If the thought of climbing 48-metre-high Gediminas Hill takes your breath away, you’ll be happy to know there’s a funicular that travels to the top for a couple of euros. Either way, you’ll be blessed with spectacular views.

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Photo credit: Nico Trinkhaus

Discover Lithuanian literature at Literatų Street

Literatų Street is like a shrine for anyone interested in Lithuanian literature. Once lined with bookstores, nowadays this tiny alley features over 100 artworks dedicated to prominent Lithuanian writers and poets. Head here to significantly lengthen your reading list.

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Soak up some local history at the Gate of Dawn

“Ostra Brama” is the only surviving gate of the medieval city wall and one of the most important religious monuments in Lithuania. Pilgrims flock to the tiny chapel to pray to a 17th-century painting of the Virgin Mary that’s believed to have miraculous powers. For an up close and personal encounter with the painting – Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, enter the Aušros Vartai chapel and head up the stairs.

Visit the Museum of Genocide Victims

If you’re interested in learning about Lithuania’s 50-year occupation, this is the place to do it. The building itself was used by both the Nazis and the Soviets for planning and committing atrocities against Lithuanian citizens, and also once functioned as a prison. It’s a large museum with plenty of things to see and read, so be sure to allow yourself at least a couple of hours.

EATING & DRINKING

Lokys – rustic Lithuanian restaurant

Situated in a unique 15th-century building in the centre of the Old Town, Lokys specialises in traditional Baltic cuisine. Succulent wild boar, delicious beaver stew and quail fit for a queen are just a few examples of what’s on offer at this award-winning restaurant.

Veranda – for an intimate dining experience

This family-friendly restaurant is one of the nicest places to eat in in the peaceful Žvėrynas neighbourhood. Its mouth-watering menu of modern European dishes, decent selection of drinks and unique spirit make it a popular choice among locals. Dinner reservations are strongly recommended.

Šnekutisbudget-friendly pub food

This place is…different. The employees are eccentric, to say the least. Head here for huge portions of traditional Lithuanian cuisine at very cheap prices and great beers from small local breweries. It’s an experience of the most curious kind.

snekutisPhoto credit: Alaus barai “Šnekutis”

Kitchen – contemporary Southern European cuisine

Kitchen is an informal urban eatery that’s always buzzing with life. Sleek design, scrumptious food and fair prices make it a great place for an elegant dining experience that’s easy on the wallet.

Sofa de Pancho – homestyle Mexican fare

If you’re craving something with a bit of spice, Sofa de Pancho offers delicious Mexican-inspired food in colourful surrounds. Besides serving the best chili con carne in the city, it’s an official embassy of tequila – one of just a few in Europe!

Balti Drambliai – vegetarian and vegan delights

Being the first vegetarian restaurant in Vilnius, “White Elephant” has had some time to develop a good reputation among locals. With an extensive menu of Indian-inspired dishes at reasonable prices, it’s a reliable choice in a city of (mostly) meat eaters.

Chaika – cosy Soviet-style café

Set in an old wooden house in the city centre, Chaika is where the past and present meet. They serve a range of hot drinks in retro mugs that were hugely popular during Soviet times, as well as sandwiches and tasty sweet treats.

adomas-maksas-saskes-1024x683Photo credit: Chaika

TOP TIPS FROM LOCALS

Our local contributor in Vilnius, Žydrūnė Vitaitė, describes her city as a cosy and unique capital packed with secret places to discover, no matter the length of your stay. She recommends joining a Vilnius with Locals walking tour at the start of your trip for an insider’s introduction to the city’s highlights and hidden gems.

For those seeking a more alternative experience, she says a walk through the fascinating Užupis neighbourhood is a must. A country within a country, Užupis is a tiny mock republic founded by Lithuanian artists, complete with its own government, constitution and army of 12 people.

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If you’re travelling with children, you’ll be pleased to know that Vilnius has a few kid-friendly entertainment options. For starters, head to the Planetarium, take a seat in the Soviet-era star dome and get lost in the galaxy! Then there’s the Toy Museum, which Milda, another of our local contributors in Vilnius, describes as a hands-on cultural experience that will delight the whole family.

Finally, no trip to Vilnius would be complete without discovering the city’s Soviet heritage. After visiting the previously mentioned Planetarium and KGB Museum, Žydrūnė recommends checking out Halės Turgavietė – a kitschy market offering everything from fresh herbs to counterfeit clothes. Locals head here to find fabulous bargains, though for visitors it’s less of a shopping spot and more of a Soviet-era time warp.

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Another significant spot in the city’s Soviet history is the Stebuklas tile. In 1989, an estimated two million people from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania formed a continuous human chain stretching 650 kilometres across the three Baltic countries in protest against Soviet occupation. The tile marks one end of this awe-inspiring event. According to locals, you should make a wish, stand on the tile and spin around six times, and eventually your wish will come true!

For more local recommendations read:
What locals like to do in Vilnius
Where locals like to eat in Vilnius
Where locals like to party in Vilnius

Special tip:
For a more authentic Vilnius experience, get the Like A Local mobile app

Opening photo credit: Mantas Volungevicius

Like A Local Guide
Like A Local Guide is about stepping off the tourist trail and finding cool and cosy spots where locals like to spend their time. We built a website and mobile app to bring insider recommendations from around the world to your fingertips.

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