Vilnius is a city where the most important places can be“passed” in one day. We deliberately use the word“pass”, because one day is not enough to know all the facets of this city….
The turbulent history of the city means that we will see the influence of many cultures and religions here. Looking at Vilnius from Gediminas Hill, we were immediately struck by the numerous churches (there are dozens of them in Vilnius alone!), and moving between the different districts, we had the impression that we were moving back in time (from the well-kept Old Town, through modern buildings to the old wooden houses outside the center), passing along the way both old buildings and modern art, meticulously hidden and skillfully incorporated.
In Vilnius we will meet many Poles, also (or perhaps above all) tourists, following the beaten track of places related to Polish history and famous Poles. We, while planning the route, tried to see places equally important to Lithuanians.
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Accommodation in Vilnius
We arrived in Vilnius late in the evening ( still visiting Trakai earlier). Fortunately, we had a hotel right in the center of the city, so we got to our destination without any problems.
A very pleasant surprise awaited us on the spot. It turned out that Novotel Vilnius Centre selects a guest of the day once a day and is entitled to several privileges for this. So not only did we get a room upgrade, but there was also a bottle of wine waiting for us in the room! And the upgrade was nothing: coffee maker, bathrobes, cool toiletries, but most important: THIS view! Paweł spent his mornings and evenings with his camera glued to the window :)
The room was perfect for us. First of all, with a bathtub and shower, as well as ample space to accommodate a stroller, which was important for us in terms of Olive. We were also offered a crib, but it was of no use ;) The bed was so comfortable that we slept comfortably with three of us.
After sleeping in for the night, we used the hotel’s gym in the morning and had breakfast overlooking Vincas Kudirka Square. Further surprises awaited us as well, we got freshly squeezed juice and Olive got a balloon :)
In our opinion, the Novotel in Vilnius is worth recommending mainly for two reasons. First of all, it has a great location in the very center of Vilnius. Besides, the brand itself guarantees us great quality at an affordable price. You can book the hotel at www.accorhotels.com/pl/hotel-5209-novotel-vilnius-centre/index.shtml.
Sightseeing in Vilnius
Once we managed to wrap up and pack, we drove the car up to the Hill of the Three Crosses, where we left the car in the parking lot and set off for Gediminas Hill (an insane 48 meters above sea level).
There is a paved road leading to the hill, so with a stroller it is impossible – in such situations a sling comes in handy :) Ours from LennyLamb works perfectly :) Alternatively, you can also use the train that runs to the very top (2 eur round trip), although for us it is a slight exaggeration to use such facilities ;)
At the top of the hill is the three-tiered Gediminas Tower, the only remnant of the Upper Castle, which was built on the hill during the reign of Gediminas (14th century). Initially a wooden structure, it was fortified with walls during the reign of Prince Vytautas, destroyed completely during the Russian occupation. Today, the tower houses a museum and an observation deck at the very top.
From the top there is a wonderful view of all of Vilnius, including the Hill of Three Crosses.
When we got downstairs, our first steps were towards another very distinctive place: Cathedral Square with the Archcathedral, the Lower Castle and the monument to Guess Who…. yes, Gediminas! :) On the way to the square we passed the National Museum.
Classical Archcathedral of St. St. Stanislaus and St. Wladyslaw has its origins in the 14th century, when a wooden cathedral stood here. Over the years it was destroyed and reconstructed, and during the Soviet occupation it housed a warehouse, gallery and concert hall. The building began to serve as a temple again quite recently, in 1989.
The interiors are rather austere with massive columns. The most popular and most beautiful chapel is the one of St. Peter. The site is located in St. Casimir’s Cathedral, where they are buried, among others. Alexander Jagiellon, Barbara Radziwill, the heart of Wladyslaw IV Vasa. Outside, the 60-meter tall bell tower, which houses more than 30 bells, catches the eye!
Behind the Archcathedral is the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania (Lower Castle), open to the public. Here you can admire fragments of walls from the 14th century, a collection of weapons, glass and tapestries.
You could say that from here we started our tour of Vilnius’ Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is Lithuania‘s biggest attraction. So our expectations were really high!
Old Town in Vilnius
We walked along Universiteto gatve street towards the buildings of the University of Lithuania and the Presidential Palace. The university, founded by King Stefan Batory in the 16th century, is visited for a fee, and of particular note here are the many courtyards, with the Peter Skarga courtyard at the top (there are 13 in all).
We also recommend you to look into the numerous gates and nooks in the area. This brought us to a view of the palace gardens.
We continued walking along the narrow streets, more specifically Dominikonų gatvė, passing religious buildings along the way: Divine Mercy Shrine and Holy Spirit Church until we reached Vokiečių gatvė, which directed us to the City Hall.
Dominikonų gatvė was one of the nicest streets, but here we had to demonstrate an extremely divided attention – you have to constantly look up and admire the buildings, and on the other hand look under your feet, because a moment of inattention and the stroller falls into a hole or hits the curb. In addition, the road is paved, and the narrow sidewalk made the task difficult. We breathed a sigh of relief and sped up only at Vokiečių gatvė.
Here was the crisis: food and toilet needed for the adults, a changing table for the youngest part of the team, and on top of that we had a slight cold. We searched for a place that would meet all our needs at once, but failed. Fortunately, at the tourist information, located in the City Hall, we were shown places where we could at least rewind Olive in the warmth.
Vilnius Town Hall, like the Archcathedral, is a Classical building, and here too the six-column entrance portico is stunning. For visitors, an important place because of the aforementioned tourist information, where you can get maps of the city (yes, a map, after seeing almost half the city, may no longer be necessary ;) ).
The whole square looks like this:
We will return to the square itself again, so wasting no time we set off Aušros Vartų gatvė in the direction of the Gates of Dawn.
And this time Vilnius does not disappoint. Along the way, we pass more sacred buildings, including: the Baroque St. Peter’s Church. Kazimierz, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church. Trinity and the Basilian Monastery, to which leads a baroque gate or St. Peter’s Church. Teresa. For Poles, the monastery is a special place, because it was here that Adam Mickiewicz was imprisoned and here the action of the third part of Dziady is set.
From here it is not far and we come to the famous city gate – the Gates of Dawn. Erected in the 16th century, this Gothic gate is the only remnant of the city’s defensive walls. The image of Our Lady of the Dawn Gate is 2 meters high and 1.63 meters wide and, with the windows open, can be seen from the street.
The gate closes the area of the old city, and by crossing it you enter a different Vilnius. Just outside the gate are numerous stalls selling amber products.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to go north, so we headed to Arklių gatvė and returned near the City Hall.
From here, after a small break along Didžioji gatvė street, we reached Literatų gatvė (Literary Street), a street quite different from all of them.
And while it’s a place that will interest some simply because Adam Mickiewicz lived on this street, we were more fascinated by the wall decorations, which are the result of an art movement in 2008 to decorate the street with literary accents.
Nearby is the Adam Mickiewicz Museum, his monument and the Vilnius Heritage Museum.
We, on the other hand, headed towards Church of St. Anna As well as the Bernardine Monastery. This Gothic church with soaring turrets was almost under siege by tourists, including a large group of Asians.
Although we were a bit tired by now, these two sites were memorable as some of the most impressive in Vilnius.
As you can see, there is plenty to explore in Vilnius ;)
We saw it all in one day, quite a lot. It was also a long and tiring day for us, but we still had the strength for an evening walk, because the location of the hotel in the center obliges long walks ;)
We strolled through Gedimino prospektas, entered a nearby shopping center and market. It is a new commercial district, bustling with activity. Here, too, you will find restaurants, both traditional Lithuanian and vegan, as well as fast-food restaurants.
The next day we wanted to drive up to one cemetery from the morning, for a while, to see. From one cemetery became two, and from a moment almost half a day…. But about that in the next entry:)
Map of attractions in Vilnius
And finally, an interactive map with our recommended route and the most important points in Vilnius marked in our opinion:
…And to top it off, there is a gallery of all the photos, past there are 200 of them from Vilnius! :)
We recommend you our other posts about Lithuania.