Travel Guide: Vilnius, Lithuania
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania. The little I knew came from studying the Cold War and Soviet Russia and from watching the documentary “Holocaust Escape Tunnel” on Netflix. As I started preparing for my trip, I worked with the team at Tinggly Experiences to identify what I wanted to do and I read through a post written by my friends over at The World Pursuit on what they did during their time here.
My first suggestion is to do a walking tour of Vilnius. This gives you a great lay of the land, shows you much of the history in the Old Town, and also introduces you to Lithuanian food. I did a tour with the Vilnius With Locals team and loved that they customized my tour to things I wanted to see both beforehand and as we were walking. They also have a free walking tour every day at 10a and 12p that starts from the Vilnius Town Hall. Some sights I saw on the walking tour include:
Stebuklas, the “Miracle Tile” - from a protest called the Baltic Way when the Baltic states were part of the USSR.
Vilnius Cathedral - where my tour started (and right next to the miracle tile), this cathedral is a beautiful example of architecture but its empty insides (not uncommon for churches here) are a reminder of Soviet rule.
St Casimir’s Church - this church actually was once a museum on atheism but is now a functioning Catholic church again.
St Anne’s Church - this church is more than 500 years old and was once home to Napoleon’s army during their march on Moscow. Legend has it that Napoleon fell in love with this church - but his soldiers must not have because they burned all the pews during the march back from Moscow as a way to keep themselves warm.
The church pictured in the first few photos in the gallery above was also visited along my tour, but I can’t seem to remember the name. Inside, it was a storage facility for food during Soviet times. However, a young priest is now in the process of bringing it back to its original glory. Today on the third floor is a chapel, the second floor is currently empty, the first floor is a social gathering space and the basement cellar/caves are home to an art installation.
For a taste of Lithuanian food, we stopped at Aline Leiciai and I gave cepelini a go. Cepelini is a dish made of potatoes and stuffed with meat that is said to be the national dish of Lithuania. The restaurant stands in an old building and is decorated in keeping with medieval times, even showing medieval jousting instead of football or other sports on the television in the bar.
Looking for more? Here’s another blog post I found on things to do. Or if you’re looking to see sights from HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries, a good portion of it was filmed here. Vilnius also was ranked the #1 place for tech startups in the world and is home to the #1 best public wifi in the world (the US is ranked #20 on the same list). Or watch the videos to the left and below for more ideas of sights to see.