Essential Country Information:
♦Currency: Euro €
♦Zone: +2 GMT
♦Phone Code: +37
♦Best time to visit: April-October
♦Must eat: šaltibarščiai, kibinai
♦Must drink: Gira.
♦Don't miss: A walk to Gediminas Castle by dusk
Number of times visited: "Base Country"
Getting there and transportation: There are 3 major airports to fly to from major European cities, Vilnius (VNO) Kaunas (KUN) and Palanga (PLQ), the last one being used more in the summer months to access the popular summer resorts of Klaipeda and Palanga.
Alternatively busses are very popular and you will find plenty of departure times at very cheap prices. Be advised they don't offer toilet facilities on board for domestic routes and often lack of a proper working air conditioning system.However international busses are modern, with Wifi, toilets and very comfortable. You can get to Lithuania by Bus from other European cities such as Riga, Warsaw, Berlin, Tallinn, Moscow or Minsk. Time from Warsaw is 8 hours and Riga 4 hours for example. More info can be found at Luxexpress.
Transportation within Lithuania offers very reasonable options within cities and inter city connections. There is no domestic air network so going by train, bus and car is the most popular way. Trains are modern and offer air conditioning and luggage storage facility but the disadvantage is that they don't run very often, nevertheless the national company goes to several cities across the country as well as linking several international cities, specially in Russia and Belarus. For more info please visit Lithuanian Rail.
Weather and temperature: Lithuania has a wide range of temperatures from hot summer's to freezing winter's so depending when you go, you need to dress up accordingly. Best times to travel are April to September. Average temperatures can range from 20 to 30C.
Lithuania has a very heavy amount of rainfall and although the other months from October to March can also be nice to visit with less tourists it means it can be pretty wet. Taking an umbrella is a good tip! It's one of those countries were weather is very unpredictable and changes within minutes! Winter is very beautiful time of year to visit with heavy snow on the streets and parks covering everything in a magic white coat. Temperatures can go down to -15C!
Food and Drink: Lithuania has a very interesting and colourful cuisine, with healthy options on the table, including soups, meat, fish and pastries. The most popular dishes which you can find in major restaurants and food shops are: šaltibarščiai, a cold Beet-root soup served with baked potatoes ; Cepelinai,made from potatoes dumplings with pork meat fillings ; Black Rye Bread with cheese, traditional Lithuanian bread with melted cheese eaten as a starter ; Kibinai, traditional pastries filled with vegetables or meat served hot or cold.
As for the drinks, the most drunken beverage is beer, having many Lithuanian local brands,also a traditional drink is Gira, a fermented beverage made from dark rye bread.
Bread & Cheese
Lithuania is now a country I visit many times after falling in love with Vilnius, it's capital, made many friends there and enjoy it every time I visit It's relaxed atmosphere, quiet streets and beautiful restored buildings. It's a city which stand out for me and every year I see how Vilnius grows and thrives with more businesses, tourism and residents choosing to make it their city of choice.
3 Beautiful buildings in Vilnius: Bell Tower, Cathedral and Gediminas Tower Castle
Vilnius Tourism Information:
The Neris river flows between the city of Vilnius and divides the new and old Vilnius, together with its medieval tower castle and open parks make it a city full of contrast, style, rich in history ready to be explored! One minute you feel deep in the forest isolated from all civilisation and the next minute you can be surrounded by quaint little shops and modern restaurants or bars enjoying the Lithuanian cuisine and relaxed scene.
Vilnius is full of universities making it an ideal city for nightlife entertainment, open terrace bars, clubs and restaurants to suit everyone's tastes, giving the crowds a full array of options to go out. Nevertheless the city is suited for all ages and around Pilies Street you will find all the tourist restaurants with local cuisine, elegant Hotels with fine dining and plenty of late night bars with a cosy stylish atmosphere but with a contemporary feel.
Transportation: Arriving in Vilnius is very simple,from the arrivals terminal you only need to cross the street to the bus stops and take Bus 3G which would take you into the city centre at Gediminas Prospektas in about 15min. Alternatively take bus 1 to the Bus Station (Stotis) or bus 88 to the old town. (Also N88 works throughout the night). Prices are €1 for a one way ticket. There is also a Train station at the airport, it operates every 35min and takes you to the main train station for also €1, the trip takes 10 minutes. Within Vilnius you can buy the city card, which only costs a €1.50 and you can top it up with 1 day,3 day, 10 days or monthly unlimited usage pass, which include busses and trolley-busses in the whole city.
Also in Vilnius transport runs day and night having recently introduced night busses (additional charges apply) For more info please refer to Vilnius transport
What to see and do? Vilnius is a small city and all tourist attractions can be reached by foot or a short ride by trolleybus. Exploring the city by foot is highly recommended as you will discover lots of side streets and places of interest not accessible by car. There is the option to join a city tour bus, though the price is expensive when you can do it yourself by foot.
A visit to Vilnius would not be complete without visiting some of these very important landmarks in the city:
- Gediminas Tower Castle, from which you can see a good panoramic view of the city including the old town and the more modern financial area. The Castle Museum was opened in 1960, and in 1968 it became a subdivision of the Lithuanian National Museum. The exposition displays reconstruction models of Vilnius castles of the second part of the 14th and the beginning of the 17th centuries, armament and photographic material of old Vilnius.
- Grand Dukes of Lithuania Palace, the reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, was one of the most famous in Europe in the 15th-17th centures but was demolished at the beginning of the 19th century. This Palace is located in the heart of Vilnius, within the confines of Lower Castle. Nowadays the rebuilt building acts as a multi functional Museum.
- Vilnius Cathedral, located next to the Grand Dukes Palace. The Cathedral was granted the title of ‘Basilica’, by Pope Pius XI in 1922. Many key figures in Lithuanian history are buried in the Sovereigns’ Mausoleum, which is located beneath the chapel of St. Casimir. Its vaults contain the remains of Vytautas The Great, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, and King Alexander of Poland. The cathedral’s original temple dates back to between the 13th or 15th century.
Gediminas Tower Castle
Grand Dukes of Lithuania Palace
- Pilies Street, it's the oldest and most flamboyant street in the Old Town of Vilnius. The street appeared in place of the former road from Vilnius Castle to the south, towards Poland and Russia. This was the main road to the castle. The broadest parts of the street were occupied by markets: the so-called Great Market near the Town Hall and the fish market next to St. Paraskeva’s Church (Pyatnickaya). The street is distinguished for its architectural variety: Pilies 12 and 14 are Gothic, Pilies 4 is a Renaissance building of an episcopate college; and the pediment of the Church St. John is Baroque. Today you can find many typical Lithuanian restaurants, Hotels, cafes and souvenir shops all keeping in trend with the historic styles or the era.
- Bell Tower and University Tower (st John's Tower), two look-out towers to take a view at Vilnius like a bird. (Charges apply). The Bell Tower is located next to the Cathedral whilst St John's Tower is located in the University grounds.
- The KGB Museum, (Museum of Genocide Victims), it shows the darkest side of Vilnius' history. Its bloody history began when this former gymnasium became the headquarters of the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania in 1941. It was then re-occupied by the Soviet Secret Police, the KGB, when the Nazis left in 1944. The KGB stayed until 1991. The museum is divided into two parts, the upper two floors document the Lithuanian partisans’ resistance against the Soviet occupiers, the deportations and day-to-day life. The other part of the museum are the prison cells, and execution and torture chambers in the basement. The cells are exactly how the KGB officers left them when leaving Lithuania in 1991. It's a must see Museum to understand what happened in Vilnius and Lithuania before it gained independence in 1991 after its turbulent history.
- St Anne's Church, it's a beautiful Gothic Church which is a key symbol to Vilnius and the city constructed entirely with red brick. The church of St Anne is a masterpiece of the late Gothic period. The church, which has survived to the present day without changing for over 500 years, has become one of the most popular tourists attractions.
- The Gates of Dawn, one of the most visited shrines in Vilnius. This is the only surviving gate of the first original five gates in the city wall that was built between 1503 and 1522.
- The Bastion of Vilnius, City wall, this is part of the Vilnius Defensive Wall, it's a Renaissance-style fortification characterised by its original construction. It consists of a tower installed in the city defence wall, underground gun ports and a connecting corridor, which turns into a 48-metre long tunnel. The Bastion was built in the first half of the 17th century.
St Anne's Church
The Gates of Dawn
The Bastion of Vilnius
- Three Crosses Hill, The monument has changed many times, and the current one was built in 1989 at the beginning of the Rebirth movement. It was built to replace the one that had been removed by the Soviet authorities in the 1950s, pieces of which still remain on the far side of the slope. The Hill of Three Crosses is also known as Kreivasis Hill (the Crooked Hill), Plikasis Hill (the Bare Hill) or Tauro Hill.
- Uzurpis, located east of the city and surrounded by the river Vilnia, this bohemian and artistic neighbourhood is full of charm and artistic influence and is being renovated at present to offer full potential for local new shops and residential housing.
- The Presidential Palace, called “Prezidentūra” (President’s Office), built in the square of Simonas Daukantas. Dating back to the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century: a former nobleman’s house and the present-day Office of the President. In 1997, the building was renovated. The flag of the President of Lithuania, which flies above the building, is lowered when the President leaves the country. Three national flags are hoisted in front of the building; two of them can be replaced by the flags of high foreign visitors. Every day at 18.00 you can see the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace. Every Sunday at 12:00 a solemn flag hoisting ceremony is held (5–10 min.). Participating in the ceremony are soldiers of the Honour Guard Company of the Lithuanian Armed Forces dressed not only in ceremonial uniforms but also in medieval armament. (Free tours of the Presidential Palace are available on Fridays at 16:30 and Saturdays from 9:00 to 14:30. In summer, guided tours are also offered in English on Sundays: 9:00-14:30. Prior registration is required at firstname.lastname@example.org )
Hill of Three Crosses
The Presidential Palace
- TV Tower, The Vilnius Television Tower is the tallest building in Lithuania at 326.5 metres high, the Television Tower played host to the January Events in January 1991 as Lithuania fought for its independence from the Soviet Union. During the affair, 14 unarmed Lithuanian civilians were killed, while another 700 were injured as Soviet troops seized the tower. A small museum dedicated to them is on the ground floor and crosses in their memory are by the main entrance. Today, visitors can go up to a revolving circular observation platform, which on clear days, provides spectacular views across the whole city as well as Elektrėnai, a city 25 miles west, which powered much of Vilnius’ electricity during the Soviet days. To get there take bus 54 or trolley-bus 16 from the main station. ("Stotis").
- Vilnius Town Hall, In 1387, Lithuania became a Christian state and Vilnius needed headquarters for the city authorities. As the main square of the city was located here, it was decided to build the Town Hall in the same place. The building housed the magistrate (in other words, the city councillors) as well as court rooms, the treasury, archives, an arms and ammunition warehouse, and rooms for preserving standards of measurement. A prison was established in the basement. In the 19th century, the Town Hall was transformed into a city theatre. In the 20th century, an art museum was housed in the Town Hall. Today Vilnius Town Hall is a representative building. Many different events are organised at the Town Hall during the year: concerts, exhibitions, festivals etc.
- The National Museum of Lithuania, it's the largest and oldest museum in Lithuania, dating back to 1855, when the Museum of Antiquities was established in Vilnius. Authentic exhibits help to recall the history of Lithuania and its national culture and customs.
Vilnius Town Hall
National Museum of Lithuania
Suggestion: Visit Vilnius during April-May and coincide with the "Street Music Day".
This is a festival of music, professional musicians and amateurs come out into the streets, parks and squares.
Armed with all possible kinds of musical instruments they play jazz, rock, vanguard, folk, beat African rhythms and sing poetical verses.
This is a day involving all Lithuanian cities and towns in a festive event of free creativity, musicians and contact with the public.
Shopping: Vilnius has many shopping and leisure centres around the city. The city centre and the old town have many stores and shops, some of which are at the higher end of the market with those hefty price tags. However if you are looking for a more casual style without breaking the bank then it's a good idea to visit some of the shopping centres which can be reached by bus in less than 30 minutes.
- Panorama Shopping centre, located next to theLithuanian University of Educational Sciences at T. Narbuto G. (Street). You can reach there by bus 4G ( Edukologijos Universitetas stop) and TrolleyBus 19 or 9. (Panorama stop). It offers two floors full of different shops including fashion, perfume, electronics, sport, stationary, communications and travel amongst others. It also offers many dining options and the Rimi Supermarket. Open till late.
- Europa Centras: Located crossing the river at Konstitucijos pr. 3 (Avenue) ; reachable by Bus 3G, 4G, 43, 56 or by Trolley Bus 9 and 19. (Europos aikštė stop). This centre offers 3 floors of good quality shops including, fashion, accessories, perfumes, luggage, gym, house-ware etc. It also has many eateries and a supermarket.
- Akropolis: Located at Ozo g. 25 (Street). You can easily get there by bus 53 from the train station, get off at Šeškinės kalvos stop. Alternatively bus 3G at bus stop Šeškinė and walk about 7min. This mega complex hosts many shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. It's a good option to spend any wet day as if offers Bowling, Cinema and even an Ice skating ring in the centre of the mall, surrounded by restaurants.Open till late.
Accomodation: There are plenty of Hotels and Hostels within Vilnius, the nearer you get to the old town the more expensive they will be, however there are many non-chain Hotels within 10-15 walking distance to the centre and they offer reasonable prices from €20-30 per night. Private accommodation is becoming more available thanks to sites like Airbnb.
A recommended Hotel is Corner Hotel, a 3 star Hotel, located well in reach to the city centre (15 min walk) and in excellent reach of public transportation to the city and the airport. It offers private rooms with bathroom/shower, Fridge/freezer, satalittle TV, free WiFi and a good quality breakfast. You can get discounts if you are staying for longer periods. Contact the Hotel directly for more info. Corner Hotel Vilnius
Recommended duration: visiting Vilnius would be ideal during a long weekend, 3 to 5 nights would be enough time to see all the highlights of the city.
Vilnius Winter Photo Gallery:
Trakai Tourism Information:
A good Suggestion is to visit Trakai, a beautiful town 30 km away from Vilnius. It used to be Lithuania old medieval capital and the star of the show is a restored Medieval Castle surrounded by a lake in a breath-taking scenery backdrop. Recommended visits are both in during the summer being able to rent a pedal boat and in the winter when the lake freezes and you can Ice-skate.
To travel there you can take a train or a bus from the main station in Vilnius, the trip will only cost €2 one way and takes 30 min. Once you arrive take a right turn from the bus station in Trakai and walk during 15min till you reach the Castle.
Kaunas tourism Information:
Previously being Lithuania's capital, now it's second largest city, enjoy's much awaited rejuvenation. The city is home to many universities and institutions. It's a famous city for many foreign students choosing Kaunas for it's academic offerings and lower rental costs. At the confluence of the Neris and Nemunas rivers, Kaunas Castle is a medieval fortress housing historical exhibitions worth exploring. It's all in walking distance to the the city centre, a pedestrianised street lined up with trees, benches, cafes, shops or souvenirs stalls and restaurants which cross the city from west to east.
Transportation: Arriving to Kaunas by air is easy thanks to direct flights by Ryanair and Wizz Air 17 European airports. As you arrive you can take bus No. 29 which connects Kaunas Airport with the city centre. The journey takes about 45 minutes. There are also buses from Kaunas International Airport to Vilnius, Klaipėda, Riga and Minsk. Alternatively you can arrive to kaunas by international bus from other capitals like Riga, Tallinn or Warsaw.
The city has frequent links with Vilnius (the major city) by bus or train costing €5 a single ticket. Within Kaunas, there is an extensive bus and trolleybus service. However when you visiting you shouldn't need to take public transport as everything is close by.
Culture and history: You will find lot's of history in Kaunas's streets and buildings. Many have a true medieval feel.
The highlights of the city are: Kaunas Castle, a medieval castle which by it's archeological evidence suggests that it was originally built during the mid-14th century, in the Gothic style. Kaunas Cathedral Basilica, Roman Catholic cathedral. St. Michael the Archangel's Church, Roman Catholic church.The House of Perkūnas, is one of the most original and Gothic secular buildings, located in the Old Town. Vilniuas street, you can walk the full length of the street till you arrive to the Castle, along the way cafes, tradional Lithuanian houses, shops and other cultural sights! The Vytautas the Great,War Museum, established in 1921, it hosts historical artefacts belonging to Lithuania and Kaunas from prehistoric times to the present day, including a large collection of historical weapons. Ninth Fort, part of the Kaunas Fortress, which was constructed in the late 19th century. To get there you will need to go by bus or taxi.
Accommodation: Kaunas is cheap when travelling on a budget and staying close to the city centre can cost from €25 per night. There are plenty of Hostels available as the city is popular for students and weekends can get quite busy. Alternative private accommodation via Airbnb is also possible.
Recommended duration: Kaunas is a small city and walking around the centre can be done in a day. However visiting around and exploring some of the highlights of the city requires some transportation. Staying 2 nights would be enough.