Ever since randomly visiting Riga in 2006 I’ve wanted to return to the Baltics. I was blown away by the food, culture, and history in Latvia and thought that their neighbours must be just as cool. My stay at the Rock n’Roll themed Comfort Hotel LT proved this and then some. With just one thousand, eighty steps from its front doors I found some amazing Vilnius highlights.
Here’s a sample.
Walk the Old Town
Although a relatively small city, the old town is not. This Vilnius highlight has been largely unaffected by war making the downtown core essentially one huge old town. With almost 4 square kilometres, 1,500 buildings, and 74 quarters, it is one of Europe’s largest surviving medieval old towns. It should be no surprise that you can spend a day just wandering it’s many areas. Highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage site include Cathedral Square, Vilnius University, and the cafes of Pilies Street.
At the Cathedral Square you will find the Vilnius Cathedral, Monument to Grand Duke Gediminas, and the Royal Palace. Above it all is city’s most recognizable feature – the Gediminas’ Tower. A climb up is a must. Inside you will find a small museum featuring medieval armament and exhibitions. On top you get a great view of the city, both old and new.
Museum of Occupation
Much like the horror on display in the Museum of Occupation in Riga and the House of Terror in Budapest, this Vilnius highlight shows the atrocities Lithuanian’s faced during Nazi Germany and Soviet Union rule. Throughout the Museum you will find displays on life during this time and the stories of the rebels that fought for freedom. This includes the KGB spy equipment and interrogation rooms in the museum building itself. More disturbingly are the cells below the building and the chamber where countless people were executed. It’s hard to take in but important in understanding Lithuania of today.
The Republic of Užupis
On the other side of the Vilnia River sits my favourite of these Vilnius highlights – the quirky neighbourhood of Užupis. Literally meaning “the other side of the river,” Užupis showcases Lithuanian’s surprisingly good-humored nature. In 1997, the district declared itself an independent republic with it constitution proudly on display in 23 languages on Paupio street. Personal favourites are “A dog has the right to be a dog,” “People have the right to be happy” and “People have the right to be unhappy.”
This area is home to the city’s artists and musicians making it trendy with great graffiti, restaurants, and cafés. Don’t miss a drink at Snekitus and a walk-through the neighbouring Bernardine Park.
Vilnius Bar Scene
As I found on my Vilnius in Love beer tour, Lithuanians are beer mad. With a shrine dedicated to the pagan God of beer and plenty of great bars, this shouldn’t be surprising. To best understand this unique passion I highly recommend a night out with Vilnius in Love.
Where to Stay
While ticking off these Vilnius highlights I stayed at the incredibly cool Comfort Hotel LT. Located in your Rock n’Roll themed room you will find a great self-guided walking tour map. With just 1,080 steps from its doors you can cover these Vilnius highlights and so much more.
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These Vilnius highlights were made possible by the Comfort Hotel LT.