True Lithuania

Weekend in Vilnius: Top 10 Sights & Experiences

The capital of Lithuania Vilnius once was the center of Europe's largest medieval state. Famous for its Baroque churches, massive Old Town and its role in destroying the Soviet Union, Vilnius is definitely worth a weekend visit. With many direct routes to Vilnius such trip is now easier than ever to arrange. Should you come to Vilnius, these ten places may serve as the hubs for further exploration.

1. Become in awe with the 2000 sculptures of "Life as a performance directed by God" inside the Saints Peter and Paul church (Antakalnis).

2. Visit the Museum of Genocide Victims located in a former KGB prison to learn about Lithuania's grim recent past that still haunts the memories of older locals (New Town).

3. Walk under the miraculous Gates of Dawn and the approaching Aušros Vartų street with large churches of 3 Christian denominations (Old Town).

4. Explore the courtyards of Vilnius University, feel the gone-by ages in its marvelous interiors and ascend the massive belfry of St. John church, tallest in Vilnius (Old Town)

5. Feel the former power of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy at the Katedros (Cathedral) square, overlooked by red hilltop castle ruins, the Cathedral and the rebuilt Grand Dukes Palace (Old Town).

6. Enjoy the elaborate flamboyant facade of St. Anne church and the larger neighboring St. Francis and St. Nicholas churches (Old Town).

7. Explore some narrow streets of the Old Town and Užupis and try to take a peek into courtyards.

8. Cross the Žaliasis or Baltasis bridge into Southern Šnipiškės, the "Wall Street of Vilnius". Visit the National Art Gallery and catch glimpse of entirely wooden off-the-beaten-track Giedraičių street where time seemingly stopped a century ago (Šnipiškės).

9. Walk the Gedimino Avenue, the traditional high street where most government institutions are located (and regular fairs take place). See the barricades at the Parliament reminding of the heroic armless struggle against Russian invasion in 1991 (New Town).

10. Splurge in Akropolis and Ozas neighboring malls, together making one of the Eastern Europe's largest shopping and entertainment zones (Soviet boroughs). If you prefer something more authentic you may spend a morning at gigantic bazaar-like Gariūnai marketplace instead where Lithuanian capitalism was reborn in the 1990s.

Extensive online guide to Vilnius is available here.

Map of the top 10 Vilnius tourist sights. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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