The Baltic states are great for touring, and among them Lithuania might be the least visited but interesting nonetheless. Rich in history which is still evident in its old buildings and institutions, the Republic of Lithuania deserves more than just a glance on the map. In fact, it deserves a full-fledged tour! Here is our little guide on the best things about Lithuania.
- Free Walking Tour. As in any European country, this is a really good way to get insights on the place. It gives an overview on the history of the Baltics, too. Lithuania has had a long history, changing hands from the Germans, Polish, Russians, and more. Walking tours also give you an overview of the tourist spots in the area, so you’ll know where to go next!
- Keule Ruke. This is an effective fusion of art statements and awesome food! The burgers and ribs are a must-eat, and the place itself is a must-see. Located on Vilnius’ Pylimo street, the place gained notoriety for its mural depicting Trump and Putin locked in a kiss! That, along with repurposed bathtubs, beer cases, and bus parts as furniture will surely give your eyes a feast. Best go here early to avoid the long queues.
While here, I had some ribs, salad, fries, and beer for only 8 EUR. That’s affordable, especially since the servings were huge! I didn’t even get to finish my ribs. My friend had a pulled-pork sandwich and fries for only 5 EUR.
- Forto Dvaras and Katpedele. These are both in Pilies street, and both are famous for delicious local cuisine. There’s a nice ambience, complete with terrace sitting! Come to think of it, any place on Pilies street is a great place to eat! It’s the coolest street in Vilnius.
- Literatu Street. This is another great street in the capital, especially dedicated to the gems of Lithuanian literature. From writers to translators, every Lithuanian who has impacted the global literature scene has a place here. It’s like a street-wide art gallery, with over a hundred different artworks!
- Gediminas Castle. This castle is steeped in legend. According to stories, the 14th century Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania erected a mound and castle in this site, after having a dream regarding the founding of Vilnius. This castle was the predecessor of the current structure.
Going up the castle is free, but there is a fee of 2-5 litras for entering the Gediminas Tower. This tower serves as the symbol of Vilnius (and of Lithuania, by extension). It also houses a museum and an observation square. The tower is famous for being visible from any place in Vilnius’ old town.
- Uzupis Street. This is another of those must-see destinations in the capital, especially for those with creative or artistic bents. One of the amazing parts of this street is the wall detailing the Artist’s Commandments, written in a total of 27 languages. You can read them no matter what part of the world you’re from! The day we were there, they added Sanskrit and Hebrew to this list.
The street has a lot of shops and cafes, all brimming with art in different forms. It’s also a great place for hipsters!
- Kaunas. This is Lithuania’s second-largest city, with a generally more laid-back atmosphere than the capital. Just like Vilnius, there is an Old Town here that is more intact since it was not as affected by the bombings of WWII. There are also places where you can get drinks by the river, letting you meet both locals and fellow tourists alike.
When we were there, they had a little tribute going on about Indian culture. It appears that both India and Lithuania have had a steady relationship since the early times, so much that the Indian Sanskrit and the Lithuanian language had a lot of common variables!
- Vilnius Cathedral. Back to the capital, make sure to pay a visit to the Vilnius Cathedral. This is located in the Old Town, and is the heart of Catholic spirituality in the country. Its crypts also serve as the final resting place for monarchs and important people, including Saint Casimir of Poland and Lithuania.
Aside from the beautiful architecture and history of the Cathedral, one of the main attractions in the Cathedral Square is the so-called “Miracle Plate”. This is a tile embedded onto the pavement, with the word “stebuklas” (miracle) on it. Tradition has it that to make a wish come true, you need to stand on the tile, make a wish, and turn around clockwise three times!
Also visit St. Anne’s Church. It’s a really pretty Church
- Museum of Genocide Victims. This is also referred to as the KGB Museum, since it is housed in the former headquarters of the Soviet KGB. This is a fairly depressing visit, as it contains artifacts from victims of Soviet and Nazi killings. Its basement has been the execution ground for more than a thousand prisoners from the 40s to the 60s, and several items from those times still remain.
- The rest of Vilnius! Now that we’ve gone through the highlights, it’s time to explore the rest of the Lithuanian capital. While this may be the biggest capital in the Baltics, we still managed to finish everything in about a full day.
We got into Vilnius via the Lux Bus from Warsaw at around 9:00 AM. We spent a few minutes resting, then set out on the tour. We had coffee and rounded the sights. The entire place was worth a visit!
Speaking of the Lux Bus, we used this in travelling from Poland all the way to Tallinn in Estonia. It was very comfortable, with WiFi and La-z Boy seats! There’s also coffee and a bathroom for those times when you need to get up. The price wasn’t bad either, so it’s highly recommended especially for long rides. Our ride lasted from 11:45 PM to 9:00 AM, taking us from Warsaw to Lithuania in under 10 hours. Since the seats can be fully-reclined, we used the time to sleep! The WiFi was also especially useful for trip-planning, so it was a great experience.
For our after-hours reprieve, we chose Pogo Hostel. It is fairly small, but it’s not far off from the Old Town and Pilies Street. Also, we were lucky that there were only 3 of us in the 6-bed dorm that we booked. It had a cool common area, and the staff was great! Since the location is top-notch, it was a great deal. Make sure to check this out as you tour in this Baltic republic.