Apart from general good feedback on the city and some warnings due to increased potential of becoming a victim of pickpockets, I did not know too much about the Lithuanian capital when I visited the country for the first time in mid-March 2018. -10 degrees Celcius gave a quite tough winter time, but as soon as you were in sunny places, you had quite an amazing winter day (and postcard-picture views of the city due to the beautiful light situation).
Transport from the airport to city centre is quite easy with several bus lines, which split up in the city on different routes. Thereby, Vilnius feels to be very similar to Budapest, Bratislava or other city which have been impacted by the former Soviet times: the first impression after the airport leads to a certain motivation to immediately turn back to the airport – but the more you head closer to city centre, the more beautiful and friendly the view out the bus feels.
Summed up: the baroque city of Vilnius is just beautiful! Apart from original buildings, significant effort has been taken to renovate or rebuilt historic buildings. The most prominent example is the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, which hosts a museum nowadays and has been completely reconstructed after the Soviets had destroyed it completely in former times. The museum in the Grand Dukes Palace is definitely a place worth visiting. You start with the excavations of the ancient walls of previous palaces and castles and then head on to some artifacts on the lower levels. The top levels give a full reconstruction of several palace rooms like audience rooms or the throne room.
When you visit the museum, you may also head to the very top of the building to have a great view from the observation tower, which has been marvelous on that winter day.
Another museum worth watching is the Genocide or KGB museum. In fact, the Soviet KGB and Nazi Gestapo used the same building during their time in Lithuania. The general exhibition definitely has some potential for improvement, especially if you do not speak the local language.
The reason why this place is a must-visit in my point of is in the basement of the building, which allows you to visit the old KGB museum. It is very impressing and depressing to see how the Soviets and Nazis suppressed Lithuania in the past. The most remarkable part definitely is the former KGB execution chamber, in which especially in the late 1940s hundreds of people died. The way it is made up (including a reconstructed video showing how the victims have been slaughtered with a shot from behind) deeply reminded me of my visit in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
If you visit Vilnius, you will just love to stroll through the streets, do shopping (there are quite a lot of posh brands as well) or to enjoy a drink in one of the bars or cafes. There is also some street art. Two interesting areas are Uzupis, an alternative district of the city, which has declared itself (not very seriously…) to be an own republic, and the former Jewish Quarter. There are also some interesting hikes around the city. Anywhere in the city, you will find (majorly catholic) churches.
It is likely more impressing to visit Vilnius in summer, where its pedestrian areas should be quite crowded with people and you may even enjoy some bathing on the local river’s beach. In winter, I did not see any point why one could not feel safe in Vilnius. Overall, I have to admit that I do love Tallinn even more, but Lithania definitely will make me travel back to the country again.
Flyctory.com in Lithuania
Here are all reviews and reports visiting Lithuania:
Flyctory.com in Stockholm
Here are all postings about my visits to the Swedish capital: