What are the best things to do in Lithuania?
When we planned our trip to the Baltics, I spent a lot of research trying to find the best places to visit. For Lithuania, I already had a rough idea since I knew I wanted to see my great-great-grandmother’s hometown. And Vilnius, being the capital, seemed like an easy choice.
But for the rest? At that point, I didn’t know much about Lithuania, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. You’re probably in a similar situation, wondering where to go and how to spend your limited time. Fortunately, we’ve done all the research and travelled the country, so we can now share the highlights of Lithuania with you.
Keep reading, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about the best places to visit in Lithuania.
Our favourite things to do in Lithuania
#1 Explore the Old Town of Vilnius
We started our trip in Vilnius and instantly fell in love with the city. The Old Town of Vilnius is full of cobblestone streets, historic houses and 28 churches.
Start at the Gate of Dawn, which was once part of the Vilnius city wall and dates back to 1522. Inside, you can find an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy (also called “Lady of the Gate of Dawn”). Make sure to take a look, as this icon attracts pilgrims from even outside Lithuania.
Besides the Gate of Dawn, you can find many more gems in the Old Town. Literature street, for example, which is famous for its plaques dedicated to authors who either wrote about Vilnius or lived in the city.
Or go to Gediminas Hill. Here, Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania, built a castle in the 14th century. Today, you can find a single reconstructed tower, Gediminas Tower, as a remnant of that Upper Castle and if you go inside, you can learn more about the history of the former castle. You also have a great view of Vilnius Old Town.
As we already mentioned above, you can find 28 churches in the city centre of Vilnius, and we highly recommend that you go and see a few of them. You can find Vilnius Cathedral just below Gediminas Hill. We also loved the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit with its magnificent green iconostasis.
#2 Climb sand dunes at the Curonian Spit
One of the best things about Lithuania is that you can find both historic cities and unique nature. Our favourite national park is the Curonian Spit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also known as the Kuršių Nerija National Park.
The Curonian Spit is a long peninsula that begins close to Kaliningrad and stretches up to Klaipeda. As the Russian-Lithuanian border divides the Spit, the easiest way to get here is by ferry from Klaipeda.
Once you’ve reached the Curonian Spit, you will find lots of things to do. In total, there are five settlements on the Lithuanian side of this narrow stretch of land. We loved Nida, a village in the south, just next to the Parnidis Dune. This sand dune is the highest one on the Curonian Spit, reaching up to 52 metres, and from its top, you have a fantastic view of the sandy landscape.
Besides climbing the dune, you should check out some of the other things to do in Nida. Thomas Mann, a German author, used to live here and you can visit his house to learn more about him. Or you could shop for amber or learn about history in the Curonian Spit History Museum.
No matter what you do, reserve some time to take a walk around the village. The Curonian Spit is not just famous for its natural beauty, but also for its blue houses and unique culture.Check out our detailed guide on
#3 Visit Klaipeda
Klaipeda was a fixed stop on our itinerary because that’s where my great-great-grandmother came from. But even if you have no family or any other ties to this city, you should come and visit.
Klaipeda once went by the name of Memel and belonged to the Prussian Empire. Today, only traces of the German heritage remain in its half-timbered houses, giving the city an appearance that you won’t find anywhere else in Lithuania.
Even though large parts of the city got destroyed during the war, the inhabitants have reconstructed most buildings, and you can spend hours walking through the cobblestone streets of the Old Town. Make sure to also go down to the waterfront. If you visit in summer, this area is especially lovely for taking a boat ride.
Down by the harbour, you can find the statue of the Klaipeda Black Ghost. While this hooded, faceless creature looks like it came right out of a ghost story, the legend goes that it actually saved Klaipeda! One day, it climbed out of the water to warn the inhabitants about an upcoming famine. Thanks to the Black Ghost, the city could stock up on food and survive the following months.
#4 Explore the Hill of Crosses
If you’re looking for a unique sight, unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else, then you need to visit the Hill of Crosses. Many legends tell the story of this hill. One says that a church once stood there and got buried in the ground during a particularly bad storm. Another says that a man put up the first cross to pray for the life of his daughter, who had suddenly gotten ill.
The first written record goes back to around 1850, although the first crosses might have appeared earlier. During the rule of the Soviet Union, the government banned all religion and bulldozed the hill multiple times. Locals then came back during the night and put the crosses back up, turning the Hill of Crosses into a symbol of silent defiance.
Since Lithuania gained independence in 1991, the number of crosses kept growing. Today, you can find more than 100.000 of them here, making this one of the most impressive sights within the whole country.
While walking around, you’ll not just see crosses but also rosaries and images of Mother Mary and Jesus.
In order to get to the Hill of Crosses, you need to first travel to Siauliai. From here, you can hire a taxi that will take you to the attraction. Make sure to negotiate for how long the taxi driver is going to wait for you. For a quick visit, half an hour should be enough. But if you want to properly explore and take a lot of photos, you will need about an hour.
#5 Explore the Trakai Island Castle
About an hour away from Vilnius, you can find Trakai. Although today, Trakai is a cute town with colourful wooden houses in the city centre, it played a huge role in Lithuanian history and was once as important as Vilnius.
The best place to learn more about the importance of Trakai is the Trakai Island Castle. Even though Vilnius was official the capital of since the 14th century, the Lithuanian Grand Dukes received many important international visitors in the Trakai Island Castle.
Today, you’ll find multiple exhibitions inside the castle that will allow you to learn more about its history and also the history of Trakai. In addition, you can find out more about the Karaites.
This Turkish ethnic minority likely arrived in the 1400s, when Grand Duke Vytautas recruited them as castle guards. Over the centuries, they kept their traditions and cultures, and even though only a handful of families remain in Trakai, this is the perfect place to learn more about them.You can easily visit Trakai as a day trip from Vilnius. And you don’t even need to book an expensive tour! Find out how to get there and what to see and do in our
#6 Visit the Republic of Uzupis
Out of all the places you can go and see in Vilnius, the Republic of Uzupis is, without doubt, the most quirky and unique one. Until we travelled to Lithuania, we hadn’t even heard of this tiny republic that declared independence in 1998.
Unsurprisingly, no country in the world recognises Uzupis as an independent republic. That doesn’t stop the Uzupis government from coming together in a bar called Uzupio Kavine, which serves a double-function as a house of parliament.
It also didn’t stop the artists, who initially founded the republic on April Fool’s Day, from writing a constitution and translating it into more than 20 languages. Or from turning a souvenir shop into the “Uzupis Border Post“.
As you have probably noticed by now, the whole independence started as more of a joke than anything else and has never turned into a true independence movement. But it gave this quirky neighbourhood the uplift that it needed to turn from one of the most neglected areas of Vilnius into one where you can find cafes, tiny galleries and lots of amazing street art.
While visiting, make sure to stop by the Angel of Uzupis, which serves as a symbol of the tiny republic. Close by, you can also find the constitution, so take a look if you want to know more about the “core values” of the people living here.
#7 Learn about Lithuania’s recent past in the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
If you can only visit one museum while in Lithuania, make it this one. You can find the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, previously named the Museum of Genocide Victims, in Vilnius. The building once served as the Gestapo headquarters before the KGB started using it for their main operations.
On the top floors, where the KGB functionaries once worked in their offices, you can now find an exhibition about the Soviet occupation. But the main reason to visit is the basement, where you can see the former prison cells. Walking through here, you will see tiny, damp cells.
During the Nazi occupation, the Gestapo imprisoned Jews in these cells. One of them is now dedicated to their history. Later, the Soviets held those who were in any way involved in the Resistance down here. The cells are tiny and damp, but the further you go, the more you will understand the horrors the prisoners had to go through.
One of the cells, a tiny one, has padded walls. In the middle, you can see a straightjacket – for those prisoners who refused to cooperate. The padded walls kept any screams from escaping.
Across the courtyard, you can find the execution chamber. Until the early 1960s, more than 1.000 prisoners were executed here, usually in the middle of the night. On some days, the officers shot multiple people in a row, then carried out their bodies and buried them in a mass grave on the outskirts of Vilnius.
#8 Sample Lithuanian food
How much do you know about Lithuanian cuisine? Not much? Then you’re not alone.
Before we travelled to Lithuania, we didn’t know a single Lithuanian dish. But already on our first evening, we discovered that the country has a rich culinary heritage. We tried lots of different dishes, from potato dumplings to cabbage rolls and beetroot soup.
You’ll find traditional restaurants all over the country, but a good starting point is Etno Dvaras. This chain has a few restaurants in different cities and specialises in traditional Lithuanian cuisine. Everything we ordered was excellent.Knowing what to order can be confusing, which is why we’ve prepared a
If you go to a bar while visiting Lithuania, make sure to order Kepta Duona. Lithuanians love eating dark rye bread, but for this appetiser, they have cut the bread into strips and fried them. It might sound weird at first, but it tastes absolutely delicious!
#10 Relax at the beach
Lithuania is probably not the first country that comes to your mind when you think about beaches. But the country has access to the Baltic Sea and in summer, locals flock to the coast.
As we visited in February, we did not relax at the beach ourselves. We went to the Baltic Coast on the Curonian Spit and almost got blown away by a strong wind. However, in summer, families will spend their vacation on this beach in Smiltyne and have a wonderful time.
Another popular Lithuanian beach destination is Palanga. This resort town attracts not just national visitors in summer. Here, you can go for long walks along the coast or enjoy sunset on the pier. And if you want to learn more about amber, go and visit the Palanga Amber Museum.
When to go
You can visit Lithuania at any time of the year. Each season has its advantages and disadvantages. As we already mentioned, we went in winter. While we needed warm jackets and even saw a bit of snow in Vilnius, off-season meant that we barely saw any other tourists. We were the only ones on top of the giant Parnidis Dune on the Curonian Spit and we only came across two other visitors at the Hill of Crosses.
Summer brings better weather but also more tourists. You definitely won’t have the Hill of Crosses to yourself. On the bright side, though, the temperatures will be high enough to spend a few days relaxing at the beach.
If you’re looking for the best compromise, go in late spring or early autumn. The weather will still be mild but you won’t run into as many tourists as in summer.
How to get to Lithuania
Considering how small Lithuania is, the country is surprisingly well connected. You can find three international airports in Lithuania, with the biggest one in Vilnius. If you’re coming from outside Europe, you might not find a direct flight to Vilnius, but from Frankfurt, we had plenty of choices when it came to flying to Vilnius.
Besides Vilnius, you can also fly to Kaunas or Palanga. The Palanga airport gets especially busy in summer, with connections to many European cities. And Kaunas, even though we didn’t list it above, is a great destination on its own.
If you’re already in a neighbouring country, you can take either a bus or a train to get to Lithuania. We found train travel a bit more troublesome as you often need to change trains at the border. The bus network, however, is well developed. If you are coming from Riga, for example, you can get to Klaipeda in just a few hours by bus.
How to get around Lithuania
Lithuania has an excellent network of public transport that connects all bigger cities and tourist attractions. The only time we had to take a taxi was when visiting the Hill of Crosses.
In addition, you can look up the bus timetables and train timetables online. That makes it very easy to travel between cities and tourist attractions.
Choosing whether to take a bus or a train often comes down to personal preference and the most convenient schedule. We have used both and found that prices and travel times are often similar.
Smaller towns usually don’t have a train station so you will have to take a bus.
We hope you have gotten an overview of the best things to do in Lithuania and can now plan your trip to this wonderful country. If you have any further questions or comments, please leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!
Also, check out our other travel resources for travelling Lithuania:
- The best things to do in Vilnius
- What to do in Klaipeda – our 8 favourite sights
- How to visit Trakai as a day trip from Vilnius
- A complete guide to visiting the Curonian Spit
- Lithuanian food – our favourite dishes that you need to try
- Meet the Locals – an interview with an Uzupis “border guard”
- How much does it cost to travel the Baltics? Our complete budget
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#11 visit Dzūkija National Park and neighbouring Druskininkai SPA resort. Dive into the ancient Lithuanian tradicions. Taste Lithuanian national cuisine dishes in the local countryside vacation villa. Take a family kayaking tour or bicycle tour to explore the beauty of Lithuania’s nature!
Some more info about Dzūkija National Park in Lithuania: https://kaimoturizmosodyba.eu/en/dzukijos-national-park/