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Free Self-Guided Vilnius Walking Tour: Highlights & Overlooked Gems (With Map!)

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Vilnius Self Guided Walking Tour: Aerial panorama of the Old Town, one of the must-see sights in Vilnius.

Vilnius is one of Europe’s most exciting cities boasting an intriguing history, offbeat elegance, new creative spaces, and a unique cultural scene. Its well-preserved medieval Old Town is a bewitching ensemble of cobblestone alleyways lined with lovely 18th-century townhouses and a clutch of stately churches. A large chunk of sights in Vilnius are concentrated in Old Town. A Vilnius walking tour is one of the best ways to see these sights, important landmarks and soak in the charming atmosphere. This post includes a map for a self-guided free walking tour of Vilnius. Enjoy your walk! 🙂

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Why Choose This Free Self-Guided Vilnius Walking Tour?

This free self-guided Vilnius walking tour itinerary is perfect if you are short on time and trying to save some money. With our free map, you can follow the route quite easily without having to hire an expensive guide for the day. The tour will take you past the city’s major attractions, landmark public buildings, places of worship, cultural venues, restaurants, and cafes.

A special focus of this tour lies on the cavalcade of churches in the Old Town, all of which are prominent landmarks and must-see sights in Vilnius. You’ll also learn a few lesser-known facts about Vilnius along the way.

Vilnius Walking Tour Itinerary

The free self-guided walking tour of Vilnius covers a total distance of approximately 6.6 kilometers (4.1 miles). The tour starts at the Vilnius Cathedral and terminates at the Gates of Dawn Chapel.

Feel free to take a break if you feel jaded along the way. I have included some cafes and restaurants in the map where you can take a breather and grab a bite. On this Vilnius walking tour, you will see:

  1. National Museum of Lithuania
  2. Gediminas’ Castle Tower
  3. Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
  4. Cathedral Square
  5. Vilnius Cathedral
  6. Gediminas Avenue
  7. Frank Zappa Statue
  8. St. Catherine’s Church
  9. Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit
  10. Presidential Palace
  11. Pilies Street
  12. Vilnius University & St. John’s Church
  13. The House of Signatories
  14. Literatai Street
  15. St. Anne’s Church
  16. Bernardine Church
  17. Mickiewicz Monument
  18. Užupis Republic
  19. Cathedral of the Theotokos
  20. St. Paraskeva Church
  21. St. Nicholas’ Church
  22. Town Hall Square
  23. St. Casimir’s Church
  24. Artillery Bastion
  25. Basilian Gate
  26. St. Theresa’s Church
  27. Gates of Dawn

1. National Museum of Lithuania

What to see in Vilnius: Facade of the National Museum of Lithuania with the statue of King Mindaugas in front of the museum. This is one of the must-see sights on this Vilnius walking tour and one of the best museums in the city.

Kick off your free self-guided Vilnius walking tour at the National Museum of Lithuania. It is housed in a yellow-colored early 19th-century barrack, known as the New Arsenal, and has a touch of Neoclassical splendor to it.

In front of the museum stands a statue of King Mindaugas, the 13th-century chieftain who melded the Lithuanian tribes into a unified state and who was also the first King of Lithuania. The museum gives a concise overview of Lithuanian history from the 13th century to the present through an extensive jumble of artifacts.

Directions

Your next stop is Gediminas’ Castle Tower (2) which lies on top of Castle Hill. You’ll be walking a distance of 600 m.

2. Gediminas’ Castle Tower

Free Vilnius Self-Guided Walking Tour: View on Gediminas' Tower on the Castle Hill during at sunset. This red-brick tower is one of the must-see attractions in Vilnius.

The Gediminas’ Castle Tower is a red-brick octagonal tower that is the only remaining part of the Upper Castle complex, which once included defensive structures.

It retains very little of its original stonework having been restored and houses a small museum that gives a glimpse into what the castle looked like in medieval times.

Making the hike up Castle Hill to Gediminas’ Castle Tower is definitely worth it as it is one of the must-see attractions in Vilnius. Plus, it also provides a superb vista of the church spires and rooftops of the Old Town, the Hill of Three Crosses as well as the new skyscrapers on the other side of the river.

Directions

Your next stop is the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania (3) which can be reached by descending down the other side of Castle Hill. You’ll be walking a distance of 600 m.

3. Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

What to see in Vilnius: View of the whitewashed exterior of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania which is one of the best things to see on a Vilnius walking tour.

The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania is one of the main attractions in Vilnius. It was initially constructed in Gothic fashion in the 15th century for the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

It was renovated in the Renaissance style in the 16th century and then in Baroque fashion in the 17th century. It was during this time that it became the hub of vibrant cultural life.

The palace fell into disrepair when Tsarist authorities decided they did not want a symbol of Lithuanian power dominating the city. It was reconstructed at the start of the 21st century, using archeological evidence and period engravings as a guide to what the original must have looked like.

It houses a museum that displays a sequence of historic interiors containing armor, furnishings, tapestries, and paintings from the 15th century to the present day.

Directions

Your next stop is the Cathedral Square (4) which is just beside the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.

4. Cathedral Square

Free Self-Guided Vilnius Walking Tour: The broad Cathedral Square is one of the must-see attractions in Vilnius.

Cathedral Square is the broad expanse, main square in Vilnius, and the historical center of the city. This is where Vilnius first emerged as a town in the Late Middle Ages. It is a popular venue for fairs, parades, events, and exhibitions.

The paving stones encircling the square represent the outline of the wall around the Lower Castle, a defense that made Vilnius a 14th-century stronghold against the crusades.

At the eastern end of the square, a tall, grey plinth bears a statue of the Grand Duke of Lithuania and legendary founder of Vilnius, Gediminas, depicted here as a lean figure signaling towards the city with an outstretched sword. A wolf lies below the duke and his horse– a reference to the popular folk tale that explains Vilnius’ origins.

According to legend, Gediminas was taking a rest while hunting in the hills above the Vilnia River when he had a prophetic dream about an iron wolf howling in the night.

Asked to shed light on this dream, the duke’s head priest theorized that the wolf ’s howling represented the fame of a great city built on this site that would one day echo around the world. This inspired Gediminas so much that he ordered the prompt construction of a new capital here.

Things to see in Vilnius: Stebuklas tile in Vilnius Cathedral Square. PC: Wojsyl [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

A tile marked stebuklas (miracle) lies in the center of the square and is reputed to be the point where the Baltic Way, the human chain linking Vilnius, Rīga, and Tallinn in 1989, started from.

Approximately two million people joined hands to seek global attention by demonstrating a desire for independence from the Soviet Union. Spinning around clockwise on it three times is supposed to make a wish come true.

Directions

Your next stop is the Vilnius Cathedral (5) which itself lies in Cathedral Square.

5. Vilnius Cathedral

Vilnius sightseeing: View of the entrance to the Vilnius Cathedral and the belfry in the Cathedral Square, one of the best things to see on a free self-guided walking tour of Vilnius.

The grand Vilnius Cathedral is the first of several churches you’ll come across on our Vilnius walking tour. The imposing, colonnaded structure of the cathedral was once described by the German modernist novelist Alfred Döblin as “a cross between a Greek temple and a Polish civic theatre”.

It lies on a site that was originally a shrine to Perkūnas, the Lithuanian god of thunder, and Mindaugas the Great chose to build a simple brick church here in the 13th century – a move which didn’t sit too well with the devoutly pagan Lithuanian nobles, who had him murdered in 1263.

The spot wasn’t associated with Christianity again until the conversion of Lithuania adopted Catholicism under Grand Duke Jogaila in 1387. The church took on various guises over the next 400 hundred years.

Today’s building is largely the result of a late 18th-century French Classicist facelift which stands in contrast to much of the Baroque architecture found in the Old Town. Under Soviet rule, it was used as a picture gallery.

The pediment of the cathedral’s main facade is crowned by a trio of monumental statues, with St Helena brandishing a huge cross at the apex, accompanied by Casimir, patron saint of Lithuania, on the right, and Stanislas, patron saint of Poland, on the left.  

Statues of the four Evangelists lie on the southern facade and statues of past rulers of Poland-Lithuania run around the sides of the building. The cathedral is home to several significant treasures, the best of which is the Baroque St. Casimir’s Chapel, a riot of marble columns, colorful frescoes, and stucco figures.

To the right of the main entrance looms the freestanding, three-tiered belfry that was originally part of the city’s fortifications. In my opinion, this coffee-colored structure sort of looks like a marooned lighthouse.

Fun Fact

The name “Vilnius” originates from the Vilnia River. The earliest written mention to Vilnius exists in a letter from Grand Duke Gediminas in 1323 when he invited citizens from towns in Germany to settle here promising exemption from taxes and granting other liberties.

Directions

Your next stop is Gediminas Avenue (6) which lies opposite to the entrance of Vilnius Cathedral and is reached by just crossing the street.

6. Gediminas Avenue

Things to do in Vilnius: Gediminas Avenue is the main boulevard and shopping street in Vilnius.

Gediminas Avenue is the main commercial street of Vilnius. Now named after Duke Gediminas, this expansive, cobbled boulevard has previously been named after St. George, Mickiewicz, Stalin, and Lenin, reflecting the succession of different regimes.

It is home to many government and cultural institutions such as the Lithuanian Parliament and the Lithuanian National Drama Theater.

Be sure to admire some of the marvelous stuccoed buildings on display here. Shopping and dining options are aplenty on Gediminas Avenue with a lot of boutique stores, cafes, and restaurants.

Directions

Your next stop is the Frank Zappa Statue (7) which lies at K. Kalinausko Street No.3. You’ll be walking a distance of 1 km.

7. Frank Zappa Statue

Free Self-Guided Vilnius Walking Tour: View of the Frank Zappa Statue, one of the best things to see in Vilnius. C: Taigi/shutterstock.com

The Frank Zappa Statue is certainly one of the more unusual things to see in Vilnius. You wouldn’t be expecting a statue of the Californian rock legend here as he never visited Lithuania and had no connection to the country.

A group of local artists wanted to test the limits of democracy and freedom in newly independent Lithuania and decided that a statue of Zappa – an icon of anti-establishment and nonconformity, would be the best way to do so.

The artists were pleasantly surprised when their idea for the statue was approved (many people who supported the idea hadn’t even heard a note of his music) and the world’s first statue of Frank Zappa, along with the psychedelic mural behind it, were presented in 1995. If you’re a Zappaphile like me, this place won’t disappoint 🙂

Directions

Your next stop is the St. Catherine’s Church (8) which lies on Vilniaus Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 400 m.

8. St.Catherine’s Church

Vilnius Churches: The strawberry and cream colored Baroque style facade of the St. Catherine's Church, one of the best things to see on a self-guided Vilnius walking tour.

The next attraction on our free self-guided Vilnius walking tour is the St. Catherine’s Church. Its elegant Baroque facade is enhanced by the delectable strawberry-and-cream twin towers.

The church, in its current appearance, was built and considerably expanded in the mid-18th century having previously been a small wooden structure that was part of a Benedictine monastery in the early 17th century.

After having suffered some damage during World War II it was reopened in 2006 after an extensive refurbishment. It is now frequently used as a popular venue for classical music concerts.

Fun Fact

Lithuania was Europe’s final Pagan stronghold being the last nation on the continent to adopt Christianity. The Christianization of Lithuania took place in 1387, following the union of Lithuania and Poland. When it did so, it went all in full throttle. In Vilnius, it seems there’s a church just around every corner. There are 28 churches in the Old Town alone! Of these, 21 are Roman Catholic and 4 are Russian Orthodox while the Lutheran, Reformed, and Eastern Rite Catholic communities have one church each.

Directions

Your next stop is the Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit (9) which lies at Dominikonų Street No. 8. You’ll be walking a distance of 300 m.

9. Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit

What to do in Vilnius: The Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit is one of the best churches in Vilnius and one of the notable attractions on this walking tour of Vilnius.

The Dominican Church is another one in Vilnius’ cavalcade of Baroque churches. Although a church has stood on this spot since the 14th century the present church dates from the mid 17th century.

Its facade is rather modest except for the expansive cupola and belies the architectural wonders that grace its interior.

The church’s fifteen opulently decorated Rococo altars are embellished by figures in stucco. A dizzying whirl of colorful paintings portraying the Apotheosis of the Holy Spirit runs around the cupola. The church’s main audience largely stems from the city’s Polish community.

Fun Fact

Vilnius is particularly cherished by the Poles and has been so since the days of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th century. Poles formed a majority of the city’s population till World War II and even today a substantial community of Polish people still remains.

Directions

Your next stop is the Presidential Palace (10) which lies in Simonas Daukantas Square (Simono Daukanto aikštė). You’ll be walking a distance of 500 m.

10. Presidential Palace

Vilnius sightseeing: The Presidential Palace in Vilnius is home to the President of Lithuania and one of the best things to see in Vilnius.

The elegant Presidential Palace not only one of the highlights of this free Vilnius walking tour but also one of the top things to see in the city. The building has been around since Lithuania’s conversion to Christianity at the end of the 14th century.

Formerly a residence for high-ranking bishops, the cream-colored palace was reconstructed in the Neoclassical style in 1834 and features grand colonnades and symmetrical pediments.

It has hosted numerous high-ranking dignitaries, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Tsar Alexander I. Napoleon even used the palace during his doomed invasion of Russia. The palace was later used for a range of ceremonial purposes before becoming the Presidential Palace in 1997.

If the flag showing the coat of arms is flying over the building, it means that the President is in the country.

Directions

Your next stop is Pilies Street (11) which can be reached by going east on Liejyklos Street and S. Skapo Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 230 m.

11. Pilies Steet

Free Self-Guided Vilnius Walking Tour: The lovely cobblestoned Pilies Street is one of the must-see sights in the Vilnius Old Town.

Pilies Street is one of the oldest and most important streets in the Old Town. This zestful cobblestone street is a popular venue for festivals and pop-up markets due to its past heritage as being the commercial center of Vilnius.

Here, you can purchase amber, local crafts, works of art and souvenirs. The atmosphere on the street is great and a stroll here is made even greater by the lovely architecture.

Directions

Your next stop is the Vilnius University & St. John’s Church (12) which lie at Šv. Jono 12 and can be reached by going down south on Pilies Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 180 m.

12. Vilnius University & St. John’s Church

What to see in Vilnius: The Grand Courtyard of the renowned Vilnius University is also home to the custard colored Baroque style Church of St. John.

Next up on our self-guided walking tour of Vilnius is Vilnius University. It is the oldest university in Eastern Europe having been founded as a Jesuit College in 1568, before becoming a school of higher education in 1579. The present campus, constructed between the 16th and 18th centuries, is a blend of different architectural styles and is spread over 13 courtyards.

The most impressive of these courtyards is the Grand Courtyard which has open galleries dating from the 17th century. One of the highlights of the university is the gorgeous Littera bookshop, famous for its frescoes caricaturing professors and students that decorate its interior.

Dominating the Grand Courtyard is the wedding cake-like custard-colored facade of St. John’s Church. The original Gothic church dates to 1426 and was rebuilt in 1749 in ostentatious Baroque fashion under the guidance of Jan Krzysztof Glaubitz, the architect of some of Vilnius’ most prominent Baroque buildings.

From 1948 to 1963 the church was used as a warehouse for a Lithuanian communist newspaper. After Vilnius University managed to get the church back, it was turned into a science museum and wasn’t reconsecrated until 1991.

The otherwise austere interior is lit up by the cluster of 10 magnificent altars in faux marble with Corinthian columns.

Directions

Your next stop is The House of Signatories (13) which lies on Pilies Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 30 m.

13. The House of Signatories

Free Self-Guided Vilnius Walking Tour: View of the attractive Neo-Renaissance exterior of the House of Signatories, one of the most well-known landmarks and must-see attractions in Vilnius. Image Credit: Julius [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons.

The House of Signatories is another prominent historic landmark in the Old Town that we’ve included in this Vilnius walking tour. The building is quite attractive with a Neo-Renaissance facade that is adorned with two male busts and decorative sculptures symbolizing agriculture and fishing.

It has played a vital role in Lithuania’s modern history and it was here that, on 16 February 1918, the newly created Council of Lithuania signed the deed that restored Lithuania’s independence, albeit only for the interwar period.

The Štralis Coffee House on the ground floor was a popular haunt for leading figures in the Lithuanian national revival.

Directions

Your next stop is Literatai Street (14). You’ll be walking a distance of 170 m.

14. Literatai Street

Vilnius sightseeing: View of the famous Literatai Street, one of the best places to visit on a Vilnius walking tour.

Literatai Street is one of the most Instagram-worthy locations in Vilnius. This cute little street in the Old Town doubles as an open-air gallery.

It was designed in 2008 and pays homage to local and foreign poets and writers with connections to Lithuania through funky paintings, sculptures, and mixed media art.

Directions

Your next stop is the St. Anne’s Church (15) which lies at Maironio Street No. 8. You’ll be walking a distance of 210 m.

15. St. Anne’s Church

Vilnius Churches: The fairytale, pinnacle encrusted towers of the flamboyant Gothic style Church of St. Anne is one of the best things to see in Vilnius.

The flamboyant St. Anne’s Church is my favorite of all the churches you’ll see on this Vilnius walking tour. The church is the most outstanding Gothic building in Lithuania even though it’s a relatively late example of the fashion and the facade is rumored to have been completed only in 1500.

Its ornate facade of cascading ogee arches and slender windows is a sight to behold and a unique testament to the Gothic style in a city where Baroque reigns supreme.

The hip-knobs and the spires are adorned with decorative crockets, so as to resemble curled leaves. Some historians claim to have even found 33 different types of bricks used in the facade.

According to local folklore, the fairytale, pinnacle-encrusted towers of St Anne’s Church had Napoleon Bonaparte so besotted that he’s said to have wanted to take it back to Paris in the palm of his hand.

Napoleon’s soldiers actually used the church as a barracks on their way to Moscow in 1812. Miraculously, the beautiful facade has survived tumultuous times (of course it has been renovated several times).

The interior of St. Anne’s Church is quite austere with extensive red-brick rib vaulting across a white ceiling, sheltering a relatively undistinguished ensemble of altars bunched up at the end of the small nave.

Directions

Your next stop is the Bernardine Church (16) which lies directly behind St. Anne’s Church.

16. Bernardine Church

What to see in Vilnius: Exterior of the Bernardine Church which is an interesting blend of Gothic and Baroque styles, making it one of the best places to see on a self-guided walking tour of Vilnius.

The Bernardine Church is more subdued in its appearance as compared to the St. Anne’s Church. It was built around 1525 by the Franciscan Observant friars known as the Bernardines and still retains the late Gothic crystal vaulting above the aisles.

The exterior of the church is an interesting blend of Gothic windows and Baroque scrolls. The church’s interior is quite rich in Baroque furnishings and medieval frescoes.

Directions

Your next stop is the Mickiewicz Monument (17) which lies just south of the Bernardine Church on Maironio Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 25 m.

17. Mickiewicz Monument

Free Self-Guided Vilnius Walking Tour: The Mickiewicz Monument is dedicated to the famous poet Adam Mickiewicz and is one of the most well known sights in Vilnius.

The Mickiewicz Monument is a statue dedicated to Adam Mickiewicz, the legendary bard and poet, who romanticized his Polish-Lithuanian homeland. The statue shows Mickiewicz leaning authoritatively on a lectern and it looks like he’s about to commence reading one of his verses.

Although Mickiewicz was never a Lithuanian nationalist in the true sense, his heritage was readily usurped by the Lithuanian national movement. His nostalgia with the history and traditions of the Grand Duchy helped to instill in Lithuanians a sense of pride about their past, and his lyrical descriptions of the Lithuanian countryside inspired legions of local imitators.

The statue is another historically significant landmark on this Vilnius walking tour, famous for being the site of the earliest Glasnost-era anti-Soviet demonstration in Lithuania.

On August 23, 1987, a few hundred people gathered to protest the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (on its 48th anniversary), the non-aggression agreement in which the Soviets and Nazi Germany carved out spheres of influence in Eastern Europe.

This audacious gathering is believed to have acted as a catalyst in Lithuania’s desire to free itself from the straitjacket of Soviet rule, with massive nationwide meetings and protests taking place the following year. Lithuania declared its independence on 11 March 1990, the first of any of the Soviet republics to do so.

Directions

Your next stop is the Užupis Republic (18) which lies a little further south of the Mickiewicz Monument and can be reached by crossing the Vilnia River. You’ll be walking a distance of 250 m.

18. Užupis Republic

Vilnius sightseeing: The quirky Užupis district is one of the must-see sights in Vilnius.

No sightseeing tour of Vilnius would be complete without paying a quick visit to the colorful Užupis district, arguably the city’s most characteristic quarter.

The name Užupis translates to “behind the river” and this scenic part of central Vilnius has slender streets filled with 19th-century houses and hidden courtyards that are home to various cafes and art galleries.

Užupis’ inhabitants are an eclectic mix of bohemian artists and musicians, the nouveau riche and the proletariat. One of the things that make Užupis special is that on 1 April 1997, the district declared itself an independent republic. Užupis even has its own flag, president, and independence day!

This was meant as a derisive gesture on the notion of freedom in the age of globalization. The quirky decision has proven beneficial for Užupis as it has helped instill a sense of community and galvanize the local culture.

The constitution of Užupis features hilarious articles like “Everyone has the right to understand nothing” and “Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily”, and is nailed to a wall on Paupio Street.

Directions

Your next stop is the Cathedral of the Theotokos (19) which lies at Maironio Street No. 14, just across the Vilnia River. You’ll be walking a distance of 150 m.

19. Cathedral of the Theotokos

Vilnius Churches: View of the fortress-like Cathedral of the Theotokos, the largest Orthodox place of worship in Vilnius.

The Cathedral of the Theotokos is Vilnius’ largest Orthodox place of worship but also one of the main Russian Orthodox churches in Lithuania.

It is one of the oldest churches in Vilnius having been built in the mid-14th century. The church has undergone several reconstructions since then and the current structure of this dates from the 19th century.

The church looks more like a cube-shaped fortress with its four towers and rotund central cupola. During the Soviet era, it was initially used as a dissection center for the Medical Academy and then as a military barracks for over 60 years before its renovation.

Trivia Tidbit

When Vilnius was absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1795 it led to an influx of Russians into the city along with a renewed wave of Orthodox-church construction. This also led to the expansion of the city beyond its Old Town boundaries.

Directions

Your next stop is St. Paraskeva Church (20). You’ll be walking a distance of 220 m.

20. St. Paraskeva Church

What to see in Vilnius: The Neo-Byzantine style Church of St. Paraskeva is one of the best things to see on a free self-guided Vilnius walking tour.

Hidden behind the street stalls in a triangular piazza occupied by a year-round craft market is the lovely little St. Paraskeva Church. Just like the Cathedral of the Theotokos, this Orthodox Church has been around since the mid-14th century ever since Grand Duke Algirdas built a church here for his Orthodox wife.

The current building dates to the mid-19th century and is an example of Neo-Byzantine architecture. It has been returned to the Russian Orthodox faith after having been closed during the Soviet era.

Directions

Your next stop is St. Nicholas’ Church (21) which lies further down on Didžioji Street at number 12. You’ll be walking a distance of 200 m.

21. St. Nicholas’ Church

Vilnius Churches: The Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas is known for its bright facade and red ochre trimmings making it one of the best places to see when sightseeing in Vilnius.

The Russian Orthodox St. Nicholas’ Church is yet another Russian Orthodox church in the Old Town. Originally a Gothic church dating from the early 16th century, it passed into the hands of Greek Catholics in the early 17th century before receiving a Baroque makeover in the mid 18th century which included the bell tower.

The church was returned to the Russian Orthodox church in the mid 19th century. Its bright ocher facade with brick-red trimmings is certainly quite alluring and features a squat Neo-Byzantine style chapel on one side and a tapering spire on the other.

Directions

Your next stop is the Town Hall Square (22) which lies just further down south on Didžioji Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 30 m.

22. Town Hall Square

What to see in Vilnius: The bustling Town Hall Square in the heart of the Old Town is one of the must-see sights when taking a Vilnius walking tour.

Visiting Town Hall Square is one of the best things to do in Vilnius. The square has been a marketplace for centuries and is the core around which public life in the Old Town rotates.

It’s a picturesque square surrounded by multi-colored 17th and 18th-century townhouses on its east and west sides that now accommodate bars, cafes, and restaurants.

The southern end of the square is dominated by the imposing colonnaded facade of the Town Hall, built in Neoclassical style at the end of the 18th century. The Town Hall used to be a court before then, and prisoners were marched from its cells to the square to be decapitated.

Directions

Your next stop is St. Casimir’s Church (23) which lies further south on Didžioji Street at number 34. You’ll be walking a distance of 70 m.

23. St. Casimir’s Church

What to see in Vilnius: View of the pink facade of St. Casimir's Church, the first Baroque church in Vilnius and one of the must-see attractions on this free self-guided Vilnius walking tour.

St. Casimir’s Church is a beautiful 17th-century Roman Catholic church that is named for the city’s patron saint, Prince Casimir Jagiellon. It is the city’s first Baroque church and of the major sightseeing attractions in Vilnius.

It’s got a pink facade that is broken up by vertical cream lines. The best feature of the church’s exterior is the intricate crown and cross on top of the central dome which represents the dual crown of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Originally built as a Jesuit church in the early 17th century, the church has endured a turbulent history and has been heavily reconstructed several times. It was used as a granary by Napoleon’s Army in 1812 and functioned as a museum of atheism under Soviet rule before finally being reconsecrated in 1991.

Given the church’s troublesome past, the interior of the church is quite stark, apart from the ornate altarpiece.

Directions

Your next stop is the Artillery Bastion (24) which lies east on Bokšto Street at number 20. You’ll be walking a distance of 450 m.

24. Artillery Bastion

Free Self-Guided Vilnius Walking Tour: The semicircular red-brick cannon fortification of the Artillery Bastion is one of the best things to see in Vilnius.

When exploring Vilnius on foot, the seldom-visited Artillery Bastion shouldn’t be overlooked. The bastion is a semicircular, red-brick cannon fortification built as part of the city’s defenses in the first half of the 17th century. It was in use for over a century before falling into ruin by the end of the 18th century.

The bastion has had an interesting history since then. It was used as an orphanage and the city’s foremost trash dump before the Germans finally cleaned it during World War I to store ammunition. Then, during the early Soviet era, the bastion’s cool interior made it an ideal space for storing vegetables.

It now serves as a museum showcasing a rather mediocre display of weapons and armor inside. The place is more interesting for its setting and from the outside, there are nice views of the Old Town and Užupis.

Directions

Your next stop is the Laima Clock (25) which lies at Aušros Vartų No. 11. You’ll be walking a distance of 450 m.

25. Basilian Gate

What to do in Vilnius: The famous Basilian Gate is a coffee-and-cream archway that carries a white bas-relief depiction of the Holy Trinity.

The adorable Basilian Gate is an ornate coffee-and-cream archway that carries a white bas-relief depiction of the Holy Trinity. This 18-meter structure leads through to the courtyard of the long-defunct Basilian monastery.

The monastery was a major center of learning in the 16th and 17th centuries when it served as the headquarters of the Uniate (Greek-Catholic) community.

The Tsarist authorities converted it into a prison in 1823 for anti-Russian revolutionaries and held Adam Mickiewicz there the same year. The bulky gray form of the monastery’s Church of the Holy Trinity still serves Vilnius’ small community of Ukrainian Greek Catholics.

Directions

Your next stop is St. Theresa’ Church (26) which lies further south on Aušros Vartų Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 120 m.

26. St. Theresa’s Church

Vilnius Churches: The Baroque Church of St. Theresa is one of the best churches in Vilnius and one of the highlights of this self-guided walking tour of Vilnius.

The Baroque St. Theresa’s Church is yet another testament to Old Town’s leading architectural style having been founded during the early 17th century. St. Theresa’s is undoubtedly one of the must-see sights in Vilnius and its rich facade is enhanced by sandstone that was imported from Sweden.

The church is famous for its effervescent, salmon-pink predominantly Rococo interior that features some sumptuous ceiling frescoes and altars dating to the second half of the 18th century.

Trivia Tidbit

The undulating waves, vivid colors, and ornate stucco figures of Baroque architecture reached Vilnius during the first half of the 17th century, replacing Gothic and Renaissance. Baroque treasures such as St. Casimir’s Chapel and the St. Theresa’s Church were built by the Italian pioneers of Baroque. In the mid-17th century, Vilnius experienced a second wave of Baroque when local architects developed a distinct style, designing extravagant facades, coupled with roomy interiors and lavishly decorated altarpieces. The Baroque reign was short-lived and by the end of the 18th century, it had been replaced by the more understated Neoclassical style.

Directions

Your next stop is the Gates of Dawn (27) which lies further south on Aušros Vartų Street. You’ll be walking a distance of 90 m.

27. Gates of Dawn

Best things to do in Vilnius: The venerable Gates of Dawn chapel is home to the most cherished of the city’s many sacred images, The Madonna of Mercy. It is arguably the most popular sightseeing attraction in Vilnius.

The final destination of our free self-guided Vilnius walking tour is one of the city’s most famous attractions, the venerable Gates of Dawn Chapel. The chapel marks the southern border of the Old Town and is the sole remnant of the nine city gates that once were embedded in the walls of Vilnius.

Carmelite monks from St. Theresa’s Church built a chapel inside the gate in the second half of the 17th century that houses the most cherished of the city’s many sacred images, The Madonna of Mercy.

This Renaissance-style icon was painted on oak in the 1620s and is rumored to have miracle-working powers making it a top place of pilgrimage for Lithuanians and Poles. Silver votive offerings and woodcarvings surround the walls around the Madonna.

The Madonna is visible through the arched windows directly above the gate, so spare a moment to admire the sacred painting. You’ll feel a distinct air of sanctity around here and it isn’t uncommon to see people look up at the image and cross themselves as they pass below the gate.

Guided Vilnius Walking Tours

If you are very short on time or simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of a self-guided Vilnius walking tour, you can also opt to take a guided tour instead.

Undiscovered Vilnius With a Local: This three-hour walking tour of Vilnius takes you through the modern and old neighborhoods. Listen to interesting stories and legends from a local as you go past historic landmarks.

What Else to See in Vilnius

Obviously, there are more places to see in Vilnius than what we have covered in our walking tour. Places like the peaceful Antakalnis Cemetery, the Museum of Genocide Victims, the TV Tower, and the breathtaking Sts. Peter and Paul’s Church all deserve to be seen.

Where to Stay in Vilnius

The Old Town is the best place to stay in Vilnius as it is a good base to see all the major sights. There are plenty of good options in or in the vicinity of the Old Town for all budgets.

Hostel: Jimmy Jumps House, in the heart of the Old Town

Budget: Hotel Panorama, within 2 minutes of the main train and bus stations

Mid-range: Art Hotel Moon Garden, great choice in the Old Town

Splurge: Grand Hotel Kempinski Vilnius, excellent top-choice pick in the Old Town overlooking the Cathedral Square


Now, what do you think? Did you enjoy our self-guided walking tour of Vilnius? Are there any other stops that we should be adding? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hi there, I'm Mihir! I was born in India, raised there and in Australia before spending nearly a decade in Finland. I suffer from chronic fernweh and am always looking forward to a new adventure. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, beer, classic movies, history, cricket, and Australian Rules Football. Oh, there's also my partner in crime Jacky who's not too bad either 😉

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