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Vilnius is the city that has the most hot air balloons per capita.
Vilnius is the city that has the most hot air balloons per capita.

Photo: Foto: Shutterstock

8 tips for a great weekend in Vilnius

Vilnius is an attractive, multi-faceted city with a growing business community and a charming downtown area, where coffee shops, microbreweries and small design shops intertwine with church spires and orthodox onion domes. Get the most out of your short break in the city with our weekend experience tips to Vilnius.

Although you pass row upon row of neglected timber houses built in the Russian style on the way from the airport, there is little in Vilnius to suggest that it was once part of the Soviet Union. More than 25 years have passed since Lithuania broke away from the Soviet Union and, along with its sister countries in the Baltic, declared itself an independent state.

Today, the country is a member of the EU and NATO, and Vilnius is a well-maintained capital city, where the next attraction, neighborhood, church or coffee bar is never more than a stone’s throw away.

Because the city is so compact and most things are in walking distance, you don’t have to spend much effort getting on public transport or renting a car. This makes Vilnius the perfect weekend destination, a city where you can experience a lot in a short space of time without feeling that you’ve seen it all.

Hot air balloon ride

It is said that Vilnius is the only European capital you can fly over in a hot air balloon. It is also the city that has the most hot air balloons per capita, and a balloon ride over the city has become a bit of a must. When the weather is right - no wind, rain or other signs of bad weather - you can see dozens of hot air balloons soar silently over the city up to a kilometer high. It may feel a little disconcerting to get into a basket and leave the ground, but it’s a beautiful, peaceful and quite exhilarating experience to be up there amongst the clouds. Remember to wear a hat or cap to protect your head, shoes without high heels and suitable clothing to cope with the temperatures high up in the atmosphere. There’s nowhere colder than when you’re up in a hot air balloon.Price: Approx. EUR 105 per person for a one hour flight. NB: The whole excursion takes approximately 4 hours, including balloon preparation, the flight, landing, packing the balloon away and return transport.

Hot air balloon ride

Price: Approx. EUR 105 per person for a one hour flight. NB: The whole excursion takes approximately 4 hours, including balloon preparation, the flight, landing, packing the balloon away and return transport.

Welcome to Uzupis. Photo: Lise Hannibal

The Republic of Uzupis

In the early 1990s, Uzupis was a run-down working class neighborhood with a dubious reputation. More people wanted to move out than move in, opening the door for artists, students and other upstanding people to benefit from low rents, a low cost of living and space in which to run exhibitions and establish studios and workshops. Uzupis' alternative identity reached new heights when it declared itself an independent republic, complete with its own president, currency and military (of 10 men, which has since been dissolved), as well as a constitution which, among other things, gives people the right to be normal and unknown, and to keep a cat, although the cat also has the right not to be fond of its owner. Did we mention that the Republic’s national day is April 1? Explore the neighborhood, have a beer at the riverside bar below the Republic’s information center and take a ride in the “ship swing” under the bridge in the middle of the Vilnia River.

Uzupis Info Centre

Uzupio 2 a

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the Bernardiner Park Photo: Shutterstock

Bernardiner Park and the view from The Three Crosses

Cross the river from Uzupis and take a wander through the beautiful Bernardiner Park, which was established as a monastery in 1469. Today, there is a fountain, botanical garden, extremely old trees and a wonderful network of pathways that is popular with walkers and runners. The park is located behind Bernardiner Church and the Gothic St. Anne Church, which you can conveniently visit on the way to the park. Take the park path along the Vilnia River and cross to the other side to Kainų Park, where the hill with The Three Crosses can be seen in the distance. Go up to the top of the hill and be rewarded with a magnificent view of the entire city of Vilnius.

Bernadinų Sodas og Trys Kryziai

Få bakketræning og udsigt på Tre Kors Højen. Foto: Shutterstock

Experience the city in running shoes

Would you like to combine a guided city tour with a training session? If you would, then Vilnius Runnings Tours is worth checking out. Local runners take you on routes around the city, which can be 3-5 km, 7-12 km or 12-20 km in length. During the run, you will pass by some of the most exciting sights and learn about their fascinating histories. You will also be given a t-shirt, water and receive a digital map of the route sent to you at the end of the run.Vilnius is also a great city if you want to go running on your own, with a number of centrally located parks and a wonderful promenade along the Neris River. If you decide to run down by the river, you will be greeted by a view of the old town on one side and new business complexes on the other. Another good route goes around Bernardiner Park, where you pass historical sights such as the Gediminas Tower and the Archduke’s Palace and can run over to the other side of the river to go hill training - and enjoy a panoramic view - by The Three Crosses.

Vilnius Runnings Tours

Tymo Turgus food and organic market

Every Thursday and Saturday you can find local organic produce, second hand clothing and environmentally friendly products at The Little Good Food & Culture Festival at the Tymo market just outside Uzupis. On Fridays and Saturdays during the summer, the market also hosts the Open Kitchen event, where vendors sell everything from grilled pork to waffles, soup and Thai food. A good place for a cheap bite and some people watching.

Tymo Turgus

På pladsen mellem Aukštaičių/Maironio syd for Uzupis.

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facebook.com/openkitchenlt

Shopping in Vilnius. Foto: Lise Hannibal

Shopping in Vilnius

The main shopping streets in the city are Gediminas prospekt, which is home to many international high-street chain stores, Pilies Gatve, lined with shops selling souvenirs such as amber, linen and ceramics, and Didzioji Gatve, which boasts more exclusive international and Lithuanian brands. There are also a number of large shopping malls, including Europa, Akropolis, Panorama and the excellent GO9, where you can find Butiq, a store that features funky brand in everything from rainwear to jewelry. If you want to take home something special, it’s worth paying a visit to the small shops in the side streets of the old town.

Shopping in Vilnius

Sv Ignoto Gatve

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Check out Stiklių g., where you will find great items in Pudrine in the backyard of no. 7 or Sv Ignoto Gatve with the De'Žavu Vintage Boutique in no. 3.

Trakai - the castle on the lake. Photo: Shutterstock

Castle tour to Trakai and Uzutrakis

Half an hour's drive outside Vilnius is Trakai Historical National Park, the main attraction of which is the medieval Trakai Castle, picturesquely located on an island in the middle of Lake Galvė. The castle was built in the 14th century to provide protection against the Teutonic crusaders, but suffered substantial damage during the wars against the Moscow princes in the 16th century. A major program of restoration works began at the beginning of the 20th century, and the castle has now been fully restored and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Vilnius. As a result, the lakeside is awash with cafes, souvenir shops and boat tour and kayak rental operators. However, just a few kilometers away, this hustle and bustle gives way to the natural beauty of the lake area, giving you an experience of unparalleled tranquility. It is here that you will find Uzutrakis, the white palatial residence of the Tyszkiewicz family, located right on the shore of the lake and with a delightful castle and sculpture park. There is a small museum and you can drink coffee or eat breakfast in the cafe.

Trakai Island Castle

Uzutrakis-paladset: Uztrakio g. 17, seniejitrakai.lt/u-utrakis-manor-estate/

KGB museum

In a building that was formerly the KGB’s headquarters in Vilnius, a museum has been set up to tell the story of what Lithuanians describe as the genocide of their nation during the years of Communist rule. The building initially served as the headquarters of the German Gestapo between 1941 and 1944, from which the German occupying force launched their acts to eradicate the city’s Jewish population. After the war, it was taken over by the KGB, the infamous secret police of the Soviet Union. The museum tells the story of the deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia, the resistance movement against Communism, torture and horrendous prison conditions. The cells remain as they were when the KGB abandoned them in 1991.

Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights

Aukų g. 2A.

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Closed Monday and Tuesday.

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