The capital and largest city of Lithuania, Vilnius has a rich history and a reputation as a thriving city at the heart of the new Europe. Vilnius contains one of the largest surviving medieval quarters in Europe, cosmopolitan restaurants, stylish boutique hotels, and museums proliferate in this city of roughly half a million people. Added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994, the city's Old Town (Senamiestis) contains almost 2,000 Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings which are centred on the spectacular Cathedral Square. The Vilnius Cathedral has become a national symbol since it was first built in in 1387-88. Although the cathedral was turned into a picture gallery during the Soviet times, it was reconsecrated in 1989 and mass has been celebrated daily ever since. Vilnius' diverse neighbourhoods will take you on a journey through the centuries, from the ancient Gediminas Castle that has its roots in the ninth century to the Soviet-style residential areas that conjure up memories of Lithuania's recent history. Located in a former Soviet prison, The Museum of Genocide Victims is one of the city's most visited attractions, detailing the many of years of repression under the Soviet authorities.
When to fly to Vilnius
The best time to visit Vilnius is between May and September when a large number of events and festivals are held around the city. Vilnius never feels more vibrant than in summer, the season when the people of the city embrace the outdoors. The city can be quite cold from October until early March, but once the weather is warm enough, outdoor terraces pop up all over the city centre. The locals love eating and drinking al fresco and many restaurants will even provide outdoor blankets to ensure that their guests keep warm as night falls. The influx of summer tourists makes this period the most expensive time to visit the city but adventurous tourists will find plenty to do during the off-peak and shoulder seasons. For example the celebrated Vilnius Jazz festival that takes place annually over the course long weekend in the middle of October.
Getting around Vilnius
Although Vilnius' Old Town is one of the largest in Europe, it can be easily navigated on foot. When travelling from the airport or around the city centre please be aware that street taxis charge as much as twice the price as taxis booked in advance.