Vilnius

Vilnius (also known under its Polish and Yiddish name, Wilno and its German name, Wilna) is the capital and largest city of Lithuania. It lies on the bank of Neris river and has approximately 560,000 inhabitants. Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture in 2009, along with Linz in Austria.

Understand

View from Gediminas Tower to the TV tower in the west

Demographics

Inhabited since the Middle Ages, Vilnius has always been a multinational city with Polish, German, Jewish, Russian and Belorussian people making a substantial share of its population. According to the last census of 2011, the population included 63.2% Lithuanians, 16.5% Poles, 12% Russians, 3.5% Belarusians, and 1.0% Ukrainians. During World War II, 80,000 Jews from Vilnius were murdered by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators at the forest of Paneriai and other nearby places. After the war, most of the urban Polish population was moved to Poland, while during 1950–1970 they were replaced by people from parts of Lithuania, neighbouring parts of Belarus, as well as Russia, Ukraine and other Soviet republics.

Get in

By plane

Entrance of the airport

Vilnius International Airport (IATA: VNO), Rodunios kelias 10a, +370 5 273 9305, is the largest civil airport in Lithuania and is 6km south of city center. There are flights to most major airports in the northern half of Europe and a few destinations nearby former CIS countries and some regular and charter flights to Mediterranean destinations. Over half of the destinations are served by either budget or charter airlines. List of airlines can be found here.

Transfers

Kaunas International Airport (IATA: KUN), is the second busiest civil airport in Lithuania located ~100km west of Vilnius in a small town Karmėlava NE of Kaunas.

Transfers from Kaunas airport to Vilnius

By train

Vilnius railway station

Lietuvos Geležinkeliai operates trains from major destinations. There are daily train connections with Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad and Minsk. The line between Vilnius and Warsaw closed in September 2013 for track works, expected to be complete by the end of 2015. The train station in Vilnius is located just south of downtown.

By car

Motorways serve Vilnius from Klaipeda via Kaunas and from Panevezys. The modern four-lane motorways and main roads are in a very good state, however, in the winter smaller roads are not cleared. The speed-limit is 130 km/h on the motorways (110 km/h in winter), but 100 km/h on the Vilnius-Kaunas sector, 90 km/h outside towns and 50 km/h in built up areas.

By bus

The bus station is located across the street from the main train station. A schedule of all regional buses is posted near the ticket window.

Eurolines, Ecolines and Lux Express operate service between Vilnius and Kaunas, Kaliningrad, Riga, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, and Warsaw, with further connections all over Europe.

You can find some schedules for regional buses and trains here.

Get around

On foot

Although the Old Town is one of the largest in Europe, it can easily be explored on foot.

By bus or trolleybus

Vilnius Transport operates buses and trolleybuses in Vilnius. A single ticket for either bus or trolleybus use costs €1, purchased from the driver (cash only). Ticket bought from the driver needs to be stamped by putting it into the tiny red machine near the driver cabin and pulling the rear part towards you to punch the ticket.

If you are planning to use public transportation more than a few times, buying a Vilniečio kortelė debit card may be significantly cheaper option. 24hour ticket costs €3.48, 72hour - €6.08, 240hour - €11.87, 30day - €28.96. Ticket must be validated on your first journey by swiping the debit card at the yellow electronic reader on the bus. Seniors older than 70 years are eligible for 50% discount, while European Union students studying in the EU universities are eligible for 80% discount. ISIC and/or ID card (or passport) must be provided while prepaying debit card and in case of ticket control during the trip.

For less frequent trips you can top-up your Vilniečio kortelė card with 30min and 60min (€0.64 and €0.93) tickets (students and seniors are eligible for 50% discount). Validated tickets let passengers to change buses during the trip.

Vilniečio kortelė debit card can be purchased from a Lietuvos spauda either Narvesen kiosks, Maxima grocery stores, Lithuanian post offices, or at Customer Service Center (Gedimino pr. 9A) for €1.5. You can prepay this card in these locations and in PayPost offices.

Alternatively tourist-oriented Vilnius City Card includes unlimited use of public transportation.

Official public transport route map can be found here.

Beware that trolleybuses and other buses use the same numbering system but the routes are completely different.

There are several routes of the fast buses (not trolleybuses) called "Greitasis" (Express) which stop only at major stops and connect important parts of the city (residential districts - centre - air port and such), they have the route number with a trailing letter "G" on a green background, the schedules and routes are marked in green. Routes and numbers of the regular buses are marked in blue, those of the trolleybuses are marked in red.

By taxi

A regular cab may cost about €5-15 if you need to get from periphery of the city to the center, while shortest trips will cost you ~€4. You should always call a taxi by phone, even if you see a taxi on the street nearby. Street taxis charge as much as twice the price as taxis called by phone. Good practice is to dial the number written on the vehicle you see, tell dispatcher the address you're at, and you will most likely get the same vehicle for a lower price.

Somewhat higher priced and higher class taxi companies are Jazzexpress, Smarttaxi, and municipality-owned Vilnius veža. Every car is relatively new and equipped with card reader so you can pay for the trip using your debit or credit card.

Also you can order taxi on the internet here. Smartphone apps may be found at the bottom of the screen, also at taxify.eu for higher class taxi companies.

All taxi cars must have yellow license plate starting with letter T with additional 5 numbers and a 'Taxi' sign on the roof. Detailed price list alongside driver's taxi-operator license must be placed on the panel right in front of passenger seat next to the driver.

While paying for the taxi service it is expected to leave €0.50-1 tip for the driver.

By car

Traveling by car is not advised during rush hours (7-9AM and 4-6.30PM) to and from the city center due to traffic jams. Parking fees can differ from 0.30€/h to 1.80€/h in the old town.

Car rental

There are several well known foreign car rental companies as well as several domestic companies in Vilnius.

It is advised to book online from an English language website such as Car Rental or Neo Rent. Cheaper options available are: RentDay, JARR autoservisas, Drive.lt.

City-Bee operates a car sharing network where you can rent a car by the hour. There is no contract nor monthly fee, you pay only for the service when you use the car, no parking expenses when you are not using it. There are 13 pick-up points throughout the city, mostly in the centre and some relevant points in northern districts.

By bicycle

In the city centre you often find bike lanes; however, that doesn't mean they are well respected. The only "real" bicycle path leads along the river Neris North to Verkiai Nature park and the "Green lakes".

Bicycle trails

Five reasonable bicycle routes within city limits and Green Lakes area are presented in bilingual leaflet Bicycle Routes in the City of Vilnius. Development of bicycle path connections and improvement of the existing network is scheduled to complete until 2020. New paths to the most remote districts and recreation areas as well as densification of the network in the centre is scheduled to complete in c.2027. So far development is fragmentary and carried out in relevant spots "step by step".

Bicycle rental

See

Three Crosses
Vilnius Cathedral
Old house on Pilies
Business center at night
Cemetery of the Sun

Vilnius Tourist Information has 3 offices in the old town and a kiosk in the airport where you can obtain maps and suggestions free of charge.

Old town

It is a district which has developed during Middle Ages as a city surrounded by a defensive wall. The urban structure reflects the development from ca. 14th century, the architecture of the buildings is mostly from late Renaissance to Classicism periods. There are 4 rather distinct areas of the Old Town: Castle complex with an old hill fort, Cathedral and newly reconstructed Ducal Palace, these all buildings and a Cathedral square form the very centre of the city; old Town Hall with its vicinity form the centre of the Old Town itself; "Užupis", a "subdistrict" separated by the Vilnia River (it reflects in its name, literally a "Place On The Other Side Of The River"); and the north-west area featured by Vilnius street, largely damaged during the WWII.

The most attractive part, historically known as a block of artisan guilds, in the beginning of WWII was turned into two Jewish ghettos, commonly known as Vilnius Ghetto. It operated until 24 Sept 1943. In 1994, the Old Town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Užupis District

A largely unrestored area primarily occupied by artists, dreamers, squatters, and drunks. In 1998, the residents unofficially declared the area to be an independent republic, with its own president, anthem, flag, and constitution. Great to visit on April Fools day, when mock border guards stamp passports and the entire area erupts into a party.

Churches

Museums

Monuments & statues

Parks & cemeteries

There is an interesting Jewish cemetery in Šeškinė that includes the grave of Vilna Gaon, a very important rabbi. By the entrance to Vingis park is a war cemetery with Russian, German, Hungarian, Polish and Turkish soldiers from both wars. Oldest cemeteries are Rasų and Bernardinų. Also Saulės kapinės (Cemetery of the Sun) in Antakalnis district.

Do

Throughout the year, there are a variety of cultural, music, cinema, theatre, art, and fashion festivals taking place.

Interior of St. Peter and St. Paul's Church

Spectator sports

Music and theater

Adventure activities

Learn

Work

The average wage is around €670 a month. Lithuania's unemployment rate is one of the highest in the European Union.

Buy

Small market in old town opening

ATMs are very common in Vilnius and most shops accept major credit cards.

Vilnius is famous for its amber, wool socks, hats and flaxware.

Upscale retailers present in Vilnius include Hugo Boss, Armani, Escada, Dolce & Gabbana, John Richmond, ZARA, United Colors of Benetton, H&M and Mango. There are also some young local designer butiques in Stiklių street. Pilies street is where you can find tourist souvenirs. Instead of going to the big stores, you can buy from the road side stalls, and you will have a very good deal on hand made socks, necklaces, earrings and other souvenirs.

Chains of grocery stores and large supermarkets are: Maxima, Rimi, Barbora, Iki, Prisma, Freshmarket, Aibė and Norfa.

Shopping Malls


Eat

In addition to the restaurants listed below, almost all of the bars in Vilnius serve reasonably priced good quality food.

Budget

Mid-range

Rotušės square

Splurge

Drink

The most popular local beer is Švyturys, meaning lighthouse. Available in lots of different styles but "Ekstra" is probably the best. The other brands of beer include Kalnapilis, Tauras, and Utenos. All of them are variations on the theme of bog-standard euro-lager. If you're a beer enthusiast forget Svyturys and other big brands - try Alaus namai (The House of Beer) and Bambalynė (see section Bars).

Lithuanian vodka (Lithuanian degtinė) is of excellent quality. The brand 'Lithuanian Vodka' is quite popular. The gold is the premium version. Cranberry is also nice.

Drink carefully as most bars will politely ask you to leave if they notice that you appear drunk (staggering, yelling, grabbing strangers). Falling asleep in bars is not tolerated. If you break a glass, many places will expect to be repaid for it on the spot but it's usually a very reasonable price.

Smoking is banned in all public places. However, a number of nightclubs have internal smoke rooms; the ventilation can be of variable quality. If you leave a club to smoke outside, make sure you get stamped and get eye contact from the bouncers so you won't have problems getting back in. It can be a good idea to show the bouncer your cigarette or cigarette packet, before exiting the premises.

Clubs

Bars

Cafes

There are plenty of cafés in Vilnius, including few coffee shop chains: Coffee-Inn, AJ Šokoladas, Šviežia Kava which are easy to find anywhere without any guidance. A proper café typically is not just a coffee shop but some sort of a restaurant which features certain café-like interior and has a rather democratic etiquette policy. During day time they often operate like simple eateries, in the evening they turn to the family style or youth restaurants.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Wi-fi

There are abundant free wi-fi hotspots all over the city, including Gedimino prospect, Vokiečių street Gatve, Pilles street, Cathedral Square, and Town Hall Square. Free wi-fi is also available in some restaurants.

Internet terminals

There are not many public internet terminals in Vilnius. The following offer access to a computer:

Postal service

Vilniaus centrinis paštas operates 173 post offices in Vilnius, including the large central post office at Gediminas ave 7. These offices handle all postal services, money orders, and Western Union money transfers.

Stay safe

Business center and a White Bridge at night

Taxis in tourist areas can overcharge 3 times the normal rate.

Vilnius is a relatively safe city; however, crimes do occur. Use typical common sense.

Try and walk with confidence and never look lost. Being drunk and acting obviously foreign in the middle of the night is a bad idea. If you have traveled by train to visit a nightclub or other venue, take taxis to and from your venue, and upon return to the railway station remain in the ticket hall, which is patrolled by security guards.

Dangerous areas

Cope

Left luggage

The coin-operated baggage lockers in the cellar of the railway station are a secure place to store bags and other items for LTL3 per day. Ensure that nobody is around when you are getting the receipt, because there are thieves who pretend to be station staff.

Medical help

Dentists

Embassies

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 12, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.