Medieval churches sit on old cobblestone streets and everything melts into a pink mirage come sunset. It’s almost hard to believe that you can find a renegade republic and shoot a Tommy gun in the same city. Here are our tips.
Get A City Tour of Old Vilnius
Vilnius is yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the largest surviving (and arguably most gorgeous) medieval quarters in Europe. Case in point: the 13th century St Ann’s Church.
I’m not usually a fan of tours, but there’s more than meets the eye with this old city and the best way to appreciate its history is to take a free city tour. They start in Town Hall and you can get info at any hostel or hotel.
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania is the stuff that fairytales are made of. Another favorite: the fluffy, bubble gum exterior of St. Casimir’s Cathedral.
Find the Runaway Republic of Užupis and Get Your Passport Stamped
Cross the bridge and walk over the Vilnia River to the neighborhood of Užupis. The renegade district has declared itself an independent republic from Lithuania since April 1st, 1997. (Notice the date.) The republic has its own flag, currency, president, cabinet of ministers, and of course, constitution (see below).
Come on April 1st, Užupis’ Independence Day and get your passport stamped. If you can’t make it then, the Republic is forgiving. Just go inside the Užupis Cafe (pictured above), and a waitress will knowingly nod her head, reach inside of a drawer, and bestow upon you a stamp of validation.
Go back outside and take a flight of steps until you’re under the bridge. Find the swing over the river and make merry!
Off to the side of the bridge, spot a whimsical mermaid.
On the bridge, find some love locks.
Take a 10-minute walk to Paupio Street, and you’ll find the Constitution of Užupis fixed to the wall. It declares perfectly just statements like: “Man has the right to individuality”, “a dog has the right to be a dog”, and my personal favorite, “a cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of need.”
Climb up the Bell Tower of Vilnius University
Climb the Bell Tower of the University of Vilnius for an amazing spread of the city.
Change Courses and Shoot a Gun in an Open Field
Take advantage of the plethora of artillery choices and the wide open fields, and book a session at a gun range. Our instructor picked us up from our hostel and drove 30 minutes outside of Old Town.
Catch a stellar Sunset
Enter through Bernardine Park, stroll along the river and climb up Hill of Three Crosses.
Check out Old Vilnius from the Hill of Three Crosses.
Spy Gediminas Tower off in the distance. It’s the very last bit of the Upper Castle that’s still standing in Old Vilnius.
Contemplate life, or nothing at all, but remember to come prepared with a bottle of wine.
Take a night stroll through Old Town
Finish off by walking along Pilles Street. It runs from Cathedral Square to Town Hall and it’s line with cafes, small shops and artwork being sold along the street. Our rec: Forto Dvaras for local dishes like meat zeppelins, wild mushroom soup, and deep-fried cod.
Walk all the way to the southern edge of Old Vilnius and rendezvous with the Gate of Dawn, the only surviving piece of the city’s one defensive wall. Our accommodations, Hostel Gate, were right by here.