I didn’t quite know what to expect when I arrived in Lithuania’s capital – Vilnius – to spend the weekend solo. Will it give me the cold shoulder? Is it as medieval and authentic as Tallinn? Is it boring? Fun? Pretty? Drab? What is Vilnius, Lithuania like? Forget the entire weekend, will I even want to spend one day in Vilnius?
As it turns out Vilnius is a fascinating city. It has history, culture, a unique food scene, and friendly locals. As a solo female traveler, if you choose to visit Vilnius, there’s plenty of ways to pass time as you make your way through town. From the many churches scattered throughout the city to the mom and pop shops found on the street corners. Outdoor markets, outdoor cafes, and UNESCO protected sites can be seen throughout Vilnius. It’s a city that was never high on my list of places to visit, but it’s a place that I can only hope to return to again.
By the time I stepped foot into Lithuania I was pleasantly surprised at my experience with the locals. A friendly cab driver greeted me at the airport and whisked me off to the old town. From there on any restaurant, I entered, or bar I bellied up to, time and time again the locals were friendly and helpful. Offering recommendations and telling me what made Vilnius so special. This is something, as a solo traveler, you can only dream to find! Aside from the friendly locals, another thing that I appreciated about the city was that each important site or building was labeled on a plaque outside. You never had to wonder, “what am I looking at?” The name of the building with a description was always right in front of you.
One Day in Vilnius
Useful Information About Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, one of the Baltic States. It shares a border with Poland, Belarus, Latvia, and on the west coast of the Baltic Sea. As mentioned earlier, my encounter with the locals was always pleasant with most everyone spoke fluent English, or enough to communicate. However, the official language of Lithuania is Lithuanian. The country is apart of the EU and utilizes the Euro for its currency. While Vilnius is walkable you can take a taxi, Uber, or Bolt if you’re not up for walking. For bus schedules to and from Vilnius, a good resource is Lux Express or Ecolines.
How to Spend the Morning in Vilnius
With only one day in Vilnius, expect to be busy! Start your morning early with a stroll through one of the largest and oldest markets in Lithuania, Halle Market. It’s located in the old town, and open six days/week (closed on Mondays). Hours of operation vary from 0700-1800 Tuesday-Saturday and 0700-1500 on Sunday. If you don’t eat at the market, for breakfast (or a cup of coffee), head to the tea house Pinavija Cafe and Bakery. Only a 20-minute walk from the market through the old town. Here you can expect to enjoy incredible food and a relaxing atmosphere smelling of baked goods and ground coffee.
After breakfast participate in the free walking tour that is offered by the team from Yellow Vilnius Free Walking Tour. As a solo traveler, there’s no better way than to see the city on foot while making friends at the same time! And free? Win, win! The team at Yellow does a great job of getting you away from the tourist hot spots and showing you tucked away gems of the city. Plus they load you with tons of useful information about Vilnius including the past, present, and future of the city. The tour is offered every day at 1000 and 1200.
How to Spend the Afternoon in Vilnius
Once the afternoon hits spend time sightseeing. Begin in the Užupis neighborhood where there are many local bars and restaurants around to choose from. Užupis is a neighborhood located in the old town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Užupis is the art district of Vilnius with nearly 1/7 of the inhabitants of being artists. The meaning of Užupis is “beyond the river”, with the Vilnia River separating it from the old town.
Here you can expect to come across interactive art installations throughout the neighborhood (when I visited there were multiple pianos acting as interactive installations), street murals, and more. There’s a “water fountain” that doubles as a “beer fountain” on April 1st. And on Paupio Street you’ll find the “Constitution of Užupis” along a wall which is translated into 23 different languages. Rules include – “A dog as the right to be a dog”, “People have the right to be happy”, etc.
In Užupis, you’ll find local pubs such as Špunka and restaurants such as Sweet Root (reservations necessary), Užupio Picerija, and more. It’s the perfect area to stay for lunch or a drink.
Once you’re done exploring Užupis head back to the old town to hit the main sites of Vilnius. These include St Anne’s Church, a beautiful gothic church located near Užupis, free entrance, and open seven days/week from 1000-1800. Walk along Pilies Street, one of the main streets in town where you’ll find bars, restaurants, and an outdoor market. Pass by Gate of Dawn, one of the most important historical and religious sites in Vilnius. And admire Grand Church of St John and the Vilnius Cathedral from outside.
How to Spend the Night in Vilnius
Before the sunsets head to the Gediminas Castle Tower for views over Vilnius. You can walk up the hill for free and enjoy the sunset or enter the tower for a fee of five Euro, which will also get you higher up. The tower is open seven days/week from 1000-2000. If you’re willing to walk further and want better views, instead head to the Three Crosses where you can walk up the hill for free.
Once the sun sets head back to the old town for dinner. If you’re up to try some local beer and/or bar food to the popular local spot, Būsi Trečias.
As you can tell, there are many ways to fill your day if you plan on spending one day in Vilnius. From the art scene to the culture, and everything in between; Vilnius is a city that should be explored. So next time you find yourself in Europe or craving something more “off the beaten path”, try out Lithuania. It truly impressed me.