Heading to Vilnius in winter? You’re in the right place. During the winter in Vilnius, you can experience the city similarly to the rest of the year, just with slightly colder weather.
Vilnius is a beautiful city, and as long as the cold weather (and some snow) doesn’t bother you – then you can enjoy your time there in winter. I visited Vilnius in December, and was dazzled by the incredible Christmas markets and the street decorations throughout the old town.
In addition to the architectural beauty, Vilnius has a lot of interesting history behind it – it was the first Baltic country to break free from Soviet influence, in 1990; prior to that, they were under Soviet rule for 50 years. It’s Old Town is 1,000 years old and is a UNSECO Heritage Sight, with some fascinating things to check out.
Bearing all this in mind, I don’t believe you’ll regret your trip to Vilnius, regardless of the time of year.
So, let’s jump in — everything you need to know about Vilnius in winter.
Weather in Vilnius in Winter
The winter months do get pretty chilly in Vilnius, with highs below 0° (32°F) most of the time. They often begin receiving snow in December.
Here’s a chart of what you can expect temperature-wise during the winter months in Vilnius.
|Winter Months in Vilnius||Average Daily Temperature|
|December||High: 0° (32°F) Low:-5° (23°F)|
|January||High: -2° (28.4°F) Low: -7° (19.4°F)|
|February||High: -1° (33.8°F) Low: -7° (19.4°F)|
Be sure to bring layers, and all winter clothing – coats, hats, scarves, gloves and warm footwear. While many of the attractions are outdoor based, such as strolling through Old Town – there are also quite a few attractions that allow you to escape the cold indoors to warm up.
Is Vilnius worth visiting in winter?
I would say yes, Vilnius is worth visiting in winter. If the cold weather doesn’t bother you, then the city is just as spectacular in winter as it is at any other time.
The month of December is particularly beautiful in Vilnius with the Christmas markets, and lights throughout the city. But even in January and February (the coldest months of the year) you can enjoy everything Vilnius has to offer, but with more layers of clothing.
One benefit to visiting Vilnius in winter is the shorter days. The sun sets between 4pm and 5:55pm in the months of December through February, which means you can enjoy the city lit up, and get some photos of it from a few places we’ll mention below.
Whether you’re a group or solo adult, or travelling to Vilnius with kids – Vilnius is a beautiful Baltic city to visit any time of the year.
Things to Do in Vilnius in Winter
Here are the things you don’t want to miss while you’re in Vilnius, and any particular information there is to know about visiting them in the winter months
1. Take in Old town
Vilnius’s Old Town is a UNSECO World Heritage sight and one of the most beautiful old towns in Europe. Having travelled extensively in Europe, I have to agree- Old Town in Vilnius is one of my favourites.
Vilnius Old Town was founded in the 1200s and has a lot of fascinating history behind it – as well as beautiful architecture and historical buildings and sights to check out. Give yourself an afternoon of strolling through the Old Town, admiring the narrow cobbled pedestrian-only streets, the quaint boutique stores and restaurants.
Vilnius’s Old Town covers an area of 3.59 square kms (887 acres) and its one of the largest Old Towns in Europe, so you will get your steps in as you walk around, admiring the architecture and ambiance.
Here are some places of interest to check out during a walk around Vilnius’s Old Town:
- Gates of Dawn, an archway for the protective wall that was built around Vilnius in the 1500s
- St. Anne’s Church, a beautiful 15th century red gothic church, the most famous church in the city
- Vilnius Cathedral, located in Cathedral Square. There are works of art inside from the 16th -19th century, and many famous people from Lithuanian and Polish history are buried in its crypt. See ticket information here if you want to visit the crypt
Consider doing a small-ground walking tour with a professional guide who will share all the fascinating details behind the monuments and historic buildings in Vilnius.
Check out and book this small group walking tour in Vilnius Old Town
2. Spend an afternoon at Trakai Castle
Trakai Island Castle is a medieval, 1,000-year old castle just 23 kms from Trakai. It sits on an island in the middle of a lake, Lake Galvė. With a thin coat of snow on the ground, it looks almost like a fairy tale in the wintertime.
You get to the castle from crossing a bridge over the lake (pictured below) and you are free to explore the whole place -there’s are courtyards, several rooms, a museum, and gift shop.
Give yourself at least 2 hours to spend walking around Trakai Castle, but even more to explore the historical village of Trakai which was traditionally been inhabited by Karaim people, which are descendents of Turks who migrated to Lithuania.
In Trakai, you can try a “kibani” which is a traditional Karaim pastry filled with either meat, mushrooms, potatoes or cheese. There was a food truck outside the castle where we grabbed one from, but you can also find them in restaurants in the village.
To get to Trakai, you can take public transit, drive or book a tour – the Trakai is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Vilnius.
Book your afternoon to Trakai Castle with traditional Karaim lunch
3. Walk through the Uzupiz Neighbourhood
Uzupiz is a unique, must-see, bohemian neighbourhood in Vilnius, that declares itself as being an independent country. It actually has its own flag, and its own national holiday (April 1st.) The neighbourhood is full of street art, hole in the wall cafés and neighbourhoods.
For those that have been to Toronto, its similar to the Kensington Market – but much more elaborate in terms of the art work. There are modern art structures in the street; its like the neighbourhood has been completely transformed into an artistic pallet.
Užupis (pronounced “ooh-zhou-pees” – meaning, “over the river” in Lithuanian) is about a 20-minute walk from Vilnius Old Town.
We did the walk in December, but in the colder months, you may prefer to take a cab depending on how cold it is (since you’ll be outside already as you walk around the neighbourhood.) A taxi to Užupis from old town will take about 4 minutes
4. Take a day trip to the Hill of Crosses
Hill of Crosses is a site in northern Lithuania where for an unknown reason, people have been leaving crosses since the 1800s. To date, there are over 20,000 crosses here, as well as pathways through the piles where you walk through, exploring them.
It is believed that the tradition of leaving the crosses here began after the 1831 Uprising, when Lithuanians and Poles lost their rebellion against the Russians.
Hill of Crosses has been turned into a tourist attraction, with visitor centre and gift shop where can buy souvenirs. It’s not really close to anything else, so you can either drive here round trip from Vilnius, or stop at it during a road trip if you’re headed north.
Hill of Crosses is open daily and is about a 2.5 hour drive from Vilnius Old Town.
Book your day trip to Hill of Crosses here
5. Get a view of the lit up city from Gedimina’s Tower
Winter means that it gets darker early in Vilnius, between 4 and 6pm throughout the winter months. Take advantage of getting a lit-up view of Vilnius by night. The best place to do this from is Gedimina’s Tower.
Gedimina’s Tower is an attraction in itself- its the remains of the Upper Castle which was built in 1409.
Gedimina’s Tower is open from 10am – 8pm daily, so plenty of time to see the Vilnius night sky in the evening in winter. You can get there in a 15-minute walk from Old Town, or you can trolleybuses 2, 4, 10, 17 or buses 10 and 33. They all stop in the park where the castle stands. From there, its a 5-10 minute steep hike to the top.
But, the view is worth it! Give yourself a little bit of time to look at the exhibits inside of the tower as well.
6. Warm up to a hot cuppa
There are several cozy cafés throughout Vilnius Old Town and surrounding city where you can grab a hot drink to warm up before heading back out to bear the cold weather.
Caffeine is the largest coffee chain in the Baltic countries; they have about 60 locations throughout Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. There are a few Caffeine locations in Vilnius.
7. Visit the former KGB Museum
Lithuania’s KGB Museum has been rebranded into the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights which documents the 50 years that they were occupied by Russia.
KGB Museums are common in the former Soviet countries, showcasing the history of being under Russian rule. There are 3-floors which detail some sad, but important stories of atrocities committed by the Soviet Union in Lithuania . In the basement, are cells were prisoners were kept, and tortured.
The Museum of Occupation and Freedom Fights is open from 10am – 6pm Wednesday through Saturday, and until 5pm on Sunday.
8. Get some fresh air in Kalnai Park
Kalnai Park is a historic, 61-acre (24.5-hectare) park in Vilnius that’s too interesting not to be missed. There are some hills, and stairs and landscaped grounds. Even if its cold outside, the walking you do should keep you warm, especially if you go at a brisk pace.
Kalnai Park is one of the most legendary places in Vilnius, and said to hold some of the city’s earliest history.
In Kalnai Park, you have the option of hiking up the Three Crosses, (pictured above) from which you can get a beautiful panoramic view of Vilnius Old Town. There’s a legend attached the Three Crosses, that 13 monks were murdered on that hill in the 1200s – this has not been proven, but its a story that has been passed down generations.
Hiking up to The Three Crosses will take about one hour, and will test your fitness a little bit – but its a great way to stay warm in the chilly weather.
Otherwise, you can simply stroll through the park and enjoy the nature. Even in winter, you will see people spending time in the park.
9. Walk through the Rasos Cemetary
Rasos Cemetary is the most famous cemetery in Vilnius. Its 250 years old, and built on a hill of a foresty area just outside the city. It might seem unsettling to walk through a graveyard, but you can learn a lot about Vilnius’s history from a visit here, and its a decently popular tourist attraction.
Rasos was the first cemetery in Vilnius to be built outside of the city limits (rather than beside a church.) At first, people did not want to be buried here because there was a stigma about being buried “in the countryside” about it only being for the poor. However, overtime, that changes – many famous Lithuanian and Polish people are buried here.
It would take about 25 minutes to walk to Raso’s Cementary from Old Town, or from Uzupis neighbourhood, but there are also buses that stop here.
Good to Know: The gates of the cemetery get closed, so try to arrive during daytime hours between 10am and 5pm if you’d like to take a walk through it.
10. Eat at Etno Dvaras
Etno Dvaras is a Lithuanian chain restaurant that serves traditional Lithuanian food. There is a location right in Old Town Vilnius, on Pilies street. We recommend sitting in the basement, if you can – its so cozy down there, especially in winter. (But the upstairs was nicely decorated too.)
Traditional Lithuanian dishes include meat dishes, potatoes, dumplings, soups and salads. The English menu of Etno Dvaras can be viewed here.
I highly recommend getting here a bit early if you want to eat dinner; Ivisited Vilnius in December there was a long lineup outside of this restaurant every night.
11. Watch the ‘Changing of the Flag’ at the Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace building dates back to the 14the century, and is where the current president of Lithuania works.
You can take a guided tour of the inside of the palace, or watch a 15-minute ‘changing of the flag’ ceremony which is done by unformed guards and held at 12pm on Sundays.
English-speaking guided tours of the Presidential Palace are done on Sundays between 10am and 3pm, and can be booked online through their website here.
12. Learn about world currency at the Money Museum
The Money Museum in Vilnius features exhibits that teaches you about the history of currency from around the world.
The museum is run by the Bank of Lithuania and you can do 1.5 guided-tours completely free of charge. (Languages available are Lithuanian and English.) These tours must be booked in advance through the bank, and can be done so here.
Where to Stay in Vilnius in Winter
In the winer especially, it would be convenient to stay somewhere central where you don’t have to walk more than just a few minutes to get to some of the attractions you want to see. Here are the places I recommend:
- Budget: Happy Inn -1 bedroom apartment right in Old Town for a great price
- Mid-range: Artagonist Hotel – I stayed here; it is well located right in Old Town and served best buffet breakfast my husband and I have ever had
- Luxury: Conti Hotel –Provides an elevated experience with a buffet breakfast, spacious and stylish, comfy suites
Vilnius in Winter: FAQs
Here are the most commonly asked questions about visiting Vilnius in winter
Is December a good time to visit Vilnius?
December is a uniquely beautiful time to visit Vilnius. Not only is this medieval, 100-year old city majestic in itself, but its especially stunning in December with the lit up narrow streets, snow globe cafés and two Christmas trees in two of the different Old Town squares.
How cold is Lithuania in the winter?
The average low in Lithuania throughout the wintertime is -7° C (19.4°F) , and the high sits around an average of -1° C (33.8°F). So, its quite chilly. You should come prepared with winter garments such as hats, scarves, mitts and warm footwear.
Vilnius in Winter: Conclusion
With proper clothing to keep you warm and the odd stop in a local café, winter is a great time to visit Vilnius. We thoroughly enjoyed our time visiting Vilnius in December, and hope that this guide helps you plan a fulfilling trip to one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval cities in the wintertime.
The the light snow covering the ground and the lights that fill the streets in Vilnius in December through January, you’ll see that winter is a special time to enjoy the city. If the cold bothers, you then there are also a lot of fascinating places to escape the cold – museums, churches and crypts.