Vilnius Free Walking Tour: Explore Vilnius Old Town

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Aerial view of Saint John street in Vilnius Old Town, Lithuania.

Tour Details

  • Next Free Tour: On request
  • Language: English (other languages are available on request – contact us for more information)
  • Duration: 2 – 3 hours
  • Guide: Professional local guide
  • Price: Free (but you are welcome to tip our guides if you like the tour!)
  • Tour Dates: First Sunday of every month (other dates are available on request – contact us for more information).
  • Start Time: 10:00am
  • Meeting Point: Vilnius Cathedral Square, near the tile called STEBUKLAS (“miracle” in English).
  • Registration: Required. Please fill out our Free Tour registration form
Tour participants walking down Saint John Street in Vilnius Old Town, Lithuania.

Tour Description

Embark on a journey through the winding streets of the Old Town of Vilnius – a UNESCO World Heritage gem, also unofficially known as the “Jerusalem of the North”.

Our free walking tour lasts two to three hours and covers all the major highlights of Vilnius Old Town. From stunning wonders of Gothic, Baroque and Classicist architecture to historically renowned locations – our professional tour guides will ensure that no significant landmark remains unvisited.

Walk the narrow streets, where Nobel Prize laureate Czeslaw Mislosz once searched for inspiration and listen to the stories about such legendary figures as Gaon of Vilnius, Russian Tsars, Napoleon and others, whose fates are deeply intertwined with the very fabric of Vilnius.

This free walking tour organised by Baltic Gently offers a unique opportunity to tread where the legends once treaded and hear tales of the past glories and tragedies – and how it all led to the Lithuanian capital you’re seeing today.

Highlights

Vilnius Old Town courtyard with residential buildings visible in the distance in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Free Walking Tour

Explore Vilnius Old Town on this professionally guided tour completely free of charge (although tipping is appreciated, it is not mandatory!)

The Gothic Corner (Saint Anne’s Church and Church of Saint Francis and Saint Bernard) in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Marvels of Architecture

Admire the stunning architecture of Vilnius Old Town, showcasing Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical styles.

Church of Saint Theresa in Vilnius Old Town, Lithuania.

Legends of Vilnius

Hear captivating tales of renowned figures whose legacies have shaped Vilnius into the city it is today.

Residential buildings in Vilnius Old Town, Lithuania.

Hidden Gems

Discover hidden courtyards, secret passageways and unseen landmarks. Let our guides show you the Vilnius that few other tourists get a chance to experience.

Itinerary

Vilnius, the charming capital of Lithuania, is a city packed with history, culture and stunning architecture. While we would suggest at least two full days to truly immerse yourself in the magic of Vilnius, even a quick trip can offer a taste of its wonders and serve as a starting point for independent exploration afterwards.

This professionally curated tour takes 2 to 3 hours and covers all must-see landmarks in the Vilnius Old Town.

Cathedral Square

Vilnius Cathedral Square in the evening with tour guide waiting for Vilnius Free Walking Tour participants.

Cathedral Square is the cradle of Vilnius – the very spot where Vilnius’ Old Town begins and its rich history unfolds. Cathedral Square is home to three iconic buildings:

  • The Cathedral Basilica of St Stanislaus and St Ladislaus
  • The Grand Dukes Palace
  • Gediminas Tower, the most recognizable landmark in the whole Vilnius

This Square, in addition to stunning architecture, also offers a chance to admire a unique sculpture of Grand Duke Gediminas, the legendary founder of Vilnius.

Cathedral Square is the starting point of the Vilnius Free Walking Tour – an unforgettable landmark for an unforgettable tour.

Presidential Palace

Inner courtyard of the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The Presidential Palace (“Prezidentūra” in Lithuanian) is the Lithuanian President’s office that stands in Daukantas square. A captivating testament to Lithuania’s architectural heritage, the Palace offers us a chance to admire the grandeur of Classical style from in-between late 18th and early 19th centuries.

However, the Palace’s story delves deeper – all the way back to the 16th century, when it served as a nobles’ residence. Over the ages, it transformed into the abode of Vilnius bishops and, eventually, the Governor-General of Vilnius.

The Presidential Palace’s halls still contain the echoes of all the once renowned figures who walked its halls. From Tsar Alexander I of Russia and French King Louis XVIII, to the legendary Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and Polish statesman Józef Piłsudski, the Palace is a testament to the pivotal moments that shaped Lithuania’s destiny.

Vilnius University

The Library of Vilnius University in Lithuania.

Vilnius University is one of the oldest universities in the whole of northern Europe, and among the oldest in the world. An impressive old campus houses the University’s administration, the old library and the three faculties of history, philology, and philosophy.

It’s a living embodiment of all the historical facts that tell the story of how the University was founded, how its priorities changed over the ages and all the numerous challenges it had to overcome throughout the centuries. In the University’s courtyard, we can admire how Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicist influences shaped the University into what it is today.

Alumnatas Courtyard

Alumnatas Courtyard is a continuation of Vilnius University’s history. Once a school of the clergy, the Uniate Priest Seminary, today this Courtyard is greatly admired for its Renaissance arches. On hot summer days, visitors often seek refuge in the shadows of these impressionable arches and in the evenings the Courtyard becomes host for various chamber events.

The courtyard also offers a unique opportunity to admire the astonishing panoramic view of the Presidential Palace courtyard, which is usually closed for visitors.

Saint John’s Street

Saint John's street in the late evening in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Saint John’s Street, also known as “Švento Jono” Street in Lithuanian, is one of the oldest streets in Vilnius, evoking the memories of times long gone. Despite being fairly short in length, only a few hundred meters, it hosts numerous charming Gothic architecture houses, the Baroque palace of Pacai (home to the Polish embassy nowadays) and the bell tower of Saint John’s Church.

In our opinion, it’s not only the architecture that makes this street unique. The street is also home to an elegant iconic bronze sculpture of a man on a ladder, lighting a street lamp. He’s known as The Lamplighter (“Žibintininkas” in Lithuanian) and, if you were to ask our guides, they’ll be able to tell just as many stories about him, as about any of the architectural marvels of Saint John’s Street.

Pilies Street

Vilnius Free Walking Tour group walking down Pilies Street in Vilnius Old Town, Lithuania.

Pilies Street (Castle Street in English) is definitely the crown jewel of the Vilnius Old Town. Every step is tempted by numerous cozy little cafes, ice cream carts, and souvenir stands. Gourmands will definitely have their day with a wide range of both traditional (and international) food restaurants.

Pilies Street, beloved by tourists and locals both, spans only 1.2 km in length and is actually just one part of a road consisting of three streets! Pilies Street, The Great Street and Aušros vartų Street (Gate of Dawn Street in English) all merge into a single slightly curved path that once was known as the Royal Road, devoted to the rulers, nobles and important town guests making their way straight to the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.

Today, the gossip of the royalty has been replaced by the lively chatter of both locals and tourists alike. But to this very day, Pilies Street remains the main artery of Vilnius Old Town, offering plenty of memorable stops along this winding path.

Bernardine Street

An outdoors cafe under the rain in Bernardine Street in Vilnius Old Town, Lithuania.

Bernardine Street is a tiny passage, tucked away from most prying eyes. It connects Pilies Street to St. Anne’s Church and leads on to the Bernardine complex. This is where the charm of medieval times unfolds like a hidden treasure map, revealing the charming lifestyle of the Lithuanians of the old days.

Just don’t forget (or please do – and our wonderful guides will take the opportunity to remind you!) that not all the buildings on this street are Medieval, they bear memories and influences from every passing era since.

During our free tour, you’ll be a first-hand witness as to why the Bernardine Street is admired so much, even having been acknowledged by UNESCO as part of World Heritage.

The Gothic Corner (Saint Anne’s Church and Church of Saint Francis and Saint Bernard)

The Gothic corner, located at the crossroads where Saint Michael (Saint Mykolas), Bernardine and Maironis streets meet, invites passersby to stop and admire the red-coloured Bernardine historical-architectural ensemble, unfolding like a Gothic fairytale.

Firstly, the eyes gaze upon the delicate beauty of Saint Anne’s Church. An almost weightless gem of late Gothic architecture, it soars skyward with an elegance that escapes all attempts of being described with words only (not that our tour guides won’t try!).

Then, as the eyes turn, a soft gasp escapes. Towering behind Saint Anne’s Church is the Church of Saint Francis and Saint Bernardine. A massive shape offers a comforting counterpoint to the fragility of Saint Anne’s Church.

After taking a moment to take all this splendor in (trust us – you’ll definitely need a moment!), our tour guides will draw your attention to the red brick tower. It was built in three stages, a playful addition that adorned the already completed church only in the 19th century. Yet it blends with the ancient Gothic architecture so well, that even the keenest eye struggles to distinguish the new from the old.

Užupis

Užupis is the smallest district of Vilnius, separated from the Old Town of Vilnius by Vilnelė river’s gentle flow. Once a troubled corner in the early 90s, it blossomed into a bohemian sanctuary. Artists and intellectuals came to Užupis seeking refuge from strict and inflexible lifestyle in other districts, gradually transforming the area into a vibrant bastion of freedom. Today, Užupis hums with life, artists, intellectuals, dreamers and eccentric locals in equal measure.

On 1st of April, 1997 (yes, the very same April Fool’s Day – in our opinion that is definitely not a coincidence but an ironic statement) Užupis, with a wink and a mischievous grin, declared its playful independence. Every year, this date is celebrated with a whimsical laughter echoing all over the district.

This republic has it all: a coat of arms, an anthem, a constitution (every article of which is a quirky reminder to be kind, to smile and to be brave enough to chase one’s wildest dreams!) and, above all, a indomitable free spirit, that is represented by the Guardian Angel statue in Užupis’ main square.

Užupis isn’t just a neighborhood. It’s a state of mind, a canvas painted with dreams and sprinkled with creativity. Whenever our tour guides stop at Užupis, they get infected by zestful inspiration, deviating from the pre-written notes and embarking on the wildest flights of imagination.

Vilna Ghetto

Gaon Street in Vilna Ghetto in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Vilna Ghetto is a remnant of somber history, tucked within narrow lanes just a step away from the Great Street (Stiklių Street, Gaono Street, Žydų Street amongst others). Once it was a home to the Great Synagogue Complex, the largest in Europe at one time, before its demolition in 1955-1957.

During our free walking tour, you’ll hear all about how much of an intellectual giant Vilna Gaon was as well as what was the largest Judaic library in Europe in 1892. You’ll also hear about how and why this district was divided into two ghettos during the war: The Small Ghetto and The Big Ghetto.

For us, this part of the tour, taking place within Vilna Ghetto, is a journey of remembrance. It is a tribute to the community that, between 1941 and 1943 lost over 60,000 Jewish residents of Vilnius to the atrocities of World War II.

Vilnius Town Hall

Vilnius Town Hall in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Vilnius Town Hall was first mentioned only in 1432 but it is likely that it was erected much, much earlier.

Fast forwarding to the late 18th century, when under the guidance of architect Laurynas Gucevičius, Vilnius Town Hall shed its red brick cloak and donned an elegant neoclassical gown. It wasn’t just a makeover – it was a declaration of Vilnius’ evolving spirit.

Throughout history, the Town Hall served a variety of purposes. Once the hall of the Vilnius Council, later it was converted to a prison. Afterwards – to the city’s theater building that hosted Vilnius’ inaugural opera performance. And later on – it continued its involvement in arts, serving as a Museum of Fine Arts.

Today, Vilnius Town Hall is anything but a derelict relic of the past. Everyone knows it as a distinguished venue, frequently used to host a wide variety of events and concerts.

Didžioji Street

Didžioji Street (translated from Lithuanian as The Great Street) is the grand stage, adorned with palaces of former nobles and magnificent churches. Leading straight to the Grand Duke’s Castle, Didžioji Street has much more to offer than just courtly airs. Its wider sections pulse with a bustling hum of commerce, emanating from The Great Market located near the Town Hall and a lively local fish market amidst numerous smaller stalls overflowing with handcrafted goods, odd souvenirs and even paintings by local artists.

As one’s eyes travel above the bustling markets, a kaleidoscope of colorful facades are revealed for an astonishing effect. The oldest Eastern Orthodox Church in Lithuania, Saint Paraskeva’s Church is located on Didžioji Street. Further down the street, a much larger Roman Catholic Church of Saint Casimir guides local parishioners to mass with its impressive crown rooftop.

Church of Saint Casimir

The Church of Saint Casimir is more than just a place of worship. It’s a testament to the captivating life of Saint Casimir, a young prince and patron saint of both Lithuania and its youth. 

Born into royalty, Saint Casimir was destined for a crown of both Lithuania and Poland. Yet his heart yearned for a different kind of life. Instead of glittering courts, he sought solace in prayer and piety, his devoutness and kindness to others being the qualities he’s remembered for to this very day. Unfortunately, he succumbed to tuberculosis too soon, finding his final resting place in an ornate sarcophagus within the Church of Saint Casimir.

But even in death, he didn’t forget nor was forgotten by his charges. In 1636 Saint Casimir was declared the patron saint of Lithuania. The church, bearing his name, was the first house of prayer in Vilnius that was built in the Baroque architecture style, ushering in a golden age of Vilnius Baroque.

Gate of Dawn

Aušros vartų Street with Gate of Dawn visible in the distance in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Gate of Dawn (Aušros vartai in Lithuanian) is a threshold made not just of stone, but of faith. Here, at the very end of a road that begins with Pilies Street, continues onto The Great Street finally ends with Aušros vartų Street, stands a shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary, revered as the Mother of Mercy.

From inside, just above the arches of the gate, a Christian icon of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn watches over the pious travelers and passersby. Painted around the year 1630, the icon soon became known as miraculous. Canonically crowned in 1927 by Pope Pius XI, the chapel with the icon of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn was also visited by Pope John Paul II in 1993. To this very day it remains a major site of pilgrimage, where it is customary to make a sign of the cross before crossing the gates.

Historically, Gate of Dawn is the only remaining gate of the city wall complex. But it holds more than just one faith. Looking around, you can see the golden dome of Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit, the soaring spire of Holy Trinity Uniate Church and the stoic Church of Saint Theresa within mere meters from one another.

This is more than just an impressive display of architecture, it’s a testament to Vilnius’ multicultural spirit, where the city’s tolerance has been etched into the very walls of its buildings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does the free tour start in Vilnius?

The free Vilnius Walking Tour starts in the Vilnius Cathedral Square (opens Google Maps), near the tile called STEBUKLAS (“miracle” in English).

While you wait for the tour to start, make a wish, spin three times around with your eyes closed. If you do it without stepping outside the borders of the tile, your wish might just come true!

What’s included in the Vilnius Old Town tour?

  • Professional English-speaking guide;
  • Over two hours of handpicked stories about Vilnius architecture, art, lifestyle and history;
  • Rest breaks and optional stops for coffee, souvenirs and more.

What is a free walking tour?

Free walking tour is, as the name implies, a free-of-charge walking tour led by a professional guide, where participants can leave tips if they enjoyed the tour. As with most free walking tours, ours has a schedule, happening on the first Sunday of each month. Weather and the number of registered participants do not matter – the tour goes on no matter what!

Are walking tours worth it?

If you’re new to the city and wish to explore it alone or with friends, there are few better choices than taking a walking tour. You’ll be shown around the city and hear stories and recommendations from a qualified state-licensed professional guide.

In the end, you’ll learn more about the city you’re visiting and might just make some new friends or acquaintances along the way too. And, in the case of our Vilnius Free Walking Tour – you’ll get a chance to do so completely free of charge!

What do you need for a walking tour?

We recommend to dress up (or down!) according to the weather conditions. The most important thing is to feel comfortable enough so you can focus on exploring the city with the tour group – be sure to wear comfy footwear!

If the skies look gloomy – bring an umbrella or waterproof cloak. We would also suggest taking a lightweight backpack with you to carry a water bottle and any souvenirs you might pick up on the way. Some spare coins could prove useful as well for any drinks or souvenirs from street vendors, as not everyone accepts cards.

Are free walking tours really free?

Yes, they are completely free. And just as good as any other tour that we charge money for. However, there is a small caveat. As our free tour guides are seasoned veterans, they would appreciate tips to cover their expenses and time. But only if you truly enjoy the tour!

Tipping, as in most cases of free tours, is appreciated but not required. And you can rest assured that no one will hold your decision against you or feel upset about the amount you decide to tip, if any!

How do walking tours make money?

Our free walking tours make money entirely from the tips, the amount of which depends on how well the guide leads the tour – so you can be guaranteed that the quality of our free tours will be just as good as any of our paid tours!

How much do you tip for a free walking tour in Lithuania?

It is completely up to you and how much value and enjoyment our free tour provided for you! The average amount that we usually see is €10 per person and is about in line with the rest of Europe.

Sometimes, when the tour group is smaller and each participant gets more personalised attention, the tips tend to be higher. But in the end, it’s all up to and how you feel after the tour!

Do I have to make a booking for the Vilnius free tour?

The registration is mandatory, as we have to form the groups and hire additional guides if needed. No one would enjoy a tour with hundreds of people being led by a single guide, even if it’s free. Nor would five of our guides appreciate being asked to turn up only to find two people ready for the tour.

Please register using this form and be sure to cancel if your plans change!

Is the tour accessible? Can I come in a wheelchair? 

Yes! We have had people with various accessibility requirements participate in our tours and we greatly appreciate their interest! Depending on the weather and precise accessibility needs, there could be 10-20% of the tour stops that we might need to skip. Please let us know about your needs in advance when filling out our free tour registration form.

Is Vilnius a walkable city?

Vilnius is a very walkable city indeed! Having very few steep hills (and most of those are optional – there are plenty of alternative routes), the city is almost completely flat and incredibly easy to traverse on foot.

Where does the Vilnius Free Walking Tour start and end?

Vilnius Free Walking Tour starts at the Vilnius Cathedral Square and ends at the Gate of Dawn.

Can I cancel my booking?

Yes! If you’re no longer able to attend, please get in touch with us via email or phone found on our contact us page. We would appreciate as much notice as possible, ideally at least 24 hours but even if it’s very last minute – please send us a text message, so we know not to wait for you.

What if I want to book the Vilnius Old Town tour on a different date or time?

Please get in touch with us by phone, email or contact form found on our Contact Us page. The tours can be planned on almost any date and at any time (fancy a midnight tour? It sure is bound to reveal a very different side of Vilnius and all its landmarks).

Can I book the Vilnius Old Town tour for today?

Short answer: Yes!

Long answer: Please contact us and we will do our best to find an available professional guide for you.

What level of English is required for the Vilnius Old Town tour?

For best experience, we would recommend at least B1 or higher skill level. You might enjoy the tour with lower skill levels too but odds are that you won’t understand absolutely everything that our guides have to share. We would suggest booking a private Vilnius Old Town tour in a different language – just send us a message or contact us by phone or email.

What if I want to book the Vilnius Old Town tour on a different date or time?

Please get in touch with us by phone, email or contact form found on our Contact Us page. The tours can be planned on almost any date and at any time (fancy a midnight tour? It sure is bound to reveal a very different side of Vilnius and all its landmarks).

Can I book the Vilnius Old Town tour in a different language?

Yes! Baltic Gently guides are fluent in numerous languages and, in very rare cases, where our guides won’t be fluent in the language of your choosing, we might even get a professional tour translator arranged for you! Please contact us for more information.

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    Egle Gal

    Founder & Tour Director

    Travel manager and founder of Baltic Gently, Egle Gal in Nida, Lithuania.

    "Planning journeys can be scary - you simply never know where or how to start. That's why we offer free initial consultations - to help you get started on what is guaranteed to become an unforgettable experience!"