Views to walk to
Well, you have a choice – healthily hike up the cobblestone path that winds around Gediminas Hill to the castle at the top, or just hop on the funicular. Or do one of them up and the other down. Whatever, this hill probably offers the best visual introduction to the city, where you’re rewarded with a 360-degree panorama of the older and newer areas, the chaotic maze of red-tile rooves and half-hidden lanes of the Old Town and the modern skyscrapers and residential districts across the river and beyond.
This hill is where Vilnius was founded, according to legend, and the once mighty castle’s sole remaining red-brick tower dates back to the 13th century. Ravaged by fire and war throughout the ages, it was finally restored in 1930 and branded a historical landmark for independent Lithuania. Paying for entry to the tower itself is optional, but we believe the viewing platform at the top is one of Vilnius’ finest assets, in any weather.
Eastwards across the park and the snaky little Vilnia river is another viewpoint accessible on foot, the Hill of Three Crosses. There are two ways up – via a quiet bridge and steep steps from the Vilnia or up a tiny road and path from Arsenalo and T. Kosciuškos streets close to where the Vilnia flows into the Neris. The three white crosses mark the spot where seven Franciscan monks were killed by local pagans in the 14th century, tied to wooden crosses and floated down the Neris, the idea being that their corpses would return forever to the west from whence they came. The monument dates from 1989, an earlier version having been destroyed by the Soviet authorities in the 1950s, pieces of which still remain on the side of the hill, which is also known as Kreivasis, or Crooked Hill.
One of the finest viewpoints across the Old Town and its countless spires is a place called Bekešas Hill, which can be found in the bohemian district of Užupis. From the Angel of Užupis statue, head upwards bearing left where the road forks. Continue for another few hundred metres until you reach a school on the left. Venture behind it passing some garages and climb the steps and grassy slope at the back to find the splendorous viewpoint.
Two more fine views are located towards the southern end of Maironio Street. Heading in that direction, a flight of steps is visible up a grassy bank towards the Bastion. Climb them for a view northwards towards Gediminas Castle. Or follow Maironio to where it meets Subačiaus for an even more impressive panorama. The places you can see are hammered into a metal plate for ease of identification, and in warmer months there’s a makeshift café and tables.
West of the Old Town, one of the best viewpoints is from Tauras Hill where the sadly decrepit Trade Union Palace stands alone. With one wing damaged by fire years ago and barely repaired, the palace now has a façade covered in street art. It also has a parking area in front of it where romantic youths gather by night for a bit of nookie. The surrounding park is one of Vilnius’ nicest open spaces.
Views to be carried to
But for those who prefer a view with cocktail in hand, reached by lift, there are alternatives. Skybar, for example, on the 22nd floor of the towering, riverside Radisson Blu Lietuva Hotel, makes an excellent Long Island iced tea, frozen daiquiri and mojito, just in case you want to try all three. And in the city’s western suburbs is the even taller Soviet-era TV Tower, whose 55th-floor revolving restaurant provides a stunning panorama. Though it’s a bit pricey to get up, the 70km views (on a clear day) are truly incredible.