December in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a special time as Christmas and New Year draw closer and bring many events related to that. Vilnius became popular for its Christmas tree in 2015 when The Guardian listed Vilnius Christmas tree among the most beautiful ones in the world. Its popularity got even bigger with Christmas trees of 2016 and 2017. The number of visitors to the city in December is increasing, everyone wanting to see what the new Christmas tree will look like this year. So you decided to visit Vilnius in December to feel the Christmas spirit of the city. Here are some activities for you to experience at this wonderful time of the year, all doable in one day.
1) Visit Christmas markets
Vilnius usually has two main Christmas markets in the city: at two of the city’s main squares, namely Cathedral Square and Town Hall Square that can easily be visited within a few hours. But that’s not all. There is an array of smaller markets located all around the city. Look for handmade gifts, special Christmas treats and warm drinks. Town Hall Square is lined with picturesque market stalls, making it great for photos.
The biggest Christmas market in Vilnius is centred around the main Christmas tree at Cathedral Square. Vendors here typically sell seasonal staples like herbal teas, mulled wine and pastries, but you can also pick up gifts and Lithuanian souvenirs to take home with you.
2) Attend a concert
There are many options for that in Vilnius because of music festivals held in December. I guess to get a Christmas feel, a sacred music concert could be one of the best choices. I would recommend going to St. Casimir’s Church on Didžioji gatve where you can do both: admire church interior and listen to music. They have a tradition to organise free concerts on Sundays. Check the event calendar of events in the city to be 100% sure.
3) Visit Presidential Palace square
Daukanto Square is dominated by the classical building from the end of the 18th century: a former nobleman’s house and the present-day Office of the President.Every day at 18.00 you can see the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace. If you happened to be there on Sunday at 12:00, watch a flag raising ceremony done by Honour Guards of the Lithuanian Armed Forces in medieval armament, dressed in ceremonial uniforms. If you are in Vilnius on Friday or Saturday, apply for a free tour of the Presidential Palace. During the tour, visitors can see the interior of the historical building and even visit the office of the President. If you are not there at any of the times mentioned above, just visit Christmas market stalls and warm your hands at the fireplaces in the middle of the square and look around carefully: maybe the President is nearby so you have an opportunity for a photo together.
4) Walk up to Three Crosses monument
Walk uphill to the Three Crosses monument to look to the city in Christmas lights from above. Some say that the origins of the three crosses date back to the 17th century when three monks placed them there to pay tribute to a group of fellow monks who were martyred in the 14th century. According to history books, seven monks were killed and seven were tied to wooden crosses and floated down the Neris River, with the instruction to return to the west where they came from. The monument has stood here at least since the 17th century. In 1916, three enormous crosses were erected at this site and were a symbol of the city before the Soviets blew them up in 1950. Pieces of crosses still remain on the far side of the hill slope. The current monument was built by architect and sculptor Kestutis Šilgalis in 1989 when the Soviet Union began to collapse. There are two ways to reach the statue – if you come here by one path, go back via the other.
5) Ride the Christmas train
The Vilnius Christmas Train has become somewhat of a Christmas tradition in the Lithuanian capital, and you are welcome to join a ride around the festive Vilnius! The train “station” is located next to Cathedral Square, at the opposite side of the road, Šventaragio street 1. Trains depart more than once an hour and the duration of the trip is about 45 minutes.
6) Admire the Christmas tree
Each year the main Vilnius Christmas tree is lighted in the heart of the city, Vilnius Cathedral Square. Actually, the capital of Lithuania has two big Christmas Trees – one in the Cathedral Square and the other next to the Town Hall. The main Christmas Tree of 2017 had an amazing height of 27 meters, 900 Christmas toys on it and total of 70,000 illuminating light bulbs. In total, the whole Christmas Tree covered 2,500 square meters. It is said that this year’s Vilnius Christmas Tree is so bright that it is visible to the naked eye for everyone flying over the capital city of Lithuania.
7) Buy Lithuanian Christmas cookies kuciukai
Literally, their name means “Christmas Eve cookies” in Lithuanian. You can purchase them in any supermarket to bring them home as an edible souvenir. Kūčiukai are small bits of dough with poppy seeds. In local homes, they’re baked before Christmas Eve dinner in copious amounts and then consumed within a few weeks until everyone’s sure they won’t miss them before next Christmas.You can also use Christmas cookies for predicting the future on the Christmas night. Grab a handful of kūčiukai and then count them. If the number is even, you’ll find a partner or get married in the next year. If it’s odd you have tough luck, maybe it will happen the year after next.What Christmas tree do you admire most? Where is it located? Share this in the comments section.
Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveler, passionate photographer and a mature career woman from Latvia, traveling mostly solo for more than 10 years. She is a skilled travel planner planning and executing her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her also on Instagram and Pinterest.