Like many other European cities, Vilnius offers a pass that covers admission to many of the city’s attractions. Unlike many other European cities, the Vilnius City Card is pretty affordable. (But then, everything in Vilnius is pretty affordable compared to most other major European cities.)
The question is: Does purchasing a Vilnius City Card make sense in an already affordable city like Vilnius?
To find an answer, I worked with the helpful folks at Go Vilnius to test out the card during my stay.
(For those of you who just want to cut to the chase, the answer is usually YES.)
Vilnius city card basics
What’s available with the Vilnius City Card?
Presently, the Vilnius City Card offers the following benefits:
- Free admission to 20 attractions (mostly museums) that otherwise charge at least a minimal fee and discounts on a couple others
- A free walking tour and/or audio guide and free Cyclocity Vilnius bike registration
- A wide variety of discounts, including:
- 15-50% off the price of nine different tour options, including tours by bike, bus, kayak, hot air balloon, and gondola
- 5-20% off tickets for 5 different cultural organizations and venues, including the Lithuanian National Philharmonic and the National Opera and Ballet Theater
- 3-10% off at 15 galleries and (largely tourist-oriented) shops
- 3-50% off at 40 restaurants, cafés, and bars
- 10-20% of on auto rentals from 10 companies and on lodging at 6 campgrounds, hotels, and other lodging
- 5-25% off on 18 sporting activities, events, and facilities
- 10-15% off select services at 7 different spas
There are three different cards available:
- 15 EUR: 24 hours without public transportation
- 20 EUR: 24 hours with free public transportation
- 30 EUR: 72 hours with free public transport ticket
Each person must have their own card, with a small discount on cards for children under 15 years old.
Using the Vilnius City Card
The Vilnius City Card can be purchased at any of the city’s three tourist information offices.
The card includes a printed coupon book that must be used in conjunction with the card. Along with a tear-off coupon for each activity or service included on the card, the booklet includes opening hours and other information on each. The booklet is available in English, German, Polish and Russian.
The card is good for a continuous period once it is activated.
Our experience using the Vilnius City Card
My husband and I didn’t have the best timing for our visit to Vilnius, arriving as we did on a Saturday afternoon and departing on Monday afternoon. We picked up our two 24-hour (no transit) Vilnius cards and, instead of beginning our 24 hours right then and there, we had them activated for the following morning (Sunday), anticipating a full day of museums and touring.
That evening, as we planned which activities and sites we would do with our cards, we quickly realized that two of our top picks – the Church Heritage Museum and the Cathedral Belfry – were not open on Sundays. Oops.
But that still left plenty to choose from.
Our first activity using our Vilnius City Cards would have been a visit to the Cathedral Belfry (4.5 EUR or free with the Vilnius City Card), but since it was closed, we simply went there to meet our guide for the city walking tour (10 EUR or free with the City Card).
Vilnius by Foot walking tour
The Vilnius City Card includes a free walking tour of the city (a 10 EUR value).
Sunday was an excellent day for a city walking tour, as tours were available in English only on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday when we visited. Our guide was excellent – knowledgeable, funny, patient, and flexible in dealing with an afternoon rainstorm. She took us through some of the city’s most beautiful streets as we stopped by a variety of historic sites. (We even got to watch the weekly changing of the flags at the presidential palace.) Along the way she explained what we were seeing, putting the history of Vilnius and Lithuania into context in a way that was easy to follow and engaging.
The tour was a great way to learn how the history of Vilnius resulted in the city we see today. It was also a great way to see where the various museums and churches were located, making it easier to go back and explore farther on our own. (The walking tour doesn’t go inside any of the buildings, focusing instead on where things are located, their history, and how it all fits together.)
While there are a number of other walking tours available (including a “free” tour where the only payment the guide receives is from tips), we really enjoyed our tour and I liked knowing that our guide didn’t have to rely on tips. (She didn’t give us a chance to tip her either, which removed any question about tipping.) It was a good use of our Vilnius City Card, but also would have been worth 10 Euros as a stand-alone activity.
We had planned to rush off to a couple of museums after our tour, but the tour ran a bit long due to the rain and we hadn’t had much breakfast, so we took a lunch break. In hindsight we should have just grabbed a pastry at a bakery, as lunch took far longer than anticipated and we lost a big chunk of our museum time.
Lithuanian Museum of Applied Art
Of the many museums included in the Vilnius City Card, there were four that really interested us
We decided to start at the Lithuanian Museum of Applied Art (1.80 EUR or free with the Vilnius City Card) because my guidebook said this was where the National Museum of Lithuania’s amazing collection of religious folk art was displayed. In reality, the Lithuanian Art Museum’s Museum of Applied Art (partially located in the atmospheric 16th century Old Arsenal of the Lower Castle) focuses mostly on textiles from the collection of costume designer and fashion historian Alexandre Vassiliev, with a few amazing tapestries and a few pieces of furniture thrown in for good measure.
Of course, I like textiles so I enjoyed wandering through the museum’s two current exhibitions (both of which should have closed by now, but seem to be semi-permanent for the time being).
Invitation to the Ball: 1915-2015 showcases formal wear and the dramatic changes in style that occurred as the world shifted from Edwardian elegance and formality, to the era of the flappers, the simplified style of WWII, the re-emergence of opulence in the 1950s, the psychedelic styles of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and on to the styles of recent fashion.
The other major exhibit (also from Vassiliev’s collection) was Three Centuries of Fashion. It includes fashions from the 1740s to 1960s that provide examples of what drives changes in attire and accessories. While trends in fashion may seem to come out of nowhere, they are often linked to societal or geopolitical factors, such as fur becoming popular with women in Paris during the Napoleonic Wars when soldiers newly arrived in Poland and Lithuania began sporting fur clothing and accessories.
New Arsenal Museum
This turned out to be the museum I was looking for, with exhibits related to the history of Lithuania from the 13th through 19th centuries, folk art (those religious pieces I was looking for), traditional costumes, and the heartbreaking photo exhibit To Eternal Exile about the 32,000 Lithuanians forced into exile in Siberia in 1949.
This is a wonderful museum with a fascinating collection that seems well-curated and appealingly displayed.
Vilnius Picture Gallery
We were going to push on to the Lithuanian Art Museum’s Vilnius Picture Gallery (1.80 EUR or free with the Vilnius City Card), both to see the Lithuanian art and to check out the former palace that houses them, but we were at the end of our trip and it was just too much for one day.
Our balance sheet
We visited attractions with admission prices that totaled slightly less than the face value of the card itself.
- Vilnius City Card value: 15 EUR (each)
- Attractions visited:
- Walking tour: 10 EUR
- Lithuanian Museum of Applied Art: 1.80 EUR
- National Museum of Lithuania New Arsenal: 2 EUR
Museums in Vilnius are very affordable, which is why the Vilnius City Card is so affordable. Still, we could have squeezed a lot more out of our cards if I had planned a little better:
- Vilnius was our last stop on a month-long tour of northern Europe and my stamina level was a bit low for a full day of walking and museum-going.
- I started the day without much to eat and made a lunch choice that turned out to take much more time than anticipated.
- Sunday is the only day the Cathedral Belfry (which opens at 10:00 a.m.) is closed. We had planned to begin the day there and, had we been able to, the City Card would have covered the 4.50 EUR admission fee.
Attractions we almost certainly would have visited if we’d been in town on a different day and/or didn’t stop for a full lunch:
- Church Heritage Museum and Cathedral Belfry (4.5 EUR joint ticket)
- Lithuanian Art Museum Vilnius Picture Gallery (1.80 EUR)
- National Museum of Lithuania Old Arsenal Archeology Collection (2 EUR)
Visiting any of these would have made the card a very good value.
We didn’t use any of the discounts available with our passes either, although there were a number of stores with lovely, high-quality items to tempt us. I had finished my souvenir and gift shopping by the time we reached Vilnius, otherwise I would have used the card to save a bit on those purchases as well. Likewise, we could have saved more by taking advantage of some of the card’s discounts to get a bite to eat or a drink.
Just remember to complete all of your activities within the card’s validity period.
The bottom line: The face value of the card was ever so slightly higher than the value of the admissions for the things we saw and did, but we could easily have added an activity or attraction that would have switched the balance.
Save money and see more with a Vilnius City Card
First of all, Vilnius is a good value with or without a Vilnius City Card.
Although there is a charge to visit pretty much all of the museums in Vilnius, it’s a small charge, with most museums charging around 2 EUR and none of them charging over 4 EUR when I visited. If your focus is museums, you have to visit a lot of them to save money using the card.
However, you can save a considerable amount when combining museum visits with one of the free or discounted tours and a discounted evening activity like a meal, drinks, or entertainment.
If you have at least two full days in Vilnius and would do a walking tour or a hop-on-hop-off city tour, a tour to Trakai, and few museums, you should definitely consider the 72 hour pass.
While the traditional method for determining whether or not a city card is a good value consists of totaling the cost of the attractions you want to see and comparing that to the cost of the card, there are some other factors to consider when calculating the value of the Vilnius City Card.
- Encouraging curiosity: Personally, I like city cards because they encourage me to visit places or try activities I would never try if I had to pay for each individually. Because it’s essentially free to visit any attraction included on the card, I’ll visit a museum to see just one exhibit or try a museum that doesn’t seem that interesting just to see what they have knowing I can leave after only a short time without feeling like I’ve wasted my money. It’s a low-cost way to try something new. Often I’m pleasantly surprised by places I didn’t expect to like and I have found a few new favorites this way.
- Dining, drinking, and shopping discounts: While we seldom take advantage of these, they can be a valuable perk. If you think you would use a discount for a beer break, seek out one of the included restaurants, or buy a few souvenirs or gifts to bring back home, the card can help offset a cost you would incur anyway. (For the best value, schedule these as your evening activity, as most tourist stores and restaurants are open into the evening.)
- Performing arts: The Vilnius card offers on discounts for some of Lithuania’s finest performing arts groups and venues. If there is a performance scheduled during your visit the city card can save you a bit. Check in advance.
- Transit needs: We only visited attractions in the Old Town, where we could get around by foot and never needed transit. Most visitors using a 24 hour pass (and staying in the large Old Town area) are unlikely to need the transit option. (Keep in mind that the hop-on/hop-off bus can sometimes serve as transit should you want to visit an attraction outside the Old Town area.) Check the location of the attractions you want to visit to know if you need transit. If you are staying farther afield, the transit option can save you money.
- Trakai tours: When considering the 72 hour card, consider the value of the Trakai tour discount as a way of visiting this historical city near Vilnius.
Get the most from your card
A few tips can help you make the most of your Vilnius City Card:
- Time your visit: As in most places, a number of museums close on Mondays, but we also ran into a couple of unexpected Sunday closures. To get the most out of your card, pick a day(s) when all the museums you want to see will be open.
- Prepare for a long day: Start your day rested and ready for a busy day. Have a good breakfast in the morning before any of the attractions open and then take short breaks during the day to keep your energy level up.
- Use the full day: Most museums are open between 10 and 5 pm (a few open earlier or later). In Vilnius this is also when all of the tours are held, requiring you to cram a lot of things into a short day. To make the most of your day, start as early as you can and plan an evening activity or two that makes use of the discounts available with your card, including dinner and drinks, shopping, and/or an evening performance or other activity.
Notes on using the card
The Vilnius City Card has a few features and quirks to keep in mind:
- You need to show both the card and the booklet at each attraction or service.
- The coupon book has useful information on each attraction or service included on the card (including addresses and opening hours); however, I hated having to haul around those paper copies. It’s not big or heavy, but it’s one more thing to hang onto while out doing stuff.
- It’s easy to research the museums and other attractions included on the card to plan your trip in advance, as the well-organized Vilnius tourist website seems to have a complete English language version of everything. It’s a wonderful resource – probably the only one you need – to plan your Vilnius sightseeing whether or not you buy a city card.
- Lithuania traditionally uses numerals to identify the days of the week instead of names. The week begins with Monday, thus Monday is I and Sunday is VII.
A big thank you to Go Vilnius for providing a complimentary pair of Vilnius City Cards for us to use to test out the card while exploring the city. We really enjoyed visiting Vilnius and hope to return some day.