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If you’re looking for the best viewpoint in Vilnius then you need to schedule a visit to the Hill of Three Crosses.
Standing dramatically over Cathedral Square, you can see this gleaming trio of white crucifixes from afar. It’s like a siren calling you in.
When you make your way up here, you’ll be greeted with never ending views of the red roofs and church spires of the Old Town, the Gediminas Tower, the Palace of the Grand Dukes and so much more!
The cherry on top? It’s completely FREE.
As well as the Hill of Three Crosses, there are plenty of incredible panoramic viewpoints in Vilnius. So, as a bonus I’ve included the best ones in a helpful list and created a map you can steal too.
Here is a complete guide to the Three Cross Hill with top tips on what to expect!
Table of Contents
- What is the Hill of Three Crosses in Vilnius?
- The history behind the Hill of Three Crosses
- How to get to the Hill of Three Crosses in Vilnius
- Opening times and prices for the Hill of Three Crosses
- What can you see from the Hill of Three Crosses?
- Things to do in Kalnai Park
- 7 of the best viewpoints in Vilnius
- FREE Viewpoints in Vilnius that don’t require a ticket
- 1. Gediminas Castle / Tower
- 2. The City Bastion Viewpoint
- Viewpoints from Vilnius Churches & Museums
- 3. The Church of St John’s Bell Tower outside Vilnius University
- 4. The Palace of the Grand Dukes Observation Deck
- 5. The Cathedral Square Bell Tower
- Restaurants and Bars with amazing views in Vilnius
- 6. Vilnius TV Tower
- 7. Radisson Blu Sky Bar
- Steal this viewpoints in Vilnius map for later!
- Where to stay in Vilnius
- Looking for more information on destinations in Lithuania?
- Like it? Pin it!
What is the Hill of Three Crosses in Vilnius?
The Hill of Three Crosses is a monument and popular viewpoint in Vilnius. It was originally known as the Bleak Hill.
Today, it’s one of the many attractions of Kalnai Park which is a park of rolling hills and so it makes it a wonderful stop to find some nature in the urban jungle.
The monument has three crosses together and at the base there is a terraced viewpoint that you can stand on to take in the views.
There are lots of legends surrounding this hill that I will go into below which gives it a historical importance in Vilnius too.
The history behind the Hill of Three Crosses
Lithuania was the last country to convert to Christianity in the 14th century. Before that, the country was mostly Pagan believing in their own Lithuanian Gods.
According to the legends, Petras Goštautas invited 14 Franciscan Friars to Vilnius. Once the Friars were here they preached the gospel and started to bad mouth the Pagan Lithuanian Gods.
Naturally, the people of the city weren’t best pleased with what these Friars had to say. So, some of the angry residents burned down their monastery and decided to kill them. Seven Friars were executed on Bleak Hill, while the other seven were crucified and thrown into the Neris River.
Lot’s of historians say this is inaccurate but the story touched the Lithuanian people in 1636, after they had converted to Christianity. So, they built wooden crosses on Bleak Hill in their honour. They were then known as the Franciscan martyrs of Vilnius.
Over time these wooden crosses rotted and then collapsed in 1869. But, as the country was under Russian rule they could not rebuild them. Once they were occupied by Germany, a new monument was put in its place.
By 1950, the Soviet Union took over Vilnius and demolished the monument altogether. So, what we see today is a 1989 reconstruction by Henrikas Šilgalis. He built it during the Lithuanian Independence movement.
How to get to the Hill of Three Crosses in Vilnius
The Three Cross Hill is easy to find using Cathedral Square as a starting point. I made my way over to this viewpoint on foot which is easily done and the city is well sign posted for pedestrians.
But, I will warn you now, it’s a steep climb up that hill!
There are pathways inside the forest area itself, but as it was winter and raining most days I decided to give the muddy puddles a miss. I climbed up the concrete road way entrance nearby Gediminas Castle.
If you’re wanting to visit for sunrise, it gets dark or just can’t face a steep walk, I get you.
Vilnius also has bus and tram services that run in the city. Why not purchase a Vilnius City Card that can give you FREE transport plus entrance to some of the main attractions.
Opening times and prices for the Hill of Three Crosses
The best thing about the Hill of Three Crosses is it is completely FREE! So, you can get access to one of the best views in the whole city even if you’re on a tight budget.
Plus, if you’re into photography there isn’t any entrance gates, security guards or times to stick by so you can pop along to this viewpoint at any time of the day on your trip!
I love these sort of attractions as it gives you complete freedom and flexibility for the best weather/sunlight too.
The best time to visit the viewpoint for photography is early morning for sunrise or later in the afternoon for sunset.
I’ve also heard that the viewpoint at night time is fantastic as you get to see all the city lights. But, as a woman alone, I wasn’t really too comfortable.
What can you see from the Hill of Three Crosses?
So, you’re probably wondering, what makes the Hill of Three Crosses the best viewpoint in all of Vilnius?
Well, to me, it’s the fact that you can see all the main attractions in one frame. The Gediminas Castle, St Anne’s Church, The Palace of the Grand Dukes, Vilnius Cathedral, the lot! Whereas, if you’re heading up to let’s say the Gediminas tower you won’t be able to see that from there.
You get a great mix of historical buildings and nature from the beautiful trees which creates layers and textures in your photo too. Even in winter, when there was barely anything there, it was still pretty and made a nice effect with the branches.
You’re elevated so you can really get a beautiful birds eye view, plus it’s free compared to most other viewpoints in the city which is always a bonus.
When I climbed up the first time it was a misty winters morning and the church bells were ringing to signal the new hour. So, it was really eerie which I loved!
As well as the Old Town, you can see the buildings and rolling hills from afar and see just how hilly the city really is!
On the platform, they also have maps which will guide you to what you can see from the viewpoint. On a clear day, you can see miles and miles of gorgeous views! It was endless.
Things to do in Kalnai Park
The Hill of Three Crosses isn’t the only attraction inside this beautiful park. If the weather is pleasant and you would like to go for a stroll around, there are plenty of attractions to keep you busy.
Kalnai park is well signposted and provides some helpful maps of where to find everything. So, you shouldn’t get lost!
- (Stalo) Table Hill – Another hill viewpoint in the city but not as attractive as the Hill of Three Crosses. You see a lot more grass and nature and in the winter this was pretty bleak so I gave it a miss. In the summer this will be much more interesting, especially with blue skies!
- Hill of Gediminas’ Grave – Gediminas was a Grand Duke of Lithuania from the 13th – 14th century and is known as the founding father of Vilnius. He had a prophetic dream while on a hunting trip of a wolf made of iron, howling with the strength of a hundred wolves. A Baltic Shaman translated the dream that he needed to build a great city that people will speak about for thousands of years. So, Vilnius was born! As well as Gediminas Castle nearby, the Hill with his grave column can be found in this park.
- Concert Hall / Hill of songs – If you’re heading in from the car park side, you’ll see a huge concert arena in the park. During the summer months, Vilnius hold many singing events and shows in this area. So, keep your eyes peeled for events you can attend!
7 of the best viewpoints in Vilnius
If you’re looking for more amazing viewpoints in Vilnius, here is my list of where to find the most photoworthy panoramas.
Most of the spots on this list do require a ticket to see but some are completely FREE.
This list also gives you a great range of views from the quaint Old Town with it’s red roofs and church spires, to the modern part of the city with skyscrapers and industry!
FREE Viewpoints in Vilnius that don’t require a ticket
If you’re on a budget, or you want to visit some viewpoints at optimal lighting times for photography, there are some great viewpoints that are completely FREE.
They also don’t require a ticket to view them but some have restricted opening hours.
1. Gediminas Castle / Tower
Did you know that you don’t actually need to pay to visit the Gediminas Tower? Well, not the hill surrounding it anyways.
Gediminas Hill is another popular viewpoint in Vilnius as, not only is Gediminas Castle an icon of the city, it’s also closer to Cathedral Square.
The tower is named after The Grand Duke Gediminas, who was the founding father of Vilnius and built the foundations for this tower in the 14th century.
When I visited, there was quite a lot of construction going on which blocked the views, so I paid the 5 euros to go inside the museum and get a better look up the top. I found the price worth the money. But, you can get great views from the hill when construction isn’t consuming the place.
For accessibility there is also a funicular you can ride up and down the hill, but this does cost 1 Euro each way and has restricted timings.
FYI there are NO toilets up here or inside the museum, so go before you visit!
Gediminas Hill is FREE to visit but the castle museum costs 5 Euros. If you want to take the funicular it’s a Euro each way. It’s open 7 days a week from 10am – 8pm all year.
2. The City Bastion Viewpoint
This isn’t my favourite viewpoint I have to admit, it maybe because you can see the cars on the road. Or, it just didn’t have the ‘WOW’ factor for me.
But, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so you may find some inspiration from there.
The City Bastion used to be a stronghold as part of the city defence walls during the Duchy of Lithuania but later on it became a barracks for the garrisons of German troops during World War II.
Today, the hill by the City Bastion is a popular park and viewpoint in the city and from here you get a great view of the churches, Užupis, Gediminas Tower and beyond.
This viewpoint is FREE but if you wanted to visit the terrace in the City Bastion museum this is chargeable.
The City Bastion Viewpoint can be visited 24 hours a day, but if you want to go inside the museum or onto the terrace this is only open from Tuesday – Sunday from 10am – 6pm
Viewpoints from Vilnius Churches & Museums
There are a staggering amount on churches in this city, over 700 churches in Vilnius in fact, so you’ll see them on pretty much every street corner.
Some of these amazing buildings have bell towers which you can climb up to grab some views of the city!
Also, there are some other museums which provide observation decks as part of your experience, which makes the entrance price just a little bit sweeter.
3. The Church of St John’s Bell Tower outside Vilnius University
This tower in the Church of St John’s supposedly has the BEST view of the Old Town. But, I was really disappointed on my visit as it was closed in the winter months.
I actually spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to find the entrance until I realised, LOL.
This bell tower has unobstructed open views from its windows at the top which is why people prefer it over the Cathedral Square Bell Tower. It’s also in the centre of the old streets. So, you get to a birds eye view of the gorgeous roof tops, cobbled streets and church spires.
You will have to climb up 193 wooden stairs to reach the peak and its around 45 metres high. So, if you’re relatively fit and not scared of heights it’s perfect.
If you’re interested this church was built in 1387, so it has a lot of history to tell and is worth popping in to have a look too.
Tickets cost 3 Euro’s and it’s only open in the Summer.
4. The Palace of the Grand Dukes Observation Deck
I LOVED the Palace of the Grand Dukes. It was an extensive museum which is an excellent reconstruction of the old Palace in Cathedral Square. They are still, even today, excavating historical artefacts from the site.
The museum has four parts and you can pay for each part separately or pay for a complete museum ticket to cover all areas. I would recommend seeing it all as it takes you on the full journey.
As part of your museum ticket on the top floor of the palace, there is an observation tower where you can take in some amazing views of the city. But, this is covered by windows and there is no outside viewing area. So, there may be some glare and window reflections in your photos.
You’ll need at least a couple of hours to explore as it is a HUGE museum, I even had to take breaks haha. Tickets cost 5 Euros for all areas. See their website for more details.
5. The Cathedral Square Bell Tower
Just outside of Vilnius Cathedral is the famous Bell Tower that sits in Cathedral Square. It’s one of the oldest and tallest towers in the city that was originally built in the 14th century.
Today, this is a reconstruction of the Bell Tower that stood in the square and is a whopping 52 metres high.
Not only will you be greeted with beautiful panoramas of the square, Cathedral, Gediminas Tower, Pilies Street and Gediminas Avenue, you’ll also be able to check out the museum.
This has also has an exposition of the church bells to see, historical pictures of the reconstruction and the Old Town Clock inside.
Tickets cost 4.50 Euros and it is open from 10am – 6pm in Winter, 10am – 7pm in Summer. See here for more details.
Restaurants and Bars with amazing views in Vilnius
If you’d rather take in some magical views with dinner or a few cocktails, there are some amazing spots in Vilnius that are perfect for that.
Now, these don’t come cheap and some may have a minimum spend requirement, but remember you are paying for the jaw dropping views! So, it’s an experience you won’t forget.
6. Vilnius TV Tower
The Vilnius TV tower is the tallest building in Lithuania and an attraction in the new part of the city. It is HUGE at over 1,000 feet high, so you’re bound to feel like you’re up in the clouds.
As well as simply visiting for the views alone, you can also enjoy a delectable dinner up in the air too.
Traditional Lithuanian dishes start on their menu at 7 – 8 Euros, so I would definitely make a booking if you’re keen. Here’s their menu.
Tickets to visit the 19th floor of the TV tower and Freedom museum cost 8 Euros for adults and concessions are cheaper.
7. Radisson Blu Sky Bar
Just over the Neris River from the Old Town is the Raddison Blu Hotel. If you climb up to the 22nd floor, you’ll find their sky bar and restaurant.
It is a little overpriced but, again, you’re paying for the views and to sit by the window you may have a minimum spend.
But, they have a delightful range of snack, light bites, meals and cocktails to choose from so you can celebrate you time in Vilnius in style.
If you wanted to stay in this hotel and enjoy these views from the comfort of your hotel room, click here to book.
Steal this viewpoints in Vilnius map for later!
Where to stay in Vilnius
I stayed here with Tinggly in their epic Blogger House, but unfortunately that isn’t up for rent! So, here are some hotels I have hand picked in the city for every type of budget;
- Luxury: Grand Hotel Kempinski Vilnius, Hotel PACAI, Relais & Chateaux Stikliai Hotel, Imperial Hotel & Restautant
- Mid Range: Amberton Hotel Cathedral Square, Shakespeare’s Boutique Hotel, Hotel Vilnia, Best Western Vilnius, Artagonist Art Hotel, City Hotels Algirdas
- Budget: Hotel Simple Plus, Grata By Centrum, Hotel Panorama, Domus Maria, Fabrika Hostel, Hostel Jamaika, Come to Vilnius Hostel
With thanks to Tinggly for hosting my stay. Although I was a guest, all photos and opinions are my own.
Looking for more information on destinations in Lithuania?
I was able to cover a lot of ground in Lithuania while I was here and visited many places in Vilnius, Kaunas, Trakai and even the Hill of Crosses.
From my adventures, I wrote these helpful guides to give you all the information that you need to prepare for your travels in Lithuania;