Are you considering visiting Vilnius in January? Vilnius, Lithuania, is an excellent destination for those who love traveling during the winter. This Northern European city located in the Baltic states is a beautiful cold-weather destination and one that particularly sparkles this time of year. You’ll also enjoy a city relatively free of tourists, lower hotel and flight costs, and the cheer and the hope that a new year always brings (sometimes with a fresh coating of snow).
Events and Holidays
Events and holidays in Vilnius in January will give you the opportunity to learn more about the capital of Lithuania and its history, witness cultural demonstrations not seen any other time of year, and add special flavor to your trip. Take note of the following January holidays and events to see if they coincide with your January travel plans.
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National Flag Day: If you happen to be in town on January 1, you’ll be able to witness a flag-raising ceremony on Gedimino Tower in the heart of Old Town Vilnius for National Flag Day. The old flag is taken down and replaced by a fresh flag. A good place to watch this ceremony is from the Hill of Three Crosses, which will give you an elevated view.
Procession of the Three Kings: In January, the Christmas season wraps up, but you may still be able to catch a glimpse of holiday light decorations and Christmas trees, which will speedily be coming down. The end of the Christmas season is marked by the Procession of the Three Kings, which takes place on January 6, or Epiphany according to the Roman Catholic calendar. The procession, made up of costumed characters, marches from the Gates of Dawn to Cathedral Square at around 4:30 pm.
January 13: January 13 is a solemn holiday in Lithuania that marks the day that, when Lithuania was struggling to gain independence from the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev sent Russian troops into Lithuania. The television tower, visible from various angles around Vilnius was attacked, and several people lost their lives. Barricades were placed around the city, most notably to protect the parliament building. On this day, you’ll see the Lithuanian flag prominently displayed and often people sing songs around fires near the parliament building.
Anniversary of the Founding of Vilnius: January 25 is the day when Vilnius celebrates the day of its founding. The celebration is accompanied by a lights festival, which illuminates important monuments throughout the city—a welcome element during this dark time of year, and one that can be taken advantage of as soon as the sun sets at around 4 pm.
Things to Do
Museums: January is an excellent time of year to visit Vilnius’s museums. They offer an opportunity to come in from the cold while taking in art or discovering history. The Palace of the Grand Dukes is a multi-media experience that takes visitors into the depths of the former royal palace of Vilnius and into its past through artifacts, information boards, and interactive screens. The Mo Museum delivers a more modern experience, with contemporary Lithuanian, Baltic, and other artists showcased. You may also visit the Museum of Applied Arts, the National Portrait Museum, or one of the other museums—most are located right in the Old Town.
Trakai: Trakai, just 45 minutes away from Vilnius, is a popular destination for Vilnius visitors year-round. Some people prefer it in the winter because if the temperatures drop low enough, the lakes on which Trakai Castle stands freeze and the winter wonderland of the surrounding nature creates a picture-perfect backdrop for one of Lithuania’s most important sites.
Wintertime Walking Tour: Wintertime is a beautiful season to get to know Vilnius’s historic areas. While you may have to be careful because icy pavements can be treacherous, your efforts will be well-rewarded with views of winding streets, charming architecture, and quiet courtyards and parks—all softy dusted with snow if you’re lucky. Include Old Town, Zverynas, and Uzupis in your walking tour. Whether you choose to have a designated guide tell you about significant sights and monuments or take a self-guided tour, you’ll thank yourself later, especially when you go through your photos.
Cold-weather Food: January is an excellent time to try Lithuanian cuisine, much of which is perfect for warming you from within. Of course, you’ll be encouraged to try the national dish called cepeliniai, which are large mashed-potato dumplings filled with meat or cheese. But Lithuanian cuisine is full of comfort foods that will warm you on a cold day, including pork and sauerkraut, soups, local cheeses, and local beer.
Ice Skating: Vilnius’s ice-skating rink proves a popular winter-time attraction. Set up on Lukiskiu Square, it opens for the duration of the cold season.
Operas and Ballet: You may want to take advantage of Vilnius’ accessible opera and ballet scene, with the National Opera and Ballet Theatre right in the center of the city.
For concerts, gallery shows, demonstrations and workshops, theater performances, walking tours, and other events, visit Vilnius-events.lt, which is an excellent and up-to-date resource about what’s happening around town.
Vilnius January weather is typically freezing or below. Winter in January also feels especially cold due to the short days, little sun due to frequent cloud cover, and a feeling of dampness that may result both from the natural humidity in the air as well as any melting snow.
Winters in Vilnius have traditionally seen snow, with at least two weeks of very cold temperatures (think -20 degrees F)—this often happens in January or February. Snowfall can stick around quite a while, and it may take a couple of days for road crews to clear walkways or sprinkle them with salt or sand. Very cold days bring clear, bright skies and sunny weather.
However, with climate change being apparent everywhere, temperatures may also be above freezing, in the 30s or 40s, for example. Vilnius is not as windy as cities on the coast, but when the wind picks up even moderately, even days with such temperatures feel significantly colder.
How to Dress
Packing and dressing for Vilnius travel in January is easy if you consider layering and making sure your extremities and skin are protected. Shoes should be weatherproof and comfortable. The best coats cover the thighs, and tall woolen socks are also a good choice. Don’t forget your favorite gloves, scarf, and hat!
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