Top 5 Museums in Vilnius – Immerse yourself in culture
When you visit a city located in a country, which originates its name from the word rain, it is inevitable that you will most likely have to find indoor activities during your trip. Museums in Vilnius are worth the appraisal no matter if you are a tourist or a local looking for a new spot in the city. According to Tripadvisor, there are almost 70 galleries and museums in Vilnius scattered all over the city, hence it could be quite a challenge to find the right fit for you. And even if the word museum makes you yawn, these museums are likely to change your mind as they are far from the traditional mundane museum concept that we are all used to.
Here are the top 5 museums in Vilnius
MO museum is a modern art gallery right in the middle of Vilnius. It is located in Pylimo street and is built in the place of the Soviet cinema Lietuva. The building is a work of Daniel Libeskind and acts as one of the main landmarks of the city. The museum opened in 2018 by the initiative of two scientists Danguole and Viktoras Butkai, who have collected more than 4500 works of modern art since the 1960s.
The museum consists of two expositions – the main one and the small one. Both of them are constantly rotating and have different themes. The exhibits are not limited to artwork, you will find sculptures, projections, installations too. The museum really lives up to its name and manages to excite and surprise the visitors with innovative and modern exhibitions. It is so popular among the Lithuanians, that when a new exposition is launched, it is advised not to look at the social media. With so many people going to the opening, you will see the full exhibition before even stepping into the gallery!
But MO museum is more than just the exhibitions it holds. It also has a cinema, an educational center, a modern art shop, a bookstore, and even a bistro! Professional guides and volunteers will make sure you have the best possible experience in the museum and it is recommended to book an excursion beforehand to make sure you will have a place in one. By now you should be persuaded that this museum in Vilnius is a place you must visit even if you are here for a day, but if by any chance you are not, trust the awards of this museum. MO is the best tourism initiative of Lithuania in 2019 and was nominated for the best European museum in 2020. Find out more on their website https://mo.lt/en/homepage/.
Museum of Occupations and Freedom Rights
Behind the pretty facades hides the raw and often painful history of the city. This museum in Vilnius is one of such landmarks and represents the occupational history of Lithuania. The building is located in the city center, near Gediminas avenue and Lukiskes square, which once held a huge statue of Lenin.
Under the Soviet rule, those who resisted the regime were usually tried and executed in various underground basements and cellars, however, this exact building was far from secret. From 1944 to 1991 it held Lithuanian headquarters of the Soviet police (KGB) and a prison, therefore this museum focuses on the history of Soviet oppression. The basement is an authentic recreation of the prison with cells and other original rooms. There are boxes (small 1.6 square meter cells), a photographing and fingerprinting room, guardrooms, solitary confinement cells, where prisoners had to stand on a small platform unless they wanted to fall into ice-cold water, a padded cell, and many regular cells. There is also a former execution chamber with small windows near the ceiling, through which the dead bodies were disposed of and thrown into lorries which took them to burial places outside the city.
The first two floors are devoted to the exposition, where one can find a variety of information about Soviet times. The museum is recognized for its authentic and precise representation of the Russian suppression in Lithuania. This is a great choice for those people, who have an interest in the history of national resistance movements. If you would like to explore it, find more information on the museum’s website http://www.genocid.lt/muziejus/en/ziejus/en/.
Centre for Civil Education
The name explains the purpose of this museum – it is intended to overview Lithuania and its history. However, not like the National Museum, this one presents the history in an interactive way. The museum has the main exposition and temporary smaller expositions that rotate from time to time. The main exhibition is dedicated to education on state functioning and political participation in a democratic nation. With a relatively young democracy such as Lithuania’s, the museum acts as a means of education for the Lithuanian citizens, but could also be one of the best sources of political and historical knowledge for those coming from abroad.
Besides the main exhibition, smaller exhibitions are also very interesting. For instance, an exposition called “Unforgettable Futures: Visions for Lithuania’s Centenary” is an unconventional way of introducing various aims and ideas that Lithuanian scientists, creators, artists, and statesmen had for their country during different periods of time. The visitors equipped with an Ipad and a pair of headphones come into a pitch-black room with many different installations that light up during different times. When an installation lights up, the visitor is able to scan the QR code and listen to the history of the creation in his headphones or read the text on his Ipad. After a couple of minutes, some lights go off and others light up, revealing new inventions that can be explored by the visitors. Such rotation keeps the visitor engaged.
The building of the center for civil education is located near the presidential palace of Lithuania and has garden-facing windows. The entrance is free, but it is required to book an excursion. You should also consider the fact that due to close proximity to the presidential palace, you will be searched at the entrance. Explore more on the website http://pazinkvalstybe.lt/.
Energy and Technology Museum
Loved the TV series Chernobyl? Then this museum is the right fit for you. It not only has the layout of the Ignalina nuclear power plant, which was the setting for most of the series but many other exhibits as well. The museum is made up of three major exhibitions: energy, industry, and interactive technology for the kids. The exhibitions contain various artifacts from different time periods and focus on the development of electricity, industry, and power and how these technological advancements changed everyday life. The museum is considered one of the most interactive and engaging museums in Vilnius, even offering an escape room in an authentic power plant setting.
The museum is also of particular interest to the kids, who have a whole exhibition to themselves and are free to explore various technologies and laws of physics. And while some might be skeptical about children’s interest in technology, the growing demand for birthday parties in a museum instead of conventional party venues, reassures that not only the parents but also the kids find this museum captivating. Therefore, if you would like to see a nuclear power plant or have kids who get bored easily at a traditional museum, this is a good alternative for you. Find more information on the museum’s website https://www.etm.lt/en/.
The last museum in this list of top museums in Vilnius is definitely worth visiting. You should consider it if you have nostalgia for your childhood or small kids who would particularly enjoy such an exposition. The toy museum is a relatively new museum in Vilnius and is located near the Cathedral. The exposition consists of ancient Lithuanian toys and toys of the Stone Age, there is also an exposition made for the 100 years of Lithuanian independence, where toys from a hundred years ago are exhibited. The last part of the exposition is dedicated to toys from the 20th century. And while toys from the Stone Age spark little nostalgia to the visitors, these toys will definitely take many down memory lanes.
The museum has very few toys behind glass and the majority of the toys can be played with, which makes the experience especially appealing to the parents who can let their kids wander and play with whatever they desire. The museum offers many guided tours and hosts multiple different workshops every day, but you should book the experience in advance as it is popular throughout the year with many schools booking excursions and workshops for their students. If you wish to explore this museum, visit their website http://zaislumuziejus.lt/.
Vilnius truly is a hidden gem of Europe, although often overshadowed by other cities. The museums in Vilnius are one of the best, due to the fact that they cherish each and every visitor that decides to explore their museum. And if you are still unsure which museum to choose for your weekend visit, I would suggest dedicating a whole month to explore them all!