One of the best day trips you can take while visiting Vilnius is to the town of Trakai, a.k.a The Lake Town, famous for its gorgeous lakes and magical castle.
Trakai is the former capital of Lithuania, a place full of history and charm. It’s a great day trip that you don’t want to miss when you visit Vilnius.
It’s a very popular tourist destination, one of the major ones in Lithuania. It offers something for both nature and history lovers.
Landscape photographers will definitely love this place, and if you have a drone, this is a great place to fly it.
The entire town and its area are listed as a Historical National Park in Lithuania.
Locals from Vilnius often go to Trakai for the weekend to get away from city life.
Still, even though I went there on a sunny day during high season, it didn’t feel crowded at all.
There were a lot of people, but there were no lines. Just plenty of boats and lots of space for everyone.
It’s a very peaceful place that makes you feel like you’re going back in time for a few hours.
Where is it? Trakai on the map
Getting to Trakai from Vilnius
I took a tour with Vilnius City Tour, accompanied by a local guide.
The tour is for a small group of about 10 people.
We rode in a minivan the departed from Vilnius city centre, across the street from the the Vilnius Cathedral.
It takes about 30-40 minutes to drive from Vilnius to Trakai, depending on traffic.
On the way the guide told us about landmarks in Vilnius as we passed by them. Later she told us about the history of Trakai and about the culture of Lithuania, from traditional foods to the languages spoken.
It’s interesting to not that this little town has been a multinational place throughout the decades, home to Lithuanians, Jews, Poles, Russians, Tatars and Karaites.
The scenery along the way is beautiful and green and when you arrive at Trakai, one of the first things you’ll see is the lake.
While the minivan took us into the town all the way to the castle, the guide told us about the various landmarks we were passing by.
One of them, the Chocolate Museum, sounded very intriguing (but I didn’t get a chance to visit it that day…)
The main highlight and biggest tourist attraction in Trakai is Trakai Castle Island.
When we arrived, we crossed the bridge over the lake and entered the red brick restoration of an impressive 15th century castle.
I’ve been to quite a few castles and palaces before and have learnt that it’s best for me to take guided tours rather than explore on my own, so that I don’t miss out on anything important.
This castle was no exception. Our guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining and gave us the much-needed context for the display.
The Trakai castle we can visit today is just one of two castles that existed in Trakai in the past.
Both were ruined, but this one was restored and the restoration took about 100 years (!) after which it was turned into a museum.
It was the residential castle of the Dukes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but after the capital moved from Trakai to Vilnius, the castle was used as a prison for the rich.
When you visit the castle you’ll see, among other things, an impressive collection of ancient coins that were found in excavations.
After the guided tour of the castle ended we had some free time to explore on our own.
I used some of it to see more parts of the castle, especially the part that shows what the castle rooms used to look like.
I particularly liked the dining room and fancy bedroom from the 19th century.
Lake Galvė in Trakai
As you leave the castle grounds, the panoramic view of the lake is just gorgeous.
You can take a boat trip around the lake. There are many boats of many kinds and sizes everywhere you look.
You can also just take a walk around the lake and admire the scenery.
There are lots of restaurants by the water and some cute souvenir shops.
It’s a perfectly relaxing place to spend your time, especially on a nice day.
After we spent some time at the lake, we got back to Vilnius city centre in the minivan. The whole day trip took about 4 hours.
More places to see in Lithuania
Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city: Things to do in Kaunas
Birstonas, which you can easily get to from either Vilnius or Kaunas – Read about it here: Visit the spa town of Birstonas.
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I was a guest of Vilnius City Tour and Go Vilnius. All opinions are my own.