The Palace of the Grand Dukes is a magnificent building that was once home to the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Today it houses a massive museum containing a ton of artifacts and information from throughout Lithuania’s long history. When in Vilnius, we definitely recommend making a visit to this amazing museum. Read on for more details on planning a visit!
A Bit of History on the Palace of the Grand Dukes
The first structure to occupy this spot was a wooden fortified settlement built in the 4th century. During the 13th century, a more fortified brick castle and large wall surrounding the settlement were built. With rivers on multiple sides, this was a very strategic point.
In the 16th century, the castle was converted into a luxurious palace which served as an important residence, administrative hub, and political point for the rulers of Lithuania and Poland. Many works of art and treasures were brought here by the Grand Dukes. The palace and area around it continued to grow as Vilnius became a major trade and cultural hub in Eastern Europe.
The settlement, castle, and palace had suffered many damages over the years from fires and attacks. But the palace’s ultimate destruction came with the Moscow invasion. The palace fell into disrepair and was left abandoned. Finally, in the 1980s excavations of the old palace began, and in 2002 reconstruction started.
Getting There and General Info
The Palace of the Grand Dukes sits north of Old Town Vilnius behind Cathedral Square. It is in a great location as it is close to many restaurants, shops, and other attractions like Gediminas Tower. The area is great to explore on foot.
Vilnius also has a convenient public transport system with stops just by the palace. Find routes and timetables here.
When you arrive at the palace, enter the main courtyard and find the escalator down to the reception area. Here, you can purchase your tickets, pick up audio guides, and place your items in a locker.
June through August:
- 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday
- 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday.
September through May:
- Closed on Monday
- 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday
- 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Thursday
- 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday
The museum stops admitting visitors one hour before closing. We do our best to keep the blog updated, but to confirm the schedule and holiday closures, check here.
The museum has multiple routes, or exhibitions, that vary in cost. If you purchase more than one route, a discount is applied. We’ll talk more about the routes below but here are the ticket options:
- Route 1: €4
- Route 2: €6
- Route 3: €2
- Route 4: €4
- All Routes: €10
We also purchased an audio guide for €1 per person. They are available in English, Lithuanian, and Russian. For more information on tickets for families, students, etc., click here.
Quick Notes on Visiting the Palace of the Grand Dukes
When visiting the Palace of the Grand Dukes, note that coats, bags, and other personal items must be left in a locker near the reception. A Euro coin must be deposited to use the locker. We didn’t have one because we didn’t have small change and weren’t aware this was required, but the security guard very nicely lent us a chip. You may bring your valuables and camera, but do not use a flash. Food and drink are not permitted in the museum.
The museum has many exhibitions grouped into routes. We went through a few of the routes and were in the museum for hours! We still feel like we could have spent more time looking at all of the exhibits further in depth. If you are limited on time, consider picking one or two of the routes.
Palace of the Grand Dukes Exhibition Routes
Route I covers history, archaeology, and architecture. This route details much of the history of the city, castles, palaces, early settlements in the area, and the transformation of the Palace of the Grand Dukes over time. It also covers the more recent history of the palace restoration and the effort that has gone into this endeavor.
In addition to the display cases filled with unique artifacts and castle replicas, the route takes you through some of the palace’s foundation. There are old authentic walls, wooden drainage systems, traces of fire damage from long ago, and more.
Lastly, Route I offers a virtual reality experience for an extra €2 per person. After learning so much about the settlement of Vilnius and development and downfall of the palace, it was very interesting to see it all put together in a visual timeline.
This route took us the longest because of the sheer amount of information provided.
Route II covers reconstructed historical interiors. It contains information and displays regarding the Grand Duke’s Treasury and coin mint. This route also consists of many rooms displaying furniture and artwork, giving visitors an insight to what living in the palace may have looked like. Some of these rooms include the Grand Duke’s dressing room and bedroom, the guardroom, private apartments, and throne room. They did seem to live very lavishly!
Route 2 also includes the observation tower. Climb the spiral staircase to the top for a view of Vilnius below. The view was better from Gediminas Tower on the hill above, but we still thought this short climb to the observation tower was worth it.
Route III covers weaponry, everyday life, and music. This short route gives a little insight to culture and lives of those living in the castle. Displays also showcase some really cool armor, swords, guns, and other weaponry.
Route IV contains the museum exhibition center. This is where national and international exhibitions are held on occasion. When we visited, there were no exhibitions, so we did not purchase a ticket for this route. Check the museum website for info on current exhibitions.