Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania with a remarkable, cosy & UNESCO Heritage listed Old Town center, which is furrowed with alleys & streets, with breathtaking architecture & museums together with preserved historic environment. The city is divided by river Vilnia, with North being modern with skyscrapers and high rise apartments and in South it’s the sight of history & tradition jutting in the air with famous Vilnius University in the centre. The city is around 1000 years old with home to more than 100 churches, from different period & styles. In total there are around 324 Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism and XIX century architectural buildings in the city.
All the churches & most of the sites in the city are FREE to visit and do not require any fees. And the places which charge, the fee is fairly low!
It was primarily because of one of our close friend’s wedding at Krikštėnai, around 60 kms from Vilnius. We decided to arrive 3 days before the wedding day in order to explore Vilnius city. Our stay in the city was for 2 nights/3 days with an Airbnb host – the apartment was in Old Town.
Getting into the city from Airport is fairly easy & a cab costs only ~6 EUR to Old Town Center. There are public transport as well, between Central St & Airport and costs around 1 EUR per person.
The best option is to get a Vilnius City card from the Tourist Office – which make entries to some museums free, alongside providing discount on different restaurants & shopping opportunities. There is even option to choose either a FREE Guided Walking Tour or Audio Guide or Mp3 Audio Guide. We took 24 hours card without public transport towards the end of our trip.
Irrespective of how long the stay is, the below places are definitely not-to-be missed in Vilnius:
Few churches worth mentioning are: St. Nicolas Church – The oldest orthodox church & may be the oldest building in Vilnius; St Anne & Bernardine Churches; Russian churches in & around Town Hall Square and Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit.
Alumnatas courtyard – the place which opens up to a view to the rear of the presidential palace. The courtyard is a bit tricky to find and has an elephant statue holding a chessboard for people to play on. We visited this place as part of our walking tour.
Barbakanas bastion – The place where one can admire the remains of 16th Century Vilnius city wall. Moreover, the city view from this place is pretty nice as it’s on a hill.
Vilnius University Courtyard – Probably the best places to soak up the city & it’s history. The University lies in the Old Town and is the oldest in the Baltics.
Bernardine Garden – Even though it’s besides Cathedral Square, it’s mostly over looked. However, it’s one of the nicest places in the city to hang out. A great place to watch local life & interact with locals.
There are tons of cafes all over the city which provides a nice cosy setting to relax and sip in nicely brewed coffees & their traditional pastries or cakes.
Pinavija Cafe & Bakery – A small & cosy cafe with lovely décor, quite girly though! Have wide varieties of snacks to choose from, which tastes delicious. Quite popular among locals as well. Tried the Napolean cake along with some traditional pastries!
Vero Cafe – Chain of cafes, which can be found all over Vilnius. Great place to relax and spend some quality coffee time while being connected to Internet! Though, it’s pretty usual to find free WiFi in Vilnius at most of the places.
Forto Dvaras – Probably one of the most advertised and popular restaurant serving traditional Lithuanian Cuisine in Vilnius. We went once for the dinner and that’s the place I tired ‘Smoked Pork Ears’ – raw in taste and it went well for first 4-5 pieces and that’s max one can eat from the plate! Loved this weird beer snack 😛
Senoji Trobele – Another restaurant serving traditional Lithuanian Cuisine, which actually had better taste than Forto Dvaraa – but again both the places are worth trying.
Debut Cafe – A usual Thai Cafe in center with good food choices and decent taste.
Uzupio kavine – Nice option for eat out with some drinks by sitting alongside the river.
Yes, during our last day in Vilnius, there was Vilnius City Fiesta 2015 as part of which there was Street Market in front of Cathedral Square on Gediminas Avenue serving all sorts of Lithuanian food, hand made items and drinks – it was quite interesting to see the different things this country has to offer.
Also, there are couple of great Apps which provides lot of info about the city. We tried the Android version and loved both of them (a great alternative to maps and to avoid all the paper-hassle):
Vilnius is one of the city which cannot be overlooked and since it’s not very popular among travelers, it’s one of the places which is quite untouched and has a sense of freshness attached to it! And economically comparing to other European capitals, it’s fairly cheap!
So, hop on to bus/train/flight/car or whatever & travel to Vilnius 🙂
Until next time Viso Gero (Goodbye in English)!