Ultimate guide to Vilnius, Lithuania
Though the capital of Lithuania may not be on most peoples bucket list, that is not for lack of things to do, see and eat! Vilnius is a very nice city with an attractive old town and plenty of great restaurants and hotels. Lithuania was a place we knew nothing about however our trip took us through some of the country’s most stunning areas and ultimately convinced us that Lithuania should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Explore the Old Town
Dating back to the 14th century, Vilnius has quite the historical background. The architecture is very beautiful and diverse. Europe’s greatest architectural styles such as Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical blend perfectly in the capital of Lithuania. The Old Town’s jumbled cobbled streets are simply a joy to wander through. It is perfect for getting lost and finding yourself in one of the many cafe/bars tucked away in its alleyways or courtyards. Walking is going to be your best mode of transportation in the Old Town. Even though it’s a quite big, the Old Town is still very walkable and seeing it on foot is your best way to not miss anything!
Visit the creative neighborhood of Užupis
For something on the quirkier side, you can pay a visit the Republic of Užupis, the city’s bohemian and artist area, which also happens to have its own constitution, anthem, president, and special independence day. During the Soviet era, the authorities let Užupis go to ruin, and it quickly became one of the roughest districts in the city. Since Lithuania regained its independence in 1991, artists came and took advantage of the cheap accommodation. Now its thriving creative community hosts regular fashion festivals, concerts, exhibitions and poetry evenings. You can even get your passport stamped at the Užupis information center.
Discover the city’s Soviet past
Lithuania’s history is complex, fascinating, and heartbreaking. Following WWII, the country came under Soviet rule and, although resistance among Lithuanians was sincere, they were brutally tortured, confined and some even killed. The Museum of Genocide Victims will truly have you leaving with chills. The museum was opened in 1992 in the same building the prison was (nothing was left to the imagination). You can see cells, the prison courtyards, the execution room, bathrooms for prisoners and torture rooms. The museum did a fine job of detailing and outlining events in the prison’s history as well as the KGB themselves. It was pretty remarkable what memorabilia they had from this but in reality, this just recently took place not too long ago. The admissions ticket costs around 5 Euros per person and is open every day except Monday and Tuesday.
Try some of the local food
Lithuanian cuisine is generally mild as potatoes and rye bread are the staple foods in the country. When we visited this country we wanted to indulge in the local cuisine that is pretty much found in most restaurants. Lithuanians like to eat soups usually served with traditional black rye bread or potatoes before the main dish. The cold borscht soup, also know as beetroot soup is served throughout the country of Lithuania. The color of the soup is beautifully breath taking and the flavor is refreshing and quite sweet.
Another very popular dish served in Lithuania is fried rye bread with garlic butter and cheese. Guess what, it is delicious! How could it not be? Did you catch the key words, fried, butter, garlic, and cheese? !!! We had never heard of this food before, let alone, it being the countries national snack. We liked Lithuanian fried bread so much, I think we ate them almost once a day for the rest of our stay.
Go on a street art tour
Around every corner in the city of Vilnius you can spot beautiful descriptive art work. The city began to showcase murals in hopes to restore old decaying districts with art and to attract new viewers. As once controlled by the soviet union and just recently recovered their independence, creating these murals show a ‘process of change’ this strong country has gone through. All of the pieces you find around the city display a range of techniques ranging from the traditional graffiti to more abstract work. There are many different scavenger hunts you can find online or the app store to the most popular pieces of art work around the city. The piece of artwork we were most excited to see has recently been painted over unfortunately (Trump and Putin).
Get your mind blown at the Museum of Illusions
It was a rainy day in the city so we felt like enjoying Vilnius Museum of Illusions. The museum is open daily, costs 10 Euros per person and is really spectacular for all ages. Once we entered the museum we were greet by two very energetic staff members who gave us some recommendations on how to navigate through all of the illusions. We were having the time of our lives exploring through the many different rooms set up and spent so much time trying to figure out how the illusions worked. The staff was very helpful for when we could not crack the codes they were there to help us through the process. The fascinating illusions amazed, confused and educated us as nothing was what it seemed. Our two favorite illusions are in the pictures below- the upside down room which was the most popular when we were visiting. Also the separated chair illusions which we got this perfect picture thanks to one of the staff members.
Stroll through a local market
One of our all time FAVORITE things to do in all of the different cities we travel to is to explore their outdoor markets. Locals are set up with different types of food, crafts and clothing for prices that can be negotiated with. Since we are traveling for a long period of time we stay away from the material objects and go for the BEST FOOD!!!! In Vilnius we found a really nice outdoor market in the center of the city called Kalvariju Market. Just remember that this market and most bushiness in Vilnius are closed on Mondays.
Visit an art gallery
The city is filled with creative talents, modern culture and unusual art pieces with bold ideas. Whether it be one of the gigantic famous art centers featuring up to 6 large-scale exhibitions a year or a small hip art gallery showing just one local artist. This city is filled with a range of different galleries with plenty to offer. Most galleries are free to enter and take a look around so this is a great way to see what the city has to offer on a budget!
Use Uber for your means of transportation
We stayed in Vilnius for an entire week without using the public transportation only because Uber was so cheap here. We highly recommend this means of transportation. One day we took a drive to a mall about 15 minute away and it only costed 3 euros!!! Make sure your driver information matches the car/license plate before getting in the car (like always).
Where to stay
As we mentioned above, we stayed in Vilnius for a week exploring the city. Whenever we are stationed in one city for more than four nights we like to use AirBnB to get a condo/apartment which can make it feel more homey. Also we like to make sure we can cook ourselves (which we have passion for) and also do our own laundry. This Airbnb was in the neighborhood of Užupis and it was absolutely in an amazing location. We were able to walk to the main center in just 15 minutes. Nearby in this neighborhood there are many different cafes, restaurants and mini markets just a couple minutes away.
We hope you have enjoyed our recommendations for Vilnius, Lithuania-now add this city to your bucket list!!