Vilnius is Lithuania’s capital city and also home to Eastern Europe’s largest baroque Old Town. Vilnius is a small capital in comparison to other European capital cities. Though this capital city may be small and compact it’s not lacking in sights, monuments and history.
Vilnius is also home to lots and lots and lots of churches and I mean lots, on most streets there are huge grand churches with lots of intricate detailing. The streets around Vilnius are small and cobbled with old beautiful buildings, some which are crumbling at the corners, and there are also some buildings which date back to its old Soviet Union days.
My husband and I had visited the other Baltic’s previously, visiting Tallinn in Estonia on a city break, and both of us have travelled to Riga in Latvia on separate occasions for hen and stag dos. We had been saying for a while that we wanted to go to Vilnius to tick off the final Baltic country on our list.
I was searching for cheap flights as I normally do, and was browsing the Wizz Air app when I came across flights to Vilnius for an absolute steal at £35 per person return, so it was a no brainer. We booked the flights for a weekend, originally meant to be flying out early on the Friday morning but the flight got pushed back to a much later time which meant we lost a day which was unfortunate as I was hoping to do a day trip out of the city. However we still made the most of the 2 days we had in Vilnius and did lots and lots of exploring.
We both really enjoyed our city break in Vilnius and would really recommend going, there’s lots to see and do and it’s great if your on a budget as eating out and drinks are so cheap there. Compared to Western Europe you get a lot more in Eastern Europe for your money, and I love visiting this part of the world.
Sights & Activities
Bernardinu Sodas is a central city park perched on the banks of the Vilnia River. This park has set out path ways, lots of seating and picnic areas, and flower beds and trees. On a summers day this would be a great place to sit with a drink or picnic. We visited during the winter so it was very cold and bleak however the views of the trees across the river covered in frost was lovely to see.
Cathedral Square is in central Vilnius and dates back to centuries ago, it is home to many of Vilnius’s top attractions such as the The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Vilnius Cathedral and the Cathedral Belfry as well as several museums and art galleries.
The Square hosts many events throughout the year, while we were there they were setting up a Christmas market which we missed just by a few days.
Cathedral Square is one of the top attractions in Vilnius, we started our day looking around there before heading to the Three Crosses then Gediminis Hill. Gediminis Hill also acts as a backdrop behind the Cathedral. Everything is located really close together so easy to walk between all the main attractions.
Choral Synagogue was built back in 1903 and is the only Synagogue that is still intact and standing from World War 2 as the nazis used this Synagogue as a medical store. Vilnius Old Town used to be home to a large Jewish community until the invasion of the Nazi’s in 1941, they murdered 35,000 Jews within the city and the surrounding forests. Today Vilnius has a much smaller Jewish community, and there are several Jewish museums, centres and heritage sites to go and visit.
Gates of Dawn
Gates of Dawn is a grand entrance into one of the best preserved areas of the Old Town. It is also home to the Gates of Dawn Chapel which is built above the gate, and has been there since the 18th century, this chapel is decorated beautifully with lots of silver hearts and detailed craftsmanship. The chapel is still seen today as one of Europe’s pilgrimage sites.
Gediminis Hill founded Vilnius back in the 13th century, Gediminis Castle and Museum are located at the top of the hill. There are two ways of reaching the top, there is a 10 minute walk up the rocky path way, or there is a funicular which unfortunately was closed on the day we visited.
We entered the castle and museum which was only €5 each, and the museum contains lots of information and exhibitions on the history of the castle over the centuries. At the top of the castle there is panoramic views of Vilnius.
Hales Turgus Market
Hales Turgus Market is in the Old Town and is one of the cities largest and oldest markets. There is a huge variety of stalls selling meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables and other locally made and grown produce. There are also several cafes and food stands, and out towards the back of the market are clothes and fabric stalls.
I always love wandering around local markets in other countries and seeing what the regional produce is, and seeing the culture and community of the locals living their day to day life.
The Old Town in Vilnius attracts many tourists from all over, the Old Town is eastern Europe’s largest old town and is part of UNESCO. It was built up between the 15th and 16th centuries, its old narrow cobbled streets, hidden courtyards and crumbling buildings are the main appeal of the Old Town. It feels like stepping back in time and has a real buzz to the area.
It’s great to just wander around this part of Vilnius exploring all the backstreets and alleyways and getting lost in the surroundings and culture. The Old Town is also adorned with stunning and grand churches.
The main hub in the Old Town is Pilies Gatve also known as Castle Street, the street has lots to offer with plenty of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and locals with stalls selling their wares as well some street entertainers.
Three Crosses are set on top of a hill overlooking Vilnius, the Three Crosses that stand there today are not the original. The original crosses were first put up back in the 17th century in memory of some martyred monks from a few centuries before. The crosses were then bulldozed by the Soviet’s and were rebuilt after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Three Crosses provide spectacular views over the capital city, and are an easy 10 minute walk up the hill. I would suggest doing the Three Crosses in the morning as it was pretty quiet at that time of the day when we visited. After visiting the Three Crosses head over to Gediminis Hill as the two are fairly close to one another.
Uzupis was one of my favourite areas in Vilnius and the best way to describe it is Vilnius’s boho hipster heart. Uzupis have unofficially declared this as it’s own breakaway state. There is even an unofficial president and a 41 point constitution which is engraved on plaques in several languages which can be visited.
This artsy district in Vilnius is a quirky find and we didn’t plan on visiting here more we stumbled across it. It has lots of street art to view as well as the Uzupis Angel Statue which is the main symbol of the area.
You can also visit the main small square which has lots of sculptures, and a small craft shop where you can also get your passport stamped, which is a great novelty. This small neighbourhood has lots of restaurants, bars and folk art shops selling their crafts. The main bridge into Uzupis is full of padlocks and here you can see lots of sculptures down by the river.
Food & Beverage
Baziliskas is a small Lithuania pub/restaurant situated on a street corner in the Old Town. It’s a traditional Lithuanian pub which has a log cabin feel inside. After dinner we came across this great little find on our way back to our hotel, and decided to stop in for a hot wine and to warm up by the small fireplace.
This small and cosy pub also serves lots of hearty traditional Lithuanian food, we saw a few locals tucking into some of the food and it smelt delicious. If your looking for a small pub to grab a drink before bed then this pub is great place to wind down for the night.
Casa No 4
Casa No 4 was one of my favourite places that we ate at in Vilnius. Located down a quiet cobbled street in the Old Town, this large bar and restaurant offers traditional Lithuanian food in a contemporary setting. We went to Casa No 4 for lunch and got a great spot next to the bay window overlooking the small street outside.
As food in Vilnius is so cheap in comparison to other places in Europe, we went abit mad on ordering and wanted to try lots of the Lithuanian dishes to share.
We ordered fried rye bread with dipping sauce which was delicious, we aren’t normally huge fans of rye bread but normally anything that is fried and not good for you always does tend to taste better.
We also ordered traditional potato pancakes, dumplings with curd, curd cheese with garlic and chilli herbs and some grilled fennel vegetables, because we felt like we needed some vegetables to balance out all the stodgy hearty dishes we had ordered.
We both really liked this restaurant and it’s great for lunch or dinner or just popping in for a drink and snack and to warm up in the winter.
Decantus Wine Bar
Decantus Wine Bar is a small and quirky wine bar located along the Main Street in the Old Town just above a flea market. It was so cold while we visited Vilnius we decided to make a pit stop here for a hot wine and to get warm. If your a wine lover then this place is ideal for you as it has plenty of choice of wine on offer and a relaxed atmosphere.
Etno Dvaras is a bit of a tourist trap, and just after we arrived the queue was out the door. However if your looking to sit in what looks like a traditional Lithuanian style restaurant and the waiters and waitresses wearing traditional clothing, this place is great especially if your a meat eater. As we had a big lunch we decided to order some small dishes to share.
There wasn’t a lot of vegetarian options available so we ended up ordering a few sides and starters. Surprisingly the cold beetroot soup was actually a lot nicer than it sounded. We also ordered some roast potatoes with sour cream, and some more traditional Lithuanian dumplings although these ones were a different type compared to the ones we tried at Casa No 4.
We also ordered some buckwheat pancakes which were very bland not particularly palatable, however this may just be our tastebuds. I also ordered some traditional Lithuanian berry tea which was nice.
I would recommend this restaurant as it’s in an ideal location right on the main strip of the Old Town, and has lots of Lithuanian dishes to choose from especially if your a meat eater. We also decided to try some traditional Lithuanian cakes to finish which were the Sakotis (tree cake) and the Grybukai (mushroom biscuit), the mushroom biscuit was small and my favourite out of the 2, it was a great little treat to finish off our meal.
Pilies Kepyklele is a cafe and bakery and is located in the heart of the Old Town just across from Etno Dvaras. The cafe has a warm and welcoming charm to it, and feels a bit like your stepping back in time with old bare bricks on show.
We came here for a drink before dinner at Etno Dvaras, I ordered the most delicious hot chocolate although it was more like a dessert, it was melted chocolate sauce with hazelnuts crumbled on top in a small espresso cup, it was just what I needed after walking around in -4 conditions.
Uzupio Kavine has a prime spot set right on the Vilnia River next to the main bridge leading into Uzupis. It has decking and lots of seating outside overlooking the river which on a warm summers day would be ideal. We stopped in here for a drink in the afternoon and again to get some hot drinks to warm ourselves from the Baltic weather conditions outside.
The interior is traditional and cosy inside, and this little pub also attracts many locals as well as the odd tourist, they also serve food in here mixing up both traditional Lithuanian with a few western dishes and other cuisines from around the world.
Vero Cafe is a cafe chain dotted all around Vilnius we kept seeing them in a lot of the main streets, we stopped in here for some more hot drinks to get warm and if your a coffee addict like my husband these are great little cafes to have a rest in between exploring the streets of Vilnius.
Vegafe specialises in producing vegetarian and vegan dishes which can be hard to come by in Lithuania. We went to Vegafe for lunch on our last day, and this was my favourite restaurant in Vilnius, the food we had there was fresh and delicious and was so affordable.
We ordered a small pie each to start which was a bargain at under €2 each. My husband ordered the paneer and spinach pie which was delicious and I ordered the paneer and cranberry pie which was also very tasty. The pies are made and ready to go and can be eaten in or taken away.
As it was lunch time we both opted for a soup each which came with bread, the soup portions were huge and if we had known they would have been that big we probably wouldn’t have ordered so much food, as we also ordered a side of celeriac chips with dipping sauce.
All the food here was great and has a huge selection of options available as well as smoothies, juices and teas on offer. The restaurant itself is clean and contemporary and the staff are helpful and friendly. If your visiting Vilnius this place is a must.
Old Town Trio Hotel
We were so pleasantly surprised by Old Town Trio Hotel, it has a great location set in the Old Town so everything is walking distance and easy enough to get to. We were also really impressed with the room it was much nicer than the photos online, we booked a standard room for about £50 a night which also included breakfast.
The room itself was large and seemed newly refurbished and was immaculately decorated and cleaned. We also had a kitchen and small dining area, although I’m not sure if all standard rooms have this or not if we were just put in a different room type. The bathroom was also new and very clean and the shower was really good too.
The beds were really comfy and the bedding seemed brand new and had lots of blankets and throws to make yourself comfy.
The breakfast was also very nice and had plenty of choice which was mostly continental items such as salads, meats, cheeses, breads, pastries and cereals but also offered a couple of hot items such as eggs, sausages and some other items which changed daily. If you have a sweet tooth like me opt for the cherry juice instead of orange juice it was delicious. The breakfast room was also very modern and clean.
I can not recommend Old Town Trio Hotel enough we really couldn’t fault it, from helpful staff, to modern clean rooms and a decent breakfast to set you up for the day and all for a great value price.
Vilnius and the other Baltics make great city weekend breaks that are affordable which is great if your on a budget. When planning your trip to Vilnius have a look at Wizz Air as they offer extremely cheap flights from London Luton Airport to all the Baltics, and also have regular flight sales which is how I got our flights there so cheap.
If you are going to travel to Vilnius during the winter months make sure to take plenty of warm clothing and layers as the phrase ‘it’s Baltic outside’ really comes into full play here. The weather is below freezing in the winter. Also take walking boots or shoes with grip on, as the streets get very icy and slippy I lost count of how many times we almost slipped over and watched numerous locals slipping over too.
One more tip I would suggest for exploring Vilnius is to just get lost down all the winding streets of the Old Town, the best part of a city break is getting lost in the city.
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Lithuanian