12 min read
After our Travel Expert Roxana spending 48 hours in Valencia and bringing you some amazing travel recommendations, our Head of Operations Sam takes you on a journey to Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania.
This week, BRB is taking you a little off the beaten track to one of Europe’s most magical but lesser-known cities. The destination is Lithuanian’s capital, the vibrant and venerable Vilnius! If it’s not already on your bucket list, prepare for an update because once you’ve heard what Vilnius has to offer, a trip there will be irresistible! Located in southeast Lithuania, Vilnius gets its name from the river Vilnia which runs through the city. Though a relatively small capital now, Vilnius was the largest city in Europe up until the 15th century. Consequentially, it has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site due to its significant influence on the early cultural and architectural development of much of eastern Europe. Everywhere you look along its pretty streets is another slice of history or an impressive architectural landmark.
However, Vilnius is not stuck in the past! It’s a fast-growing tech hub and was named a 2021 Global City of the Future by FDI for its great potential. This means Vilnius is bubbling with young, inventive entrepreneurs who encourage the modern art scene, contribute to an energetic nightlife and have filled Vilnius’ cobbled streets with funky cafes and bars. Get used to saying the word ‘oho’ which means ‘wow’ in Lithuanian because trust me you are going to utter it a lot!
We have specially tailored a 48-hour itinerary so you can make the most out of every minute of your hols without having to worry about missing a thing. Why? Because we love you! All you have to do is make sure you’ve packed some comfortable shoes and don’t forget your passport!
After a 2 hour and 30 minutes flight from London Stansted, I land at Vilnius International Airport (the main airport in Vilnius). I want to make the most of my time in the city so I jump in a taxi and head straight to the 3* Comfort Hotel LT Rock'N'Roll to drop off my bag.
A hotel revolution in central Vilnius! Comfort Hotel LT – Rock ‘n’ Roll Vilnius is a modern, music-themed hotel that aims to make all travellers feel comfortable during their trip to Vilnius.
Free organic breakfast to quench your hunger after a workout in the hotel's free gym makes for a pretty good deal.
With an average rating of 4.5/5, I'm sure it's going to be a great stay!
Begin by getting your bearings and head to Gediminas’ Tower for an unbeatable view of Vilnius. Presiding over the city from its hilltop position, this imposing tower dates back to the 14th century and was built to defend Vilnius. Follow the pathways on the hill’s southern side and walk all the way to the top. Or, if you don’t fancy the climb, jump aboard the quaint funicular which will whisk you up the hill in a few minutes.
Photo Credit: @alina_anisimovaa
Once you’ve snapped some awesome panoramas, make your way back down the hill and towards Vilnius’ Old Town.
Photo Credit: @litvagid
This is such a charming area to explore and you’ll find all sorts of architectural gems within the Old Town’s labyrinth of winding alleyways. Stop by the red clay building of St Anne’s Church, a structure so beautiful Napoleon allegedly wished he could carry the church back to Paris with him ‘in the palm of his hand.’
Photo Credit: @u33_traveler
Make your way to Cathedral Square to marvel at the brilliant white buildings of The Cathedral Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St. Ladislaus and its magnificent bell tower. The Roman catholic cathedral is an important symbol of Lithuania’s Christianisation and inside you’ll find ancient sculptures, paintings and frescoes. If you’re in the mood for some more amazing views, climb to the top of the bell tower and you won’t be disappointed.
Photo Credit: @govilnius
The last must see stop in the Old Town is the Aušros vartai (The Gates of Dawn). This entrance to the city is the only remaining gateway out of the ten that were built in the 1500s. It is a major site of Catholic pilgrimage and the religious embellishments on the gates are meant to protect the city and all who pass through.
Photo Credit: @weltenbummler_hk
After all that walking, you’ll have worked up an appetite! Satisfy your stomach with lunch at Rene. The casual atmosphere makes for an easy breezy pit stop but that doesn’t mean the food isn’t delicious! For a real treat, order some of their showstopping mussels.
Photo Credit: @marta.ger
The next stop on the itinerary is the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Rights. This chilling exhibition is found in the former Gestapo and KGB headquarters of Vilnius and displays documents and memorabilia relating to the horrifying period of the Soviet Occupation of Lithuania. The deeply moving collection includes photographs, personal effects and papers of deportation victims. If you venture to the basement, you will be faced with the cells and torture chambers where many prisoners were killed.
Photo Credit: @francescolipari
Visiting the museum is a tough experience and a shocking reminder of how cruel humankind can be, but it is important to remember this tragic period in world history and to commemorate those who lost their lives.
Shake off the despair and kick off your evening with a well deserved (and wonderfully cheap!) drink at one of the funky bars packed into Vilniaus Street. Beer lovers should definitely check out Alaus Bilbioteka, which translates to the Beer Library. Within this stylish interior, you’ll find books, a periodic table of beers and knowledgeable bartenders who will help you discover a new favourite poison!
Photo Credit: @sanderdenbezemer
For those who prefer a cocktail, try the Alchemikas Cocktail Bar where friendly mixologists serve up elegant drinks in a quirky but suave environment. Soak up some of that alcohol with a meal at the nearby Forto Dvaras. This is the place to go if you want to sample some authentic and hearty Lithuanian dishes. Not ordering cepelinai here is practically a crime. Cepelinai are large potato dumplings stuffed with minced meat, mushrooms or cottage cheese and are one of Lithuania’s most popular delicacies. To bring the authentic experience all together, the waiting staff here even wear traditional costume!
Photo Credit: @mkudry
Just because the sun has set doesn’t mean the fun has to stop! Vilnius packs a nightlife which boasts some of the best music, alcohol and attitude in the Baltic States. Interested? Then try out Kablys+Club which is a bar and a club, oh and also a skate park!
Photo Credit: @rubinas_p
Techno and house DJs often frequent Kablys and they host special events virtually every weekend. Just don’t blame me if you have so much fun you lose track of time and dance until sunup!
After a night out in Vilnius, you may wake up not feeling so chipper. Luckily, a delicious brunch at Sugamour will get you feeling better in no time! They prepare food of the highest quality with such finesse that I’ll be impressed if you can resist taking a picture of your plate before you eat!
Photo Credit: @vilniauskampeliai
From here, visit the Republic of Užupis. The name means ‘beyond the river’ and refers to a neighbourhood that declared itself independent in 1997 when a group of artists sought to separate themselves from the capital which was struggling to shake the influence of the Soviet Union. The area was intended to be a haven of democratic and cultural freedom and has its own flag, constitution and even a 12-man army! Inhabiting the beautiful, cobbled streets of Užupis are hip artists practicing their craft in galleries and on street walls and trendy bohemians sipping speciality coffees or pushing fashion limits.
Photo Credit: @thetravelboyspod
It’s a brilliant place to get lost and soak up the welcoming atmosphere. Whilst you’re here, do try and visit the Angel of Užupis sculpture in the main square.
Photo Credit: @edchernis
Get a bite to eat at the Uzupio Kavine, a restaurant with a fabulous location overlooking the river. Whilst you enjoy your meal, see if you can spot the small sculpture of the Mermaid of Užupis sitting on a wall just above the water. I hope you have your energy restored because it’s museum-o-clock! I’m talking back-to-back, mind blowing exhibitions. What can I say, there’s no rest for the wicked!
Photo Credit: @ausratravels
First up is the awesome Museum of Illusions where you can spend a fun hour getting your mind boggled by all sorts of optical tricks.
Photo Credit: @uladzimirhanchar
Next, go from mystery to history and check out the National Museum of Lithuania. Here you’ll learn all about the country’s past from the very first traces of inhabitants in the area in the 1100s BC all the way up to life in Lithuania on the eve of World War Two. The displays are thoroughly fascinating, and you’ll fall a little more in love with this country for knowing it the better.
Photo Credit: @laurisju
As the sun begins to set, head to the White Bridge on the Neris River and hop aboard a Viking-themed boat ride! You’ll have great fun and get to view Vilnius from a whole new perspective on the water as well as being told all about the country’s Baltic Viking past. Be prepared for a spot of rowing, fortune telling and a hearty number of folk songs!
Photo Credit: @zabl_elena
Keep the history theme going and dine on a scrumptious supper at Ertlio Namas. At this fantastic restaurant, every dish is a contemporary take on meals eaten by the Lithuanian nobility of bygone eras. Each plate is accompanied by a fascinating story and you’ll be surprised by all the lavish ingredients and intriguing concoctions people were dining on in the past.
Photo Credit: @joyfulvoyages
Finish your holiday with one last tipple at Vasaros Terasa. Meaning ‘Summer Terrace’, this al fresco drinks spot always has a lovely crowd and often hosts live concerts. I can’t think of anywhere better to wish farewell to fair Vilnius.
If like me you love taking short weekend breaks across Europe and spending 48 hours in cities like Barcelona, Prague, Porto, Split, Bologna, Stockholm or Venice, but if like me you hate wasting hours trawling travel sites to plan and research your next weekend break, only to be hit by increased flight prices just before booking, then BeRightBack is for you!
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I hope you enjoyed my 48 hours city guide to Vilnius and do not hesitate to use our website chat or to email us if you have any questions!
Sam Norman (Head of Operations at BeRightBack)
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