Vilnius, a destination not even on my travel radar at the beginning of the year when I started loosely mapping out places I wanted to visit.
But, after a great first trip to the Baltic region (a weekend in Riga), and a super affordable weekend in Krakow, I was intrigued by Vilinus, which I heard was comparable to Riga in feel, but closer to Krakow in cost.
Sure enough, less than three weeks from the trip, I snagged a return flight for less than £80 and found an Airbnb studio flat in Old Town for £17 a night. And, just like that, I was off to Vilinus for a quick weekend jaunt.
No doubt Lithuania is one of Europe’s best kept secrets. It’s a cute, quirky capital with friendly locals and great food that had me wishing I could stay longer than 36 hours.
3 Reasons I Fell in Love with Vilnius, Lithuania
The Old Town + Churches: My first day in Vilnius, I wandered side streets all over town and couldn’t believe how beautiful it was- so many pastel homes, endless baroque architecture and churches on every corner. Be sure to wander down the main street of the Old Town, Pilies, and some of the narrow streets that used to make up the former Ghetto- Antokolskio, Stikliu, Gaono.
Wandering the city left me eager to know more about the Vilnius’ history, so I decided to do a free walking tour on my second day. Highly recommend, the tour even took us to the independent section of Uzupis (more on that below).
For views of the city from above, I climbed the tower near the cathedral, but didn’t have time to climb up the hill of the three crosses, and unfortunately, Gediminas’ Tower was closed during my visit.
While you’re wandering, don’t miss St. Anne’s Church- its red gothic architecture is unbelievable.
The Quirkiness: Did you know there’s a self-proclaimed independent state inside of Vilnius? Outside of Old Town and across the river, you’ll find the Republic of Uzupis.
A micro-nation, Uzupis has its own constitution (see it for yourself on Paupio street), a national anthem, flags and will even stamp your passport.
It reminded me of similar micro-nations where artists thrive, think Montmarte in Paris and Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen.
Exploring this part of Vilnius, you’ll see art installations everywhere- especially along the river. Uzupis even has its own national day, held on April Fools Day (of course). On this day, water in the fountain in the centre of Uzupis is replaced with beer (win!).
The Food + Drinks: In part because of its affordability, I loved eating and drinking out in Vilnius. A couple of my favourite places to try Lithuanian food, enjoy a good meal or relax with a tipple:
- Spunka: A beer garden in Uzupis, great local and craft beer options.
- Užupio Picerija: Awesome pizza and spritzes.
- Wine & Smile: Beautiful wine story and wine bar, check out the downstairs – very cosy.
- Užupio kavinė: Loved a mid-afternoon drink at this bar over the river where Old Town Vilnius meets Uzupis, idyllic on a beautiful spring day.
- Šnekutis: Traditional and tasty Lithuanian food, don’t miss the beet root soup.
- Burbulio Vyninė: Stumbled into this Lithuanian wine bar while wandering Old Town. No menu, just a few curated wines and local cheeses. I asked for a dry white and cheese and loooved both selections.
- Alaus Biblioteka: A cute library themed bar, specialising in brews. They also have ciders and a few spirits, but the dozens of beers they catalogue are the real showstoppers here.
- King & Mouse: A whisky bar in Vilnius? And wait, with my favourite Nikka whisky? Score! The conversion rate in Vilnius meant I was able to chill in a beautiful bar and sip Nikka Single Barrel for less than £5 a glass.
- BREW: First stop upon arriving in Vilnius, was thrilled to find this hipster coffee shop around the corner from my Airbnb. Great cold brew and good pastries, plus a super relaxing atmosphere. The best.
- Joffė’s Duoninė: Delicious French pastry, close to the bus station.
- Huracan Coffee: Awesome coffee and espresso, and a very chill space- lots of couches and tables for hanging out.
Have you ever been to Lithuania? If you’ve been to Vilnius, what did you enjoy most about the city?