Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a vibrant and contemporary city with rich traditions and deep historical roots. A continually shifting range of historical events has constantly shaped Vilnius’ face. From being the flourishing capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, creating the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, undergoing the annexation by the Russian Empire, outliving the WWI, enduring WWII with the oppression of the merciless Soviet Union, which lasted for a few decades…
After Lithuania declared its independence from the USSR in 1990, Vilnius took small, but persistent steps to arise from the Soviet Union’s remains. And here it is now: an independent and modern city, which, till today, shines with the spirit of freedom. Although a significant part of our history is painful and left deep scars in Lithuanians’ hearts and souls, we are not afraid to talk about it and don’t remain silent, because it’s a part of us. It’s who we are and shows how much we have grown. Vilnius is a genuinely honest and versatile city, with some small imperfections… But we don’t mind. Because that’s what makes the city truly ours.
It’s about time to take you on a 48-hour journey around our truly beloved city of Vilnius. Our Spotters are more than ready to show you the places that locals honestly love and that are an essential part of the city’s image. Take a deep breath…and enjoy. The city has a lot to tell.
Day 1: 09:00 – 13:00
Lithuanians don’t really have a very specific and traditional breakfast meal, we usually boost our energy with some coffee or tea, a couple of sandwiches, a fresh yoghurt or cereal. Well, it’s up to every person’s personal taste. But if we want something special, we always eagerly let foreign cuisines into our hearts and souls. And stomach, of course. When it comes to Vilnius’ restaurants for a high-quality breakfast (lunch and dinner as well!), the first spot that pops into the head is Stebuklai (which actually means Miracles). According to our local Radvilė, “The gastronomy and HORECA professionals made the top 30 list of best restaurants in the country. According to the list the No 1 restaurant in Lithuania is Stebuklai“. It is unsurprising that this restaurant – which is run by the very talented chef Martynas Praškevičius – hit the top of the list since its well thought-out menu is comprised of classical dishes with a super modern twist. Stebuklai has a separate breakfast menu, which includes Eggs Benedict, pancakes or English breakfast (see the picture above!). All the dishes have some unusual, yet mouth-watering variation. Let’s say it’s a miracle in your mouth. Literally.
Before hitting the road to the historical part of Vilnius city center, you definitely need to see the other face of the city, or as locals say, the modern part of it. Let’s head to the other side of the river Neris. There are a few bridges that go over the river, but you should choose the footbridge called Baltasis tiltas (The White Bridge). From the bridge you can see the beautiful panorama of the old city. A personal tip: go there in the early morning or evening, you will definitely snap some spot-on pictures from here! The bridge has an unusual accent: the sculpture called Spindulys – ietis (The Ray – Spear), which is part of the project “Signs of Vilnius”. The project focuses on the Neris river and its bridges that connect the old and new parts of Vilnius. The Ray – Spear sculpture symbolizes the rebirth of the nation, its independence and invincible bravery. By the way, the green area near the White Bridge is really popular amongst locals during the warm season (and especially in the summer time!) where they meet their friends, lie down on the grass and just enjoy a pure moment of peace.
On the other side of the Neris River, you can find some shopping malls, recreational areas (including a skate park!) and, pay attention, Chiune Sugihara sakura park. Most of the time the park seems to be just a peaceful place with only a few locals roaming around. But sometime in the middle of April, when beautiful Japanese cherry blossoms start to bloom, the real fun begins… Probably every second local has a photo (usually a selfie) where he/she is romantically sitting/lying around/laughing/smiling/drinking coffee/being sad/enjoying the life amongst those blossoming trees. I’m not even kidding. If you are planning to visit Vilnius during this time of the year, you will definitely remember my words.
Let’s forget Japanese cherries for now, we have so much to do in Vilnius! Really close to the park you can see the Radisson Blue hotel (it’s a huge white building). On top of this hotel you will find an amazing view of the city. Our Spotter Marek explains: “<…> take a lift located on the left side of reception. At the top you’ll find a small foyer with windows facing both sides: the Old Town can be seen from one and Žvėrynas, along with newer parts of the city, from the other.” Not many people know about this spot, but here you can snap some striking shots! The entrance is absolutely free and you can come here whenever you want, the door is always open!
Art is an inseparable part of every country’s culture, reflecting its history, everyday life and locals’ viewpoints. Vilnius owns a place where this is all showcased and it’s called National Gallery of Art. The Gallery contains a permanent collection that can be divided into three parts: art from the first half of the 20th century, art from the second half of the 20th century and from the 1990s (when Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union). All those periods reflect a different state of the country’s development, everyday life and attitude. The Gallery also includes Modern and contemporary Lithuanian art: paintings, sculptures, photography, art installations and video art. Of course, the National Gallery of Art has the exhibitions that constantly change, so you can always spot something new. The entrance fee is only € 1.80! By the way, don’t forget that the Gallery is closed on Mondays and during the National holidays!
Day 1: 13:00 – 19:00
When it comes to lunchtime, Vilnius has plenty of places to grab a quick bite or to enjoy your meal in great luxury. The next spot that we are about to offer is kind of…back to the past. But in a lovely and cozy way. So let’s head to Neringa Restaurant. This restaurant is super old-school since it was opened in 1959. The interior was created by artists Vladas Jankauskas, Vytautas Povilaitis and sculptor Juozas Kėdainis. In 1970, the interior was listed among the State Protected Monuments of Lithuanian Architecture. When Neringa was opened, it became one of the most popular places among the city’s bohemians and intellectuals. Nowadays, the new generation prefers other spots for their lunch, but the elderly still remember (and visit) the restaurant with great nostalgia. Neringa is really worth a visit since it is a part of our city’s history. Here you can try some national dishes (Cepelinai for the win!), BUT, among locals, Neringa is a well-known spot for its chicken Kiev cutlets (served with fresh or stewed vegetables). You simply can’t miss it!
Maybe you’ve already passed by the big square with reddish sand. If you still haven’t, it’s really close to Neringa Restaurant (about 3 minutes). The square is called Lukiškių aikštė (Lukiškės Square), which is the largest square in Vilnius. It’s a place where locals like to take a short walk or just grab some coffee in the nearest cafe and chill on a bench. Now this place is under construction and will be changed into a more attractive recreational space. Near the park you will notice an unusual bench with a guitar. It’s a monument for our great musician, singer, bard, song-writer and a very respectable figure – Vytautas Kernagis. Our local Kamilė says that “Vytautas Kernagis was more than just a singer, he was a Great person. I am sure that he will be always alive in my and all Lithuanian’s hearts. So, the monument for Vytautas Kernagis always reminds us to be creative and it is like an inspiration for all who want to achieve something.” We, Lithuanians, couldn’t agree more.
Now, let’s head further, along the Gedimino prospektas (Gediminas Prospect), towards Vilnius Cathedral. On your way you pass Vilnius street where, on the business center and Novotel wall, you can find a really awkward, but at the same time amusing, bronze sculpture which is… a lucky belly. Our local Spotter Šarūnas claims that “If you rub it you will release all these magic powers that might bring you luck.” You don’t believe in it? Oh, just touch the belly, it won’t do any harm! The 40 centimeter sculpture was created by Romas Kvintas and was presented to the public in 2013.
Still on your way to the Cathedral? Now you should turn a little bit to the side, to Tiltas 6 street, where you will find an absolutely amazing and mouth-watering (that’s the word!) spot, called Tie kepėjai (or Those Bakers, translated in English). This place probably makes the best cupcakes in the city. Of course, Tie kepėjai isn’t known only for their heavenly cupcakes. The very talented staff (who are ALWAYS smiling!) also makes high-quality cakes, cookies, bread, bagels and macarons. It’s a perfect spot to buy something tasty for your friends and family, they will love it.
You’ve probably got a huge smile on your face after visiting our cupcake paradise, so it’s time to head further. It usually takes about 5 minutes from Tie kepėjai to reach one of the most magnificent buildings in the city – Vilnius Cathedral. The Cathedral is listed as one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world and is a pure example of early Baroque. A huge square near the Cathedral is always crowded with people – locals are passing by in a rush or just enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of the city. And wait, we want to show you something. Near the Cathedral’s Bell Tower you can find a miracle tile! So, if you don’t feel lucky enough after rubbing the belly, you can try to catch your fortune on Stebuklas miracle tile. Our local Radvilė says that “Once you step on the miracle tile all you have to do is close your eyes and make a wish from the bottom of your heart. It will come true. It always does for me.” Well, sometimes miracles can happen!
Day 1: 19:00 – 23:00
Want to have an absolutely fulfilling meal for your dinner? For this, you need to head a bit further from Vilnius Cathedral, to Mėsinių 3 street. Here you will find a spot-on multi-cuisine restaurant called Le Butcher. It makes probably the best burgers in the city. They have a special secret ingredient that makes the burger simply melt in your mouth. Oh so mouth-watering… Le Butcher uses high-quality products and creates truly homely and honest dishes. A special mention for all the fans of sauce: this place makes a home-made sauce! Le Butcher also serves vegetarian burgers, for instance, Le Bunny or Le Breakfast. The restaurant also has a proper range of drinks: local beer, cider, wine or soft/hot drinks. It may get a bit crowded during the evening, so if you want to be sure that you will get a table, just make a reservation, for your own good!
Ok, so now it’s about the time to head into Vilnius’ nightlife, which happens to be super exciting and mostly hilarious (in the most positive way). One of the most awesome spots to start your night out (and often to finish it) is a bar called Bukowski. During the weekends (and usually during weekdays), around 19:00, the bar gets really crowded. It seems that in every corner of the bar you can find some kind of action. So, as you probably understand, Bukowski Bar is one of the best hotspots in Vilnius. The bar has a wide selection of beer (bottled and on tap), as well as cocktails or wine. What is more? Well, it has a huge terrace where you can stay even during the cold period, because it has outdoor heating, so most of the people are staying outside. A perfect vibe, reasonable prices and open-minded people… It’s no wonder locals absolutely love Bukowski Bar!
Day 1: 23:00 – …
Ok, so you had a decent warm-up at Bukowski Bar, now it’s about time to dance your shoes off at Loftas. It is one of the most popular music venues in Vilnius, where some kickin’ parties are organized. Loftas was established in a huge former factory, which was turned into this up-to-date club. The action takes place here every weekend (and even during weekdays). Our local Šarūnas says that “What I really enjoy about this spot is that it has an open-minded approach to every single activity they present. <…> Loftas has an incredibly wide range of music styles to offer. Hip hop, indie, jazz, drum and bass, jungle or whatever else, you name it!” Its industrial surroundings, inside and outside, give the place a special vibe which makes you come back for more.
P.S. Loftas also collaborates with Lithuania’s designers and organizes Uptown Market where you can buy everything from handmade bags or hand-printed dresses to eco-friendly cosmetics.
Day 2: 09:00 – 13:00
There is no better way to boost your early morning mood to the maximum than with a lovely breakfast at an even lovelier spot. Let’s head to a super cozy bakery, which is called Pinavija. The bakery is owned by a family who shares their big love of cooking. Pinavija is highly appreciated by the locals, because it makes amazing home-made pies, cakes and especially Kibinai, which is a traditional Karaite pastry. So, who says that you can’t start your day with a cup of nice coffee, a piece of melt-in-your-mouth pie or nice pastry stuffed with mutton or beef (yes, that’s what kibinas really is). So, if you want something quite unusual, but oh-so-delicious for your breakfast, don’t hesitate and just drop by Pinavija!
Vilnius is an open-minded city that kindly accepts various forms of art. The old town of Vilnius is included in the UNESCO world heritage sites, so it might get complicated to find legal street art in the city’s historic centre. But nothing is impossible – you can find the impressive mural “Think”, right at Odminių street. Our local Šarūnas explains: “This specific mural was created during Vilnius Street Art Festival which is hosted yearly in September. Jurgis Tarabilda – a Lithuanian street art representative is the author.” When you look at the mural, you can see an elderly man with a spray can. The author wanted to mock the stereotype that paintings on the walls are merely damaging for the city and only made by hooligans.
There are some amazing spots in the old town of Vilnius, where you can admire a spectacular panorama of the city. One of those places, that is not packed with tourists, is St. Johns bell tower. This campanile is the highest building in the Old Town – 68 meters. In order to reach your destination – the overlook site at a height of 45 meters – you can climb 193 wooden stairs or choose a more modern way – the elevator. The view from the overlook site is simply amazing: just stay as long as you want and admire the oh-so-beautiful city of Vilnius. By the way, Šarūnas mentions that “The bell tower is home for the Foucault’s pendulum. There is only a single unit of this scientific marvel in Lithuania and you can see it inside of this bell tower.” Keep in mind that during rainy and windy weather the campanile is closed!
Every traveller, while visiting a city, probably wants to familiarize themselves with its authenticity and idiosyncrasy. Vilnius has a really amazing spot, which is called Senųjų amatų dirbtuvės, or The Old Crafts Workshop. This is the place where local craftsmen introduce people to the old crafts and organize various workshops (i.e. soap making or leather processing). We strongly recommend taking part in a workshop: it’s the best way to familiarize yourself with the work processes of the local craftsmen. Also, they produce some unique items that you can buy as a souvenir or as a gift for yourself. Our Spotter Radvilė says: “Here you’ll find amber or wood filled kaleidoscopes, ceramics, linen, leather, natural soap or incense, magnets and unique jewelry.”
The Old Town of Vilnius is undoubtedly a unique part of the city, where diverse architecture intertwines with urban art, the green areas and vibrant city life. One of the most exceptional features of Vilnius is the cozy narrow streets. Every time you explore them, you can find something new and unique. While exploring, you may eventually find a hidden gem – the narrowest street in Vilnius. It is Skapo street and it’s 1.98 meters wide. Interesting fact: there is another, even narrower street in the city (it’s Savičiaus 11), which is approximately 0.5 meters wide. This one is unofficially known as the narrowest street. But, it might be complicated to see it: the street is located in a private domain, which is carefully being watched by cameras.
Day 2: 13:00 – 19:00
We simply can’t not mention this spot. We simply CAN’T. It is probably the most exceptional place to grab some food, and even more exceptional because of their bold manifestations that catches the world’s attention. We are talking about an absolute hotspot here in Vilnius – Keulė Rūkė. This spot is well known amongst locals for its smoked ribs and pulled pork sandwiches, perfectly complimented with sauce, fries and beer, of course. Oh sweet mother of food… Plus, the prices here are very reasonable, considering the high quality of the food. Keulė Rūkė also has a night shift window (from 20:00 till 04:00) that is an absolute saviour for night crawlers.
So, what is it all about those manifestations that I mentioned before? They are related to the artworks that Keulė Rūkė created in collaboration with artist Mindaugas Bonanu. The first mural was painted on May 2016 and it reflected a passionate kiss between two famous figures: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump (see picture below). However, in a short matter of time unknown people damaged the mural. Well, that made the owners think about an even more controversial piece of art, which was presented on September 2016. Sadly, it didn’t last for long: the painting was ruined after only two weeks. After all, the team of Keulė Rūkė on their Facebook page wrote: “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.”
Hope you had a kickin’ lunch at Keulė Rūkė, so let’s take a long walk around Vilnius. The next spot, where you can view a beautiful panorama of the city, is Bastion Hill. This is part of the Vilnius Defensive Wall, which amongst locals is simply called Barbakanas (which is barbican). Our local Radvilė says that from here you can see the great contrasts of the city: “From the hill you can spot red tile old town roofs, a lot of churches and bell towers, Gediminas Castle Tower, Presidential Palace. Further on you’ll see modern city buildings situated across the Neris river and the uptown buildings situated on the outskirts of Vilnius.” The Barbican is really popular amongst the local youths, especially during the summer time, in the evenings. By the way, inside The Bastion of the Vilnius Defensive Wall you can find a museum and some great expositions, that are highly recommended!
When you descend the Bastion Hill, you will find yourself in Užupis – a famous Vilnius neighborhood, which proclaimed itself as a “Republic”. Well, we can say that it’s a truly separate Republic since it has its own Constitution, anthem, president, even bishop, cemetery and two churches. And even their own mermaid (well, it’s actually a sculpture which you can find on the Vilnelė river embankment). The district has its own guardian and symbol – the Angel of Užupis. This neighborhood is a truly bohemian and artistic place with its own philosophy and rules. An authentic, bohemian and bizarre side of Vilnius, without a doubt. It’s a place where you don’t need to hurry, just take your time and enjoy the artistic vibe of the district. And don’t hesitate – explore it! You will be surprised with your own findings, I promise.
Vilnius is the city of churches. Without a doubt. You have probably already noticed that while visiting St. Johns bell tower or the Bastion Hill, where you can view the panorama of the city. Every church is amazing in its own way since all of them have deep historical roots. But there is an absolutely magnificent duo of churches that truly can’t be missed while visiting Vilnius. It’s St. Anne’s and Bernardine church. St. Anne’s church is a masterpiece of the late Gothic period. There is a great legend that the beauty of the church fascinated Napoleon Bonaparte so much, that he wanted to take it “on the palm of his hand to Paris.” St. Anne’s church stands with Bernardine church (or Church of St. Francis and St. Bernard). According to our local Spotter Šarūnas, “Even though the churches were built in different time periods, they have a marvelous gothic visual bond together. <…> The St. Anne’s Church looks a bit more complicated and intense while the Church of St. Francis retains its colossal stature with a hint of wisdom.”
Really close to the previously mentioned place you can find a truly lovely shop, called Boutique Privilege. If you want to get some unique and handmade accessories, jewelry and clothing, this is the right place to drop by. Boutique Privilege was founded in 2011 by Anna D. Mangirdiene. The owner of the shop and her talented team create beautiful, handmade pieces. It is one of the favorites of our local Kamilė! She mentions that “Boutique Privilege ensures that all things are authentic and gives you a certificate.” You can take a look at their e-shop – maybe you will find something that you love before hitting the road to this spot!
Day 2: 19:00 – 23:00
Ready to have dinner? A bit non-traditional? A bit (really) spicy and kickin’? Yes? Let’s head to Sofa de Pancho then. This is a truly homely Mexican restaurant, which delivers honest food, an always welcoming atmosphere and honesty. The high quality of the dishes and a super Mexican interior will make you feel that you’ve just arrived in Mexico. Our Spotter Šarūnas, a devoted fan of Sofa de Pancho says that “The food is spicy, crispy and juicy – everything you’d want on a Mexican dish. There is an amusing amount of quality tequilas to try right there or to buy to take home.” And those Margaritas… Just try them. No, try everything, so so so worth it!
If you are looking for an ideal spot to grab some booze and meet awesome locals – go straight to Peronas. Peronas is probably one of the most memorable places that you can find in Vilnius. So, what is so special about it? Peronas, which means a train platform, is located near the train station, so while you are enjoying your beer, you can hear trains passing by, which creates a special and even industrial atmosphere that you won’t be able to forget. Now just go outside the bar, where you will see something really unusual. Yes, that’s Tony Soprano. Or, to be more clear, it’s a sculpture created by Lithuanian artist Donatas Jankauskas. Peronas is not only about its exceptional surroundings: the bar also organizes some groovy live events that always catch the locals’ attention!
Day 2: 23:00 – …
If you feel the need to see more of Vilnius’ nightlife, then you definitely have to visit Kablys (The Hook). Kablys is a versatile and unique place in Vilnius, which is strongly appreciated by the locals. It includes a bar, club, restaurant and… skate park. Kablys is probably the most active and bustling bar/club in Vilnius, considering the amount of events/festivals that are organized annually OR every weekend. From the annual black/death metal festival Armageddon Descends to the annual electronic festival SIRIUS…and those are only two of the many events that Kablys offers! Furthermore, the staff is always ready to mix you a cocktail or fill your glass with icy beer – they won’t leave you thirsty! Kablys is one of those special places where your visit is a MUST.