Last Monday evening we came home after a lovely long weekend in Vilnius. A trip completely without expectations, completely without demands and with a simple focus – food, drink and family fun.
So what did we think of Vilnius? What are our quick and short tips and reflections like this in the days after we return home to Sweden?
Visiting Vilnius in January can undoubtedly become an icy cold acquaintance. It is almost certain that you will get freezing temperatures and snow. But we didn't get that. The first week of January offered us between -2 degrees (at night) and +2 (during the day). No snow in sight, but on the last day there was some rain mixed with snow. Although Vilnius must be absolutely beautiful in the July summer heat, I must say that I am glad to have experienced Christmas time in Vilnius. Bring a knee-length down jacket with a hood (that's how ALL Vilnius residents dress!) and warm winter shoes, and you'll experience one of Europe's most beautiful Christmas cities in its flashing and over-decorated Christmas decorations. A cup of coffee tastes so much better when it's cold outside, right? In addition, there were very few tourists and it was easy to get a table, even in the city's best restaurants.
Where did we live?
I am quite picky when it comes to accommodation, but when traveling as a family it is unfortunately quite difficult to find hotels with good extra beds. In Vilnius, however, I managed to find a real gem. A hotel where, among others, Hillary Clinton, the Dalai Lama and Queen Silvia have stayed. A place good enough for me, then. 😉
Stikliai hotel is a Relais & Chateaux-hotel located in the middle of the Old Town, with impeccable service and a lot of cozy factor. I'll be back with a review shortly!
TIPS: When in Vilnius, be sure to book hotels located in the Old Town. The old town is simply described south of the river Don't worry, east of the street Pylimo, North of Gates of Dawn and west of the street maironio. Outside this area, the houses and streets are a bit more worn.
What did we do?
We were here for three full days (Friday night to Monday night) and had no problem getting everything we wanted to see and do in the historic quarters. We also managed a visit to the Republic of Uzupis, a visit to the Museum of Genocide and a visit to the large shopping mall Akropolis. But those were really busy days with many café visits and awesome restaurants. We would have had time to see the biggest sights even in 2 days if we hadn't had so much coffee, but in a city like Vilnius you want to have a lot of coffee. It is very old.
Restaurants & Cafes: 30-50% cheaper than at home - and then I should add that Vilnius is (like all capitals) more expensive than the rest of Lithuania.
A cup of coffee costs around €2, a beer €3, a local lunch/dinner €4-9.
Clothes & other shopping: Felt like the same price as here at home
City bus: €1 per trip
museum: €3-7 per adult
Tip: 5-10% cash on the table
How did we get around?
I had read a lot about taxis scamming tourists in Vilnius and when we landed quite late in the evening, we booked the hotel's driver to pick us up. It cost the same as going on the Arlanda Express, so we didn't feel like it was a big sacrifice. Taxis had cost somewhere between €10-20, depending on the time of day and where in the Old Town the hotel is located.
There is no subway in Vilnius, only trams and regular buses. The only time we took a local bus was to the Akropolis shopping center (which is 5 km north of town). Otherwise we went on foot. There were many steps.
Taking the bus was easy. Electronic signs at the stops show when the bus will arrive and you can buy the ticket in cash on the bus from the driver. Simple and flexible.
What should we have thought of?
We should have booked tables at more restaurants than we did. Since we didn't know exactly how long it would take us before we checked into the hotel on the evening of arrival, we didn't dare book a table. We would have done that. The first two places we tried to get a table were completely full. There doesn't seem to be any good app for booking a table, but all bookings are made via email, phone or the restaurant's own booking pages. Unexpected for a country that is so far ahead in terms of IT.
What was the best thing about Vilnius?
Eve: The food experiences and all the beautiful Christmas signage.
Different: The beautiful Old Town with all its churches and all its dining experiences.
Little E: That coffee was cheap!
What was the worst thing about Vilnius?
Eve: I actually can't think of anything. Strange but true!
Different: There are still neighborhoods with houses that are extremely worn and run down. Especially if you move a little outside the center itself.
Little E: That it was cold. The traditional food was definitely not my thing!
What surprised us?
Unlike many other countries in Europe, it felt like most things were open on Sundays. The grocery stores are often open 7-23 every day of the week. A good thing to keep in mind is that the days of the opening hours are given in Roman numerals: I (Monday) to VII (Sunday).
Lithuania very unexpectedly has one large production of wine. The wine here is made from berries and comes in all sorts of varieties – from sweet dessert wines to dry wines that go well with food. Definitely much better than I thought - dare to try!
That Lithuania has had a tough time during the occupations of the 20th century, I had understood that before I came here. But that they had it SO tough Museum of Genocide Victims recounted – it was a shocking truth that struck me. A scary, but very useful museum to visit. A terrifying story from one of our closest neighboring countries.
The club for unnecessary knowledge
- In Lithuania they like potatoes. In all possible forms. Why they serve piping hot, freshly boiled potatoes with their cold beetroot soup, I'm still wondering.
- At the end of the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe.
- I have probably never seen so many Porsches as in Vilnius. Well, by the way, in Dubai.
- Did you know that some of the best TV series of 2019 Chernobyl and Catherine the Great partly shot in Vilnius?
- The national bird of Lithuania is the stork. More storks nest here than in any other European country. However, there are not so many storks in Vilnius in January.
- Lithuania has the highest GDP per capita of the three countries in the Baltics.
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Want to see more from Vilnius?
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Ann9 January, 2020 at 19: 36
Oh, I want to go there too, especially now after reading about your experience 🙂
Eva Gyllenberg9 January, 2020 at 19: 38
It is so strange to think that it is "as far away as Umeå" from Stockholm, when it feels so remote! Why not read more about Vilnius? Everyone should want to be here 🙂
Ann-Louise Paulsson9 January, 2020 at 20: 44
It looks so cozy! I've been wanting to go there for a long time and now that you write so much about coffee in this post, I'm even more excited! 🙂 Sounds like your weekend was a bit like our weekend in Dublin, where the focus was also mostly on food and coziness. 🙂
Eva Gyllenberg9 January, 2020 at 20: 46
There will soon be a post about cafes and restaurants in Vilnus! 🙂 By the way, you guys seem to have had a really good time in Dublin!