Our last day in Lithuania was entirely dedicated to Vilnius. We spent two nights in this city, but had only one full day to explore it.
Starting this year, an add has been running around the Western countries to promote the tourism in Vilnius, saying that Vilnius is the G-spot of Europe – nobody knows where it is, but when you find it, it’s Amazing! A bit daring, but it seems that it got quick to people’s attention. They also have a website with all the info about a trip to Vilnius.
Vilnius is definitely my kind of city – quite small, walking distances to all the highlights of the city, an old town full of beautiful buildings and history, not too touristic (yet), full of green areas, but also vibrant at night with pubs and bars and summer terraces all over the place.
With only about 500 000 people living in the city, Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and the main university and culture center of the country. Students from around the country and from around other European Union countries come here to study in Vilnius University.
For a nice walk after a heavy meal and for a very nice view over the city, go up on the Three Crosses Hill (Trys kryžiai).
Vilnius Free Walking Tour
As we didn’t have much time available to visit the city, we searched for a guided tour to help us understand better what this place is all about. We chose Vilnius Free Walking Tour and for about 3 hours we walked around the city center and listened to the stories of our guide.
The tour followed the main attractions of the city center and also included some small hidden gems, like backyards of the houses around the old town. The guide told us lots of stories about the city, about Lithuania and its historical, political, cultural, educational and social situation which helped us understand what this city and country are all about.
As in 2018, it’s the 100th anniversary of Lithuania as a country, the city was all dressed in holiday clothes to mark this event.
For the 3 hours we spent with our guide, we discovered a very colorful city (the sunny and warm day also helped a lot), with beautiful architecture from Gothic and baroque to modern one, with lots of small streets, with legends about the city.
These kind of tours are ideal when you visit a city and you don’t have too much time available to spend in the city. Also, they are a good starting point for a longer visit in a city, as you get a general context about the place and you can then explore more the areas that got your attention.
The Republic of Uzupis
This district of Vilnius is probably the coolest place I have seen and heard about during visits in the main cities of Europe. And their entry sign is one that will, for sure, bring a lot of positive energy.
The self-proclaimed “Republic” of Užupis is Vilnius’ Bohemian and artistic district. It has its own anthem, constitution, president, bishop, two churches, the Bernadine Cemetery – one of the oldest in the city -, seven bridges, and its own guardian called The Bronze Angel of Užupis, who was put in the centre of the district in 2002.
Dating back to the 16th century, Užupis is one of Vilnius’ oldest districts and despite its current prestigious status, was formerly the city’s poorest area and home to a number of manual workers and a red light-district.
During the Soviet era, the authorities let Užupis go to ruin, and it quickly gained notoriety as the roughest districts in the city. Since Lithuania regained its independence in 1991, artists came and took advantage of the cheap accommodation, and moreover, the city’s art academy is located across the bridge from Bernadinų Gardens. Now its thriving creative community hosts regular fashion festivals, concerts, exhibitions and poetry evenings.
In Lithuanian, Užupis means ‘behind the river’ and this is proclaimed in a number of languages on its entrance sign. The Constitution of the Republic of Uzupis is something to say the least special and it gathers in its commandments all that should actually rule our world.
Eat in Vilnius
Like every capital city that respects itself, Vilnius has a lot to offer in terms of restaurants, pubs and bars. The first step in discovering the authentic ones is to go to the Tourism Office in Vilnius and ask for the ‘Lithuanian Food and Beer in Vilnius’ Brochure which will give you a full list of places to eat out (from traditional to fine dine dinning) and to taste some of Lithuania’s best beers. You can also find it in PDF version HERE.
As we only spent 2 nights and one full day in the city, we didn’t get the chance to check out too many places and in terms of cuisine we decided to start with the beginning and go for the traditional restaurants to get an idea of what the Lithuanian cuisine is about.
Etno Dvaras and the Pub Leiciai are the restaurants we tried out. Both are quite good in terms of food, having mostly traditional dishes on their menu. Etno Dvaras is a bit more touristic and it’s normally full of people and a big line in front of the place waiting to get a table. Pub Leiciai is a bit less crowded and it has some very special Lithuanian beers to try (a full post on the Lithuanian cuisine will follow).