It’s over 7 months since our most recent trip to Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, and I can’t believe I’m only just putting ‘pen to paper’.
Those of you who follow my over on Instagram you’ll know I’ve had a busy couple of months physically and emotionally, with the recent arrival of our first child leaving me with a heavy case of writers block throughout my pregnancy. Even opening the WordPress page on my laptop has made me feel slightly nauseous- but today, I’ve bitten the bullet and trying my hardest to get this blog post started!
Our February trip to the Baltic’s coincided with my 31st birthday and the Beast from the East beginning it’s icy cold blast and thick, blanket of snow. So now you know why we refer to cold weather as Baltic!!!
How to get to Vilnius
We flew to Vilnius from our local airport, Liverpool. Ryanair fly direct between the two, with a flight time of around 2 and a half hours. Our flights were as cheap as chips, what with it being out of season and let’s be honest, god damn freezing!!!
But, return flights over a weekend in Summer can come in at around £175…. which is a little too steep for an impromptu weekend away in my opinion. But maybe that’s the new frugal mum in my speaking….
Where to stay in Vilnius
I’ve spoken before about Le Club Accor Hotels rewards programme, which leads to discounts in a variety of hotels. With this being a budget friendly trip, after our blow the budget honeymoon, we opted to stay in Hotel Novotel Centre.
Located on one of the main streets, Gedimino, the hotel is clean and modern with really spacious rooms. I’d definitely recommend staying here, and it’s a mere 5 minute walk to the famous Cathedral Square. We even arrived to a lovely slice of birthday cake, a lovely personal touch.
Our three night stay cost approximately £300 without breakfast.
What to see in Vilnius
For such a small city, there really is lots to see and 48 hours is the ideal time to do it all in. A mere 5 minutes from our hotel was Cathedral Square, which was the ideal place to start our Lithuanian discovery.
Home to Vilnius Cathedral and it’s the bell tower, St Casimir’s Chapel, Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the National Museum of Lithuania, you can easily spend a few hours here. You’ll also find an impressive statue of Gediminas, founder of Lithuania and a fabulous view of Gediminas Castle Tower and the Three Crosses. Unfortunately for us, the thick snow and minus temperatures meant venturing any closer to these landmarks and view spots was near impossible. But, if you visit in the Summer, I’d really recommend heading up there.
From here we headed down Pilies Gatve, the oldest street in the Old Town of Vilnius. It’s scattered with traditional shops, restaurants and tiny side roads you’ll find yourself getting fabulously lost down. You really can just spend time here letting your feet wander and just see what beauty they’ll take you to.
Hopefully one of these said wanders will head to Literatu Gatve. Walls are adorned with works of Lithuanian writers, artists and creatives, and it’s a bit of a hidden gem.
Talking of artwork however, we really tried to hunt down the famous Trump and Putin mural, to no avail. From what I can gather, it’s a little more off the beaten track but only a few minutes stroll from the Gates of Dawn, but try and do a little more research before you leave if it’s on your ‘must see’ list.
Given the temperature, we were in and out of pubs and museums like never before. And given my options of non-alcoholic drinks were pretty limited, the museums often pipped the post.
Time is often precious on a weekend escape, but if you want to leave with a good knowledge of the history of Lithuania, I’d recommend Telia Nonmusuem.
For a mere 8 Euro’s you’ll be taken on a 15 minute journey through the countries incredible history using projections, lasers and virtual reality headsets.
If Lithuania’s history is high on your priorities, the newly named Museum of Occupation and Freedom Fight housed in a former KGB Museum is worth dedicating a good few hours to.
During your visit you’ll see the chambers where death sentences were carried out and the appalling conditions prisoners where kept in, so for some, it may too harrowing a visit to include in your vacation.
Personally, I’m really interested in Soviet history and so this was an important part of our visit. The museum also houses more recent exhibitions informing of the Lithuanians loss of independence and the repression by the Soviet authorities.
Looking for some light-hearted relief? The Museum of Illusions was one of the best spent hours of the weekend!
I won’t spoil it too much, but it’s interesting, fun and the staff are so passionate about the exhibitions, you’ll feel like a kid all over again!
Where to eat in Vilnius
If you wish to try traditional Lithuanian cuisine, look no further than Etno Dvaras. I’ll be brutally honest- it wasn’t for me. Whether it was the early pregnancy nausea, the lack of Lithuania booze I could enjoy or the fear of eating something on the ‘banned list’ (I cannot wait to eat brie again!!!!) I just couldn’t eat more than a few mouthfuls.
But, in case your interested, we opted for Kibinai (meat pasty) and a Zeppelin (potato dumpling with bacon) The fresh fruit tea however, was rather lovely!
For a tastier lunch treat we headed to Cozy. Cozy by name and cosy by nature, it’s a relaxed and informal restaurant with a cracking menu and excellent service. We opted for the light Pulled Pork sharing platter to accompany our late afternoon drinks and it was absolutely delicious.
When it comes to that all important evening meal, take my advice BOOK IN ADVANCE!!! The only restaurant and city I have ever booked in advance is Rueben in Budapest solely because I’ve been before and it’s one of my all time favourites. (I’m sure your all sick of my love for Budapest by now, but let me tell you, I’m super excited to introduce the baby to my beloved city in the next few years!!) But anyway, would you believe, Vilinus is one city you don’t have a hope in hell of getting a table unless you’ve got your name down. Or that’s what we found on our freezing cold, February payday weekend anyway.
So our plans of visiting some of the trendy steak and cocktail (well…mocktail) spots for my birthday ended after a two hour stroll from one packed restaurant or bar to another resulting in near frost bite, hoping that the Baltic’s had JustEat. Arriving back in our hotel and finding they had a restaurant was our saviour. We had the place to ourselves, the food was incredible and they created whatever mocktail I fancied. Long story short- don’t underestimate the Novotel restaurant.
Luckily, come our second day we popped in and booked our table for dinner first thing in the morning. The chosen spot- Grey.
Modern, swish and stylish with a mocktail list to make any pregnant woman cry with joy. And the food is unbelievable too. They offer Lithuanian favourites if you’ve got the pangs for some dumplings, but we opted for their European cuisine, which tasted as good as it looked.
Off the beaten track in Vilnius
Before I visited Uzupis I was expecting something along the lines of Copenhagen’s Christiana . Personally, I don’t think it’s a patch on it’s Scandi friend or that of artist’s favourite Montemarte either. But maybe I’m just being picky.
The self-proclaimed “Republic” of Užupis is a short walk from the Old Town and is the most bohemian area of the city- They even have a ginger cat who is the areas ambassador.
I’m sure the area is much more appealing in Summer… so I’m just going to leave it you to all to make your own opinion of this free-thinking city!!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Lithuania and how different the city feels when it’s not minus 11! We really enjoyed our time here, and definitely plan on visiting the other Baltic states in the near future.