A small guide to spend two days in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania with 543 thousand inhabitants and a mix of Gothic, neoclassical, baroque architecture … and it is thanks to the latter that its historic center has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We decided to spend two days in Vilnius during a trip that will take us to live 3 months in Iceland.
From Milan to Vilnius
We left one day in November from the airport of Orio al Serio, we booked a flight with Wizz Air, a low-cost company that we had already tried on a trip to Budapest. The flight was pleasant and quiet without too many frills. We used the priority boarding with only 5 euro more, to make sure we can stow over our seats the photographic equipment. After 3 hours we land in Vilnius and an internal bus takes us from the plane to the airport. The luggage arrives in about ten minutes and we are ready for our first time in Lithuania.
As soon as the airport we have taken a public bus, the number 88, that has brought us directly in the center, a distance of around 6 km. You can look at the number of the bus that interests you and the timetables through Google Maps directly through the wifi of the airport. The price of the ticket (as of November 2017) is 1 euro.
What to see in Vilnius
The first thing we visited was the central market of Halē, one of the most beautiful and oldest markets in Vilnius. Our bus stopped practically there in front of us! It was lunchtime and not very crowded. Inside we found many benches of meat, salami and vegetables, some clothes shops and some restaurants, one in particular attracted our attention, they sold soups that emanated a very good smell.
In front of the market you can not help but notice a building with a beautiful facade, is a mural designed by an Italian artist, aka Millo, during the third season of Vilnius Street Art Festival.
Walking we came across a small square in the center the sculpture of an Easter egg seems to have been donated to the city by the Republic of Užupis in 2003. Not too exciting as a point of interest, but you can’t miss it if you go and eat at Snekutis, the best place we tried in Vilnius, I’ll tell you a little more about it below.
The old town, built in the Baroque period, is the most interesting and characteristic part of Vilnius. There are several stalls between the public gardens and under the arcades, here Claudio bought the most beautiful and warmest gloves I have ever seen at a very low price. I will not tell you about all the monuments or the most tourist places, those you can read everywhere, I want to tell you about the places I liked the most and some places discovered even a little by chance.
Surely you will visit the cathedral, it does not go unnoticed! White and majestic with a giant square and a bell tower detached from the basilica. On the side a garden and a walk leading to the tower of Gediminas.
The church of Sant’Anna is one of the most beautiful churches of Vilnius, to me it is liked a lot, in Gothic style and built with red bricks, but it is just behind the church that we have come across some particular places.
Often we like to get lost in the narrow streets, without consulting the map. Beside the church of St. Anne there is a park with the little houses for the birds in the trees and the statue of Adomas Mickevičius, little further on we cross a bridge and we walk on a dirt road where to our right there is a row of houses of court. Passing through a doorway we find ourselves in a small Tibetan garden. We are at the Tibeto skveras. The project was proposed by a Tibetan support group and the municipality of Vilnius approved it. In addition to the Tibetan flags, symbols and colours, there is also a small garden library with free books and I suppose there is the possibility of exchange.
Continuing along the path, you will run along the river on the right and come across a series of strange artistic sculptures. When we passed the installation was represented by sheets stretched along the river, some special statues, pieces of mannequins in wire hanging, some large pinwheels for the wind. On the left another court house divided into different artistic studios. Behind a glass a girl shapes the clay. We are at Uzupis Art. A door with a nice sign invites us to enter and we find ourselves in a small shop of articles of all kinds created by the people who are part of the artistic organization. There are a number of postcards really nice and with a few extra euros can send you the postcard to the desired address. But I decide to buy it and take it with me.
Further on there are some murals and pictures hanging on the walls. We are in the district of Uzupis, the most artistic area of the city. Definitely a place where I would like to come back, maybe in summer, when it is full of exhibitions and concerts.
Where and what to eat in Vilnius
- Of all the venues we have tried over the last two days in Vilnius, the best was undoubtedly Šnekutis! There are three Šnekutis in the city, our favorite and closest to our B&B, is the one in Šv. Stepono g. 8 is open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. We were here to eat both for lunch and dinner. Here we tasted the traditional Lithuanian dish, Le Cepelinai (which reads Sepelinai), giant dumplings stuffed with meat or cheese and seasoned with sour cream and bacon. Heavy, but very good! 2 euro one dumpling, 4 euro two dumplings. We also tried the soups (my favorite is the one with peas, for Claudius the one with sauerkraut), fried bread with cheese, Greek salad, Kiev cutlets (chicken with butter and herbs inside), potato pancakes with sour cream. All really good, except for the last ones who didn’t tell us much, especially for the cold sour cream. Also great beers.
- The Pilies kepyklele instead is located in the historic center, on the main road. It’s a small coffee, but very well furnished, the environment is characteristic and the staff precise. Here we had a snack with some excellent salty crepes, a juice and a cappuccino. They also had a great variety of cakes in the window that looked really delicious. Prices are slightly higher than average, but without exaggeration.
- The Busi Trecias is a bit dark, but big and full of people. On the menu you can find herring with sour cream and onions, pork ears, salmon, herring with vegetables, goulash, fried cheese sticks, pork marinated in beer. We eventually opted for smoked pork ears, a chicken soup and a plate of local meats. We tried Starka, a typical liqueur. The taste is a mix of rum and wiskhy. Very strong.
- Chačapuri, a Georgian restaurant that unfortunately we discovered at the last, because the Georgian cuisine was really a surprise! It is located in the street of the B & B in which we stayed and is very close to the train station. For a few euros you can eat really well. They cook some species of focaccia with two different types of dough, puff pastry and another type of pasta such as pizza. They fill these rolls with a lot of flavors, the choice is very wide. The place is small, but people wait in line to be able to sit as soon as a table is free. If I lived in Vilnius I would be addicted to this place.
Where to sleep in Vilnius
Our choice was Sleep in b&b, located in the same building as the Sodu Hostel. Practically the structure, the entrance door and the reception are the same. Our room was small but nice, the bed was very comfortable and the blankets very warm, in the morning I was really struggling to get up. The wifi had a great signal and the shared bathrooms were clean, very nice and even equipped with a bathtub.
The Lithuanian breakfast is included and for two consecutive days was different, it is consumed in the room just outside the gate. You also have a free drink per day for the aperitif. In reality you have the opportunity to choose between a hot tea and a glass of sparkling wine, but unfortunately the room was always empty every time we threw an eye at it.
The location is perfect, right at the entrance to the historic center and a short walk from the train and bus stations.
Vilnius in November is quite cold, but the population was nice with us, except for the driver of the bus who completely splashed me when he passed over a giant puddle while I waited for the traffic light to turn green to cross the road.
It seems to me a city not yet invaded by mass tourism, but we have not struggled to communicate because all the people we met spoke English. Even the menus in the pubs and restaurants are in English.
We have not found dirt, on the contrary, Vilnius is a very clean city, also for the secondre streets and those very outside from the historical center. They probably cleaned it up a lot when it was proclaimed European Capital of Culture a few years ago.
Everything is very cheap, indeed, no, to go to the hairdresser to get a cut and a fold costs as in us, I paid 30 euros. But all the rest, the food and drink are very cheap and therefore a great place to visit for a low budget trip!
Two days in Vilnius are enough to see more or less everything, but you come back willingly to visit it also in summer!