Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania and has a population of over ½ million people. It is known for its baroque architecture and cobbled streets. It is a bustling city with something for everyone from art, history, trendy bars and restaurants and street art. It wouldn’t be right to see so much of Lithuania without a trip to the capital!
We stayed at Come to Vilnius Apartments, a 6-minute walk from Vilnius central train station. At the time of writing, the apartment had a 9.2 Booking.com rating and it cost around the £30-a-night mark. This represented good value for money despite the dodgy floral decoration and is ideally situated being around a 10-minute walk (850 metres) from Vilnius Old Town, and under half an hours’ walk from tourist attractions such as Gedimino pilies bokštas (Gediminas Castle Tower). We enjoyed our stay here; however we were based at the back of the building and there were complaints from others about street noise when staying at the front. The location was secure with keyfob entry
Lithuania’s currency is the Euro, Vilnius is the capital and like most European capital cities, credit and debit cards were widely accepted. I don’t think this is true of the more rural locations in the country. We paid everything by card but there were ATM’s easily available for those who prefer to use cash.
We travelled from Kaunas to Vilnius by train. We were a unfamiliar with the Lithuanian train service and unsure what to expect but it was an easy process; you buy a ticket from a machine, get it validated on another machine and off you go! The train was clean, on time and it was a very comfortable journey. It cost 6 euros each and the journey took 1.5 hours. In every aspect the experience was far better than we’ve ever experienced on a British train.
Being younger at heart than we look, our main mode of transport around Vilnius was the electric scooter, courtesy of Bolt, yes the same company we use for most of our taxis on our European adventures. They’re just so convenient, cheap, and most of all, fun 🙂
We have no idea how the scooters are controlled but venture too far away from a central hub and they stop working. Unfortunately, as well situated as our accommodation was it was a few metres outside the scooter zone so when we were done, we had to leave them about 100 metres away. The price of a ride consisted of a fixed €0.5 unlocking fee and €0.1 per minute.
We also used the Bolt taxi app to book our airport transfer to Vilnius Airport and to have a trip outside of the city. Bolt is a convenient way to get around and it is generally very reliable and quick in the capital city, unlike other areas in Lithuania. You have the option of paying either by card or by cash at the end of your journey.
As this was the end of our journey we flew back to the UK from Vilnius airport. The airport is located 6km south of the city and is served by several airlines. We flew with Ryanair to London Luton which cost us £49 each for the return. The cost of the airport transfer through Bolt was approximately 12 euros.
Food and Drink:
Food is certainly not a problem in Vilnius with a wide range of cuisines from local to American and Mexican. Supermarkets were also available locally for preparing food in our small kitchenette. Many Lithuanians speak very good English, but we had one amusing experience which may have been the result of a language misunderstanding. I don’t know what Carol ordered, but she was served with a chicken pancake with chocolate sauce and strawberry, and let’s face it, nobody orders that! Lithuania has a wide range of local beers and as usual, we did try the majority of them and enjoyed them all.
We’ve always enjoyed seeing street art, and Vilnius has high-quality work aplenty, much of which is in UŽUPIS, a self-proclaimed republic within Vilnius with its own city rules.
Uzipis was on the way from the city centre out towards the national football stadium. Football is not as big as basketball in Lithuania. The basketball world cup was on that week and the country got fully behind their team all the way through to a narrow 3 point defeat against France, having come second in their group behind Australia. The country was in mourning. I ventured out to see their national football stadium, which was the equivalent of an English 3rd or 4th tier league team stadium, and the poor environment ‘inspired’ them to a 3-0 home defeat against Ukraine that night. The site of thousands of Ukrainian fans marching through the city was very impressive if a little scary.
Our hosts for most of our time in Lithuania were our friends Jane and Vitalis, and we have met Vitalis’ brother Gediminas. The main historical tourist attraction in Vilnius is Gediminas Hill and when you know someone of the same name, you have to visit right?
The tower at the top of the hill contains a museum, and some of the best views of the city are seen from here. There is a funicular for those who may struggle with the steep incline walking up.
We visited the Old Town at night and during the day but there was definitely something more enchanting about it at night. We found live music and dancing in one of the squares and a really lovely vibe (A video of it all kicking can be found here). There were plenty of places to eat and drink and a wide variety of cuisine.
We hired some scooters by Vilnius Cathedral and travelled round the centre of Vilnius through Bernadine Park and crossed the river to Uzupis. For most of the time the paths were pretty smooth and it was easy going; however be prepared for a few eye shaking gravel paths and cobbled streets!
We also decided to head out of town to the Verkiai Regional Park, where there are great views from high up down to the valley and the River Neris below. There was also an unusual river crossing craft the Uperis which takes you across the river to a sandy riverside beach for 1euro. This was the only time we had any feeling of being above sea level. The taxi here was relatively cheap and we grabbed a picnic to have as well. It was a lovely afternoon and something which didn’t seem to attract tourists but more locals.
We are always keen to get our usual high-rise view of the city and in Vilnius we visited Skybar on the 22nd Floor at The Radisson Blu. It was a little way out of the main town near a shopping centre but the cockatils were good and we had a nice night view!
Wherever our adventures take us, Nigel always gets a local haircut. On occasions this has provided amusing experiences, in Vilnius the only things of note were that you pay for the skill level of the barber, not so much for what they actually do, and it wasn’t cheap. We did however get a free coffee and a very smart haircut for him!
Final Thoughts on Vilnius and Lithuania as a whole
With very few exceptions, Lithuania is a flat and featureless landscape, but beautiful in its own way, being very lush and green. At one point we stopped at the highest point in the country, just a motorway layby type of thing, with a big rock to commemorate its status. As always though, the most important thing about a country is its people, and they are lovely. We felt welcome at all times, and could not have been treated better. We were lucky to have some local knowledge at the beginning of our trip which really helped but we enjoyed every second (except the prices in Vilnius which were as you would expect a lot higher in the Capital). Lithuania has a lot to offer from parks, forests, beaches, history, art and good food and drink – what’s not to love about that? 🙂
Carol & Nigel xx