Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

We arrived in Vilnius at midnight but had luckily booked a hostel with a 24 hour reception. Not knowing our bearings of a new city and arriving in the dark we decided to take a taxi to Jimmy Jumps House a journey that would cost us €10 (usually much less). For anyone staying at Jimmy Jumps House the distance is walkable but we did decide to grab a cab both when arriving and leaving. Public transport is non-existent in The Old Town of Vilnius make note.


Vilnius, Lithuania at a glance

  Language: Lithuanian, English is widely spoken

✓ Currency: Euro

✓ Taxi cost from the bus station: €10 - Usually less

  Drinks: €3-€7

 Best Food: Try a delicious beer snack - Fried bread with lots of cheese

  Accommodation: €10 per night - Jimmy Jumps House - Free breakfast 

✓ Must do: Vilnius with Locals walking tour - Daily at 12:00pm

  Top Tip: Grab the free 'With Locals' map

All prices in Euro

Vilnius with Locals

During our check in we had been recommended the free Vilnius walking tour that departs from the town hall at midday everyday. As we would only have a short amount of time in the city we decided a walking tour would be the best way to pack in all the must-see sights of Lithuania's capital. We were not disappointed Vilnius with Locals I have to say is probably one of the best free walking tours I have been on.

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius with Locals free walking tour
Our guide, you could,  tell was filled with an enormous passion for the city of Vilnius and her country which made the tour much more compelling than I could have imagined. Our introduction gave us an overview of Lithuania's turbulent beginnings and took us right up until World War Two where we were able to visit the Vilnius Ghettos that were once home to over 100,000 Jews and minorities during the war. We walked through the streets of Vilnius learning more and more about the mixed cultures of the Baltics and the dramatic first few hundred years of Lithuania's history and its battle throughout history for independence.

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania
Our group on the free walking tour of Vilnius, Lithuania

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania - travelsandmore Baltic's road trip

The free walking tour for us was the ideal way to pack in as much of Vilnius' history and culture we possibly could in our short stay in Lithuania. Having arrived the previous night we were well rested and raring to see the sights. The tour requires enough walking to feel like you've seen more of the city than you would just exploring on your own. Dress accordingly and note that the tour usually runs through midday so make sure you eat beforehand.

Here's how we got to Vilnius with Lux Express from Gdansk, Poland via Warsaw

Užupis

The free walking tour of Vilnius lasts for two hours and among the stops are Vilnius' largest Synagogue that was in fact destroyed during the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Lithuania in World War Two, the Vilnius Ghettos as mentioned and many of the notable churches in The Old Town that have changed religion and purpose more than once in the last few hundred years.

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania
The Republic of Uzupis
Another important stop on the tour and one of my personal favourites based on sheer curiosity is The Republic of Užupis. A self-governing town created by artists for artists in Vilnius. I know what you're thinking and hippy sprang to my mind too. But Užupis is a small area of the city that broke free from the main city of Vilnius in 1997 and even has its own weirdly liberating constitution. I remember the strangest part of the constitution being something about everyone has the right to be a cat.

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania - travelsandmore Baltic's road trip
Love Locks on the Uzupis bridge
Although, Užupis may not be in fitting with the ideals of a contemporary and modern society it's an extraordinary place to visit. Anyone who has heard of Freetown Christiania in Denmark should surely look up Užupis. One of the coolest aspects of visiting The Republic of Užupis is that because of the artists that live here it is filled with incredible if not strange artworks. My favourite was a statue of backpacker Jesus.

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania
The bridge to Uzupis
Spend some time in Užupis the restaurants and bars are mainly quirky, fun and filled with yet more of the great art of Užupis. Apparently you can even get your passport stamped with a special Užupis stamp.

Our Vilnius with Locals free walking tour finished outside Vilnius' cathedral and our guide was more than happy to offer any advice or answer any additional questions we had. In case you don't know, free walking tours work on a tip basis and depending on the quality of the tour you're expected to tip the guide what you think the tour was worth. I was disappointed that many of our group did not pay a small tip to our guide, yet asked many questions and got as much 'free advice' as possible. Although tips aren't compulsory the system works on honesty and if you like it and find the advice useful you should offer something in return.

These streets were once part of Vilnius' large Ghetto

If you're interested in taking the Vilnius free walking tour which I do highly recommend, check out the website before hand. 

Vilnius Old Town

Vilnius' old town is stunning, I knew this even arriving at night. With Medieval, Baroque and Neoclassical architectural influences due to Vilnius and Lithuania's many occupations its difficult to not love a city with so many stunning buildings. Exploring the streets of Vilnius you'll find many quaint and strange courtyards that a open to the public. On our walking tour we were urged to visit as many as possible to discover some of Lithuania's best kept secrets. The courtyards are often home to statues, sculptures and what I can only describe as some of Vilnius' best-off-the-beaten-track locations.

Vilnius' Old Town is also a UNESCO world heritage site and its not hard to see why. The mixture of architecture, colours and attractions are all you'd expect from a UNESCO historic centre.

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania - Baltic's road trip
The Town Hall in Vilnius - This is where the free walking tour leaves from at midday everyday

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania - Baltic's road trip

St. Annes Church and the Town Hall
Vilnius' town hall is situated in a large open space with many restaurants and shops just off all the little side streets. Beyond the Town hall is my favourite part of the city where many colourful churches and buildings can be found. During our stay in Vilnius the area outside the town became home to a small local sporting event and I can imagine on the right week end these streets to be packed for the various events that take place during Lithuania's summer months.

Exploring the old cobbled streets of Lithuania's capital is enjoyable especially when the weather plays ball. If you do experience rain, don't worry Lithuania's markets and key attractions are often only a stone's throw away from some of the great bars and restaurants in the city a few of our favourites include The Portabello English Pub and Bukowski Bar.

   

Local Lithuanian cuisine

After our walking tour we found ourselves in a traditional Lithuanian bar tasting some Lithuanian beer and sampling a local beer snack. Now this is something I really loved in the Baltics and I urge everyone to try them. Imagine fried bread with garlic and smothered in cheese. Apparently throughout Lithuania a fried bread beer snack is a custom to have whilst drinking. I certainly wasn't going to say no to that!

Lithuanian beer snack - Delicious
Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania
Snacks Lithuanian style

For cheap eats try Cili a diner-style cafe with fast food and a large menu. We ate here and although I wouldn't recommend getting a pasta dish the pizzas were freshly prepared and Jamie enjoyed his burger and deep fried gnocchi. (No, that's not something I've heard of either). Sit down meals and takeaway prices at Cili are more than reasonable with a meal for two costing under €10.00. Sandwiches start a €2.00 and burgers €4.00 with fries, wedges or weird gnocchi. We also noticed Cili to be available throughout the Baltics and can be found usually in shopping mall food courts.

Although Cili certainly isn't the best food available it's the perfect spot when travelling on a budget. Backpackers add this one to your list. 

Jimmy Jumps House and Pub Crawl

Jimmy Jumps House is your typical backpacker hostel. A large crowd of mixed nationalities, ages and professions all hanging around using the wifi and making the most of the free waffle breakfast. Upon arrival we noticed a Pub Crawl for €12 with some drinks included. We decided to book on and as 5 other people had signed up the Crawl would go ahead. We popped out to get some drinks to have in the busy Hostel common room and before we knew it there were 19 people attending the pub crawl. Americans, Dutch, Brits, Swedes and more all joined together to hit the town Vilnius style - it was Friday night after all.


The pub crawl turned out to be the biggest in the guides history and after taking over the entire basement of a pub we moved on to a cocktail bar and then a club. The club 'Cocainn' was perhaps the strangest club in all of Europe. A weird ex-Soviet building with wooden floors and walls and an indoor smoking area. The kind of place that was half stuck in the Soviet Union of the 1970's and a hip London club in 2002. Despite the weird setting the evening was fun and for €12 I say give it a go if you're prepared for a surreal Euro trash type club experience and staying at Jimmy Jumps House in Vilnius Old Town.

The pub crawl with Jimmy Jumps House was a lot of fun. Free drinks and insiders knowledge of the best places to go for a wild weekend in Lithuania. I'd highly recommend staying in this particular party hostel when spending some time in the Baltics it's not as wild as some but fun enough to meet some great people and enjoy a fun night out in Vilnius.

The streets of Vilnius, Lithuania


Culture in the Baltic States

Leaving Vilnius feeling a little bruised after our Jimmy Jumps Pub Crawl we took our favourite bus supplier Lux Express to Riga. The journey from Vilnius to Riga is €18 per person and takes 4 hours approx. As expected the bus came with wifi, free hot drinks and movies.


Click here to read more about how we arrived in Lithuania from Poland with Lux Express

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania
The beautiful streets of Vilnius, just outside the old town
We had learnt during our short time in The Baltics that although Lithuania has a short but turbulent history the locals are extremely proud people. Their mixed heritage is something everyone is proud of and each person you meet will be keen to speak to you in their near perfect English. This makes travelling The Baltics very easy for English speaking travellers. We noticed that almost everyone spoke English as a second language and many speak Russian as a third.

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania - travelsandmore Baltic's road trip
St. Annes Church again

Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania - travelsandmore Baltic's road trip
Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania

The locals are friendly which really left a memorable impression of Lithuania with me - the people of Lithuania are filled with an immense sense of pride about their identity and independence. This is not specific to Lithuania we found all the Baltic states to be especially patriotic countries. I guess after losing and gaining your independence so many times it is only natural to feel this way. Almost every Lithuanian you meet is open to engaging in conversation about Lithuanian history sometimes factual, sometimes less factual but all these friendly and meaningful exchanges leave you feeling very fond of the people of Lithuania.

The country of Lithuania is small but safe. Travelling around is relatively simple and although there are no trains that currently run through the Baltic Countries there will be in the future making this little pocket of culture even more accessible to travellers. For now, when planning a trip to Lithuania or its neighbouring countries remember the great and short bus routes that leave the capitals almost every hour, meaning Riga and Tallinn are only a bus journey away.

Click here for more of my Baltics Road Trip


Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania

You Might Also Like

6 comments

  1. Really great and informative post! It seriously makes me want to book a ticket to Vilinius right now and explore the city - The Republic of Užupis sounds really fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Užupis is a strange place but I found myself really enjoying it! Hope you get to visit soon - thanks for your comment.

      Delete
  2. I have always wanted to visit those three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Went to Finland but still could not locate the ferry to Estonia, hehe. Thank you for showcasing the tiny country. Loved the photos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Add them to your list. They are so easy to get to travel between and I was pleasantly surprised at how much there is to see and do in such small countries.

      Delete
  3. Your post had really taken me back there, I visited a few years ago in December for the Christmas markets. Such a great city!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it would be really nice to visit in the winter and probably an entirely different experience to the one I had in late spring.

      Thanks for reading.

      Delete

Need a hotel?

travelsandmore

travelsandmore was originally just an outlet to document my travels. It turned into something much more and now its more of an obsession for me than anything else. Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to subscribe, I'll only ever send you my latest travel related blog posts right to your inbox.