Thanks to our Member Paul for sending in his account of a visit to Vilnius. Where?!, you might ask? Read on…
The city of Vilnius is in Lithuania. If you have been to Tallinn (Estonia) and/or Riga (Latvia), then this should definitely be next on your list for a long weekend away.
So why go? Well from the London area it's only a 2:15 hour flight away from Stansted Airport. Prices of accommodation, food, drink and transport are very reasonable, much cheaper than the UK. Entrance to museums is very cheap and even cheaper if you are a senior. It is a beautiful place and you can visit some even more beautiful areas nearby. In the summer, temperatures along with lots of sunshine can reach 26 centigrade plus.
You've decided to go, so what is there to do? Here is a sample of what we did as a group of four.
We went from Friday evening to Monday evening in June. We spent two days in the city and one out. First before you leave find a hotel in the Old Town, which is where all the action is. There are many to choose from. We stayed at the Novatel on Gedimino Pr., which was an excellent choice for us, nice and central.
On arrival we got a taxi to the hotel for 15 Euros. Even though it was gone 11 p.m. we found many cafes and bars open to go for a drink. Many people were around, all well behaved.
Saturday saw us in the Cathedral Square at 10 a.m. for a free walking tour of the city. This is a great way to see a city, learn about its history and visit some places that you would not have thought of going to on your own.
The walk lasted just over 2 hours which is enough and set us up to re-visit some places in the afternoon after a break for coffee/beer. Then, we went back to see the Ensemble of St Anne and Bernardine church. This was followed by a walk through the Bernardine Park back to the hotel.
Being a Saturday we came across at least 10 weddings that day at all stages from the service taking place in the church to the newly-married couple walking around the town having photos taken.
On the food and drink side, there are numerous places to stop everywhere. Prices are very reasonable and you can get a pint of beer for 4 Euros or less. In some venues we only paid 2 Euros!
Where you decide to eat is really down to your choice of food and what you want to pay. However if I am allowed can I recommend two places for the evening, which were excellent for food, service and price… There is the Kitchen and the Bistro 18, both very close to the Town Hall Square. Both are also relaxed and informal, but I would advise booking in advance as they are both very popular, even on a Sunday night!
Sunday saw us off to Trakai Castle which is 27Km from Vilnius. We got there using an Uber taxi, 15 Euros, but there are buses and trains to the area too and the cost I believe is less than 10 Euros. On the way back we got a local taxi for 27 Euros.
The Trakai area is really beautiful, especially in the sunshine as we had. It is an area of wonderful scenery consisting of lakes and trees along with of course the castle to visit and other museums and churches. The castle is well worth a visit, but try to get there before 10 a.m. when all the tour buses arrive. You can also walk all around the castle which is worth doing.
We were also lucky, in that on the promenade, inside where another museum is, a local bygone enactment was going on. You can also hire boats of all shapes and sizes to go on the lake and see the castle from another view, which we did.
On return to Vilnius, we were greeted with a street market on Gedimino Pr. which ran all the way down the street, open 10 to 6 p.m. It contained many craft market goods at excellent prices, along with places to drink and eat with their own seating. Where can you go for a beer and a local snack for less than 6 Euros?
Monday, our last day, was a more relaxed time with a visit to Gediminas Tower. We got up
to it using the funicular, one way, as we had decided to walk back down afterwards. It has a small museum in it, but the views of the Old Town and the surrounding countryside are excellent – well worth the visit.
Next was a visit to the Place of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, in which you will find an excellent museum. Entrance fee is very reasonable. You need to leave yourself at least two hours to walk around as there is a lot to see and read, but you will come out knowing a lot about the city and the country’s history.
After a coffee break and snack it was off to the Vilnius University and the Bell Tower. There is an entrance fee. Again you can get great views of the old city from the top and there is a lift, however be aware that the last section to the top is up steep stairs. We were lucky in that some students were graduating on this day so made the courtyard below interesting. You can visit the church here and some of the courtyards, but not get inside the buildings.
The rest of the day was spent keeping dry; it had begun raining at lunchtime. We made a short visit to the Gates of Dawn. It is a gate into the city which you can view both sides. There is a chapel above the gate which is worth a visit. To get in walk back into the town away from the gate and on the right hand side about 50m down you will see a door. Go through it and turn right to go up some stairs to the chapel.
Soon we were on our way home having had a full and enjoyable long weekend helped by lovely weather. Hopefully this gives you a flavour of what you can see and do in Vilnius and make you think about going – you will not regret it!
Thanks to Paul for sharing his tips. Have you been to the Baltic states? Do you have any other recommendations? If so you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.