What do you do when you find yourself with a surprise week off work? Book a spontaneous few days in Northern Europe, that’s what!
In an unexpected twist, over Christmas I found myself accepting a new job in Manchester which in turn saw me gain a nice 10 day gap of unemployment-bliss before I jumped into my new role in early February. Already heading to Romania for four days, we had no qualms about extending our travels to spend a further couple of days of my time-off in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius!
The Baltic states were undiscovered territory for us, but I was pretty sure Vilnius was likely to tick a few boxes for me; Old Town – check! Affordability – check! Eastern European style food – check! Okay sure, clearly my prior knowledge of Lithuania wasn’t exactly on the same ‘deep’ level as Lonely Planet Guide, but it was pretty excited for the trip all the same.
So how did reality hold up to expectation for my wintery Lithuania trip?
What can I see in Vilnius
The beginning of February isn’t the most ideal time for outdoor sightseeing, but splintered with warming stops at local drinking holes, Vilnius is just about the cleanest, cutest city to take a walk in. I don’t know why it came as such a surprise or it was the notable difference between this and Bucharest’s more gritty facades but even in the slush and snow the city seemed so well kept and colourful!
Being quite small, you’ve still got lots of alleyways and different directions to branch off and explore, and by disregarding Google Maps and simply winging it around the town we came across lots of amazing buildings, churches, parks, pubs and cafes!
The city also has a notable amount of street art including a piece with Trump and Putin that you might recognise as it went a bit viral a few months back! I had no idea that we’d find so much awesome graffiti, and it was only from just wandering around without an aim that we were able to stumble on these gems. Just around the corner from our Airbnb was Literatu street (Literatų gatvė) which was a stretch of wall dedicated to Lithuanian literature; an outdoor gallery of text, photos, collages and pictures referencing the country’s poets and writers.
Where to Eat in Vilnius
Considering we only had a couple of days in Vilnius and I had done zero prior research on the best places to eat, I think we managed pretty darn well! In the middle of the city on the main road was Café Montmartre, obviously a French inspired café that served some of the best brunches. So good that we came back on our last day before our super early flight home, managing to squeeze in a plate of waffles as soon as they opened.
If you’re taking a walk out of the centre of the city to defiantly stick a finger up at the Trump mural, you might as well coincide this with a meal at Keble Ruke – the burger joint on the other side of the wall. We ended up sharing a massive burger between the two of us; we struggled with being still stuffed from brunch but really really needing to have this burger in my life. No regrets!
Forto Dvaras finally gave us somewhere to try traditional Lithuanian food and beer, and even though it was another case of eyes bigger than our bellies as we ordered soup in a bread bowl to start and Cepelinai or didžkukuliai (seemingly nicknamed Zeppelins for their shape) for our main. Offered up stuffed with meat, sour cream and bacon crackling, these traditional dumplings are really something special!
Where to Drink in Vilnius
The advantage of traveling on the off season is undoubtedly walking into a place like Bambalyne and finding you’ve got the bar all to yourself. This pub come beer shop has fridges stocked with shelves upon shelves of local Lithuanian beer, and I still can’t understand how we managed to find this place completely but chance! The bar woman found the time to hand select beers for us based on our preferences which is how I ended up with a bottle of this cherry tipple!
Craft and Draft Brewpub was a modern bar that we’d found after a visit to the Museum of Genocide Victims (understandably we required a pick me up following a heavy couple of hours!). This place had an impressive selected of beers on tap as well as whiskeys and a superb menu with scrummy tapas style dishes!
We popped into Aline Leiciai for what should have been a night cap, but quickly turned into a beer tasting paired with a couple of Lithuanian mead’s. The place was so cosy we quickly forgot the time and ended up getting edged out in a merry state at closing time.
Top Left and Right: Bambalyne with Cherry Beer, Bottom Left: Aline Leiciai Sampling Beers, Bottom Centre and Right: Craft and Draft Brewpub
Have you been to Lithuania? Visited Vilnius? Should I have stayed longer? What did I miss?