Vilnius at a glance
Cosmopolitan, historic and green, Vilnius offers a lively and affordable break – with easy transport links.
The artists’ quarter of Uzupis declared itself a republic in 1997, with its own flag, anthem and constitution.
You probably didn’t know
Vilnius was once capital of a medieval empire that covered modern-day Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, plus part of Poland and Russia.
Vilnius: City of Strangers (Laimonas Briedis, 2009)
- Population: 500,000
- Annual visitor numbers: 746,000 (2013)
- January mean temperature: -6°C
- August mean temperature: 16°C
Things to do in Vilnius
Tucked behind the Contemporary Art Centre, Le Butcher provides the best burgers in Vilnius, from “bloody beef” to “baddass pork”. A funky, informal setting appeals to a young, professional clientele happy to lap up the new trend for gourmet street food.
Gunther Stub is one of several Alsatian restaurants in town; the fruits of a long cultural association between Alsace, in France, and Lithuania. This intimate wine cellar, opened in May 2015, is one of several collaborations between restaurateur Thomas Teiten and Christian Mathis, who trained in Strasbourg. Pork and cabbage feature prominently on the menu.
Fine fresh fish is order of the day at Sturmu Svyturys, set in the bohemian quarter of Uzupis. The owners have a fishmonger’s store nearby, so expect the best of the day’s catch in this rustic eatery. Accompanying vegetables are equally fresh – and the white wine is crisp.
Unveiled in 2014, gastrobar Dévéti has won over the discerning young punters of Vilnius. This is partly thanks to the local Dundulis craft beers on draught and posh snacks, and partly thanks to the downbeat, rough-and-ready appearance.
Just as every European city has a Hotel Bristol, so bars named after alcoholic writer Charles Bukowski are everywhere. Vilnius’s Bukowski baras, at Visų Šventų g. 7, is slightly more slick than the writer might have liked, but keeps late hours and knocks back the booze. A courtyard terrace comes into its own in summer.
Regular live music, sport on large TV screens, domestic craft beers on tap, 6am closing time at weekends – and a young, party-minded clientele. It’s no surprise the bar RePUBlic has been such a huge success in provincial Kaunas. The RePUBlic team has now opened up in the Lithuanian capital, calling it No.4 and filling the place night after night.
The smarter set meets at Floor, a lounge-like nightspot, for cocktails, live sounds in the background, and nibbles. While it’s popular for post-work drinks during the week, Floor is all about the dancefloor at weekends with 4am closing times and fewer suits.
Menu fabrikas LOFTAS
Vilnius is full of disco-bars and mainstream nightspots, which heave with stag weekenders all year round. If you’re looking for something more alternative, with international and domestic live and DJ sounds, head for Menu fabrikas LOFTAS. Set in the complex where local firm ELFA used to made tape recorders for the former Soviet Union, the venue’s “Art Factory” is a 1,000-capacity space for indie, jazz and dance acts, with something happening almost every night. It even has its own radio station.
A one-stop outlet for talented young Lithuanian designers, studija LT sells woollens by BALTA, T-shirts and kids’ onesies by LT Identity, as well as gifts and accessories.
House of Naïve
The House of Naïve trades in locally produced, natural clothes for women, created with organic and sustainable materials. Dresses, tops, skirts and hoodies form the core of the collection but you’ll also find sandals and even own-made dark chocolate.
There’s been a market at Kalvariju for over a century. Today fresh produce – fruit, vegetables, honey – is sold here six days a week. Souvenir hunters can investigate the retro Soviet-era electronics, cameras in particular, amid the fascinating retro junk.
The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Only opened to the public in 2013, the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was built when Vilnius was the capital of a large empire. Demolished by the Tsars, its reconstruction went hand-in-hand with Lithuanian independence from the USSR. Regular English-language tours of the stately rooms and historic artefacts began in July 2015.
Toy sewing machines, racing cars and wind-up birds from the Soviet era are displayed at the Zaislu Muziejus or Toy Museum. Kids are encouraged to play with everything – the rarer items on show have had replicas created for public use.
Events to look out for
- Independence Day (February)
- Kaziukas Fair (March)
- Street Musicians’ Day (May)
- Vilnius Festival (June)
- Crowning of King Mindaugas (July)
- Capital Days (end August–early September)
- Vilnius International Jazz Festival (November)
- Christmas Fair (December–January)
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