Since I already had visited Estonia and Latvia, I was terribly curious to get to know the third Baltic state Lithuania. Not long ago I knew nothing about the country or its capital Vilnius. I am curious about all countries and it was clear to me that I would visit Lithuania at some point, if only to complete my “Baltic States list”. But I had no idea what kind of gem was waiting for me… I began to understand it when I leafed through my Baltic travel guide in February (on a plane to Latvia). I learned that Vilnius has the largest old town in Eastern Europe, which (quite rightly, I can tell you now) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, I did not expect to like Vilnius so much. Since holidays were already planned for this year, we could only realize a weekend trip to the capital and its surroundings. Nevertheless, we have experienced a lot within 48 hours in Lithuania. So I’m happy to share my “perfect 48 hours in Vilnius” experience, which is part of a blog parade of Travellers Insight, the travel blog of Munich Airport.
Enjoy modern life in the new town
Since we arrived late at night in Vilnius, we chose a larger hotel with a 24-hours reception. We also wanted to live in the city center, because we didn’t have so much time for Vilnius and also planned to see the island castle Trakai in the surrounding area. We booked a room at the huge Novotel Vilnius Centre on Gedeminas Prospekt boulevard in the new town, within walking distance of the cathedral and the old town – and with an fantastic view over the many church towers of Vilnius from our room on the seventh floor. This view was also the reason why we did not climb the castle hill, which is regarded by many as a must see for a visit to Vilnius. When we left the hotel on Saturday, we found ourselves on a magnificent boulevard lined with trees. The weather was great. It is hard to imagine that a few years ago there was only an absolutely uninspiring street here. Vilnius is a booming city and Lithuania has an impressive economic growth. I avoid too much shopping because I don’t find it sustainable and prefer to spend my money on traveling and other experiences with loved ones. But on the Gedeminas Boulevard I really felt like doing this and I needed a few things anyway. The G09 is a great mall, also with interesting gastronomy. Here I found some offers which I missed at home in Germany. So I started the trip in Vilnius quite differently than planned and my first impression also deviated strongly from my original imaginations: I did not expect such a modern city.
The Old Town: Lose yourself in baroque splendor
Although we liked the new town, we did not want to stay there too long. Finally, the largest old town of Eastern Europe was waiting next door. So we continued our walk towards the Cathedral Square. The snow-white neoclassical cathedral St. Stanislaus is very worth seeing and we didn’t meet many people there in the late morning. So I could take good pictures. Next to the cathedral you find the lanes of the old town. The best way to explore it is to get lost. In beautiful old Vilnius there is much to discover: sophisticated baroque facades, picturesque backyards and an interesting church at every corner. In the lanes and courtyards we found a lot of creative cafés worth seeing. We definitely liked the old town.
Trakai: A trip to rural Lithuania
In the afternoon we left the city towards our next destination. This is something I like doing when beeing on a city trip, especially when I visit a new country. A short visit to the countryside can give you a completely different understanding. We headed for Trakai Island Castle, an icon on many Baltic travel guides and pretty much the only picture I had in mind when I thought of places of interest in Lithuania before actually visiting the country. First we drove through dense forests, which is typical for the Baltic region. Soon gardens with lots of fruit trees and the first wooden houses appeared. As expected, Trakai was very busy. Nevertheless, the atmosphere near the rebuilt brick castle, which was originally built in the Middle Ages, was quite relaxed.
The castle always is surrounded by boats and sailing ships. The lakeland around Trakai is huge and really impressive. On the short bank walk around the picture perfect miniature island you have great views of the lakeland. At some corners you can also sit down, take a rest in the meadow below treas and find peace despite the many visitors. Trakai offers more than the island castle. Very close to the bridge between the town and the tiny castle island there are many colorful wooden houses. Together with the flourishing fruit trees, they looked particularly beautiful at the beginning of May and got as much attention of my camera as the red castle. My tip: You should definitely plan an trip to Trakai when visiting Vilnius.
Around the Vilnia River: Idyllic Vilnius
We planned a visit to Užupis or the following day. Užupis is a quirky district of Vilnius,on the other bank of the river Vilnia – seen from the old town. The inhabitants have declared the ddistrict of Užupis to be an “independent republic” and gave themselves their own constitution with funny laws, such as the right to celebrate. Many artists live in this area and I was curious to visit this special place of Vilnius. In the end, however, we were rather disappointed, which could be due to the fact that the residents, who love partying, were still asleep on this late Sunday morning.
However, we felt attracted by the beautiful terrace café “Užupio kavinė” behind the “border bridge”. Here you sit under trees on the high bank of the river Vilnia. As Munich residents, we immediately felt like home in this beer garden-like place. Likewise (albeit irritatingly) “Munich style” was to find more Louis Vuitton bags in the café than rasta braids, which I actually expected to find in the alternative republic. During our relaxed coffee break next to the rippling water we observed an orthodox procession, which reminded me that I was many kilometers away from home.
We decided not to explore Užupis any further, but headed for an idyllic park on the other side of the Vilnia. Here we found small lakes and fruit trees flourishing like in the rural surroundings of Vilnius. We had discovered the park in the previous evening when we happened to pass by on the way to a restaurant. We went back to the other side of the river and walked in the wild green along the shore. I liked the idyllic sides of Vilnius very much.
A feast: Vegan in Vilnius
What I need to mention is that as a vegan you will have an excellent time in Vilnius. There are many options to eat well and creatively. This may also be due to the young population. About 200,000 students are enrolled at the University of Vilnius, the oldest in Eastern Europe. From an authentic pub with vegan burgers to a yoga studio appendage with picturesque courtyard you will find almost everything at vegan-vegetarian restaurants. I’d like to highlight the vegan raw food restaurant “Botanique“, which serves a delicious brunch on Sundays. Every week they have a different set of dishes. Besides snacks with acocado cream, there was also smoothie bowl and delicious pastries. We discovered this restaurant by chance. I always wanted to visit a raw food restaurant. I’m so glad things just happened spontaneously in this beautiful city.
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