Discover one of the lesser-known gems of Eastern Europe with a trip to Lithuania’s dreamy capital. A charmingly authentic medieval town with a spunky, artistic flare. Vilnius comes out of its shell in spring and here’s why we think it’s the perfect time to visit…
1. Užupis Day
Užupis is an area located, as the name in Lithuanian suggests, ‘just beyond the river’. It’s one of the smallest republics in the world at less than 1km squared. This tiny republic, formed on April 1 1998, has its own president, government, constitution and currency. Every year on April 1st, Užupis celebrates its independence, known locally as Užupis Day. It’s telling that it falls on the same day as April Fools Day – highlighting the importance given to humour over “serious” political matters.
What started out as a playful joke amongst a few artists has now snowballed into an important part of tradition and a source of great pride amongst locals. On April 1st, get your passport stamped as you cross the bridge into the republic. Swap your Euros for Uzis (the unofficial currency of Užupis) and fill up your glass at the fountain in the main square – it spouts beer on this one day of the year!
The relaxed, bohemian atmosphere is palpable as soon as you cross the river. This fun-loving, inclusive attitude is clear to see in the Užupis constitution which states things like “Everyone has the right to understand nothing”, “Everyone has the right to be unique” and “a dog has the right to be a dog”. If you by chance meet the ambassador of Užupis, don’t forget to give him a stroke. He is afterall, a ginger cat.
2. The art & culture
Vilnil – Museum of Illusions
For families who are a fan of the unreal and unexpected, leave your premonitions at the door and step into the curious world of Vilnil. The museum of illusions, where scientific invention meets art. A fun day out for both adults and children – perfect for Spring days when the weather isn’t behaving itself! An adult ticket costs €11 whilst children under 7 go free.
As the weather starts to get warmer, Spring is the perfect time to visit the outdoor art gallery that is spread across the city – the street art. Start off at the Pasaka cinema, who’s door is surrounded by sinister-looking versions of the Alice in Wonderland characters.
From there, head across the old town to find the colourful mural by Lithuanian artist Aušra Bagočiūnaitė for the Vilnius Puppet Theatre, Lėlė. The area of Pylimo is a treasure trove of weird and wonderful street art. Meander through the streets and you’re bound to find something that catches your eye. Don’t miss Millo’s building art and Os Gemeos by twins from Sao Paolo.
3. The sunset from the Hill of Three Crosses
As you climb up the wooden steps towards the Hill of Three Crosses, the panoramic view of the city opens up and the Old Town becomes visible. It’s a magical place to watch the sun go down at the end of the day. The story of the three crosses goes back to the 14th century, where they were erected as a memorial to monks who were tortured and killed. Today, the memorial is a symbol of hope and national identity.
4. Eating your way across the city!
Towards the end of Spring, street food trucks start to pop up around the city. The much anticipated street food markets such as Open Kitchen and Vilnius Street Food Festival open their doors to hungry locals and travellers.
Street food in Vilnius is as much an international affair as it is traditional. Don’t be surprised to find food trucks of burgers, german sausages and tortillas beside street vendors selling cepelinai – lithuanian dumplings made from grated potatoes and stuffed with meat. Do however, be surprised at the quality of the street food on offer. Some of the best chefs in the city work out of a food truck and are more than eager to showcase the gastronomy of the city to passersby.
Hales Food Market
Hales Food Market is the biggest and oldest food market in Vilnius, open year round. Go for the fresh daily produce and to sample the local cuisine as you walk around. Try a healthy juice from the market juice bar. Feeling ravenous? Fill up on scrumptious bagels right out of the oven and stuff them with smoked country bacon by famer Mečislovas, who is a regular sellar at the market.
The traditional cuisine
No trip to Vilnius is complete without trying a bowl of shocking pink, cold beetroot soup. They say you eat with your eyes and this soup is a true aesthetic feast. The flavour is strong and sharp – it’ll keep you invigorated for a full day ahead!
Meat lovers, rejoice! Lithuanian cuisine is typically meat heavy, especially pork. Traditionally, families have used every part of the pig in cooking to not waste any. That’s why dishes like pigs ear are still a delicacy today.
To get a real feel of the local food, try Senoji Trobele, one of the most popular Lithuanian restaurants in Vilnius. We recommend ordering some of their delicious fried bread. If you’ve got your heart set on trying some of that beetroot soup, give Lokys restaurant a go. Towards the end of spring you’ll be able to sit outside and people watch thanks to it’s great location in the middle of town.
5. It’s never been easier to get to Vilnius!
How to get to Vilnius
Take a direct flight from London, Birmingham, Doncaster, Liverpool or Belfast to Vilnius International Airport. The flight time is a mere 2 hours 40 minutes, and the city centre is only a few kilometres away from the airport when you arrive. Take the train from the airport to the city centre. It only takes 8 minutes and costs just £0.60.
And here you can find even more tips for traveling to Vilnius & Lithuania >