Why you should visit Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius is not the most likely or well known city at the top of most peoples Europe bucket lists. I must admit, I knew next to nothing about it and had never considered it as my next destination before I met Dov. I met Dov when we were both backpacking in Cambodia, and ended up at the same hostel in Siem Reap. Once we both arrived back in Europe, we stayed in touch, and he offered to host me in his hometown of Vilnius. I had no idea what to expect, but as always, went with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised.

Lithuania actually has a rather rich and intriguing history, long before the soviets came in and bulldozed half the city to turn into ugly high rise apartments. Lithuania was one of the last Pagan countries in Europe, small fragments of which can still be seen today. During the 14th Century, Lithuania was in fact one of the powerhouses of Europe, with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania stretching across modern day Belarus and Ukraine, and well as parts of Poland and Russia.

History aside, modern day Lithuania has a lot to offer, particularly it’s capital city of Vilnius. If you head away from the old Soviet buildings and towards the old town, that was thankfully preserved, you’ll find all sorts of things that will intrigue you.

Vilnius Old Town: The Republic Of Užupis

Translated as “The Other Side Of The River”, the old town considers itself almost a small republic, one set apart from the rest of the city and filled with art, creativity, and history. It was once the home to struggling Bohemian artists and is often likened to Montmartre in Paris.

The Republic Of Užupis - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
The Republic Of Užupis -means “The Other Side Of The River”

For an extra touch of magic, explore just after sun down. If you love street art and quirky bars, then Vilnius old town is the perfect place for you.

Vilnius Old Town - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Street art at Vilnius Old Town
Vilnius Old Town - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Graffiti art at Vilnius Old Town

I spent hours roaming the cobbled streets, exploring abandoned corners of the city covered in graffiti art.

Gothic Church in Vilnius Old Town - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Gothic Church

The old town also houses a spectacular Gothic church, if you’re a lover of architecture.

Teapots jutting from the walls - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Quirky spots like Teapots jutting from the walls all over the old town

Quirky spots are dotted all over Vilnius Old Town, like cosy tea rooms with teapots jutting from the walls.

Underground restaurants in Vilnius - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Underground restaurants in Vilnius

There are several underground restaurants in Vilnius, where you can sit in a cosy atmosphere, drink local craft beer, and sample the food of Lithuania. From the famous didžkukuliai or “zepellinis”, stuffed boiled potatoes with meat or cottage cheese.

Didžkukuliai or Zepellinis - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Didžkukuliai or Zepellinis
Didžkukuliai or Zepellinis - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Didžkukuliai or Zepellinis with cottage cheese stuffing

To the best damn beer snack ever created: fried crunchy bread, topped with gooey melted cheese. Forget peanuts, forget pork scratchings, once you’ve sampled this dish alongside a good local craft beer, you will never look back!

Fried crunchy bread - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Fried crunchy bread, topped with gooey melted cheese

The TV Tower above the city, whilst in great need of a major interior update (did I just step back in time to the 1980’s?) gives you a wonderful panoramic view of the city. The rotating cafe gives you the chance to see Vilnius from all angles, whilst sipping a coffee and nibbling on snacks.

Panoramic view at the TV Tower - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Panoramic view at the TV Tower
The rotating cafe at TV Tower - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
The rotating cafe at TV Tower

Vilnius: A Rich History

Another reason that I loved Vilnius so much, was because I learnt so much there. So many things that I didn’t really know anything about before, from the Soviet occupation to how it once stood in Europe. Visit the haunting KGB museum in Vilnius for a poignant experience.

Haunted KGB museum - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Haunted KGB museum

Vilnius is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, and it is truly a beautiful and historic spot in the city to visit.

One of the oldest Universities in Europe - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
One of the oldest Universities in Europe

It houses the most beautiful library I have ever seen, with a ceiling mural that depicts professors of the university over the years.

Beautiful ceiling mural at library - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Beautiful ceiling mural at library

And has the most stunning Fresco hall, inspired by Lithuania’s Pagan roots and mythology.

Fresco hall - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Fresco hall

Above the city on a hilltop sits the remnants of a castle and keep, known as Gediminas’ Tower.

Gediminas' Tower - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Gediminas’ Tower.
Gediminas' Tower - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Gediminas’ Tower

Not only are the castle ruins and the reconstructed keep beautiful, but they also allow for a stunning view of the city.

Vilnius: Neighbouring Attractions

If you fancy a day trip outside of Vilnius, then hop on a train and head to the town of Trakai. Enjoy seeing the countryside flick past on your journey, then explore the small town, with its traditional wooden buildings, before visiting the castle.

Church at Trakai - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Church at Trakai

During winter, the lake will be completely frozen, and sometimes you will see locals ice fishing from the surface, or kids ice skating along the banks.

Castle at Trakai - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Castle at Trakai
History Museum at Trakai - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
History Museum at Trakai

Vilnius: Make A Wish

To end a truly wonderful time in Lithuania, Dov took me to the Stebuklas (miracle) tile. It’s a point in the city that marks the end of the world’s longest human chain. It was part of a peaceful protest against Soviet rule, where two million people across the Baltic states joined hands, and became the longest unbroken human chain in history.

The tile is said to be magical and can grant wishes if you stand on it and spin around three times. I did this, made my wish, and after, I knelt down to take a photo. When I checked the photo later, this beautiful yet eerie green light was shining from the tile…

Stebuklas (miracle) tile - Pic by Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Stebuklas (miracle) tile

There’s nothing better than not knowing what to expect, and being completely blown away by a place. That was what Vilnius was like for me. I enjoyed every second there, from exploring the old town with snow still clinging to the cobbled streets, to underground restaurants and train rides to castles just outside of the city, sitting on a frozen lake. I had a truly magical time in Vilnius; so if you’re looking for somewhere unique to add to your European bucket list, then I would heartily recommend it.

Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart

Author : Rhiannon of The Gypsy Heart Travels

Rhiannon is a professional storyteller and wanderer. She loves tattoos, motorbikes, red lipstick, good food, whiskey, and books. She’s passionate about adventure, and likes to travel to weird and wonderful places off the beaten track the most. You can follow her adventures on her blog: The Gypsy Heart Travels or on Instagram

Why you should visit Vilnius, Lithuania - By Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart
13 things to do in Vilnius, Lithuania - By Rhiannon from Gypsy Heart

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2 thoughts on “Why you should visit Vilnius, Lithuania

    myra

    (2nd October 2018 - 7:54 AM)

    I LOVE this city!!!!!!

    Aaron R

    (3rd October 2018 - 1:31 AM)

    I’ve been planning on visiting Vilnius for a while now. This gives me all the more reason to go there. Cheers!!!!

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