Beat the crowds: Vilnius
The Lithuanian capital of Vilnius may not be at the top of your bucket list - but we’re about to tell you why it should be. With an eventful history and plenty of fascinating cultural quirks, this indomitable city is both intriguing and charming. Wander streets lined with elegant architecture and pub-crawl your way through warming craft ales in super-cosy establishments. With magnificent churches, plenty of literary monuments, and the bohemian micronation of the Republic of Uzupis to discover, Vilnius is the perfect city break destination. While ideal for a summertime trip, in winter the Christmas market lights up and the whole city transforms into a frosty wonderland where snow is almost guaranteed, making it extra magical. Not convinced yet? Lithuanians have a whole genre of food called ‘snacks to beer’ - basically fried bread and potato pancakes - and it is delightfully delicious.
Let the Citybond team lead you through the enchanting hidden gem of Vilnius.
Planning your trip
Vilnius is a year-round destination. In July the mercury hits comfortable 23C highs, but in January the average high plunges to a frosty -2C. But don’t let the chilly weather put you off: one of the most popular times to visit the Lithuanian capital is over the festive season. While in summer you’re able to explore its attractions in temperate conditions, visit in the colder seasons to discover a winter wonderland, complete with pubs offering cosy nooks in which to defrost with a warming craft ale. And then there’s the storybook Christmas market. Lithuania uses the euro, and British passport holders currently don’t need a visa to visit Lithuania, as the country holds EU membership.
What to do
The Republic of Uzupis is undoubtedly Vilnius’ most quirky attraction. On April 1st 1998, this bohemian neighbourhood declared itself an independent state. Visit to see its flag, and unique constitution, which includes statements such as “everyone has the right to be loved, but not necessarily”. As you can see, the Republic of Uzupis doesn’t take itself too seriously. On the way, take a detour down Literature Street, where bookworms will find monuments to their favourite authors dotted along the wall. And when in Vilnius, especially in winter, don’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy a craft ale pub crawl. The pubs in this city are unendingly cosy and invariably hip, with plenty of microbrews on tap. If you’re visiting in December, check out the enchanting Christmas Market, which encircles a towering Christmas tree.
What to see
Like most European cities, Vilnius has its fair share of churches and monuments. Among the best are the Catholic Vilnius Cathedral – a grand Neoclassical building just off Cathedral Square – and the baroque 17th-century Church of St Peter and St Paul. Elsewhere, the Gothic St Anne’s Church was reportedly a favourite of Napoleon, who expressed a desire to take it home to France. Those interested in history may want to visit the Vilna Ghetto. This tragic World War II-era Jewish ghetto was established and run by the Nazis and is a haunting symbol of the horror endured by Lithuania during the Second World War. There’s also The Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, housed in a former KGB building. Here, visitors are invited to learn about the 50-year occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union.
Where to stay
Looking for great budget accommodation in Vilnius? Try the well-rated Comfort Hotel LT - Rock ‘n’ Roll Vilnius. This hip music-themed hotel is just a ten-minute walk from the Old Town, and offers cuisine from a famous Lithuanian chef. It boasts its own rock radio, and a 24-hour gym. If you’re after a luxe Lithuanian experience, seek out the five-star Narutis Hotel, on the main street of Vilnius Old Town. Each room is decorated with unique frescoes, wall paintings, and original 16th-century ceilings, and there’s also a spa with an indoor pool. Bookworms - look no further! At the Shakespeare Boutique Hotel, just 50 yards from Cathedral Square, each room is dedicated to a famous author. The 17th-century palace is stuffed with artworks, antiques, and, of course, books.
What to eat
There are three words you need to know when visiting Vilnius: ‘užkandžiai prie alas’. Or, if that’s a struggle, ‘snacks to beer’. That’s right, Lithuania has a truly wonderful category of food designed to perfectly complement its delicious beer. Ask for ‘kepta duona’ and find yourself presented with a plate of fried bread, commonly sprinkled with garlic and accompanied by a sour cream or cheese dip. Another favourite is cepelinai: potato dumplings which are often stuffed with ground meat, cheese curd, or mushrooms. Make no mistake, Lithuania’s traditional cuisine is not light, with the hearty dishes designed to combat the winter climate. Yet the food is delicious, with plenty of veggie options - just don’t visit if you’re on a diet.
Wherever you plan on heading to this year it’s good to know that Citybond Suretravel is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.
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