Ready to go? The time is ticking and there is so much to do in such little time. Vilnius is a cosy city with a fascinating fusion of Jewish, Polish and Russian cultures and an artistic vibe. Even if you’ve only got 24 hours in Vilnius, that’s still enough time to discover a unique city where East meets West — and to spark your urge to come back for more. Here are our top tips for exploring on a short timeframe, courtesy of our local Vilnius tour guides.
Shop for fresh breakfast at the main marketplace in Vilnius, Kalvariju turgus, named after the street. Buy some fresh eggs, veggies, bacon, and bread, and make your own perfect breakfast. Alternately, if you don’t want to DIY your breakfast, we strongly recommend Mano guru (My guru). You’ll find classic breakfast menu items like omelettes, cereals, and crepes, and it’s a charming place to start a day.
There is no greater time to visit Vilnius’ Old Town than the morning. Watch how the rising sun plays shade games on the roofs and windows. Explore on foot, as you can then get lost down the smallest of streets — and that’s where you will find the beauty of Vilnius. Places you should definitely see include Vilnius Cathedral, Vilnius University, Gediminas Tower (with spectacular views from the top), Pilies Street, lovely Literatu Street, Bernardine ensemble, and the bohemian Uzupis district.
Feeling hungry? There are few good places for lunch in Uzupis — our picks are Užupio Kavinė (for hearty dishes and renowned milkshakes) and Užupio Picerija (for your pizza craving). Or, if you want to wander through Old Town with your eyes, try Tores Restaurant, which has great views.
If you have only one day in Vilnius, it would be a shame to skip a trip to Trakai. Yes, it’ll take you out of downtown, but it’s a short trip that’s totally worth it. Trakai is a historic city and lake resort only 28 kilometres away from Vilnius and is easily reached by car or train. There is a spectacular island castle in Lake Galvė that’s worth an Instagram or two. And don’t head back to Vilnius until you’ve tried kibinai, a traditional Karaim pie filled with lamb or vegetables — they’re a true local favourite.
If you’re up for sampling some comforting Lithuanian food, you won’t regret visiting Žemaičių smuklė on Vokiečių Street, where your dinner comes with an authentic Medieval atmosphere. Alternately, Belmontas is set amid beautiful surroundings — perfect for enjoying good food in open air. There are also many Lithuanian cuisine restaurants in the centre of Vilnius, so just pick one and be sure to try cepelinai, žemaičių blynai, vėdarai, balandėliai, borscht hot or cold (šaltibarščiai), or ask the waiter for restaurant favourites. (And if you’re confused by all these local dishes, check out our ultimate guide to Lithuanian cuisine.)
This is the time to relax. Take a sip of Lithuanian beer, and stretch your legs. In summer, there are a lot of places with beautiful inside gardens and terraces. We recommend Užupis café, Vasaros Terasa, Blusynė, Artistai, and Invino. Both Akivarai and Alaus namai have a wide range of good Lithuanian beer. If you feel like dancing, there are great clubs in Vilnius. Visit Pabo Latino for a South American vibe, check Tamsta and Loftas for interesting events, and the Berlin and Salento DiscoPub are in good locations.
For movie lovers in summer months, we suggest cinema under the stars in the Old Town. If the weather is welcoming, enjoy a good movie and a sip of wine at the open-air cinema. The movies are shown Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in the yard of Contemporary Art Centre.
There are few capitals in Europe that can truly be described as hidden gems, but Vilnius is certainly amongst those few. Often overlooked for all the wrong reasons, this beautiful Lithuanian city boasts an ancient meets modern vibe, filled with historical sights and the cutting edge of cool, all at the same time!