Vilnius: Illuminating the City

Estimated read time 3 min read

The people promoting Vilnius are asking if potential visitors know where Vilnius is. Far too often, the answer is no. Why should you know what makes the capital of Lithuania worthy of your travel plans? I explored the city and shared in the celebrations of its 700th anniversary to find out the answer. Approaching Vilnius from the sky, the deep green tree plantations and frozen lakes give way to red-roofed houses, spacious gardens, and grand Baroque buildings. The airport is a ten-minute drive from the city center, and the retail parks and industrial units quickly transform into cobbled streets, galleries, and restaurants. I explored the city after dark and discovered the Vilnius Light Festival, a series of light installations set against the city’s stunning architecture. Most of the installations are outdoors, in the streets, squares, and courtyards. The morning brings a historic tour of the old town to discover the history of Vilnius’s grand buildings. Our guide Lina is an authority on the city and a talented storyteller. She guides us around St Anne’s Church and the glorious Cathedral with its mix of Baroque and Neoclassical architecture. Vilnius surprised me with the quality of its food and drink. Lunch at Lokys provided the opportunity to try some traditional and modern local food, including boiled potato zeppelins with a game filling and pink soup made with beetroot, kefir, and milk. Game is popular in Lithuania and I sampled a beaver stew. The choice of local brews is impressive, and I recommend the sea buckthorn tea. Lukiskes Prison doubles as the Russian jail where the heroic Hopper finds himself imprisoned for much of season four of ‘Stranger Things.’ Our tour reveals cramped and cold cells where prisoners would have spent most of their day. The remainder was spent in outdoor cells with a thick layer of ice on the ground during winter. It’s now an events venue housing artists’ studios and a new sauna. Piana Vyshnia is a cool little bar, and I enjoyed Ukrainian cherry liqueur. Vilnius offers high-end boutiques, small market stalls, arts and crafts, and the stunning Gate of Dawn, part of the city’s defensive fortifications built in the early part of the 14th century. The Independent Republic of Uzupis, a district that became a haven for artists and bohemians, is also worth a visit. There’s a thriving art scene, incredible places to eat and drink, and more. To plan a trip to Vilnius, visit I flew to Vilnius from Edinburgh airport via Amsterdam on KLM and Air Baltic and home via Zurich with Swiss Air and Edelweiss. I stayed at Artagonist Art Hotel, which is in the heart of the city. This cool hotel boasts lots of incredible original works of art. I dined at Augustin, Lokys, and 14 Horses, all of which offer a variety of dining options.

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