The last stop on our Baltics trip with JayWay Travel was Lithuania. This was the country that we knew the least about and if there’s one word to describe it, we would have to choose “unexpected”. Our very first stop in Lithuania was the Hill of Crosses, a monument that is exactly what it sounds like. It’s said that the hill has over 400,000 crosses with more being added daily.
It’s claimed that the first crosses were erected by the families of deceased rebels from the 1831 rebellion. In 1993, the Hill of Crosses was visited by Pope John Paul II and was said to have left a great impression on him. Now, the Hill is frequented as a place of reflection, vows, and prayer. I could have easily spend the entire afternoon wandering though the twisted trails and reading the inscriptions on each cross. It’s definitely a place that I would love to return to in the future.
After our stop at the Hill of Crosses, we made way for Vilnius. With only three days in the city, we knew we had to make the most of it. And we did. Here are a few of our recommendations for the best things to do in Vilnius.
Honestly, the best way to get a feel for the city is to walk it. We would recommend jumping on board one of the many walking tours available. JayWay Travels offers a great local guide that will take you on a very informative tour of the city. We walked through the old city center (a UNESCO World Heritage site), up Gediminas Hill, and through Užupis, the old Jewish ghetto. My favorite stop was when we dipped into the Greek Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity. It’s still undergoing renovations, but so much of the original character remained.
To say that we ate well in Vilnius would be an understatement. Traditional Lithuanian food is incredibly hearty but extremely delicious. Our first meal was at Šnekutis. There are a few different locations around town, but our favorite was the original. It’s an unassuming shack that’s outfitted with a bizarre melange of trinkets.
We feasted on traditional Lithuanian fare that included Cepelinai (potato dumplings), pig ears, creamy cheeses, and my personal favorite, deep fried bread. If you ever make it to Vilnius, be sure to stop at Šnekutis. The owner (who graces every page of the menu) might be around and will be more than happy to help with your meal selections. The guy is a character, let me tell you.
For something a little more modern, stop by Kitchen, located right by Town Square, for a delicious lunch or dinner. After the hearty meal at Šnekutis the night before, I more than welcomed the sight of a fresh garden salad with grilled chicken. I also had Kitchen’s tomato basil soup for an appetizer and was not disappointed. The restaurant is in a prime location, with clean and modern decor, a friendly staff, and exceptional food. I could have probably eaten there every day of our trip.
If you’re truly looking to treat yourself, you must stop into Kempinski Hotel Cathedral Square’s Telegrafas restaurant for a little haute cuisine. Our 4-course meal was exquisite with dishes that were almost too pretty to eat. Emphasis on Almost. The dishes were light and flavorful.
Our starter course was a traditional cold beet soup with quail egg and marinated herring. You can see what it looked like below before the beet soup was actually added. Gorgeous, isn’t it?
Our beet soup was followed by a pan-fried curonian lagoon zander with potato and spinach stoemp, black truffle mushrooms, and a basil gremolata. We then moved on to my personal favorite, a roe deer filet (from the Zemaitia forest), svilpikai (think potato dumplings), finished with a tasty blueberry gel and au jus.
To top it all off, we were served a platter of assorted local cheese and fresh jam. And right when we thought this beautiful meal had come to an end, the servers surprised us with a dessert platter of gourmet lollipops and petit fours. I was in heaven.
There’s no shortage of epic things to do in Vilnius. My favorite activity happened early in the morning just outside of the capital city when we hopped onboard a hot air balloon and drifted over the sleepy countryside. The scenery was breathtaking. I particularly enjoyed the views we were treated to of Trakai castle.
Our hot air balloon ride ended with us getting baptized with fire, earth, and wine… but that’s an entirely different post.
To combine two of my favorite passions, we also visited one of Vilnius’ cat cafes, Murrr. The kitties were cute, the coffees were hot, and my allergies didn’t hit until 3o minutes of feline play time. The cat cafe was a great way to relax after a day spent on our feet wandering around the city. Just watch out for the sneaky siamese that tries to escape every time the door opens.
Our last night in Vilnius was spent concocting culinary masterpieces at a modern Lithuanian cooking class. The Vilnius Tourism Board hooked us up with our instructor, Chef Marc (a Frenchman who presides in Vilnius), who was incredibly patient, as we chopped, diced, and prepared each course of our dinner. I was in charge of the potatoes au gratin while Chris whipped up a delicious meringue for dessert. With the combined efforts of the group, we feasted on a colorful chilled beet soup, melt-in-your-mouth venison, and a tasty meringue with fresh berries. All in all, it was a roaring success!
Our three nights in Vilnius were spent at the wonderful Moon Garden Art Hotel. This is the perfect place to stay if you want to remain within walking distance of nearly everything in the city. We were welcomed at the reception and shown to our beautiful and spacious room.
Chris and I are huge fans of natural light and comfortable beds and our room at Moon Garden did not disappoint. As travel bloggers, it’s also extremely important that we have fast and reliable Wi-Fi and we were thrilled with the speed and quality that we found at this hotel.
Breakfast at the hotel was fantastic. There was a buffet of cereals, yogurt, and baked goods as well as an a la carte menu. One morning I ordered an omelette that was so good I contemplated asking for another serving.
The staff at Moon Garden was incredibly friendly and helpful, with great recommendations on things to do and places to eat in the city. If you ever find yourself in Vilnius, consider staying at this gorgeous boutique hotel.
Overall, our time in Vilnius was incredible. I would love to return to explore even more of the city. Until then, I’ll reminisce by looking at our photos from our time in the country. Did we miss anything? What are your recommendations for the best things to do in Vilnius? We’d love to hear them in the comment section below!