The capital of Lithuania is becoming a hipster haven, where there’s plenty to see, eat and drink.DECIDLY un-touristy, Vilnius is the perfect city for a weekend break without the crowds, but with plenty of history and culture.
It is the capital of Lithuania, which was part of the Soviet Union until 1990, and before that a target of the Nazis in World War Two.
Understandably, it’s now fiercely proud of its independence, and is busy doing its own thing again.
There’s quiet, cobbled streets, red rooftops and gothic churches — there are 28 churches in the city’s Old Town alone.
And nowadays it’s becoming a hipster haven, too, where cool kids dressed in black walk their dogs and hang out for a craft beer in the trendy, bohemian neighbourhood of Uzupis.
Very much so. Its quiet streets are safe and calm, perfect for exploring on foot — no public transport needed, which saves money.
I took a walking tour of Vilnius Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We checked out the beautiful Our Lady of the Gates Of Dawn, a Catholic church and part of the city wall, before crossing the Vilnia river into trendy Uzupis, which is covered in graffiti and street art.
It’s technically a republic — with its own “consti- tution” written on a wall, and a cabinet of ministers — where many artists live.
But the constitution was written in a pub — and mostly encourages folk to get drunk and be happy.
Get your passport stamped when you cross into Uzupis — there’s a pub on the corner that does this if you buy a beer.
If hot-air balloon rides are your thing, you can take off in one from the town centre for an unforgettable ride, as there are no high-rises.
It’s also worth visiting the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, a former KGB HQ (four euros entry) charting Lithuania’s past under Nazi and Soviet occupation.
Visitors see cells where prisoners were held, tortured and executed by the Russians. Not for the faint-hearted.
The Hales Market is brilliant for fresh local food such as sausages and stews, and its smoothie stand is legendary — if you have a hangover or a cold, the owner will rustle you up a juice to fix it.
For a fancy dinner, try Sweet Root. We had an unforgettable 14-course taster menu made from foraged ingredients such as mushrooms, herbs and root veggies, teamed with organic meats and delicious wine. It’s 75 euros before booze.
Uzupis and the Old Town have great bars.
The city’s ale scene is big and you can sip pints from all around the world. Alchemikas and Nomads are both good for cocktails.