My 3rd visit to Vilnius in recent months was for New Year 2018-19.
I flew in with Air Baltic from Helsinki (via Rīga) and it was a delight. The cost was £118, including a checked in bag.
I left for Edinburgh on SAS via Stockholm. Apart from an irritating 90 minute delay to the Stockholm/Edinburgh leg, it went well. £184, also including a checked in bag.
I stayed with a friend, so I had no accommodation or airport transfers to sort out in Vilnius. It also meant I was seeing life as a local, as compared to a tourist.
We went to see Bohemian Rhapsody at the cinema one afternoon. It cost €5.50 at the Forum Cinemas in Savanorių pr. The film was in English with Lithuanian subtitles.
Another outing was to MO – the city’s new modern art gallery hon Pylimo gatvė. It was very enjoyable, although I’m not a huge modern art fan. They had an excellent photography exhibition on – black and white from the country’s 1970s and 80s Soviet times. The cafe is excellent.
The city’s reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania had been on our wishlist for a while, and that box is now ticked. It is impressive and for someone of my friend’s generation a lot of the country’s history on display is still a revelation. It was suppressed during Soviet times.
Gastronomy was high on my wishlist too! Well, year end festivities…
Top marks go to Joanos Carinovos Smuklė in the Belmontas area. Absolutely wonderful local food. I had pork sausage, stewed pickled cabbage, horseradish, pickled cucumber and roast potatoes, washed down with kvass. It was great value for money too – €6.90 for my main course.
It is away from the city centre but €3-4 for a taxi if you book by phone (much, much more if you take one on the street).
I can award top marks to Chačapuri Sodų too – a very basic Georgian cafe close to the railway and bus stations. I had megrelian kharsho (a soup) and hvezeli (a pastry which is almost like pizza). I also had a glass of their excellent Georgian wine. €18.40 for lunch for two.
The place is tiny and lunchtime is best avoided unless you are willing to queue. They do takeaways and deliveries, but they close at 8pm.
After many failed attempts to get in during previous visits, I finally got to eat pizza at Užupio Picerija in Užupis. It is tiny too, but always full even when they have tables outside in summer. I can see why. The pizza was fantastic. You can reserve a table except on Saturdays and Sundays. It is at Paupio g. 3.
Two pizzas and two beers set us back €24.30.
I had a taste of nightlife in Bardakas. It is relaxed and friendly in the early part of the evening but gets busy later on. We ate there too, but it will not feature on the gastronomy section.
For Hogmanay (or New Year’s Eve for less cultured societies) we took a bottle of Laurent Perrier to Maironio g., where you are on the side of a hill overlooking the Old Town, to watch the fireworks.
It was fantastic, but busy and traffic Armageddon. We walked.
“Happy New Year” is “Su Naujaisiais Metais” in Lithuanian.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2019 🏴🇱🇹🇱🇻🇸🇪🇫🇮