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Start your trip in the Lithuanian capital where throwback, faded elegance never gets boring. The Old Town’s labyrinth of cobbled alleyways and courtyards is lined with tiny boutiques, family-run restaurants and eclectic churches. Catholic spires and Russian Orthodox domes peer out over pastel-hued buildings that span German gothic, Italian baroque and French classicist styles.
Ramble around Old Town
The Old Town is best explored by foot; it’s small enough that you’ll see all the main sights in a day or two’s amble – multiple refreshment breaks included. In the Jewish Quarter, visit the Choral Synagogue, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Flame of Hope memorial. There’s St Anne’s Church and the Cathedral Basilica of St Stanislaus and St Vladislav (Baltic capitals are all really into their churches). For panoramic views, take a short walk to the Gediminas Tower and Castle as well as The Hill of Three Crosses in Kalnai Park.
Rub shoulders with creatives in Užupis
Cross the Vilnia River from the Old Town to Užupis. Once considered a dicey neighbourhood, it has become something of a beacon for artistic expression since Lithuania’s declaration of independence from the USSR 1990, after which Vilnius’s creatives flocked here for cheap rent. Spend a day dipping in and out of studios, workshops and trendy bars and restaurants – taking note of some great street art en route.
Take a train to Trakai
After exploring the Old Town, a day trip to Trakai is a welcome break – both the train and bus take around half an hour from Vilnius. This historic city and lake resort is ideal for summertime swimming and boating. Stroll around Lake Galvė – it’s flecked with 21 islands, one of which is home to the 14th-century Trakai Island Castle.
To Eat and Drink
Ertlio Namas, right in the middle of the Old Town, serves a four-course tasting menu for as little as €30. Get accustomed to local flavours with dishes including beaver pate and sorrel soup.
When you’re in Užupis, make sure you grab a pint in Špunka, a tiny bar filled with locals, or choose from the wide craft-beer selection at Bambalyne.
For a more casual night out, eat at Bistro 18, a small, cosy restaurant with a good wine list.
Džiaugmas is a more fancy affair – rated the best restaurant in Lithuania, it serves dishes that focus on fresh, organic and locally grown products and natural wines.
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