The dog days of summer in Vilnius are lazy and crazy. Feel free to skip the museum tours – there’s a whole other world worth exploring in every nook and corner of Lithuania’s capital. You’re still sure to get a glimpse of the city’s unique architecture, but instead of going mainstream, dive headfirst into the alternative fun the city has to offer. From the best-kept secrets to out-of-the-box activities you won’t find in any travel guide, get the scoop on the greatest summer adventures in Vilnius. Follow these tips and you’ll officially be able to say, “hold my mead” to anyone who starts to boast about their vacation.
Being one of the greenest capitals in Europe has its perks. You can totally feel like you’re camping in the middle of the city. How’s that even possible? There are three open grill zones in Vilnius that are free for everyone to use. So get your fire started and grill your heart out while overlooking the Neris River, enjoying the forest surrounding Vingis Park, or sun tanning at Valakampiai beach. If you’re up for some real camping in tents, stay at Downtown Forest Hostel and Camping in the independent republic of Užupis, Vilnius’ most bohemian district. You can grill your food, attend open-air concerts, and enjoy your cosy tent without leaving the city centre.
Have a spare thirty minutes while waiting for someone? Grab a book. No worries, you don’t need to carry your own paperbacks around; Lukiškės Square is home to an open library in the shade of trees. So grab a coffee, browse the shelves for something that catches your eye, and make the most of the moment. It actually looks like a scene taken straight out of a novel. Another open library available to avid readers can be found at the railway station. But if you’re a bookworm who thinks books make the best souvenirs, visit one of the strangest bookstores in town. Located in an apartment, Juodas Šuo (Black Dog) is almost a secret used bookshop that’s home to heaps of titles of any genre you can think of. Grab a tote or a bookmark made by local artists while you’re at it. If you don’t really want to take a book home, but would like to read something while in Vilnius, visit Keistoteka – for 1 euro you can borrow a book for two weeks, which is more than enough to finish it.
Juodas Šuo, Pylimo St. 20-24
Keistoteka, Paupio St. 2 or Kalvarijų St. 14
Only when you’ve been to a Lithuanian sauna will you really get to know the country’s soul (or at least a bit of it). Going to a sauna means sitting in intense heat and getting a good whipping with birch twigs. And yes, Lithuanians do this both in the heat of summer and in winter. For an authentic sauna experience visit Ivanas Muša Gongą, the only public sauna in Vilnius where you can get the full ritual. However, you should know that there are separate days for males and females to enjoy the sauna. If that seems too extreme, take a cooling dip in the Neris River, which has a couple of designated public beaches – Žirmūnai beach or Valakampiai beach in the city.
Ivanas Muša Gongą, Kalvarijų St. 50
If you’re up for some adventure, take on the challenge and zip-line 401 metres over the Neris River at Uno Parkas. It promises a new perspective, to say the very least. There’s also another fun way to get across the river. Take the Uperis, a unique eco-friendly ferry. The current-powered shuttle ferry also carries pets and bicycles, and transports passengers between Valakampiai beach and Verkiai Park. Are you more of a nighttime adventurer? If so, get on an illuminated paddleboard and let the Neris carry you through the darkness. Dinner can also be an adventure of sorts, especially at Čaginas, a restaurant that serves its clients in complete darkness, which offers an unconventional sensory experience and a bit of a challenge when it comes to getting the food to your mouth. If that’s not enough adrenaline, you can enjoy your food and cocktails prepared by some of the city’s top chefs and bartenders while your feet dangle from a crane 50m up in the air overlooking Vilnius Old Town. Whatever you do, don’t forget to hold on tight.
Uperis, Valakampiai beach or Verkiai regional park
Uno Park, Lizdeikos St.
Čaginas Restaurant, Jono Basanavičiaus St. 11
Dinner in the Sky, 8-11 August, Town Hall Square
Forget the traditional concert halls and visit one of the most interesting venues in Vilnius. St. Catherine’s Church, with a fully refurbished central altar and authentic frescoes, hosts both classical music concert and contemporary performers from all over the world. Or you can hop on a skateboard at Kablys skatepark, then join the electronic music and techno rave later under the same roof. If you prefer to stay outdoors you can make your days last long into the night by watching a movie under the stars.
Kablys skatepark, Kauno St. 5
St. Catherine’s Church, Vilniaus St. 30
Cinema Under the Stars, August 1-31, Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Exploring Vilnius’ culinary heritage or attending a delicious tasting dinner is easy – just choose something from the 47 Flavours of Vilnius guide. But keep in mind that Vilnius has some authentic spots that aren’t marked in the tourist guides. If you know where to look you are in for some major surprises. Have you ever tried your coffee with pepper? Here’s your chance to have an artisanal cup at Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories. Or get your caffeine fix with some unique desserts at Raštinė, a cute café filled with modern stationery and design books. What does steampunk have to do with Native Americans? Find out at Miegantis Jautis (Sleeping Bull), a bar that promises a bizarre beer experience and a crowd that is usually just as unique as the drinks. If you’re not into beer, step back into medieval times and try some mead – an ancient drink made from the honey of Lithuanian meadows – at Girta Bitė (Drunk Bee).
Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories, Šaltinių St. 20
Raštinė, J. Basanavičiaus St. 2
Miegantis jautis, Rūdninkų 20
Girta bitė, Gedimino Ave. 5