New discoveries, tasty food, unique experiences – sounds like the start of a perfect plan for a weekend getaway. You don’t have to go too far to escape your daily routine. All it takes is a journey to the centre of Europe – or Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to be exact. Boasting an amazing Baroque Old Town, Vilnius is one of the best secret destinations for something unexpected and charming. The city is also included on UNESCO’s World Heritage Journey Romantic Europe route, so you are surely in for a treat made up of romantic Old Town views, cosy cafes, and picturesque long walks in the parks.
Gazing at Vilnius from above gives you a completely different perspective of the city. The red roofs of the Old Town, the glistening domes of the churches, and the narrow cobblestone streets are best viewed from atop of the recently re-opened iconic Gediminas Tower.
! Pro tip: you can enjoy the views for free with the Vilnius City Card.
Would you prefer something warm and cosy instead? Why not take in the modern business-district buildings, the soothing Neris River, and the Old Town along the riverbank from the 22nd floor with a cocktail in hand at Skybar.
However, the most memorable view you can get is from a hot air balloon. If there’s one thing to splurge on, you won’t regret choosing a relatively rare opportunity to fly over a European capital. A traditional glass of champagne after landing will make it even more romantic.
You can enjoy nature without getting out of the city – Vilnius is full of parks and green spaces to sit down and enjoy people watching in. Bernardinai Park right in the heart of the city is your place to go to if you fancy seeing a dancing fountain, feeding the ducks, and playing some chess.
The bohemian Užupis district is filled with art around every corner and is right nearby. Get a map and spot all the quirky little details the independent republic has to offer.
Once you cross back into Vilnius, visit Literatų Street, an outdoor gallery dedicated to the authors of the world. Find the plaque dedicated to your favourite author or simply marvel at the various works of art on display.
! Pro tip: get on an orange CycloCity bike and get around the Old Town faster, or enjoy a romantic ride along the Neris River.
Museums are usually on travellers’ list in case of bad weather. But Vilnius proves that museums don’t have to be left for dull days. You can learn about the 700 years of Vilnius history in just 15 minutes by immersing yourself into the world of virtual reality at the Telia Nemuziejus.
Or feel like royalty at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania – see the impressive furniture, paintings, and a throne, and keep your eyes and ear open for concerts in the main hall. Show them your Vilnius City Card and hey, you’re in for free.
! Pro tip: look for the hidden romantic garden around the corner of the palace done in the fashion of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania – it’s a perfect spot to hang out in.
There’s nothing more romantic than watching a good movie with your special someone. The Scanorama Film Festival on 8-25 November is all about presenting the best European movies, so get ready for deep post-film discussions over dinner.
While you’re in Vilnius, don’t forget to visit in the brand new MO Museum. The vast collection of more than 4,000 modern and contemporary paintings is not the only thing to see here. Come sit in a nearby park or just sip on a cup of coffee and take stylish photos in the modern interior.
Speaking of coffee – Vilnius is a real gem for coffee-lovers (and lovers in general). Historic, cosy, romantic, modern, trendy – you’ll find all of these and many more types of places to relax and recharge at. Try some Lithuanian roasted coffee at Strange Love and watch the sun set over Bernardinai Park while the fairylights illuminate the terrace. Or visit the used bookstore Mint Vinetu and get some souvenirs made by local artists together with your coffee.
One of the perks of being an adult is that you can enjoy ice cream any time of the year. Indulge in a handmade scoop or two with your coffee: you can choose your favourite flavours or taste something new made with locally-sourced ingredients.
! Pro tip: they have vegan ice cream as well.
All this walking and sightseeing might leave you hungry, but not for long, because Vilnius is a home to 19 of Lithuania’s best 30 restaurants. Your best chance to taste a little bit of everything is to take part in Vilnius Gastronomy Week on 5-11 November.
! Pro tip: reserve in advance because everyone wants to have a bite at the best places.
Have you ever eaten in a greenhouse? Give it a try at Panama Food Garden – this unconventional environment combined with great food is something not to miss on your trip. It’s even more magical when it snows.
Looking for some vegan and vegetarian options? Check out the fresh takes on some traditional dishes at Rosehip Bistro, which offers warming soups, filling hot dishes, and desserts to die for.
Feel the atmosphere of old grandeur and nostalgia at Salionas, a popular cocktail bar housed in the famous literary cafe of the old Lithuanian Writers Union. Take in the modern vibes, cocktails with a twist, and DJs in the difficult-to-spot Love Bar.
! Pro tip: Look for a pink neon sign at your feet. Try some local craft beers and spirits from artisanal Baltic distilleries and a selection of snacks inspired by Baltic street food at the 14 Horses Brasserie and Sofija Bar in the newly-opened historical Hotel Pacai.