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Vilnius

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Baltic states : Lithuania : Dzūkija : Vilnius
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Rotušės square

Vilnius [1] is the capital of Lithuania. It lies on the bank of Neris river and has more than 500,000 inhabitants. Vilnius is the European Capital of Culture in 2009[2], along with Linz (Austria).

Understand

Inhabited for centuries, Vilnius today is a multinational city with significant Polish and Russian minorities, about 20% of them. It used to have a strong Jewish minority before World War II, but most of the Jews from Vilnius were murderd by the nazi Germans and the locals, at the forest of ponar.(some 80,000) After the war the Soviet government expelled most of the remaining Polish population of the city and replaced them with Lithuanian, Russian and Ukrainian citizens.

Get in

By plane

Vilnius International Airport (IATA: VNO), Rodunios kelias 10a, +370 5 273 9305, [3]. The largest airport in Lithuania (beautifully small in other words). The Airlines that operate are Aer Lingus, AirBaltic, Czech Airlines, Estonian Air, Finnair, Lufthansa, Norwegian AirShuttle, Brussels Airlines and LOT. Until the beginning of 2009 there were no problems reaching Vilnius from major European cities by direct flights. But as the national carrier flyLAL (formerly Lithuanian Airlines) went bankrupt, and AirBaltic withdrew almost all flights except to Baltic States, Munich, Stockholm and Copenhagen getting in through Vilnius airport became somehow cumbersome. From the UK, a reasonable option is with Air Baltic from London-Gatwick with connection at Riga. EL-AL operates seasonal services to Tel-Aviv

You might also try flying to Kaunas airport[4] (served by Ryanair) and then taking the bus (about 2 hours) or train (about 1.5 hour), Palanga airport on the baltic coast near Klaipeda [5](300km, about 5.5 hours by bus), or even from Riga airport [6] (300km, about 5 hours by bus). Kaunas airport is currently served by Ryanair from Dublin, Birmingham, Frankfurt-Hahn and Liverpool, London-Stansted and London-Luton, it's 100km away (an hour by car) from Vilnius. When taking the train from Kaunas to Vilnius, you need to go to station 'Kaunas-1', a temporary station due to rail tunnel work, not Kaunas central station.

A taxi from airport to city center might cost about 20-30 LT. Martonas taxis have a franchise for the airport and can charge up to 50LT for trip to city centre. You can call taxi by phone, which usually will be cheaper than Martonas, but do not expect any English speaking drivers. Bus no. 2 goes to downtown Vilnius.

Walking into central Vilnius from the airport takes about an hour. There are footpaths along the side of the road all the way and the route is easy; just walk straight out of the airport for a few hundred meters, turn right and then walk straight ahead for approx 7 km.

There is a recently opened train service between the airport and the central railway station. Trip costs 2 LTL (0,6 EUR), no traffic jams and a good way to reach the city center.

By train

Trains from major destinations come to the Vilnius Railway Station. One train per day runs to Daugavpils in Latvia. One per day to Warsaw with a change of train in Sestokai, near the border.

By car

Motorways to Kaunas and Panevezys. The modern four-lane motorways and main roads are in a very good state, but take extra care in the winter as smaller roads are not cleared. The speed-limit is 130 kph on the motorways (110 kph in winter), but just 100 kph on the Vilnius-Kaunas sector, 90 kph outside towns and 50 kph in town.

By bus

Both international and domestic bus stations are located very close to the main train station, the international is across the road and to the left however the domestic is around the rim of the round-a-bout directly in front, this is also a very dangerous intersection as there are no painted lines on the road and the drivers are quite random so be careful crossing the road.

Bus #1 departs from the domestic area to go to the airport, it takes about 10 - 15 minutes with about 3 stops.

PLEASE NOTE: it is important to pay attention to the bus numbers, do not take Bus #1a or Trolley Bus #1

You can find some schedules for regional busses here [7]

By boat

Lithuania's ferry port is Klaipeda on the baltic coast. From there one can rent a car or take a bus to get to Vilnius, which is about 300km inland.

Get around

The bus or trolley ticket for one time (it's the same ticket for both bus and trolley) costs 2.50 Lt if you buy it in the vehicle, and 2.00 Lt if you buy it in the newspaper kiosk. You may also catch a private bus, which costs 2 Lt and is a bit faster. There is a 50% discount for the tickets for students and elderly people, both in public and private buses. There is no subway or tram in Vilnius; if you need to get there fast, you may catch a van-taxi, which may cost 4 litas. A regular cab may cost about 15-20 litas if you need to get from periphery of the city to the center. Traveling by car is not advised during rush hour (about 5 PM), as there are huge traffic jams in many places, especially in the center.

Bicycle lovers will be a bit disappointed, because in the center it is very hard to find bicycle tracks to travel around the old town. In the periphery, moreover, the surface is sometimes a bit too steep to cycle. The Old Town, however, is not very large and can be easily walked by foot.

See

Three Crosses
Tower at Cathedral Square
Old house on Pilies
Business center at night

Vilnius is currently one of the most visited cities in Eastern Europe. In 1994 the Old Town of Vilnius was included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage List. But Vilnius is attractive not just for its unique architecture. At any time of the year there is a variety of events taking place of various scope and format in the cultural, music, cinema, theatre, and art fields, including fashion festivals. Among the plethora of restaurants, bars, cafés and clubs of different styles, every guest will find something that he/she wants to return to again more than once in the future.

Vilnius is the kind of city that one always wishes to return to.

  • The old town. Many churches and ancient buildings erected in 13th-19th centuries. Much of the Old Town used to be Jewish ghetto. Today street names like Zydu (Jewish) and Gaono (Gaon's) reminds of this period, as Jewish community of Vilnius perished during the Holocaust.
  • Gediminas castle. The red-brick tower is restored from the Higher Castle erected in the 13th–14th centuries by Dukes of Lithuania. This is the best view of Vilnius. Can't find it? Look up! If you don't feel like looking up, though, you can climb up to it from the Cathedral Square. If you prefer not to climb, there is a funicular on the other side of the hill, facing the river.
  • Archcathedral Basilica. Original (wooden) cathedral built in 1251. In 1387 a Gothic style cathedral was built. Now it is a classical style cathedral build by the project of Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevicius. The most beautiful part of the Cathedral, the baroque chapel of St. Casimir, was built in 1623–1636. The crypt shows a cross section of Vilnius through the ages, well worth seeing. You can also take a tour through the catacombs under the cathedral. Outside the Cathedral, in the square, look for a particular tile on which there is written a word "Stebuklas" (means "miracle" in Lithuanian). Stand on it, make a wish and turn around three times. Your wish should come true :)
  • St. Ann's Church. One of the most beautiful churches in Vilnius and in Lithuania. Very small in size, but a very beautiful example of gothic architecture. There is a legend that when during his conquests Napoleon came to Vilnius and saw this church he said he would like to take it on his palm and bring to France.
  • Uzupis district, a bohemian area largely unrestored, an independent republic also.
  • St. Peter's and Paul's Church. Another shockingly beautiful church. Not so special from the outside, but extremely beautiful inside, with all the interior overcrowded with baroque sculptural works. One of the main places to visit. It is actually a bit outside the old town, you may take a trolley #2 or #14 from the bus stop "Karaliaus Mindaugo" next to the Cathedral Square and get out on the bus stop "Antakalnio ziedas", or take a ten-minute walk. When standing in the Cathedral square facing the river you have to take the street to the right and then just walk always straight, after a bit you should see the church.
  • Three Crosses Hill is a memorable place because seven Franciscan monks were tortured here by the pagans.
  • Artilery Bastion of Vilnius Defensive Wall.
  • Museum of Genocide Victims (Former KGB HQ), 2a Auku St., +370-5-2498155, [8]. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 10AM-3PM. The bottom bricks of the buildings have names of those who were believed to be executed inside the building.
  • Lithuanian National Museum, 1 Arsenalo St., +370-5-2629426, [9]. Biggest and oldest source of national cultural heritage in the country, which systematically collects, stores, displays, and popularises the history of the state.
  • Frank Zappa statue, Kalinausko 1, [10] The only statue in the world for honoring this great musician.
  • The Centre of Europe. 25 km to the North of Vilnius, in the village of Purnuskes, is the real centre of Europe, marked by The National Institute of Geography of France in 1989. (It has now somehow moved a little closer.)
  • The overpriced European Park, Joneikiskiu k., (+370 5) 2377 077 (e-mail: hq@europosparkas.lt), [11]. 10AM-sunset. The sculptures, which are the works of sculptors from more than 70 countries worldwide, are exhibited in the open area of 55 ha. Sometimes there is a very bad mosquito problem here.
  • Old Arsenal Building.
  • Trakai Water castle not far from Vilnius. Vytauto str. 33, Trakai, +370 528 58300, [12].
  • The cemeteries, interesting Jewish cemetery in Seskine (a little outside the centre) including the grave of some very important rabbi. By the entrance to Vingis park is a war cemetery with Russian, German, and Turkish soldiers from both wars.

Do

There are lots of nightclubs in the oldtown, such as Woo, Havana Social Club, Gravity, Pacha, L'Amour, Galaxy, Helios, and others. Just choose. There is also now a new Irish Pub in Vilnius. Called the Dubliner, it is in the Old Town close to the University. It serves Guiness and Kilkenny beers and also has a large screen for major Rugby matches. A variety of Irish and International food is also served here. For all that it has an almost Germanic sanitized feel about it and is less reminiscent of the quaint yet contrived clutter of other Irish pubs that you find in other European capital cities.

The main concert and sports events hall is Siemens arena, on the bus stop "Pramogu arena". In Lithuania, you are clearly in basketball country, so don't miss the opportunity to see a basketball game in the real atmosphere. The city's main team is Lietuvos Rytas [13] (bearing the name of its sponsor, one of the country's main newspapers). It uses Siemens Arena for its home games in European competition, as well as high-demand domestic games, most notably the national derby against Žalgiris of Kaunas. Other games are held at the adjacent Lietuvos Rytas Basketball Arena.

  • Contemporary Art Center, Vokieciu str. 2. There are always many extremely interesting modern art exhibitions.
  • Fans of classical music should check the offers in the National Opera house, near the Green Bridge (Zaliasis tiltas).
  • Those who are interested in modern theatre, should go to at least one spectacle of Oskaras Korsunovas Theatre (OKT), [14]. It is one of the most original modern theatres in Europe, many times the winner of various festivals.
  • Supersegway, (Vilniaus str. 45), +370 526 20215, [15]. Take a cheap Segway tour around the main attractions of the city. Note that the price is low because of insurance related issues. 60.


Learn

  • Vilnius University. Founded in 1579 by Grand Duke of Lithuania Stefan Batory, it is one of the oldest Universities in Eastern Europe.
  • Vilnius Academy of Arts [16]
  • Mykolas Romeris University [17]

Work

The average wage is around €500 a month while unemployment is virtually nonexistent (according to the Department of Statistics of Lithuania registered unemployment rate in Lithuania was at a rate 2.9% of working-age population as for June 2006).

Buy

Small market in old town opening
  • Amber
  • Wool socks and hats
  • Flax ware

Vilnius is one of the most stylish cities of Europe. New shopping centers were built. You can find Hugo Boss, Armani, Escada, Dolce & Gabbana, John Richmond, Ferre butiques also ZARA, United Colors of Benetton and Mango have all opened and offer very nice quality garments. There are also some young local designer butiques in Stikliu street.

Eat

Budget

  • Jammi "Jammi" kebab-shop network offers definitely the best value for money in Vilnius. [18]
  • Čili Pica, Didžioji g. 5, and other locations, [19]. Pizza, pasta, salads. Medium pizza from 10 LTL to 25 LTL.
  • Čili Kaimas, same people as above but 'village' food. Try a zeppelin.
  • Maxima, is the biggest supermarket chain in Lithuania, and every store has deli section with precooked salads, chicken, sandwiches, desserts as well as others.
  • Coffee inn Lithuanian coffee shop like Starbucks [20]

Mid-range

  • Balti Drambliai, (White Elephants), Vilniaus str. 41, [21]. Cozy, chilly non-smoking vegetarian-vegan cafe, world/reggae music, live concerts in the evenings.
  • Piti, Islandijos g.4, tel:852627560. Azerbaijani food. Eg the Spicy Piti dish with beef and potatos in a clay pot. Main courses ca. 20 LTL.
  • Cozy, Dominikonu g.10. Sauve but laid-back restaurant upstairs, DJ-bar downstairs, serves hearty modern food with a few vegetarian options.
  • Centro Baras Totoriu g.5. Cosy family bar, very good cousine.
  • "Amatininku uzeiga", Didzioji 19/2, tel. +37052617968. Lithuanian and international food in the center of Vilnius, Town Hall square (Rotuses aikste), until 5AM.

Almost all of the Bars in Vilnius serve reasonably priced good quality food.

Splurge

  • La Provence, Vokiečių g. 22, tel: 852616573, fax:862312360, mailto:zemaiciusmukle@takas.lt,[22]. French inspired food with house specials such as roebuck with cherry sauce. Starters ca 30LTL, main courses 60LTL, extensive wine list starting at 80 LTL.

Drink

  • Most popular local beer is Svyturys (lighthouse), it is a world champion beer. Available in lots of different styles but "Ekstra" is probably the best. The other brands of beer include Kalnapilis, Tauro, and Utenos. All of them are variations on the theme of bog-standard euro-lager.
  • Lithuanian vodka (Lithuanian "degtine") is of excellent quality. The brand 'Lithuanian Vodka' is quite popular. The gold is the premium version. Cranberry is also nice. Remember excessive vodka drinking can and does kill. Drink carefully.
  • Drink Carefully Most bars will politely ask you to leave if they notice that you appear drunk (staggering, yelling, grabbing strangers). Also, falling asleep in bars is not tolerated. If you break a glass, many places will expect to be repaid for it on the spot but its usually a very reasonable price.
  • Smoking Smoking is done outside at most places because of a ban for smoking in all public places. However, a number of nightclubs have internal smoke rooms; the ventilation can be of variable quality. Make sure you get stamped and get eye contact from the bouncers so you won't have problems getting back in. It can be a good idea to show the bouncer your cigarette or cigarette packet, before exiting the premises.
  • Brodvejus, (Broadway), Vokiečių St. / Mėsinių St. 4,[23]. Cozy bar/nightclub. Reasonably priced(No cover on weekdays, 5 litas per 1 beer), open late (till 5 most nights), and courteous staff at the door and bar.
  • Coffee Inn, Traku 7. 7-21. nice and relaxing coffee place, cafe latte & cookies etc., artwork, free wifi. pets welcome. 4-7 Litas.
  • Prospekto Pub, Gedimino pr. 2/1, fun place with non-trendy music, good drinks and a good atmosphere. In general has a cover every night. The front door staff exercise a large amount of face control and may choose to not let you in, especially if you look like a local and are a male. The club is popular with locals and expatriates/tourists.
  • Cozy, Universiteto g. Double floored cozy bar it's a very good place to go if you want relaxing ambient or a good dj play in an extremely cozy environment. Also serves good food and Svyturys, of course.
  • Cactus, A fantastic pub tucked away in the alleys of the city. A warm, cozy atmosphere with unbelievably friendly staff, and great food. Free shots of tequila at midnight also. T'was the business!
  • Prie Universiteto, Universiteto g. right in front of Cozy, its entrance is marked with a big UK flag, but no, it's not an english person frequented bar. Nice decoration and also serves good italian food for a good price.
  • Savas Kampas, Vokiečių Str. 4, [24]. Cozy, friendly and always welcome place to spend time until 4AM. In the summer time there is also a terrace to enjoy warm evenings with a pint of beer, chatting with the friends.
  • Soleluna, Universiteto g. Starting point for Erasmus students parties! Small but with friendly people.
  • BIX bar, Etmonų 6, [25]. Get ready to rock! Live rock/hc/metal bands on Friday nights, karaoke on Thursdays, and rock music (all the time) on the dancefloor, made in the vault. Nice food and drinks!
  • Apuokas, Subaciaus 6. Heavy metal bar (especially in the underground basement). Friendly metalheads, memorable personell, great beer and famous chenachai (Karaitian meat dish).
  • Soho Club, Švitrigailos str 7/16, [26] - Vilnius's gay venue, popular with all sections of the LGBT community. The club opens from 22:00 and admission is free until 23:00 and up to 25lt thereafter.
  • Men's Factory, 1 Zygimantu/16 Deveenkos str, [27]. Formerly a gay-oriented venue, it now attracts a predominantly heterosexual clientele. Admission charge 25lt.
  • Busi Trecias, Totoriu 18, +37052312698, [28]. The first bar/pub, which started to brew its own beer in Vilnius. Besidel lager type beer, they brew dark black beer and also make various beer cocktails. Besides its main attraction beer, there are some good food. The food prices are rather low. Good place for communication.

Sleep

  • Old Town Hostel, Ausros Vartu 20-10, +37052625357, [29]. Half a block from gates of old town, 5 minutes walk from train/bus stations. Helpful staff and good hang out space/kitchen area with free internet computers and wifi. 35Lt..
  • Hostel-Viešbutis, šv. Stepono g. 11, tel: (+370-5) 216 02 54; 35 lt per person per night; TV and kitchen; location between the railway station and the old town.
  • Hotel Victoria, Saltoniskiu 56, tel. +370-5-2724013, mailto:hotel@victoria.lt, [30]. Nice, small, clean hotel; excellent location, only 7 minutes walk to the center; rooms starting from 30eur. Closed from 2009 ? Please confirm.
  • Hostelgate, Sv. Mikalojaus gatve 3, tel. +370-63832818, mailto:hostelgate@gmail.com, [31]. Small hostel (formerly Vilnius Backpackers) in the old town with dorm beds for 39 to 45 LTL, double rooms for 110 to 115 LTL, triple room for 150 LTL, and quad room for 188 LTL. Free wifi and internet, free tea and coffee, free parking.

Mid-range

  • Hotel Algirdas, Algirdo str. 24, New Scandinavian style hotel in the center of Vilnius, great quality for a relatively low price starting from 55 EUR per night. [32], - algirdas@cityhotels.lt or ph. +370 5 2326650
  • Hotel Rudninku vartai, Rūdninkų str. 15/46, Cosy hotel in the old town of the city, ideally located in an area of historical interest. The prices start from 52 EUR per night. [33], - rudninkai@cityhotels.lt or ph. +370 5 2613916

Splurge

  • Raddison SAS Astoria. Situated opposite the town square and near many upmarket shops and restaurants. President Bush of the United States and Prince Charles have enjoyed the great service offered here. Private saunas are offered in some rooms.

Stay safe

Vilnius is a safe place but like anywhere you have to use common sense. Try and walk with a confident air and never look lost.

Around the central train station is a particularly dangerous area and most of the street lighting is not functioning. Being drunk and obviously foreign in the city at four o'clock in the morning is a bad idea. If you have travelled from out of town to visit a nightclub or other venue, take taxis to and from your venue, and on return to the railway station remain in the ticket hall, which is patrolled by security guards.

The baggage lockers in the cellar of the railway station are a cheap and secure place to store bags and other items. They are coin-operated and provide a printed receipt with the combination to open your locker. Ensure that nobody is around when you are getting the receipt, because there are thieves who pretend to be station staff.

Cope

  • Internet. Abundant free hotspots all over the city, especially in restaurants (Cili Pizza i.e.)
  • Internet cafe and cheap international VOIP calls. Pilies street in the yard (opposite to the St. John's church).
  • New free WiFi hotspots on Gedimino street, Cathedral square and Town hall.

Get out

A very worthwhile day or half-day trip from the capital is the town of Trakai, home to five peaceful lakes and two castles. Buses leave often from the central bus station, cost a few Litas and take about 40 minutes.

A few buses a day (including one at 11.50AM) go to Minsk from the central bus station. These comfortable buses cost 39 Litas and take about 3.5 hours, including about an hour at the border. You will probably need a visa for Belarus and these take some effort to procure.

The central bus station has a chocolate vending machine where you can use up your remaining Litas.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!



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