Postcard from Vilnius

16 May 2017

The best time to visit is late spring or early summer when the temperatures are warmer. While it may appeal to some hardy travellers, winters in Lithuania are deep, dark and cold. Daytime temperatures usually remain sub-zero from December through to March. Little wonder why, in Northern Ireland, you will hear locals say a cold day is Baltic!

Where to go

The old town is the best starting point. The 13th century cathedral houses the stunning baroque period St Casimir’s Chapel, to celebrate the life of the country's patron saint. One of the city’s best known landmarks is Gediminas castle. There is an amazing view of the old town from the top of the tower. In cathedral square, look out for a small tile marked “stebuklas”, this marks the spot from where, in 1989, two million people stood to form a human chain that stretched across three Baltic countries to Estonia to protest against soviet occupation.

Like many Eastern European cities, Vilnius has a Jewish Quarter. There, museums explore the harrowing life many endured in the ghetto during world war 2. It also celebrates Lithuanians who risked their own freedom, and lives, to save Jews during the occupation of the city. The old town is a warren of narrow cobbled streets lined with small shops, bars and cafes.

Outside Vilnius

Depending on the length of your stay, hiring a car and visiting other parts of the country is recommended. Palanga is the go-to place in summer. The 18km white sandy beach is party central, with all night music events, street musicians, amusements and restaurants.

The hill of crosses is an awe-inspiring collection of over 200,000 statues, effigies and crosses. Once planted by families to commemorate deported or killed family members, the crosses are now erected to give thanks for happy events in a persons life.

The Open Air Museum of Lithuania is one of the largest in Europe, if not the world. The museum has over 150 historic buildings transplanted from across the country and the 10km route around the exhibits can be completed by car, bicycle or on foot.

What to eat

Traditional rural food is on the menu in Lithuania. Dishes like marinated mushrooms, pork & smoked sausage are high on the list. An unusual item is black bread. Made from a dark rye flour, bread is seen as sacred in the country and home-made bread is given pride of place in every house. The humble potato is another mainstay on the menu. It is normally grated raw before cooking and used in dishes like potato pancakes with sour cream. In summertime, cold beetroot soup is very popular. From a seafood perspective, herring is fished from the Baltic Sea and is served pickled, baked or fried.

How to get there

Wizz Air fly from Belfast International Airport twice a week on Mondays and Fridays.


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