Kempinski Blog Article
Set among rolling hills and forests, the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius is a place unlike many other northern European cities. Nestled between Germany, Poland and Latvia, the Baltic nation's capital exudes medieval mystery and baroque classicism, making the city an enjoyable place for a weekend retreat, or a cultural stop-off for those touring Lithuania as a whole.
If there is one thing that Vilnius is known for across the world, it is its baroque spires, colonnades and exquisite architectural carvings. The city is home to one of Europe's largest baroque old towns, with the combination of winding streets, diverse facades and a delightful street culture that could easily be lifted from the classical surroundings of Venice or Milan.
Of course, this isn't Italy – Vilnius' shapely surroundings are northern in their nature, bringing ecclesiastic Catholic and Orthodox architecture together with a degree of both the medieval – hailing back to the 1323 designation of the city as the kingdom of Lithuania's capital – and the modern – thanks to the city's glass-clad skyscrapers.
The city's character is very well balanced. The past is held in reverence while the location's modern successes are proudly displayed
For those exploring the magical city, there are all sorts of exceptional eateries to dine in – from classy contemporary cuisine, all the way to hearty historic fare, there is something for everyone.
Hidden in the city's Old Town is the Lokys Restaurant. Here, as well as fine Lithuanian dishes and modern classics, guests can dine on plates of roasted boar, venison and beaver. If you want to be transported back to the middle ages, eating in a manner once only reserved for the feudal nobility, this is the place you can do it.
If hearty traditional meals aren't your choice, then try out the truly modern Michelin Star rated Bistro 1 Dublis. The restaurant's kitchen is open plan and has a mirror placed above the workstation; a feature that exposes just how proud the restaurant staff are of their food. Here you can dine on truly amazing meals that use ingenious medleys of ingredients.
From bustling city streets to towering architectural landmarks and every historical place that lies in-between, there is something for everyone in Vilnius.
Gediminas Castle and Museum
Set high atop a hill overlooking the city is the Gediminas Castle and Museum, a dominating medieval building that served as a defensive structure, prison, and ruin throughout its long, and at times troubled, history. Today visitors can enter the respected pink walls, viewing pieces of the castle's history and enjoying amazing views of the city.
The site of Vilnius Cathedral, and its equally impressive bell tower, Cathedral Square is a white-marbled wonder that perfectly encapsulates the city's Baroque flair, and is the spiritual centre of Vilnius. From here, you can explore the wondrous interior of the Cathedral featuring white sculptures, intricate frescoes and the silver coffin of Lithuania's patron saint, St Casimir.
Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
As you may already have already gathered, Vilnius is steeped in history, but there is one single place where you can view the progression of this history – the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Here, visitors can see the successive foundations of the Palace, explore its past, and find out more about the city's powerful history.
A booming beer culture
While not necessarily a stand-alone sight, Vilnius' contemporary brewing culture deserves mentioning. Across the city the Lithuanian tradition of brewing beer is being modernised to keep up with changing tastes. Expect all sorts of brews, crafted using a range of spices, fruits and even vegetables.
Located in northern Europe, the city is easily accessible via Vilnius International Airport. A large variety of carriers offer flights that connect the city with most large European cities, as well as far-flung locations such as Tel Aviv, New York, Bangkok and Tashkent. Outside the airport's main entrance are bus stops that connect with the rest of the city, and taxis – costing around €15 to travel to the city centre.
The airport also offers a train service to Vilnius’ main station, which itself connects to Moscow, St Petersburg and Minsk.
For accommodation, Vilnius has as large a selection of places to stay as one would expect from a capital city of its size, but for those searching for a touch of luxury, exceptional service, and both spa and restaurant facilities, the Kempinski Hotel Cathedral Square should be the first port of call when visiting.
Vilnius is a Baltic gem, one that is still relatively ignored by the majority of tourists. For amazing sights, fine dining, and a taste of baroque gentility, it is difficult to beat.