We decided to take a cheap flight to Vilnius, Lithuania for my birthday. We had enjoyed a short break to Kaunas, Lithuania previously, so we definitely had unfinished business there! Namely, to eat more food and to explore in the sun (last time it was mid-winter!)
The standout thing for us was definitely the bikes and leisure facilities! Vilnius has got it together when it comes to cycling and healthy lifestyles. There is a free (well, almost free: 2.90 Euros for 3 days) bike scheme similar to the “Boris Bikes” scheme in London. There are also excellent bike lanes around the city, even in pedestrian streets so you have a bike lane!
We spent many a happy hour cycling round the city, enjoying the serenity of the cycle path alongside the slow moving river, and loving the exhilaration of whizzing downhill through the picturesque old town, our bones rattling as we went!
The old town was very pretty with lots of pavement cafes and restaurants, including more upscale joints as well as the good old chains we found in Kaunas (Charlies Pizza, CiCis Pizza etc) (they all seem to be called “Pizza” but do good salads and Lithuanian dumplings, stews and rice dishes as well!)
As well as the old town we enjoyed exploring the modern shopping malls on the other side of the river – there are 2 malls within waking distance which are good for a bit of shopping therapy and have the usual suspects of restaurants as well as a nice sky bar on top of the one near the river.
There are also bigger more Americanised shopping malls out of town which are a short taxi or bus ride. Acropolis Mall has an Ice Rink inside it (just like the one in Kaunas!) and Ozas Mall across the road had a large Water Park behind it. Slightly odd to have two massive out of town malls opposite each other, with a lot of the same shops in, but hey!
We spent our last night climbing the hill overlooking Vilnius with a castle on it. the castle apparently featured in the BBC show “War and Peace” (in fact they apparently filmed a lot of it here in the Old Town – well obviously not in the shopping centres!). It was a beautiful end to our holiday, watching the sun set with the old town on one side and the sun-lit spires of the Old Town on the other.
- The Bike scheme works like this: You need a credit card with around 200 Euros to guarantee it, which they only take if you steal the bike. There is also a fee of 2.90 Euros per bike. Then, if you return the bike within 30 minutes, you pay nothing! If you keep the bike longer – ie. 30 minutes to 1 hour, there is a small fee (like half a Euro), and then the fees get higher the longer you keep the bike. If you want to hire bikes for a while day then you could consider using a bike rental shop instead. But for short jaunts around the city, this was perfect. There are bike docking stations on almost every corner, so we made sure that we returned the bike just before 30 minutes, which is plenty of time to cycle across the city. Then, if you wait 3 minutes you can get the same bike out again and carry on…. it was wonderful!
- For Akropolis and Ozas Shopping Malls, take Bus 53 from the bus stop next to the Park opposite the Novotel. It is inexpensive (I can’t remember exactly but something like 20-50 cents per person single)
Overall we loved our jaunt to Vilnius and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in a short European break in a lovely city.
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