The streets of Vilnius in December are brighter than ever. The buildings are decked out in festive lights and when the town folk talk about the weather, the topic of first snow comes up. Join the locals in the holiday buzz and unwind in Vilnius during this Christmas Season.
To make things smoother, pick up the Vilnius City Card. It offers free rides on public transport, free entrance to over 15 museums and discounts all across town. Get it before you head out to town – you can even book it online.
Entering the Old Town through the Gates of Dawn is a very fitting way of starting your Vilnius adventure. Aušros Vartų Street lies behind it and is full of beautiful buildings. Walk down towards City Hall Square and see one of the town’s two main Christmas trees. The lights will start shimmering on the tree in the square on 2 December.
Give your tastebuds a treat. For Lithuanian food, there’s the upscale choice of Ertlio namas or the very affordable Forto dvaras. If you’re after places that are loved by locals, try Keulė rūkė or Bistro 18. For an evening drink, head to Salionas for cocktails or grab a beer at Vėjai.
Stop by the supermarket and pick up some seasonal snacks. Look for gingerbread cookies, kūčiukai (Christmas Eve cookies with poppy seeds) or aguoninis pyragas (pie with poppy seed filling). Each go well with a soothing cup of tea.
For many in town, Saturday is market day. Kalvarijų Market is the town’s largest and offers food you can take home with you. Halės Market is good for both shopping and having breakfast. Uptown Bazaar opened recently and includes a traditional market and restaurants that serve food, all under one roof.
After breakfast, get a picture-perfect view of Vilnius. Climb Gediminas’ Hill or the Hill of Three Crosses to look down on the city and its red-roofed houses in complete serenity. If you’re near Užupis, Subačiaus Viewpoint offers an excellent panorama of both old and new Vilnius.
For a little break from the elements, head to one of Vilnius’ museums. Visit the Palace of the Grand Dukes to know more about the country’s history, the National Art Gallery for quality exhibitions or the Vilnius Toy Museum for something more playful. All offer free entrance with the Vilnius City Card.
No holiday season itinerary is complete without a trip to the Christmas market. You’ll find two of the town’s main Christmas markets at Cathedral Square (opens 1 December) and Town Hall Square (opens 2 December). For something a little different, try the Design Square on Vinco Kudirkos Square (12-17 December).
End your day with a true December tradition – a concert. The Church of St. Catherine is an excellent venue, as is the Vilnius Congress Hall. And if you feel like being led by chance, pop into one of Vilnius’ churches, which often host special Christmas performances on December evenings.
On Sunday, treat yourself to a sweet and special breakfast in one of Vilnius’ bakeries or dessert places. Try Desertinė Atostogos for quality desserts and coffee, Pilies kepyklėlė for excellent pancakes or Pinavija for sweet and savoury dishes.
When you’re feeling ready, head out to Telia Nemuziejus. Here, you’ll have an opportunity to dive into 700 years of Vilnius history in just 15 minutes. With the help of new technology, you’ll see legends come alive and the town tell its remarkable story. If you’re still a gift or two short, visit shops that stock products made by Lithuanian designers. The Lithuanian Fashion Design Shop LT IDENTITY is a good start – you’ll get 15% off with the Vilnius City Card. The House of Lithuanian Design LOCALS.LT is also a great choice.
Sunday is when locals go out for a stroll around town and there’s no better place for it than the Bernardine Gardens. The centrally located park is free to enter and is a true Vilnius classic, lying close to the bohemian district of Užupis and quiet enough to enjoy the sound of the flowing river.
Finish your stay with dinner at a spot overlooking one of the Christmas trees in town. Around Cathedral Square, try Zoe’s or La Cave. Near Town Hall Square, Kitchen or Amatininkai are both good choices. With some luck, that first snow may just start to fall and you’ll find yourself having experienced a great white Christmas getaway.