Going to Lithuania in the winter may seem like an odd choice at first, but it’s the only time of year you can enjoy certain special attractions, take part in winter festivals, and catch seasonal photo opportunities. Here are the top-10 reasons to travel to Vilnius this winter:
Located within Vilnius, Liepkalnis offers the best skiing and snowboarding in town. Not interested? You can also visit to have dinner and enjoy the views – Liepkalnis is the most elevated area of Vilnius and you’ll see the many lights of the central town flickering in the distance.
Winter in Vilnius has a special calm to it. If you climb the Hill of Three Crosses, you’ll see smoke rising gently from the Old Town’s chimneys over the city’s many snow-covered rooftops. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to take shots of what locals call an elegant snowfall – big snowflakes slowly falling in the calm of the night.
Lithuanian cuisine is quite heavy – meat and potatoes dominate the list of ingredients. However, there’s no better season to enjoy it than winter, when a hefty dose of traditional cooking lifts your spirits. For a taste of local dishes, head to Bernelių Užeiga, Forto Dvaras or Ertlio Namas.
You shouldn’t miss the Bernardine Garden if you’d like to see winter views of Gediminas’ Castle and the hills that surround it. But if you’d rather go for a spectacular winter panorama, head to Pavilniai Regional Park and climb the Pūčkoriai Exposure.
On 16 February, 1918, the Act of Independence of Lithuania was signed, effectively creating the modern Lithuanian state. Even though the events of the Centennial celebration will span the entire year, 16 February is the big day – a great time to be in Vilnius to witness this very special event.
For a little refuge from the elements, head to one of Vilnius’ many spas. It’s a good idea to make reservations in advance, especially if you’re after a more complex treatment. You can enjoy a short massage or treat yourself to a full spa day, all without leaving central town.
Well-connected by trains and buses, the old capital of Trakai is just a 30-minute trip from Vilnius. When temperatures dip below the freezing point, both locals and visitors go on the ice of Trakai’s lakes. For a true winter experience, make your way to the castle without crossing any bridges.
What many visitors don’t know is that Tauras Hill is the #1 place for Vilnius kids to take their sledges in the winter months. Going down the hill is a thrill, but you can also drop by to enjoy the view of town from its top, too. If you’re visiting with kids, you’ll find all the fun-slide-downhill essentials at any large supermarket.
Hot air balloons are frequently seen floating over Vilnius in the summer. But, weather permitting, going up and enjoying the view of town from one is also an option in winter – the snow-covered city looks unbelievably serene from up above.
Užgavėnės is the Lithuanian Mardi Gras. It’s a colourful festival where people masquerade, dance and gather together to celebrate the impending end of winter. This year, Užgavėnės falls on 13 February – probably a little too early for winter to end, but still an excellent time for the festival’s traditional treat – pancakes.