It’s Faraway Friday, and this week I’m taking you to one of the more surprisingly pleasant destinations I’ve visited: Vilnius, Lithuania! It was our first stop on 2016’s Trip of a Lifetime, and it was an incredible way to to start our journey through the Baltics. Here are 10 reasons you should start planning your trip soon while it’s still a bit off most people’s radar.
10. Easy to Use Transportation
Getting around Vilnius was easy, even being jet lagged and not speaking Lithuanian! The train from the airport was easy to find, and it only cost 1.40 Euro for the both of us–so cheap! The comfortable ride took less than 8 minutes, and it let us out just a couple of blocks from the old town area where we were staying. Additionally, we took the Luxury Express bus from Vilnius to Riga, Latvia (and from Riga to Tallinn, Estonia, as well). Those rides were way less expensive than a flight, and they took only 3.5-4 hours each. The buses included wifi, movies, water, snacks, and comfortable seats!
9. Cathedral Square Bell Tower
Vilnius’s Cathedral Square is like the heart of the town, and the bell tower there provides sweeping views of the whole, beautiful city. It’s been beautifully and lovingly cared for, and there are displays inside about the history of the tower and the city.
8. Friendly People
The people in a country can really make or break a visitor’s experience. Vilnius and its people left only positive impressions for us! Absolutely everyone we encountered spoke English with a charming (and surprisingly easy to understand) Lithuanian accent, and they were all happy to help us or answer any questions we had. They seemed happy to have visitors to whom they could show off their beautiful capitol with a small-town feel.
As I mentioned above, the transportation in and around Vilnius and the Baltics was very affordable. But so were the hotels. And the food. And the beautiful Baltic amber. All three Baltic States are on the Euro, which makes traveling among the three countries and many nearby countries easier. Your Euro definitely goes farther here than in the rest of Europe! But hurry–I don’t think that will be the case for long as more people discover the beautiful Baltics.
6. The Baltic Way
The Baltic Way started in Vilnius. It was a human chain all the way from Vilnius, through Riga, and into Tallinn–two million people and almost 420 miles. This peaceful protest resulted in the eventual independence of the three Baltic nations, with Lithuania becoming the first to receive its independence.
Vilnius had some of the most beautiful and varied architecture I’ve ever seen. Everywhere you looked the buildings just got more ornate and more stunning. No two structures looked the same!
In addition to historical buildings, Vilnius has an incredible history from medieval times to present-day. Castle Hill is home to the only remaining part of Vilnius’s medieval castle, and this is the location of the start of the Baltic Way human chain in 1989. The Hill of Three Crosses has this monument to memorialize seven Franciscan friars who were beheaded here centuries ago. They still look over the city.
Lithuania is the most religious of the three Baltic States. And Vilnius has the most churches with 28 in its old town alone! Each is unique. We were there on a Saturday, so we lost count of how many weddings we saw happening at all these churches!
Tiny little Lithuania has the highest literacy rate of any country in the world at 99.8%. Period. To me, that means they are educated, cultured, and they have some great books! I got my love of reading from my mom, who collects fairytale books from all over the world, whenever I can find them.
Charming people, old-world charm, Vilnius is just charming overall. It was the best way we could have started our week-long Baltic adventure, and I recommend it! It’s got a homey, small town feel, but is cultured and refined in the best way possible. From its open-air art gallery on Literatu Street to the bell towers you can climb right up into to the dancing man statue, I loved it. People in Vilnius are about as charming as they come, and I can’t wait to go back!
What do you think? Is Vilnius making its way on your list of cities to visit?