Vilnius Cathedral and Underground Crypts

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Vilnius Cathedral and Cathedral Square

Today I visited the Vilnius Cathedral in Cathedral Square and took a tour of the underground crypts. The Cathedral, especially the neo-classical style outside is stunning and in a beautiful location. The inside, especially the Chapel of St. Casimir is well worth the visit.

The tour of the underground crypts was a bit of a letdown. Though the tour guide spoke excellent English, she spoke so fast that it was difficult to follow the information she was providing. Additionally, we didn't have enough time to walk through the crypts to see the artifacts as the tour was so fast paced.

Inside the crypts

the crypts

A fresco from 15th or 16th century

inside the cathedral

St. Casimir Chapel

the ceiling of St. Casimir Chapel

Azia Spa

Saturday, September 21, 2013

For my birthday I was treated to a couples massage at the Azia Spa on Sv. Mikalojaus g. off of Vokieciu g. in Old Town. This place was great! The prices are reasonable and the accommodations felt very pampering. We had the traditional thai body ritual for two and with the bath we were served a pot of tea and fresh fruit. I will return to the Azia Spa in the future!

Interesting Street Art and Statues in Vilnius, Lithuania

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Art and music are important in Vilnius. In the upcoming weeks I will dedicate several entries to forms of live entertainment and art museums.

There statues scattered around the city and below are a selection of my favorites around town.

Creative Snail Street Art
Figureheads on the Gedimino St. theater

Vilnius Day Fair

Monday, September 9, 2013

Held the first weekend in September, the Vilnius Day Fair exhibits crafts, foods, and arts of Vilnius. The fair is held in Cathedral Square and continues onto Gedimino g. This is a great outdoor festival to search for woolen socks, art, pottery, leather goods, and toys. 

Trakai Castle, Lithuania

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The location of Trakai Island Castle is stunning and would be the place for a perfect day outdoors in any season. The Castle itself is a museum with collections of jewelry, ceramics, glassworks, and other odds and ends from the time period. I'm not exactly sure though what these collections have to do with the history of the castle. I'm sure it would have been interesting to learn about who lived in the castle, how long they lived there, and ect. Despite the strange museum displays, don't miss Trakai for the stunning scenery.

Eating- Any of the restaurants with a view of the castle are a great choice. Try the lamb soup, duck stew, or kibinai- a local specialty of Karaite origin.

Getting to Trakai- From Old Town Vilnius walk or take a cab to the train station on Gelezinkelio St. From Vokieciu g. it is about a 15 minute walk to the train station. You can go to Trakai either by bus or train, both leave from the train station (the bus station is behind the train station on Sodu St).

               By bus- Leave from platforms No. 8 or 9 (check the bus website for the most up to date information). The bus leaves Vilnius approximately 30 times per day on the weekends and costs 6.10 Litas. The bus takes about 30 minutes and the last stop is Trakai.

               By train- Purchase your ticket from the railway station and look at the bottom of the ticket for the track number. The train takes about 35 minutes and costs 5.80 Litas. The train goes back and forth between Trakai (the last stop) and Vilnius (the first stop). 

Note: Round trip tickets are not sold. Do not try to buy a round trip ticket. 

Once at the train station (the bus station drops off near by, but not significantly closer to town) follow the road towards town- this is about at 40 minute walk. If the weather is nice you may want to walk the scenic route towards Trakai. While walking from the train station look for a bike path following the water on the right hand side. This path passes houses, restaurants, and souvenir shops all while walking along the lake.

Peninsula in Trakai

A perfect place for an outing

Inside the castle

Inside the castle

Inside the castle

Inside the castle

Trakai Castle


Trakai Castle

Restaurant Guide: Vilnius, Lithuania 1

Friday, September 6, 2013

Let me reiterate- the food in Vilnius is delicious and most places are inexpensive! Here are some of my favorite places so far ...

Bistro 18: Bistro 18 on Stikliu g - a bit pricey, but the food is completely worth it. Try the rosemary half chicken or the risotto special. Also the warm cheese salad is wonderful. You may need a reservation-even on week nights. 

Stikliu g. has numerous restaurants and all serve amazing food and in the summer and fall most have outdoor seating.

Artistai: Artistai is in an easy to miss location, but try not to miss it! They serve both Lithuanian dishes and reasonable pizza. I've tried pizza at several different places in Vilnius, and this is the best so far (what ever you do, don't try Cili's Pizza!). Also, they often have bands in the evenings when the weather is nice. 

Kitchen: Kitchen, on Dizioji g. 11 is a great local spot with a nice atmosphere. You may need to make a reservation after 7pm. 

Tipping- It is customary to tip 10% and you must ask the waiter or waitress to bring the bill when you are ready.

If you find yourself hungry and in Lithuania you may want to check out these other posts: 

Restaurants in Vilnius 1
Restaurants in Vilnius 2
Restaurants in Klaipeda

Old Campus of Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vilnius University was founded in 1579 and for many years was the only University in Lithuania. Vilnius University is located in Old Town Vilnius on you can easily enter the courtyards on Universiteto g. Note! entering the campus is not free (5 Litas for adults, 1 Litas for students or children).

When you enter on Universiteto g. you first see the bookstore called LITTERA. Travel guides list this store as a must see- yet I disagree. If you have only a few days in Vilnius there are far better sites. The bookstore does have nice frescos painted on the ceiling, yet the shop is surprisingly small, and has very few foreign language books (I was really hoping for some English books!).

Next to LITTERA you can visit Aisciai Hall to see frescos which represent Baltic mythology.

If you walk to other courtyards you can visit St. John's church and separate bell tower. St. John's church is beautiful. The tower costs additional money to enter and climb the stairs to the top. I didn't pay the extra money to climb to the top. If you want to have a view of the whole city you can visit the Hill of Three Crosses, or the Gediminas Tower for free.

Near St. John's church there is a small shop selling student art. This is worth a look.

Frescos in LITTERA bookshop

Frescos in Aisciai hall

Aisciai hall

St. John's church

Getting Outdoors, Vilnius, Lithuania

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Though the plentiful beer gardens and outdoor restaurant seating may be enough of the great outdoors for some people, I like to explore a bit more. Luckily, Vilnius has numerous parks, which offer an array of outdoor activities.

Vingis Park is the largest park in Vilnius. Vingis Park boasts a botanical garden, outdoor arena, skate park, bike rentals, cafes and more. Vingis Park is a beautiful spot for a stroll in the great summer and fall weather.

A note about the botanical gardens in Vingis Park: The botanical gardens (botanikas soda) are part of the University of Vilnius gardens and this portion is not as amazing as the website led me to believe. I visit a lot of botanical gardens -as my many blog entries show- so I have high expectations. The flower beds here are scattered about in a random fashion and it does not look like the plants chosen are planted in any manner or thought for their maturation. Despite this, the grounds of the botanical garden are stunning and littered with old walls. Dear Botanical Garden managers: I could help to make your gardens the talk of the town!

How to get there: If you are as confused as I am by the city bus system in Vilnius, I’d suggest skipping the bus and walking. The walk takes only about 30 minutes and is a pretty straight shot.

Silly signs

Hidden frog

VU Botanical Gardens

Giant snails

Kayaking- Using the company ­Upiu Labirintas I was able to go kayaking along a tributary to the Neris River and finish the trip on the Neris River. With pick up on a drop off, plus kayak rental the price was only 50 LT per person. Very reasonable. It is advisable to kayak in the spring rather than the fall as the water can be low-but it can be done in the fall!

Here is the website for kayakingdon’t be intimidated by the Lithuanian website. Just give them a call and set up your trip.