DestinationsThe capital of Lithuania is an undiscovered European gem brimming with history, unique attractions and good food.

Go to Vilnius for old-world Baltic charm

Vilnius' Old Town is home to a artsy scene and burgeoning foodie culture.
Vilnius' Old Town is home to a artsy scene and burgeoning foodie culture. Photo Credit: Adobe/MNStudio

I went to Vilnius for its history, but I was taken by its charm.

Lithuania's capital isn't nearly as well known or visited as others in Europe, but as home to one of Continent's best preserved medieval Old Towns, it should be.

And while the Old Town's winding streets and alleys serve as the city's tourism center, home to sidewalk restaurants, cafes and art galleries, there also is much to see beyond its walls.

Across the river from the Old Town lies the self-declared Republic of Uzupis, formed in 1997 with its own president, foreign ministry and a constitution written out on a street with guarantees such as "everyone has the right to cry."

Uzupis, which has a "border control" shop where visitors can have their passports stamped, has become a hipster and artist enclave with a burgeoning food scene.

Another unique stop is at the local jail, the Lukiskes Prison, which was built by czarist Russia in 1904 and was a functioning jail until 2019.

It is now an entertainment hub with a bar, live music, food truck and prison tours. It hosts art exhibitions in its cells and recently served as the setting for the Netflix series "Stranger Things."

Vilnius is an increasingly popular filming locations, with its well-preserved examples of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture serving as a stand-in for old Europe.

Lithuanian menus still predominately feature Eastern European staples like beet soup and dumplings, but an array of new chefs are changing the food landscape.

Ertlio Namas restaurant in the Old Town serves what it calls "refined historical Lithuanian cuisine," with ingredients found in local gardens, hunted or foraged in the woods or caught in the country's rivers and lakes. The inventive dishes are beautifully served, with a side of Lithuanian heritage.

Source: Travel Weekly

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