Often when I tell people about my trips to Europe, I hear the same thing: “I wish I could afford to go to Europe”. People usually don’t know that one of the best places to travel on a budget in Europe is Eastern Europe. I’ll show you how you can spend 2 days in Vilnius on a budget.
My first exposure to Eastern Europe was Lithuania. Whether you are backpacking Lithuania, or even staying in a hotel, it’s such a fantastic place to visit on a budget. Depending on where you decide to stay and what kind of traveler you are, you can spend two days in Vilnius for less than €50.
Table of Contents
- Best way to get to Vilnius
- Getting around Vilnius
- Best places to stay in Vilnius
- Cost of Food In Vilnius
- What to try?
- How safe is Lithuania?
- About the author
Best way to get to Vilnius
Taking the bus to Vilnius is by far one of the cheapest ways to get to Vilnius. Here are some average prices from the surrounding areas by bus.
• Berlin, Germany – €44 – 18 hours
• Prague, Czech – €44 – 21 hours
• Warsaw, Poland – €16 – 9.5 hours
• Riga, Latvia – €12 – 4 hours
• Minsk, Belarus – €11 – 5 hour
Getting around Vilnius
You can spend a whole day like I did just exploring Vilnius by foot and see a lot. If you pick the right place to stay, you won’t need to take the bus much at all. If you do need to use public transport, a regular bus ticket from the driver costs €1 per ride. I stayed at Jimmy Jumps House for €10 per night and spent roughly €9 for meals. Most of the activities in Vilnius are free so I opted for a self-walking tour.
In the Vilnius Old Town, you’ll find the Cathedral Square. It’s a common site for fairs and gatherings of the locals. It is a very lively area and the best place to start exploring Vilnius. The iconic white Gediminas’ Bell Tower can be seen from all around as it watches over the Vilnius Cathedral.
The Vilnius Cathedral you see today was completed around 1783, although the original cathedral was built on this site in 1251. If you happen to be there on Sunday, it may be hard to get a look inside, as there is a mass almost every hour until 12.30. Around the corner on the south side of the Vilnius Cathedral, you’ll find the statue of Gediminas. He was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1315-1341 and he is responsible for building Vilnius. Also, he is a founder of the new Lithuanian dynasty.
If you head east past the Gediminas monument, you’ll find a series of paths in a park that will lead you up the hill to the Gediminas’ Tower to your left. The Gediminas’ Tower is the last part left of the Upper Castle. Built near the Neris and Vilnia Rivers, it dates back to 1409.
The tower is a prominent symbol of Vilnius and Lithuania. You can walk to the top of the hill, which has a magnificent panoramic view of the city and the Neris River. It’s a unique opportunity to see the different faces of the city. The drab grey look of old Soviet-era concrete construction north of the river and the colorful and lively Old Town of Vilnius on the south.
St. Anne’s Church
After visiting the Gediminas Tower head south and find B. Radilaitės Street. Follow it east until it curves and turns into Maironio Street and keep following it south. Here you will find St. Anne’s Church.
This Roman Catholic Church is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Lithuania.
Republic Of Užupis
Keep heading south and cross the bridge at Malūnų and you will come to my favorite place in Vilnius. This is the Republic of Užupis. This small 0.6 sq km area of Vilnius sits on the Vilnia River and has a very interesting story. It was left abandoned and in ruins after the Soviets left. People slowly moved into the area because it was really cheap and no one wanted to live here. Užupis became popular with artists, which you will notice as you walk through. About 1000 of the 7000 people who live in Užupis are artists.
On April 1, 1997, the residents declared it the independent Republic of Užupis. It even has its own currency, flag, anthem and a president. The parliament is held in the Užupis Kavinė Café on Užupio Street, which is a great place to stop and have a coffee.
In Užupis, you will find so many things, like the Angel of Užupis at the corner of Malūnų and Užupio Street.
Head south and find Paupio Street and you discover the Constitution of the Republic of Užupis. There are 39 articles translated into 23 languages on metal plaques along a wall. It really embodies what this Republic is all about. It’s really funny.
Gates of Dawn (Aušros Vartai) and Aušros Vartų Street
After Užupis head south and find your way to Bazilijonų Streeta and Aušros Vartų Street. Here you’ll see the Gates of Dawn, a gate entering the Old Town of Vilnius that dates back to the 1500’s. I enjoyed just walking down this street and ducking into churches like the Holy Trinity Uniate Church and Church of St. Casimir.
You’ll find a variety of restaurants and bars along here if you want to stop for a drink or try the national Lithuanian dish cepelinai. Eventually, Aušros Vartai turns into Didžioji where you will pass the Vilnius Town Hall and main square. Continuing north along Didžiojl you’ll end up back where you started – at the Cathedral Square.
Baltic Way (Road to Freedom) Monument
The Baltic Way Monument tells an important part or Lithuania’s history and that of the Baltic States. Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union until 1990. On August 23, 1989, two million people joined hands, forming a human chain across 675.5 km that covered Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. People called it the Baltic Way or the Baltic Chain. It went through the three Baltic capitals – Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn and a quarter of the population of these three states showed up to form this human chain.
Just imagine how difficult that would have been to coordinate in 1989. No mobile phones, no Internet, no social media. Pure determination. As a result, a monument was built to commemorate this day. It’s a nice 30 min walk from the Old Town and you will cross the Neris River.
If you want to take the bus from Old Town Vilnius, take the #10 Fabijoniškės from Užupio St, for 13 stops to Žaliasis tiltas. Then take the 3G Fabijoniškės or 46 Pašilaičiai for 2 stops. From there it is a one-minute walk.
Day Trip to Trakai
If you Google Trakai, you will see aerial pictures of this magnificent red-orange castle on a beautiful blue lake. When a friend told me she was taking me there, I thought she was joking. The pictures looked like this magical place you only see on other peoples Instagram.
Getting to Trakai by train is part of the fun. Just head to the Vilnius’ main train station, and from there you can buy a ticket to the town of Trakai for approximately €3,50 return. It takes 33 minutes by train to get there. Just make sure you take note of when the last train back to Vilnius is.
Once there, you can walk to the castle through the quaint town of Trakai. There are many little restaurants along the way. This is a great place to try Kibinai. If you brought your own lunch, have a picnic along the lakeshore looking out at the castle. It will costs €7 for adults / €3,50 for students to visit the castle. If you would like a tour in English it will set you back €15. We just explored the castle on our own, but I’m sure a tour will give you great insight into the history of Trakai.
Best places to stay in Vilnius
This is one of the unique things about Eastern Europe. A hotel in Vilnius costs the same as a dorm room bed in a Berlin hostel – €19 a night for a double room. You’d never find that price in a popular Western European city. Here are some places that are close to the city center, giving you different options and great prices if you are visiting Vilnius on a budget.
These two hotels are a good price and if you are traveling with someone. For two people it would cost a little more than the price of a dorm room bed in a hostel. The advantage here is you get a private room and bath.
Stay Express Hotel – €23 a night for a minimalistic private room that includes a private bathroom. It is 1 km from the bus/train station, and 300m from old town Vilnius.
Valentina’s Rooms Vilnius – €34 a night for a simple private room with a private bathroom and shower. It is 2km for the bus station and 350m from the town square.
If you are a solo traveler backpacking Lithuania you may want to try some of the hostels in Vilnius. Here are some of the best hostels to stay in Vilnius.
Jimmy Jumps House/Hostel – A dorm room bed here ranges from €9,80 – €13 a night and includes free tea, coffee, and breakfast! It is located only a 10-minute walk from the bus/train station, and just 50 steps from the main square in Vilnius. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Mikalo House Hostel – A dorm room bed here ranges from €10 – €12 a night. It’s a smaller hostel, and the staff isn’t always there. So you may have to make arrangements if you arrive outside the working hours – 9:00-17:00. That being said this hostel is an excellent location, right in the heart of the old town of Vilnius.
Downtown Forest Hostel & Camping – You can get a bed in an 8 person shared tent for €7,14 or a mixed dorm room bed for €8,84 – €12,24 a night. This hostel is located steps away from the Republic of Užupis. It is also near an urban forest. The bus/train station is a 20-minute walk away and most of the tourist attractions about 10 minutes away by foot.
Cost of Food In Vilnius
Food is relatively inexpensive in Vilnius. Groceries will cost about half of what it costs in the US or Canada. It can cost you less than €5 a day per person if you are buying food at the grocery store.
Eating in a restaurant will be more costly than picking up a few groceries in any city. An inexpensive restaurant in Vilnius will cost about €5-€10 per meal depending on what you get.
What to try?
There are a couple of dishes you have to try when you are in Vilnius.
Cepelinai – This is a national Lithuanian dish. It is a stuffed potato dumpling (with meat or cheese curd) served with a sour cream sauce and bacon bits. Absolutely delicious!
Average price €2.5-€5
Kibinai – It’s a traditional pastry filled with a variety of fillings. Traditionally it would be mutton and onion, but now you can get almost anything in them such as cheese curd, beef, chicken, apple, mushrooms, vegetables and more. They are mostly associated with the town of Trakai but they can be found everywhere in Vilnius.
Average price €1.25-€2
Beetroot Soup – Lithuanians love their soup. Try the Saltivarsciai or chilled borscht that has a vibrant bright pink color. It is often accompanied with boiled potatoes and hardboiled eggs.
Average Price €3
How safe is Lithuania?
In North America, there is a real misconception of which are the safest countries in Europe. When I told people I was going to Lithuania, it was met with shock, and people asked how safe it is to travel there. If you look at the Global Peace Index (GPI), Lithuania ranks #37 in the world. Compare that to other popular travel destinations and you start to realize how safe it really is. For example, the United Kingdom is ranked #41 and France is #51. That might look like a far jump where I live, with Canada at #8, but the places we Canadians often travel to without a second thought, rank much lower (USA #114 and Mexico #142).
Vilnius is a city you will fall in love with and should be on everyone’s travel list. There are many other things to do and explore here. You’ll want to come back.
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Oliver is Canadian with a passion for traveling to Europe. To survive the winter months he writes a travel blog Aciu at www.goaciu.com, focusing on European travel and traveling on a budget.
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