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Gastronomic and other discoveries in Vilnius with Polish journalist Robert Makłowicz

Renowned Polish food critic and travel journalist Robert Makłowicz recently visited Lithuania and searched the streets of Vilnius for the most fascinating stories, beautiful places, tastiest dishes and memorable adventures. Wondering what impressed him most and what he would recommend every traveller put on their list during their visit to the capital? From historical monuments and the city’s modern charms, to food entertainment – here’s the Vilnius Discovery Route by Robert Makłowicz.

The Gate of Dawn (Lithuanian: Aušros vartai)
Aušros Vartų g. 14, Vilnius

Robert Makłowicz recommends starting out at the historic Gate of Dawn, the only surviving gate of the city’s former defensive wall and the passage through which travellers have been arriving to Vilnius since the 16th century. Today, the image of Our Lady, also known as the Madonna of the Gate of Dawn, watches over those passing through the Gate of Dawn from the Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy. 

Cathedral Square
Katedros a. 1

In the 13th century, Cathedral Square’s Bell Tower was part of the city’s defence system. It was transformed into a bell tower when the first cathedral was built here in the 14th century. Today, Cathedral Square is also home to a special clock counting down the minutes until Vilnius’ 700th anniversary, which marks Grand Duke Gediminas of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania’s first mention of the capital city in 1323, when he invited citizens from other Hanseatic cities to come here.

Augustas & Barbora Love Story Café
Stiklių g. 7 
https://www.facebook.com/augustasirbarbora/

As you enter the Glass Quarter, once home to the city’s Jewish community, you will feel the aura of the past – artisans, jewellers and stained-glass artists have always flourished here. Sitting in this café, you will also be reminded of one of Lithuania’s special love stories. The legend of love between Grand Duke Sigismund Augustus and his wife Barbora Radvilaitė dates to the 16th century. Try a taste of this love by ordering a Barbora or Augustas cake with your coffee.

Presidential Palace of the Republic of Lithuania
S. Daukanto a. 3 
https://www.lrp.lt/en/institution/presidential-palace/guided-tours/20819 

The palace as we see it today was only built in the 19th century, when it became the official seat of the Russian Governor-General. Today, it is the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Lithuania. Visit the Presidential Palace’s historic park and courtyard, and on Sundays at noon you can watch the historic flag-changing ceremony in the square. You can also visit the Presidential Palace on weekends on a free guided tour – just don’t forget to register in advance.

The Church of St. Johns and the Vilnius University Courtyard
Šv. Jono g. 12

The Church of St. Johns, St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle and Evangelist was built in the 15th century, but when Vilnius University was founded in 1579, the church was transferred to the Jesuit Order and became part of the university. While walking around the University Courtyard, which is surrounded by Renaissance galleries, you will be inspired by the historic academic spirit that fills the space. And if you go up to St. Johns’ Church Bell Tower, you’ll have a view that puts the Old Town in the palm of your hand. 

Halės Market
Pylimo g. 58

It is very important to eat well when travelling. Halės Market is 116 years old, so make sure to look around and admire the historic architecture. In addition to local farmers offering fresh local produce, you will also be lured by a wide choice when it comes to cuisine from around the world. Try the pilau rice dish or the endless range of fermented vegetables. You won’t go hungry, and you’ll have a treat to take back with you.

The Senators’ Passage
Dominikonų g. 11
https://senatoriupasazas.lt/homepage/ 

It used to be a monastery brewery, then the Pociejas Palace, and during the Soviet era it was the headquarters of the Vilnius Waters entity. Now, it’s a place that invites people to socialise, combining good food, memorable experiences and the philosophy of slow living. The produce in the shops and restaurants here comes from a modern and responsible farm near Vilnius. That’s why you will find traditionally prepared preserves, meats, local cheeses, fermented vegetables and exquisite condiments at the Senators’ Passage.

Nineteen 18
Dominikonų g. 11
https://nineteen18.lt/en/ 

Experience the incredible combination of local products and flavours inspired by Lithuanian culture at this restaurant’s tasting dinner table. Chef Andrius Kubilius invites you to taste 10 dishes that promise to take you on a gourmet journey of inspiring flavours and aromas. What at first glance looks like pasta might be a layering of celery and porcini mushrooms with breadcrumbs. The fermented apples with tarragon oil have a nutty aftertaste and the halibut broth with pike roe will take you to the sea. Plus, desserts like the condensed milk ice cream and apple caramel with calvados ice cream, caramel wafer, fermented ant syrup and chilled ants will remind you of childhood picnics. 

Hotel Pacai
Didžioji g. 7
https://hotelpacai.com/en 

An overnight stay at the Pacai Hotel brings you right into the most authentic palace of the nobles of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania – Pacai Palace. Vilnius Old Town combines 17th century Baroque luxury with modern forms of architecture. Tsar Peter I of Russia, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France, Emperor Alexander I of Russia and John Sobieski, King of Poland and Duke of Lithuania, were among the most notable guests at the palace, which is now open for everyone to stay at.

Subačius Observation Deck
Subačiaus g. 

Take in the entire city like a film frame of a romantic movie from the Subačius viewing platform. The bohemian residential area of Užupis, the church spires piercing the sky, Gediminas’ Castle Tower – you can enjoy the entire Old Town in one breath-taking panoramic view, and it’s beautiful in any weather. 

St. Anne’s Church and the Monument to Adam Mickiewicz
Maironio g. 8

The Gothic Church of St. Anne and the ensemble of the Bernardine Monastery leaves no one indifferent. The light and graceful construction is a true architectural masterpiece. One wall of St. Anne’s Church includes two bricks with the marks of the craftsmen embedded in it, which have yet to be deciphered. And St. Anne’s Church overlooks a granite monument to famous poet Adam Mickiewicz by sculptor Gediminas Jokūbonis. 

Orthodox Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 
Maironio g. 14

One of the oldest Christian shrines in Vilnius, dating to the 14th century. They say that Grand Duke Algirdas of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania personally chose its location here as his manor house was not far away. In fact, the Ruthenian town of Civitas Rutenica was also located nearby. Although the church has been rebuilt numerous times, many fragments of its historic architecture have survived to this day. 

Užupis

You can find another republic within Vilnius as you cross the Vilnelė Bridge into the bohemian Užupis. Today, this area is full of creative energy, art installations and surprises. The Užupis Art Incubator is home to ever-changing open-air works of art and spectacular street art. In Tibet Square, the Dalai Lama XIV unveiled a mandala sculpture and planted an apple tree. Today, the angel of Užupis blows a horn and spreads a message, but it hatched from an egg that was built while funds were being raised for the impressive sculpture. Next to the sculpture you can see a special small water fountain where once a year, on 1 April, the day of the founding of the Republic of Užupis, beer, not water, flows from the tap. Think it’s a lie? Check it out for yourself. 

Coffee bar Coffee1
Užupio g. 9  
https://www.coffee1.lt 

The aroma of coffee winds through the streets of Vilnius, but a visit to Coffee1 in Užupis isn’t just about a cup of freshly roasted, quality coffee. You will also find a special dessert – traditional Lithuanian tree cake (Lith. Šakotis) – as well as handmade chocolates. What could be better than an inspiring moment of respite?

MO Museum
Pylimo g. 17
https://mo.lt/en/

Vilnius Old Town is full of history, but it combines perfectly with the pace of modern life. Contemporary art is an integral part of Vilnius; therefore, the MO Museum, designed by Daniel Libeskind, blends in harmoniously with the more historic buildings of the Old Town. Throughout the summer, you can visit the KaunaVilnis exhibition, which analyses the connection between Lithuania’s two largest cities – Vilnius and Kaunas. 

Paupys Market
Aukštaičių g. 7
https://www.paupioturgus.lt/en/

Discover one of Vilnius’ newest residential areas – Paupys – located on the outskirts of the Old Town, next to the Vilnelė River. Reborn from its industrial past, the area is now very popular with locals. Steeped in greenery, the food market makes you feel like you’re in nature but surrounded by an array of world cuisines, all under one roof. Spanish paella, rolls, burgers, Italian rice arancini, Georgian khachiapuri and seafood – it’s hard to choose. Visit the Yakitori Boutique for prawns in tempura or melt-in-your-mouth tuna sashimi. Café Druska, Miltai ir Vanduo (salt, flour and water) will delight you with its natural sourdough bread, desserts, avocado toast and smoked salmon.

Lukiškės Prison (Lith. Lukiškių kalėjimas)
Lukiškių skg. 6
https://www.lukiskiukalejimas.lt/pasivaiksciojimai/en/home-eng/ 

A visit to this prison in Vilnius is simply a must. The century-old former Lukiškės Prison is a fascinating place to wander around and hear juicy stories about its past. However, it’s also found new life as an arts and culture space where you can see the work of its 350 resident artists, take a refreshing break at the bar, and even attend one of many concerts. 

Ertlis House
Šv. Jono g. 7
https://ertlionamas.lt 

Travel back in time to the Middle Ages through flavours. Today, the restaurant in Ertlis House, once owned by the bricklayer Jurgis Ertlis, offers a taste of Lithuanian cuisine from the 13th-19th centuries. Chef Tomas Rimydis has consulted with historians and professors to bring authentic recipes to modern life. Where else can you taste beef pekenfleisch with morel mushrooms, turkey pie with lazanki (pasta), asparagus and wine sauce or a sweet pie (baba) with rhubarb? 

Žemaičių Ąsotis (Samogitian Jar)
Naugarduko g. 32-1
https://zemaiciuasotis.lt

Traditional Lithuanian dishes, like the ones you can enjoy in the Žemaitija (Samogitia) region of Lithuania, can also be tasted in Vilnius. Here, tables are bursting with choices: traditional borscht, dumplings with mushrooms, herring with salted mushrooms, potato or blood sausages (Lith.  vėdarai), and Samogitian sausage with sauerkraut. It’s better to come with friends so you can share and taste a little of everything.

Hot Air Balloons 
https://orobalionai.lt

A hot air balloon ride is the perfect highlight of any trip to Vilnius. Getting a bird’s-eye view of the Old Town and its natural surroundings is a special experience. Total tranquillity and new perspectives will allow you to experience Vilnius from a different perspective. You won’t have the chance to enjoy this entertainment in any other capital city of Europe, so go ahead and take to the skies! 

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