Yes, there is a self-declared independent republic in Vilnius, with its own president, constitution, government, television, and more! If you want to know if it’s really true, just ask the locals; they’ll probably smile and nod their heads.
Užupis has become a popular place for artists and others longing for the bohemian life. It’s home to the Vilnius Academy of Arts as well as numerous studios and galleries, and because of its unconventional lifestyle, is sometimes compared to Montmartre in Paris.
Be sure to visit the Užupis Art Incubator and its curated courtyard filled with interesting sculptures. Sit down for a cup of coffee by the Angel of Užupis, which has become the neighbourhood’s main symbol. The bronze sculpture of the Užupis Mermaid in front of the Užupio Kavinė café is another symbol to keep an eye out for – they say she’s the one who attracts people from all over the world to Užupis. Look for Mandala, a mosaic by Rimantas Sakalauskas, in Tibet Square, and make sure to explore the small courtyards – you’ll discover art in all its forms.
As we mentioned, this neighbourhood is full of galleries: Užupis Gallery features pieces by goldsmiths and metal sculptors, Tartle Gallery has a lovely collection of Lithuanian artwork, AP Gallery hosts art exhibitions and art tastings, and the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Centre organises a wealth of interesting events. Just make sure to check gallery opening hours and programmes in advance.
Vilnius’ station district is changing dramatically – locals used to only pass through when necessary, but now they come just to hang out. And it’s no wonder – the area has a lot of street art, bars and cafés.
During the day, be sure to take a stroll through the streets of the station district to get a glimpse of the different murals by famous local and foreign artists. Stop by Halės Turgus, which is the market of choice for delicious, fresh food. And in the evening, party in the same market at Youngs’ Club, which is especially popular with the young crowd. Another real attraction in this district is Peronas Bar, which is located in the railway station, right in front of the first train tracks. Tooting trains, good music and delicious drinks make for an exotic experience that locals love!
If Vilnius has anything, it’s hills! There’s a reason why it is often compared to the seven hills of Rome. However, locals know that Gediminas Hill and the Hill of Three Crosses aren’t the only places to enjoy a spectacular panorama – the Subačius scenic viewpoint, which is right next to the popular Kava Tau café, is also a great spot, as are the terrace on the fifth floor of the Live Square Business Centre, the Church of St Johns’ Bell Tower, the Cathedral Bell Tower, Tauro Hill and Stalo Hill. And that’s definitely not all of the places with a view! You can easily strap on your hiking boots and set out into the hills in the very centre of Vilnius.
If you want to be where the action is – music, commotion, people, fun – then keep in mind that the centre of Vilnius’ nightlife is at the intersection of Vilniaus and Islandijos streets. This is where locals go, especially on Friday and Saturday night. You’ll find plenty of cafés, restaurants and nightclubs, one after the other. Just go from place to place until you find one that looks like fun. That’s exactly what the locals do. If you’re looking for something good to eat, this is also a great place for seafood, meat dishes, and either local, Italian and Asian cuisine.
Lithuanian beer is one of the best in the world – we’re not even exaggerating. But you need to know what to try and where to get it. We suggest diverting from the tourist route and visiting the places locals go. For example, you can get a taste of real Lithuanian food, drink and atmosphere at Būsi Trečias, Šnekutis or Alaus Biblioteka – the Beer Library.