Discover Vilnius, the underrated gem of Europe!

Vilnius is a place with lots of amazing architecture and delicious local cuisine. This guide will tell you about the best hotspots and foods that Vilnius has to offer!

Truth be told, I didn’t know anything about Vilnius or Lithuania in general. It is quite an unknown city in Europe, but it turned out to be a great place for a city trip with a variety of hotspots, historical buildings, culture, history and especially loads of foods. 

How to get there

Lithuania is situated in the north of Europe and is part of the Baltic states. There are several flights to Vilnius from Amsterdam, however only with Air Baltic you can fly directly from Amsterdam to Vilnius in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Other airlines like Lufthansa and LOT offer flights with one transfer. The airport of Vilnius is very close to the city centre and you can easily reach the centre by bus or train for less than €2.

Lithuania – a place just a 2-hours flight away from Amsterdam– is still fairly unknown as a tourist destination.

Where to stay

Vilnius is not that big so the city’s highlights are relatively close. There are many hostels for the budget traveller and hotels are available for as little as 30 euros per night for two persons. We stayed at the Amberton hotel which had the perfect location on Cathedral Square right in the middle of the city centre. If you want to have a really luxurious stay, I would recommend design hotel Pacai, which is modern and unique with authentic details like frescoes.

Pink Building Vilnius

What to see in the city centre

Not surprisingly, Vilnius Old Town is full of historical buildings with impressive architectural styles. I was amazed by all the architecture; around every corner you will find a building that takes your breath away. The streets of Vilnius are not very crowded and you can enjoy the beauty of the city without being disturbed by many tourists. Furthermore, everything is walkable! Here are some of the top spots of the city.

  • Cathedral Square
    This square is the heart of the city. You can spot the Cathedral Bell Tower, where you can climb to the top to have a perfect panoramic view of the city. You can also visit the Vilnius Cathedral and right next to it you’ll find the Grand Dukes Palace. In December there’s a Christmas market with a beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the middle.
  • The Uzupis area
    Uzupis is the oldest suburb of Vilnius and has been declared as the Republic of Uzupis by Lithuanian artists. Just walk around and take a look at the street art and beautiful buildings. Make sure you go to Paupio Street where you can find special plaques with 41 rules of the Republic in various languages. Close to Uzupis you can visit the Gothic St. Anne and St. Bernardine churches from the 15th century which are very impressive and statuesque. The beautiful St. Michael the Archangel Church is also nearby.
  • The Church of St. Casimir
    This building was one of my faves, mainly because of the beautiful pink exterior with baroque architecture. Since many of the houses surrounding the churches and historical buildings are quite small, you can spot the church from many different places in town. It’s easily recognizable with a golden crown on top of one of the towers.
  • Turgus Hales
    Many locals come to this market hall to do their shopping and you’ll occasionally spot a tourist. Roots is a particularly interesting little store, because it has the largest selection of Lithuanian handcrafted cheese in the country. The lovely ladies there are happy to let you try some of the cheeses.

Street Lithuania

Vilnius Church

Things do in and around Vilnius

  • Go by bike or step or make a trip with a hot air balloon
    You can easily get bikes in the city or rent an electric step to discover the Old Town. During spring and summer, you can even take a balloon ride over the historical city centre. Breath-taking views guaranteed!
  • Visit a museum
    Vilnius has various museums. The National Museum portrays the history and culture of Lithuania, but if you are particularly interested in the Soviet period of the country, you should visit the Museum of Genocide (KGB museum). The exhibition tells more about the terror of the Soviet Union in Lithuania and you can visit the prison complex.
  • Visit historical town Trakai
    Trakai is a small town with a rich and interesting history. It’s only a half-hour drive away from Vilnius. The Trakai castle is based on an island in the middle of the lake. You can visit the museum and find out more about the medieval history of Trakai and its inhabitants. If the weather is good you can also take a boat ride across the lake to see the castle from various viewpoints.

Trakai Castle
Trakai Castle

The city of great food

If you are a food lover, Vilnius will not disappoint. The locals really value their local produce and everywhere in the city you can find shops that sell unique local products. Cheese, fruit wine, rye bread, kvass (a soft-drink) and tree cake are popular amongst locals. Going on a food tour is a must-do if you’re a foodie! Vilnius has various restaurants with local cuisine, the ones below are definitely worth a visit!

  • Queensberry
    A special product of Lithuania is wine made of fruits like rhubarb, raspberry, and cherry. Queensberry is a good place to go if you want to try the different types of wines in combination with modern Lithuanian food. Do try the fried rye bread with cheese dip, it is so yummy!
  • Ertlio Namas
    Ertlio Namas is a very special restaurant where authentic Lithuanian cuisine is mixed with modern cuisine. You can choose a 4-course or 6-course tasting menu and the enthusiastic waiters will tell you a historical background story with each course.
  • Augustas ir Barbora
    If you want to visit a cafe which is Instagram worthy, then you should go here. The interior is filled with pink chairs and flowers on the ceiling. Grab a coffee here, have breakfast or enjoy various pies and tasty pastries.

Terrace Vilnius

Vilnius is the hidden gem of Northern Europe, so go there in 2020 (find out which destinations we recommend for this year) before everyone else knows about it!

Love,

Merel

*Merel is one of our guest editors in Rotterdam. She describes herself as a daydreaming student who loves to travel. Last year she made a 5-month backpacking trip through Asia and she can’t wait to see more of the world. Check her out on Instagram: @merel_d94.

 

 

 

 

 

 

POP-UP BAR 0.020 AMSTERDAM: 0% ALCOHOL, 100% FUN

Restaurants and bars increasingly have alcohol-free cocktails and beers on their menu. The only disadvantage: the choice is very limited. Pop-up Bar 0.020 in Amsterdam is temporarily changing this during Dry January. The one-month booze-free challenge that helps lots of people reset their relationship with alcohol.

Bar 0.020: Without a drop of alcohol

Bar 0.020 – pronounced as zero point zero twenty – is definitely cloud nine for the ones who leave the drink for a month (or for an unlimited period). It’s the very first bar with only non-alcoholic drinks. So, expect a bar where you can walk in and out both completely sober. And yes, no hangover the next day. Let’s toast to that!

Bar 0.020 Amsterdam

About the concept

Bar 0.020 has opened her doors Friday the 3rd of January and will be open till the 31st of this month (every Thursday till Sunday). A tasty idea which already is spotted in London and NYC. Founders Mariska Leising and Niels Krommenhoek guessed it was the right time to introduce this sparkling idea in the Netherlands, our credits to the way they were thinking. And so, it happened. Bar 0.020 is a spot with a warm pub feeling, but without the temptation of alcoholic refreshments. They offer a stage to various beer and cocktail brands and thus to show people that it can be so much fun without alcohol. Where many bars and restaurants have only three or four non-alcoholic alternatives, Bar 0.020 offers thirteen types of beer.

Bar

It doesn’t stop with beers, cocktails and other drinkable treats. Thursdays are all about love. Fridays are for after work drinks with DJ and cocktail shaker. On Saturdays they have delicious tastings. And on lazy Sundays? Bar 0.020 is a big game bar.

Mark your calendar

On Saturday the 1st of February Bar 0.020 will celebrate achieving the New Year’s intention. This time not without but with alcohol, to celebrate your achievement. Bubbles, entertainment and great tunes to get you on to the dance floor. Still not in for alcohol? Don’t you worry, there’s enough to choose for you as well. Buy your party ticket here.

Bottums up!

Sharmaine

Bar 0.020
Nieuwe Zijdsekolk 25, Amsterdam
Website

Opening hours
Thursdays: 16:00 – 22:00
Fridays – Saturdays: 16:00 – 0:00
Sundays: 13:00 – 19:00

Our best travel moments of 2019

As the year comes to an end, it’s time for one of those lists that reminds us, that we are blessed to do this thing we call our job.

We travelled far and wide, met new people along the way, and left with a suitcase full of new memories. Here are our best travel moments of 2019.

Georgia

Individual press trip, February 2019
This is by far Elke’s most memorable press trip of 2019. We wanted to travel to Georgia for a while now, but with the release of our upcoming book Off the Beaten Track, we wanted to visit the countries less visited places. Unfortunately, Elke only had 4 days in total to explore, while there was so much more to see. Nevertheless, it was unforgettable! Read our article about Georgia.

Gergeti Church, Georgia

Sri Lanka

Holiday Sarah, Januari 2019
Sarah travelled to Sri Lanka with her boyfriend and was pleasantly surprised by the people, culture and amazing food. She felt safe and can highly recommend a trip here. If you are looking for a safari, read this first. Plus you can find detailed info in our 2,5 weeks Sri Lanka itinerary

Train ride Sri Lanka


Northern Iceland

National press trip, June 2019
To be honest, Iceland was always on our bucketlist, but became less urgent to visit due to the immens popularity (we always prefer to visit less mass tourism destinations). But fortunately, we received an invite for Northern Iceland which was absolutely amazing. Best of all, we hardly saw other tourists on the road! Our favourite spot? Check it in our article about Northern Iceland that is totally Off the Beaten Track.

Aldeyjarfoss, North Iceland

Oman

National press trip, March 2019
In like manner, this was also a destination we wanted to visit dearly. You can imagine Elke’s joy when Wander-Lust was invited by Visit Oman to explore the unknown country Oman. It was a week filled with adventure, dune bashing, culture, and we even saw sea turtles! It may not be your usual holiday destination, it’s more than worth it to explore! Read all about Elke’s adventure and tips for Oman.

Oman Desert
Wahabi Sands, Oman

Madeira Island, Portugal

National press trip, June 2019
We won’t blame you if you need to look up where Madeira is located on the world map. It belongs to Portugal and is located in the middle of the sea. Some people call it Europe’s Hawaï and we totally get why. Don’t come here for the beaches, but for the amazing nature, natural pools, dolphins, walking trails and their infamous Poncha drink. Read more on Madeira.

Madeira Guide

Thailand & Malaysia 2018/2019

Holiday Elke, Januari 2019
Elke’s first far away destination with her son, who was 1,5 years old at the time. It was the perfect destination to travel around and she made tons of new memories. Starting in Kuala Lumpur, they then traveled to Thailand’s Koh Lipe (pictured), Koh Adang and celebrated new years eve in Penang.

Koh Lipe Island Guide

Doha

Press trip, November 2019
Equally, the city of Doha really surprised us. Elke was invited by Qatar Airways (where she flew in the best business class ever!) to explore the capital of Qatar. It was 4 days filled with luxury, great food, loads of free time and wonderful people. Additionally, the Museum of Qatar is truly the most amazing museum we’ve seen.

NMOQ Doha
The amazing Museum of Qatar in Doha

Essaouira & Taroudant Morocco

Individual press trip, November 2019
Recently, Sarah travelled to a part of Morocco we weren’t familiar with, yet. For our book, we wanted to travel to places that weren’t overrun by mass tourism, like for example, Marrakech. Especially Taroudant surprised us. It was a truly local experience that we would highly recommend to anyone that wants to steer away from the usual travel experiences. The photo below was taken in hotel Jardin des Douars near Essaouira, one of the best hotels we’ve stayed in.

Hotel Jardin des Douars in Essaouira, Morocco

How about that for some of our best travel moments of 2019! And we are not finished yet.. 

Happy 2020!

Wander-Lust

MOROCCO OFF THE BEATEN TRACK | TAROUDANT

If you really want to go off beaten path in Morocco, then you should go the authentic town of Taroudant. It will surprise you the minute you arrive.

Expect yourself a warm welcome from the locals here whilst enjoying one of the best riads the region of Taroudant has to offer, Dar al Hossoun.

Taroudant, Morocco Pinterest

Where to Stay

Along the dirt track roads that leads to Taroudant you find your way to this great hidden little gem called Dar la Hossoun. It takes 3.5 hours to get there from Essaouria. The moment you enter this amazing riad you feel an oasis of peace. With more than 900 different species of plants collected from all over the world you can say that these gardens are unique and breathtaking. The owner tells with pride about the beautiful creations that are done by the famous French architects Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart.

The narrow swimming pool draws attention together with the amazing rooftop.

Sustainability at Dar la Hossoun

Not only the gardens are stunning, but also the rooms. Each suite or room is individually designed and decorated with local authentic rugs, cushions, tapestries and terracotta earthenware. The breakfast room with natural stone flooring is one of my favorites. Sustainability is key today and they are well aware here. In addition, they produce hot water with solar panels, the water from the sinks and showers is recycled to water all of their gardens. After a spa moment, enjoying the pool and reading a book in their amazing rooms, you will leave feeling refreshed and uplifted! Book your stay here.

Breakfast room Dar la Hossoun, Taroudant


Taroudant

Grab a bicycle at the hotel and find yourself in Taroudant within 15 minutes. A small authentic town which you should definitely visit if you want to experience the real Morocco. Taroudant is one of the oldest and most important cities in Morocco, with a great architectural, cultural and historical heritage. Without hordes of Western visiting tourists the souks here are a great place to explore. Much less hassle here and negotiations on some pricing! On Sundays, there’s also a weekend market just outside the city walls.

Off the beaten track
Morocco off the beaten track, on the way to Taroudant

The souk in Taroudant Morocco

There’s no way to get a glass of wine or beer somewhere on a terrace, locals here drink traditional Moroccan mint tea only. They drink it sweeter than us, but I must say it’s delicious.


Taroudant, Morocco
Sweet tea time in Taroudant

Claudio Bravo Palace

There’s one place you can’t miss when you visit Taroudant, Claudio Bravo Palace. This unique place is a park/museum in the middle of fields and plantations, located 10 km north of Taroudant. Book your tickets for the museum online or call them prior, and take a walk in the endless orange groves. I hadn’t heard of Claudio Bravo before, but after seeing this immense palace filled with arts from all over the world which this artist collected throughout the years I have to say I was impressed. He was a celebrated Chilean painter, noted for his hyperrealist still life and figurative paintings. As a world traveler Claudio collected all kinds of art objects which are exposed in this humongous museum. We recommend you to take a personal tour to learn all about this famous painter. 

Claudio Bravo Palace

View museum Taroundant

How to get to Taroudant

Subsequently, it’s easy to get from Agadir, while it’s further down south from Marrakech. You can take a bus or a private transfer. If you combine Taroudant with a visit in Essaouira, it’s cheaper to get a rental car so you can explore the region. All distances take between 2 to 3 hours.


To sum up Taroudant is pretty straight forward. It’s much less crowded, we didn’t see any other western tourists, and you’ll really experience the local culture. This was a completely different vibe as in Marrakech, where you can sometimes feel the gap between the tourist and a local. Places like Taroudant, will broaden your horizon.

Love,

Sarah