Part of the pleasure of experiencing Vilnius outside the summer season is how much of the place you have to yourself. Foreign languages can still be heard, of course, but stroll into most restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs and it’s likely it’ll be just you and the locals, many of whom are only too eager to practice their English.
Service standards remain unpredictable. We recently encountered a resolutely grumpy waitress at a popular Italian restaurant in the Old Town and another who was actively hostile at a café near the Philharmonic. But most of the time in winter and spring people are genuinely happy you’ve walked in to sample something their colleagues have cooked, baked, smoked or poured.
On our wanderings around town over the last month or so we’ve discovered and rediscovered some real gems – savouring a venison kebab and a beer late at night at the hipster-style Turgus Bar; enjoying an intimate concert by an upcoming American singer-songwriter at Vilnius’ best live venue, Loftas; a slap-up Lithuanian dining experience with friends and local spirits at Senoji Trobelė; feasting on finger-licking traditional Karaite cuisine in Trakai after a trudge around the Island Castle; doing a late-night cocktail crawl on fun-packed Islandijos, Vilniaus and Labdarių streets; a night at the opera, spooning up its famous liquid chocolate during the interval; and re-exploring Vilnius Cathedral touching on its treasures, charms and secrets, which you can read about in this issue’s feature. Vilnius is a pleasure, whatever the season.