A destination incredibly untapped by mass tourism, Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius, is one of exciting contradictions – a place where the revered traditions of the past peacefully collide with a new-wave culture unmistakably modern and edgy.
Boasting magnificent ancient architecture in its countless Catholic and Orthodox churches and monuments from the Baroque era, this compact and walkable city also boasts an astoundingly intact – and beautiful – UNESCO-listed medieval Old Town lined with cafes, boutiques and modest guesthouses.
Once nicknamed the ‘Jerusalem of the north’, reminders of Vilnius’ stained history (the Jewish community was almost entirely wiped out in WWII) are everywhere in the shape of Holocaust museums and former ghetto sites, while preserved KGB torture chambers tell the stories of the micro-nation’s decades of Soviet occupation.
And yet juxtaposed against this historical tapestry a bold counterculture has emerged, where innovative artists and creatives are putting Vilnius on the map as an up-and-coming destination for the culturally – and culinarily – curious.
Years of cultural isolation brought to an abrupt halt the contemporary development of this southernmost Baltic state, but 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, street art, murals and installations season the city, giving it the feel of a never-ending urban gallery, while the high-level art festivals, cultural events and pop-up markets that take place throughout the year add to the city’s artistic temperament.
Vilnius is also starting to make a name for itself as a one of Eastern Europe’s most exciting emerging foodie destinations. Think modern interpretations of traditional Lithuanian cuisine, farm-to-table dishes made with seasonal produce, multicultural culinary influences and a rapidly rising hipster food and craft beverage scene.
The result? A budding food culture that demonstrates Lithuanians’ extraordinary culinary creativity. So what can you expect from Vilnius’s food scene?