Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius is a fairly modern and busy city, though locals modesty refer to it as a village. But there are pros and cons to relocating this so-called village.
Of all the Baltic capitals, I think Vilnius is the most lively, which could be due to the slightly warmer weather at the end of April. The city center is beautiful and not popular enough yet that it exists solely for tourists. Locals eat and drink in the different areas of Old Town. It’s also one of the greenest cities in Europe, with large parks and beautiful gardens for hiking and generally enjoying the outdoors.
My one big complaint about Vilnius is the nightlife. Our first night, after a delicious dinner, we walked over to a cocktail bar only to be told by a burly bouncer that they were full. On a hunch, I messaged my friend from Vilnius and asked her if we should arrive earlier or dress better to get in. Without missing a beat, she replied: “Dress better.” Vilnius is the Miami of the Baltics.
We eventually found a noodle restaurant with a good drink menu. And we were there for about an hour before they hung a black curtain around the door, turned on a disco ball and turned up the music. By the time we left, there was a line of well-dressed people waiting to get past the velvet ropes to enter… the noodle place. And perhaps even worse than that is that there’s no drunk food anywhere. No pizza by the slice and no kebab. Just other restaurants slash nightclubs.
Our second night out was more successful with the help of my friend’s friends in town. We went to some brilliant and chill hipster bars like Bar Bukowski. Vilnius does have a very pronounced hipster presence. So much so that they organized and turned the neighborhood of Užupis into an independent artistic republic. That kind of atmosphere is more my style, but still, I’d like to be allowed entry into the nice cocktail bars in town.
Of all the Baltic countries, Lithuania has the most defined traditional cuisine. I tried to sample as much of it as possible, but there are simply too many local dishes. My favorite was definitely the fried zeppelins, which are large meat-filled potato dumplings. It’s not the healthiest food in the world but it was delicious. The culinary world of Vilnius includes a wide array of specialty dishes and well-known favorites. The seafood is spectacular, and the lavender creme brûlée I had at Selfish Bistro could be my favorite version of that dessert ever. The best part is that food is generally pretty affordable. The Nordic influence in Estonia makes the cuisine a little pricier and prettier. Down in Vilnius, you can feast like a king without breaking the bank.
Housing is fairly affordable. According to our city guide, a two-bedroom apartment outside city center is probably around 300 euro. If I could score one of those flats with a pitched ceiling for less than 300 euro, I would be perfectly happy. Though we didn’t use public transportation because the city is quite walkable, a Taxify ride to the airport is about 6 euro. So public transportation is probably at least a third of that cost. And if you were just going from one place to other in city center, it would be more worth your while to order a Taxify than wait for public transport.
I’m very torn about the people of Vilnius. One of the nicest, friendliest people I’ve ever met is from there. But it seems she’s kind of an anomaly. The elitist attitude about nightlife means the city is full of douchebags. Even my Czech friends commented on how pissed off one of our waitresses was. And for Czechs to say that…
And it seems like if you don’t fall into one of two categories, hyper hipster artist or dolled-up party babe, it might be hard to just exist as a normal person. Like you can either drive a chromed-out rose gold BMW or ride a kick scooter around in a tattered t-shirt. But if you’re just walking around in jeans, you don’t really fit in anywhere.
Total livability score 5.5/10
This is somewhat incongruent with the fact that out of the three Baltic capitals, this was closer to my favorite than the other two. It’s wonderful to visit, but I think settling in as an expat would be too difficult.