Lithuania

Our Guide To Lithuania

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As Lithuania hasn’t yet whored itself out to stag parties and tourists like other Baltic capitals, a trip to the two main cities Vilnius and Kaunas feel in nearly every way like a true local experience. In comparison to Riga in Latvia the centre is full of locals drinking in local pubs and brewery taps, which may on occasion have provisions for tourists and business travellers, but in large part serve the local population. It’s a great place to dive into and we have come away from it on both occasions with a very distinct impression of the scene.

The diversity in style and the determined focus on beer drinking surprised me, as we naturally assumed it would be similar to Latvia whose scene still appears to be in development. Not so, there are cellar bars, brewery taps, grungy dive bars, ramshackle folksy farmhouse places and some rather upmarket joints too.

Since Lithuania is in the eurozone, the beer is nowhere near as cheap as you may think so expect to pay nearly 3 euros as standard at the time of writing, though it was common enough to find places which dipped under 2.50 euros for a beer as well. The hike in price since joining the euro has been ably compensated for by the explosion in microbrewing, meaning the options in a lot of bars are varied and all above par in terms of quality.

Vilnius is peppered with decent options for a drink in nearly every district, and when we totted up all the recommended places it seemed difficult to ever be more than 15-20 minutes walk away from the next good pub or bar.

Kaunas itself has a historic core and a grand boulevard where you can find a dozen good bars, many of which are frequented by local students and young business types.

There was no sense, as there was in Latvia, of grim Russian backstreet places or rip-off ‘gentleman’s clubs’. Lithuania is a forward facing country that sees itself akin to Scandinavian countries in some respects (although it is massively more socially conservative) and you’ll find the standard of English excellent everywhere, and the bar scene boisterous, occasionally extraordinarily drunk, but by the same token, friendly and hospitable.

Look out for many bars serving beer in PET bottles for people to take away, something which I am in two minds about, as the bar does get money that would otherwise go to an off-license, but loses atmosphere through the individuals not hanging around for a drink. In most of these type bars the situation was a lot more quiet.

Lithuania is full of surprises and delights apparently, but to find such a wealth of great options for social drinking was a treat, and I strongly, strongly urge you to visit.

Ratings Key (0-10)

Bars marked (*) will take you to our full profile write-up!

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Nisha
Bar Persp_
ectyva
Kaunas 9 7 7 5 8 8
BO  * Kaunas 7 7 9 7 9 8
Snekutis (Uzupis) * Vilnius 8 9 10 8 7 10
Snekutis
(Sv. Mika-
lojaus)
Vilnius 8 7 7 8 9 8
Snekutis (Sv. Stepono) Vilnius 8 7 8 7 8 8
Spunka * Vilnius 8 8 8 5 7 8
13 Statiniu Vilnius 7 5 9 7 8 8
Baziliskas Vilnius 8 7 8 7 7 8
Who Hit
John
Vilnius 6 8 9 6 7 8
Salionas Vilnius 7 9 9 6 7 8
Baras Suo Vilnius 8 8 8 6 7 9

Kaunas

pop. 295,269

Lithuania’s second city is no shrinking violet versus the capital Vilnius. Unlike many European nations the population of Kaunas is more than half the size of the capital and the central location makes it an important trading point between Poland, Belarus, Lativa and the Russian enclave Kaliningrad. Nightlife congregates in the low-rise old town, and down the central boulevard, an impressively long, wide expanse that nevertheless requires an energetic walking speed to traverse properly. You can find friendly student bars and low-key craft beer venues in Kaunas which make for a pleasant day out drinking. One of the interesting elements is how Kaunas is little changed by tourism, meaning that when you go out you can expect to be in venues by Lithuanians for Lithuanians.

Trakai

pop. 5266

As you may expect from such a small town, there is very little nightlife, if any, to speak of. Most of the restaurants near the lake will close around 10.30pm leaving you at a loose end from then on. However, try the bar at the cultural centre, which may be highly uninteresting as a venue, but becomes surprisingly packed by locals later on, who will no doubt approach you to find out why the hell you decided to spend the night in Trakai, and buy you a drink as consolation.

Vilnius

pop 544,386

Vilnius’ 3 districts of note are the Senamiestis (old town), Uzupis (aka The Republic of Uzupis), a bohemian and alternative area of the city, and the modern Northern quarter. In all 3 you will find a decent range of passable venues, most of which serve interesting beer that you may not have ever tried before. There is quite the cottage industry these days in Vilnius and it’s also worth popping into the various brewpubs, bland though some are, to sample some different beers. The jewel in the crown is Snekutis, a ruritanial pub which makes a virtue of all things pastoral and countryfied, which is outstandingly cosy and atmospheric. Watch out for Salionas as well, a rare example of Vilnius taking its cues from terrace and ruin pub culture.