Let’s Go Exploring! Vilnius: The G-Spot of Europe?

FIRECracker
Follow me

FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
FIRECracker
Follow me

“Vilnius: The G-spot of Europe. You don’t know where it is but once you find it, it’s amazing!”

 

This is not a joke. This is a real ad from the tourism board of Lithuania, and it was even featured on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, so you KNOW it’s legit.

 

 

I wasn’t even thinking of going to Vilnius, but after seeing this, I just had to.

Before we came to Lithuania, we knew nothing about it. I couldn’t find it on a map and I never heard of its capital, Vilnius, either. We decided to go find it.

So did the G-spot of Europe meet our expectations? Let’s find out…

***

The first thing that struck me about Vilnius is not Vilnius itself but the city across the river:

Užupis

Before entering the city, one of the pre-requisites is that you need to smile. They even have a quirky sign to remind you about this:

An independent state founded by artists, not only does Užupis have its own constitution (posted in 8 different languages), it has its own resident dog and cat—which everyone is allowed to pet. Technically, the Lithuanian government doesn’t LEGALLY recognize it as a state, but who cares? The cat thinks it’s cool. And the dog—he just wants to be a dog. It’s all written in the constitution:

10. Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat.
11. Everyone has the right to look after the dog until one of them dies.
12. A dog has the right to be a dog.
13. A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of need.

You can see they clearly thought about this long and hard, and obviously, COMPLETELY sober. The creator of that constitution is currently working on translating it into cat and dog language, to let the animals know about their own rights. So once again, completely sober, you guys.

Other interesting constitutional rules of note include:

37. Everyone has the right to have no rights.
14. Everyone has the right to sometimes be unaware of his duties.
21. Everyone has the right to be unhappy.

So, everyone needs to smile before they enter but they also have the right to be unhappy?! They must have a thing for contradictions here.

They also have a thing for quirky flags:

The tour guide explained the flag of Uzupis—this symbol means money flows right through this artist’s palm. After all, art is about freedom of expression, not greed.

And the citizens of Uzupis love to express themselves:

Lithuanian FU

Užupis even has its own army—a whole battalion of… 12 people. They also have a statue of Jesus represented as the first backpacker, a swing chair hanging off a bridge called “the Swing of Fate” to help you contemplate life, and a giant penis statue (because, why not?).

And if you go into their passport office you can get your passport stamped (even if it’s not recognized by customs). We skipped that part because we didn’t want to confuse the hell out of immigration—trying to explain that you’re a retired 30-something is already confusing as it is.

Back in Vilnius, as we walked around the city, it struck me how simultaneously progressive and conservative the place is.

Progressive:

Their female president is known an Iron Lady for having a black belt in Taekwondo.

Conservative:

No booze can be sold in stores after 8pm. Or on the day kids go back to school. Or on random days of the week, just because the current party in power—the Farmer’s party—said so.

Wanderer was not amused.

Progressive:

Boasting 22 universities for a population of 3 million people, Vilnius has some of the most educated citizens in Europe. Not only that, 2/3s of the universities are completely free for its citizens. The rest have tuition costs of 2000 Euros/year or less.

No wonder we’ve never gotten any Lithuanian readers writing in about their crippling student debt.

University of Lithuanian (photo credit: Konstantin Malanchev @ Flickr)

Conservative:

The average salary is less than 700 Euros/month and Lithuanians are struggling to live on it. Yeesh. And I thought the 1000 Euros/month average salary in Portugal was bad.

Progressive:

This mural:

Conservative:

The Money museum:

An entire museum dedicated to money, consisting of displays like a tower of 1 million coins and the history of how money came to be.

Ironically, it was free to visit the money museum.

We also learned from other museums (like the museum of occupation) in the city that, just like rest of Eastern Europe, Lithuanian had its share of bloodshed and protests to get away from the communists.

In fact, Lithuanian had a large part to play in the fall of the Iron Curtain. They staged a peaceful protested where they joined hands with Latvias and Estonias forming a line of 2 million people, stretching across the entirety of the 3 countries.

That’s all fine and good but after exploring Vilnius for over a week, I still hadn’t figure out why it was the “G-spot” of Europe yet.

We decided to see if this castle in the middle of the lake just outside the city would change our minds:

Trakai Island Castle:

I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve visited so many castles in Europe that I’m now a castle snob or I just didn’t “get” the wonder that is this castle, but I found myself pretty bored after walking around the grounds for 1.5 hours.

 

A painting of the castle inside the castle. They like being self-referential.
They also like shooting exotic animals in the head and using them as rugs.

So we decided to take a boat ride around the lake:

I’m on a boat yo! A motherf*cking boat!

And then fill our stomachs with some traditional Lithuanian food:

I dunno. My verdict after exploring Vilnius is that the best thing about the city is its tourism board.

Sure, they got a lot of flak from their government—especially since the Pope was coming to visit right when the posters came out—and also the entire John Oliver bit.

I’m not sure if your city delivered, but tourism board, you put Vilnius on the map.

So even though I didn’t fall in love with Vilnius, at least it was cheap. Here’s how much we spent:

Category Cost in USD/couple Cost in CAD/couple Notes
Accommodations: $29 USD $38 CAD We stayed in a studio apartment just 15 mins walk from the center of Vilnus. Cheap rent is not an exception in Vilnius but the rule. Generally, Vilnus is small enough that it's easy to walk around and buses only cost $1 euro each trip.
Food: $30 USD/day $39 CAD/day ($21/day for eating out, $18/day for groceries) We mostly cooked dinner and ate out for lunch. Despite rent being super cheap in Vilnius, I didn't find groceries to be well-priced comparatively and selection was also limited (the grocery store in the big shopping mall across from our place didn't even have broccoli. Wow). Ditto with drugstores. Eating out was pretty reasonable and there were several food festivals happening when we were there. The food was okay tasting overall.
Transportation: $11.5 USD/day $15 CAD/day We flew from Gdansk to Vilnius on Wizz air for $50 USD a person. After that, the only cost in transportation was buses around the city and to the Trakai castle. You generally won't spent much on transportation in Vilnius since the city is so walkable and small.
Entertainment: $7 USD/day $9 CAD/day Over the 9 days in Vilnius, we tipped for a walking tour (10 Euros each), paid for entry tickets to the Occupation museum (4 euros each), Trakai castle (8 Euros each), and boat tour (5 Euros each). Shockingly we didn't go to any spas in Lithuania! I looked it up but most places separated men and women we decided to skip it.
Total: $78 USD/couple/day $101 CAD/couple/day The cost of living in Lithuanian is very low for Europe but I found it a bit boring and not a place I would stay in the long term.

What do you think? Have you been to Vilnius? Do you think it’s the G-spot of Europe?



FREE MONEY:
Want free money to go travelling? Check out how we get credit card and banking sign-up bonuses here!


INVEST:
Want to learn how to replicate our retirement portfolio? Check out our FREE Investment Workshop!


TRAVEL:
Want to travel the world like us?


  • Airbnb helped us save over $18K/year! Click here to get $40USD off your first booking.

  • Click here to find out why you need travel insurance (it saved us $3000 in a family emergency!) and to get a quote.



Full disclosure: the above links are affiliate links so I may get a commission if you apply.

22 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Vilnius: The G-Spot of Europe?”

    1. Oddly enough, I’m actually attracted to the communist places…reminds me of my childhood. Hm…now that I think of it, not sure that’s a good thing.

  1. Boasting 22 universities for a population of 3 million people, Vilnius has some of the most educated citizens in Europe.

    The average salary is less than 700 Euros/month and Lithuanians are struggling to live on it. Yeesh. And I thought the 1000 Euros/month average salary in Portugal was bad.

    So, if I understand correctly, very schooled people (I’m not going to say educated – don’t want to offend educated people) and can’t seem to earn a decent income. WTF? Something doesn’t click here.

    And they have a money museum. Again, WTF?

    1. That made me pretty confused too. Maybe the jobs are in fields that don’t match up to the degrees? I vote for distributing the money in the money museum 🙂

  2. “A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of need.” This is hilarious, and sounds like how every cat I’ve ever met would behave there.

    I found a similarly inexpensive environment in Poland (Krakow to be specific). It’s a cool city, too! Even better if you like vodka haha.

    1. Love Krakow (and many other cities in Poland). I found that Poland is even more inexpensive than Lithuania (and more interesting, in my opinion)–probably because they’re using the Zloty instead of the Euro. Lithuanians mentioned their prices inflated after they got on the Euro.

    1. It was okay…hearty and a preference towards “sour” tastes (ie adding a dollop of sour cream on top of a potato and pork casserole). I tend to like my sour tastes balanced with sweet and a bit of spicy so it wasn’t a good fit for me.

      They also like to snack on fried bread (“called kepta duona”)–not bad but not really my thing.

      Wanderer enjoyed their beer though.

  3. “I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve visited so many castles in Europe that I’m now a castle snob”

    Castle fatigue is real 🙂

    How was that food? The goulash thing looks pretty good.

    1. That is such a travel snob thing to say 🙂 #TooManyCastles

      Yeah, the food reminds me of Hungarian food (and some of it looks like Polish food). Hearty and meaty. It wasn’t bad but, I prefer Polish food because the taste is stronger and more balanced. Lithuanian food had too many sour notes, in my opinion. Not bad but not memorable (kind of like the city itself).

      1. I totally get the castle snob thing. I was in Honolulu a couple years ago and visited their royal palace, Iolani Palace, and all I could think was how small it was.

        After traveling around I’m Asia for 2,5 months I am not that interested in seeing more temples or markets. Or the enthusiasm is definitely lacking at least for markets that seems to contain the same touristcrap everywhere.

        1. Ahh traveller problems 🙂 I’m finding after 3 years of travelling, nature is appealing to me more and more instead of historical monuments. Through for Asia, I’m still obsessed with the food markets. There are just so many food options, it’s hard to ever get bored.

          1. I also like nature but it also scares the shit out of me with all the animals that you find here. I am not a big fan of spiders, lizards or other animals. I have realised I like the swedish nature better. 🙂 The food markets or at least the outdoor ones here makes me want to be a vegetarian even if I find them somewhat fascinating.

    1. I’m shocked that a party can stay in power in Europe after imposing so many alcohol restrictions. In Belgium, we learned that students stormed a castle (the only time it’s ever been successfully invaded in history) because the government raised the beer prices by 50 cents. Yeah, don’t mess with Europeans and their beer 😀

      1. Lithuania is third largest alcohol consumer, per capital in the world, second only to Belarus and Moldova. When you rank before Russia in alcohol consumption you have a problem. It escalated to the point that it became a huge public health problem. Even as a German (only number #23 on the list – whaaat?) I feel that something had to be done, but they clearly overshot their goals..

    1. I guess the museum has too much money and don’t need any more? Or maybe they’re surviving on the passive income generated by all that cash.

  4. The problem Lithuania has is a lot of their best people move west to richer countries. I thought Vilnius was a bit of a dump when I visited a few years back but I was with work so maybe did not get to see it at its best.

    If you are still east I would recommend Riga in Latvia. I thought that was a really nice city.

    Fun fact about Vilnius. Their Financial Regulator is situated on top of a casino! BTW UK also has a free money museum right next to the Bank of England. In fact most museums in London are free to visit. With the £ tanking it may also be a good time to visit UK.

    1. “Their Financial Regulator is situated on top of a casino!”

      And yet another contradiction! Vilnius is weird.

      We definitely got our fill of free museums in the UK–that and all the awesome high tea. Didn’t see the money museum while we were there, but I’ve noted it as a good place to visit when we go back. Thanks for the tip!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com
Want to join 30,000 monthly readers and get new posts in your inbox?