Vilnius Old Town is probably one of the most extended historical downtowns I happened to walk across. You might spend here a few days but still every day you will discover new streets, courtyards, shops, and cafes. The fact that Vilnius has fewer visitors than its neighbors – Riga and Tallinn – gives the city an extra charming tinge. Just like the aforementioned neighbor cities Vilnius has a great location; you can stay here for three to four days and explore not just the city but the surroundings, for example, Kaunas and Trakai Island Castle.
When choosing hotel in Vilnius, just like choosing a place to stay in other European cities, you should have a clear idea not just about your budget for accommodation but also about your travel goals. For example, if you just pass through Vilnius and it is not your final destination, it will make sense to stay in one of the modern districts outside the historical downtown – you will have fewer problems with finding a parking spot, and the prices here are generally lower than in the city center. If you use public transportation and plan to explore Vilnius’ surroundings you should consider searching for accommodation in the district near the station, etc. Among key factors for choosing the right place to stay is the accommodation cost. It is up to you entirely. You should decide for yourself if you are ready to pay double or triple price to live in the authentic building with great views or not. It is also important to check the reviews of travelers who have already stayed in the hotel you chose for yourself. However, you should review the feedback critically based on what is or is not important for you. For example, I don’t really care if the room has a mini-bar (but the fridge should be there), or how cutting-edge the TV is (I don’t watch it anyways) but for some people these aspects are important. When choosing a hotel, you should also keep in mind that in the cold season (from October to March) it can really be cold in Vilnius hotels (probably the management is saving on heating), so it will make sense to check with the hotel in advance is the rooms are properly heated. I also recommend you to check how old the hotel is and give preference to the recently built ones. As a whole, if we compare Vilnius hotels with those in Riga or Tallinn, the former would be cheaper, which can be attributed probably to a fewer number of visitors.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Vilnius?
Vilnius Railway Station
The district near railway station (Vilniaus geležinkelio stotis) is actually pretty small and looks very suburban. But you will not come across any homeless people here; the place is clean, and quiet unlike similar areas in other cities. Even local taxi drivers are not bothersome and would politely show you how to reach the downtown. By the way, the Gate of Dawn (Aušros Vartai) is just ten minutes away from here, and in another ten minutes you can easily reach the heart of the city by walking along the Aušros Vartų gatvė. In my opinion, you should stay in this area: 1) if you want to save money (hotels here are significantly cheaper than in the Old Town, and you won’t have any problem to find a decent hotel option with complimentary breakfast for just 30-40 euro); 2) if you just pass through the Lithuanian capital and plan to travel by train or bus (the bus terminal is located just nearby the railway station); 3) if you plan using Vilnius as your base for exploring the surrounding areas (you can easily reach Kaunas and Trakai from here). In this case you will not have to carry all your baggage through the Old Town, you can just leave it in the hotel and enjoy exploring the historical downtown. By the way, winter and spring in Vilnius are known for occasional snowfalls, and walking across the Old Town with your baggage can become quite a challenge. If you decide to stay in the district near the railway station, I recommend Comfort Hotel LT.
Historical downtown of Vilnius, as it was mentioned above, is really extended and multifaceted. You can look out for Vilnius University (Vilniaus universitetas) as a landmark here – lots of tourist attractions are situated in the area around it. Nevertheless, speaking of booking hotels in the Old Town we should focus on a few districts each of which has its own characteristics.
The central streets of the Old Town include Aušros Vartų gatvė, Didžioji gatvė and Pilies gatvė. All of them are parts of tourist routes through the Old Town because here you will find a lot of Vilnius attraction points (churches, monastery ruins, old and beautiful buildings). In spring annual Kaziukas Fair (Kaziuko mugė) is held here. During this fair Pilies gatvė is closed for traffic, and you will find here a great deal of sales points that sell ceramics, silver jewelry with or without amber, textile, and local artists’ paintings. Advantages of being accommodated in the central street are obvious: you are always in the center of the action, city attractions are within an easy reach, and if you freeze, you can always get back into hotel to warm up or just to get a jacket or a scarf. Besides, living in the houses here can be a great experience; all of them are very beautiful from the architecture point and have rich history. Some people might see the active city life as a disadvantage – the area can really be loud because of the tourists exploring the Old Town and local street artists. If you are a light sleeper, you should write to the hotel in advance and ask for the room facing the yard. It might also happen during the fair that your hotel could only be reached if you take some roundabout ways – there will be stalls with goods practically everywhere. But if you take it all in good fun, it’s not really a disadvantage. In this area I could recommend Hotel Domus Maria, situated in the old monastery building, cozy Grybas House and a chain hotel Ramada Hotel & Suites Vilnius. You can also find great apartments here, for example, Pilies Apartments or Retro Apartment.
If you prefer quiet streets, you will surely find them in Vilnius, too. You can take a closer look at the district located west from the Aušros Vartų gatvė – it is not as lively as central streets and squares, there is no busy crowd and even the first floor rooms would be a comfortable option. From here you can easily reach the Cathedral square (Katedros aikštė), and the railway station (around 10 minutes on foot). At the same time the buildings here are as old and authentic as the buildings in the Pilies gatvė, each of them having its own history. This district is great for renting apartments – their number keeps growing in Vilnius. This would be an ideal choice if you are fine with cooking, doing the dishes and cleaning the room on your own, and want to enjoy some privacy. However, if you travel by car, you have to make sure to ask where the parking is and if there is an access to the hotel/apartments (some of streets in Vilnius are closed for cars of non-residents). You can take a closer look at such accommodation options as Regina House, Real House Apartments or Rentida Apartments.
I’d say that the most authentic district in Vilnius is the old Jewish Quarter that includes Stiklių, Žiedų, Jatku, Gaono, Švarco (you can find this district on the map if you look left from the Didžioji Street). The quarter is famous for its crook narrow streets with small cozy houses where doors are often replaced by windows (the houses probably used to be shops). Hotels and apartments here usually feature very interesting design (country style, French Empire, distinctive local character) and are very comfortable and cozy, besides, city attractions are within a very easy reach from here – maybe that is the reason for the popularity of this district. Some hotels have mansard rooms. I believe great accommodations options in this district are Centro Kubas – Angel or Stikliu 14 Apartment. However, there is also a disadvantage for those who travel by car – most hotels in Jewish quarters don’t have space for passenger unloading and loading, and you might block the street which can be penalized; the only legal way to get down from the car with your suitcases will be at some special stands that are located quite inconveniently, usually, five to seven minutes away from the hotel.
All main streets of the city meet in one point – the Cathedral Square (Katedros aikštė) – a large area with the old Gediminas' Tower and the new national museum “Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania” overlooking it from above. In this district you can find rooms facing the hill and the castle, for example, Castle Apartment, or also rooms with a view to a cute courtyard, like in Old Vilnius Apartments. All-in-all, advantages and disadvantages of living in the area so close to this huge square are more or less the same as for accommodation in the area of Piles street. However, west to the square you will find modern boulevards with numerous stores – in this area you can find a great place to stay if your trip’s goal is shopping, or of you just prefer staying in modern chain hotels, such as Kempinski Hotel Cathedral Square or Novotel Vilnius Centre.
For those travelers who are cruising for a bruising I’d like to add some comments about the peculiar Vilnius district Užupis. Initially it was city outskirts where poor people lived; today, old wooden houses that can collapse any minute adjoin new elite buildings that are being constructed here. It is considered to be the district for creative young minds. Tour guides characterize Užupis as “Vilnius Montmartre” but in my opinion, it looks more like Copenhagen Christiania where you can easily be assaulted after the dark. Staying here would not be recommended at all, but then you will hardly find any accommodation options here anyways, however, if you really want to walk across this district and even look at it from the windows of your room, you can take a look at hotels or apartments closer to more “civilized” areas, for example, Barbacan Apartments.