Visit To Riga, Latvia

We visited Riga in mid-August 2012 and had a wonderful time.  One of the things that impressed me about Riga was the nightlife. Walking down the street, live music was pouring from the open restaurant windows. In Vilnius, it is unusual to go to a restaurant which features live music. In Riga, it seemed to be everywhere.

There were many opportunities for outdoor entertainment including cafes, outdoor restaurants, and parks with play areas. While we visiting, there was an outdoor festival going on featuring a variety of musicians and performers.

We had no problem finding good food. One of the places we really enjoyed was called Ribs & Rock. There are two of them in Riga. We were impressed with the delicious ribs and the quality live music. At the time of our visit, the musicians were a talented guitar trio. We were well entertained and well fed.

The Ribs and Rock  Website says it all:

“Every big city has a place that specializes in the art of BBQ; in Riga, that place is Ribs&Rock restaurant”.

Where is that place in Vilnius? If Ribs and Rock came to Vilnius, I would be the first in line.

My impression of Riga was that it was a much more active city, perhaps a bit too commercial, but a nice change from sleepy, calm little Vilnius. Definitely worth a return visit.

5 Reasons to visit Vilnius this winter

Vilnius is the tiny capital of Lithuania that should definitely be top of your list for a city break. It has a rich history, tonnes of culture and plenty to keep you occupied, while still being small enough to walk everywhere – perfect!

Vilnius is still relatively unspoiled by tourism and is one of the few Eastern European capitals that is not a known destination for stag and hen do’s – think Prague before it got popular. Make the most of it while you don’t have to fight your way through comedy outfits at the check-in line.

It is bursting with art

Vilnius has a declared artist’s republic called Užupis with its own constitution, so as you can imagine, art is the heartbeat of this city. You can see amazing street art on almost every corner, and there are plenty of stalls where you can buy your very own piece to take home with you!

It has a fabulous Christmas market

Vilnius Christmas markets

Although Vilnius might not spring to mind when choosing a destination for Christmas markets, it should do! It has Christmas markets spread over three locations – Cathedral Square, City Hall Square and Bernardinai Gardens with traditional Lithuanian handcrafted goods, carousels and games a-plenty.

It has a great night-life

You’ll find that Vilnius offers a vibrant night-life ranging from cocktail bars to pubs to clubs – it even has its own secret speakeasy bar which you can track down on Aušros Vartų gatvę.

The people are wonderful

The Lithuanian people are helpful and friendly, and it seems like all speak perfect English! They love a good night out, and you will never be short of a drinking partner in Vilnius if you need one.

Lithuania’s history has a dark shadow of persecution by both the Nazis and the Soviet Union, but the people never stopped fighting for their right to independence. I like to think the spirit of independence is still very much reflected in the modern city today. Visit the Museum of Genocide Victims if you want to find out more about Lithuania’s history.

Lux Express: Travel The Baltics In Style

Recently, our family visited Riga Latvia for the weekend and discovered a new way to travel the baltics, Lux Express.

In my university days, I traveled by bus because it was cheap. But it was far from comfortable. The bus seats were cramped, the journey was boring and every hour or so, the bus would make a “comfort stop” so the travelers could use the toilet. The bus stop would always be in the worst part of town. I could not imagine using the term “Luxury” and “Bus” in the same sentence.

But Lux Express has changed all of that! Wow, what a way to travel. When you get inside of a Lux Express Bus, you feel that you are sitting in a business class section of an Airbus. No kidding. The seats are large and comfortable with plenty of legroom. There is entertainment console on the back of the seat in front of you, with games, movies, music, etc. You are given headphones so you can listen to whatever you choose. There is open wifi so you can work on your computer. All of the information is available in several languages (I believe it was Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Russian and English). The bus driver was very friendly and “service oriented” and was able to speak a variety of languages.

There is a toilet on board which has the feel of an airplane toilet (a bit cramped, but clean). There is even a hot drink dispenser, giving out free cappuccinos and tea.

When you travel with airplane you have to arrive at the airport an hour early, go through security and after the flight you have to get from the airport to the city. With Lux Express, it is a much easier voyage because you arrive in downtown Riga. The taxi ride to our hotel took about 5 minutes. The seats are much more comfortable and with all of the entertainment on board, the travel time goes very quickly. I am sold on Lux Express and plan to use it exclusively for any voyages between Vilnius and Riga. For more distant journeys, I will probably stick with plane, simply because it is faster. But because there is probably very little time difference in traveling between Riga and Vilnius by airplane and Lux Express, then I would certainly choose Lux Express, because it is a much more comfortable way to go.

So, what did I think about Riga? More about that on a future post.

The Best Pizza Restaurants In Vilnius

Vilnius has no shortage of pizza places. But which are the BEST pizza restaurants? Probably like most people, I like to consider myself an expert on Pizza. I have tasted pizza in many places around the world and have even attempted to make my own. The best pizza I have ever eaten was in Northern Italy in a suburb of Milan and perhaps the worst pizza I have ever eaten was in Athens, Greece.  That was more like a soggy cheese sandwich.

Here in Vilnius we have the entire spectrum from good to not so good to really bad. Let’s stay positive and focus on the best. Here are my favorite Pizza places.

The two best pizza places in Vilnius:

* Davino’s Trattoria on Didžioji 19/2. If you like a crisp crust like I do, ask it to be cooked “well done”. If you are looking for a good Pizza in the old town, this is your best bet.

* Vapinao’s Restaurant in Europa Mall. What I like here, is that you order the pizza directly from the Chef so you can get your pizza exactly like you ordered it. I have enjoyed several pizzas here and all have been excellent. Further, prices are great and atmosphere is relaxing.  The location in the Europa mall is not ideal and I keep hoping that Vapinao’s will open a location in the old town.

Least expensive pizza in Vilnius:

* If you are on a budget looking for the best pizza at the lowest price, try Charlies Pizza. There are two locations in the old town, one on Pilies Street and one on Vokieciu. Now these are not great pizza, but they are not bad, and some of them are really inexpensive, around 5 or 6 litas, or a fraction of the price you will pay at most pizza places.  It is also a very kid friendly restaurant and I come here often with my guy to play and eat. This place is so popular that it can often be difficult to find a seat.

The best non-pizza

Ok, it is not really a pizza but it is good anyway! At the Ida Basar cafe, you can get a “Tart Flambe“, which is sort of like a pizza and very tasty.

The best atmosphere in a pizza restaurant.

Pizza Jazz on Vokieciu has a classy feeling for a pizza restaurant, and if you are not too picky about your pizzas you may enjoy listening to Jazz music while dining. If you do not like their pizzas try the ribs. They are usually very good.

The Lovely Courtyard Restaurants Of Vilnius Old Town

Often people ask me why I live in Vilnius. Of course, there are many reasons, but the beauty of the old town is just one.

As an example, there is a beautiful old church on Vilniaus Street, called St. Katheryns.

At the very foot of the church, there is usually a summer courtyard restaurant