The Vilnius Christmas tree lighting has become one of the most revered holiday events in the Baltics thanks to the city’s over-the-top illuminations. The year I took the bus down from Riga, the fantastic fir was decked out with windows, lanterns, green garland, and enough lights to be seen from space. It looked like an elf’s cottage in a fairy tale forest! Add to that a precipitously leaning tower and a Romanesque cathedral and you have a seriously stunning holiday scene.
The Vilnius Christmas market might not have as many stalls as that of nearby Riga, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to explore. I was especially impressed with the variety of international sweet treats on offer, from Lithuanian curd donuts and Nutella crepes to churros and Belgian-style waffles.
Vilnius decked its halls, er, streets, with a dazzling array of twinkle lights. Some displays were so bright I almost forgot it was pitch black out at 5pm! Another festive feature was the interactive 3-D Christmas tree in Vilnius Town Centre square. An illuminated silver maze was punctuated with animated games projected onto screens. I didn’t get the Christmas tree reference, but it was fun to watch the local kids transformed into dancing cartoon Santas!
For dinner, head to Kitchen and order off the winter specials menu. My herb roasted duck breast with apples and cranberries was like Christmas on a plate! The true gift, though, was the price: €15 for two courses and a glass of wine! Kitchen’s atmosphere was warm and festive, with groups of young Lithuanians celebrating the holidays together. This is arguably one of the best restaurants in town.
My charming boutique hotel, Shakespeare, fully embraced the spirit of the season. The exterior of the building (a former palace) was trimmed with lights and garlands, while the dining room boasted not one but two decorated Christmas trees. My favorite touch was the specially embroidered slippers in my room. Located a few blocks from Cathedral Square, Shakespeare makes the ideal base for exploring the Vilnius Christmas market. I may or may not have picked up a late-night Nutella crepe on my way back to the hotel. Can one desire too much of a good thing?
What are some of your favorite European Christmas markets?
Is Vilnius on your list for Christmas next year?