Where it all began - Vilnius, Lithuania
Updated: Feb 17, 2020
3:15pm landed in a quiet and stress free Vilnius, Lithuania.
The one thing that I was most excited about with this trip is the 5 star hotel and spa that I would be enjoying for the next 4 days.
For me personally, it’s not always the destination that makes the trip so wonderful but where you stay that makes your trip that much more enjoyable. Feeling comfortable and relaxed with the environment of your hotel makes the experience jump to a whole new level.
Only a short bus ride and a 15 minute walk from the airport, we arrived at Pacai Hotel, which is located in the heart of the city (which I was grateful for because I didn’t want to be hiking everywhere!). The building of the hotel screamed luxury and chic and it did not disappoint from the inside.
Walking through the gates that lead to the main entrance of the hotel, I picked up on an aroma that instantly made me feel welcomed and relaxed. This scent was all around the hotel and the thing that I was most impressed by was the instant but subtle change in atmosphere when you walked off the streets of Vilnius and into the courtyard of the hotel - you could just smell the luxury. What more could you want!
Our room...was lovely, modern but elegant and the bathroom was my favourite with a floor to ceiling mirror! We were welcomed with bowls of dried fruit, fresh fruit and water. The staff were more than kind and willing to help with that ever we might need.The interior design of our room but also around the hotel was top notch and everything blended together and nothing was out of place.
As the evening started to approach and we had just come back from a walk in the city, we decided to go for a drink at the bar before heading out to dinner. We ordered our French 75s and admired the sophistication of the bar.
When we arrived back to the hotel after dinner, we noticed that there was a little gift left for us on our bedside table, a Pacai lolly pop. There were little gifts every night with a fresh bottle of water, which just made it feel that the staff really cared and wanted to make your experience something different.
The next morning, we enthusiastically went down for breakfast where there was a variety to choose from from cereal, yoghurt, fruit and cooked breakfast etc. It was displayed very nicely too. The staff always greeted us with a smile whether saying ‘good morning’ or ‘good evening’. As we enjoyed our quiet and satisfying breakfast, we planned the day's adventures.
When we returned to the hotel, we relaxed our feet before heading down for another drink at the bar; this time for a rosé wine, before heading to dinner. One of the main streets in the city, called ‘Vokieciu g.’ had a selection of shops and a variety of different cuisines that enticed you to try each restaurant. As Vilnius isn’t a big city and quite quiet you wouldn’t expect it to have a nightlife but there were a few people out and about and in restaurants. However, to be honest, the time I spent in Vilnius I noticed that it’s not a busy city at all and that would be my only criticism. If you like going out at night or you want to have a wild weekend trip, Vilnius is not the place, it’s best to stick with Las Vegas!
The following day after visiting more of the city and finding the famous spots where there is the amazing graffiti art on buildings and the market, which is definitely a site and worth going to, we looked into our GoVilnuis map and saw 2 museums that seemed interesting, and that’s something coming from me because that was the one thing I didn’t want to do in Vilnius is visit museums but they looked pretty cool. In addition, the museums were less than a 5minute walk from the hotel.
The first one that we went to was the history of Lithuania and VR museum, where we learnt about the history of the city through listening and watching a creative video all just under 15minutes so it didn’t drag on. After that in an adjacent room, VR sets showed us the variety of the city and the country with the different activities you could do. I actually never experienced VR up until then and it was really cool, it was like you were flying everywhere.
The second museum that we went to was the illusions museum which definitely did not disappoint and every activity/display they had you were left in ore. I must say though, after coming out of that museum, I got a bit of a headache but it was well with it.
The last day we had in Vilnius, we arranged to have a Spa treatment in the hotel before our flight. Just so you know the hotel does also have a gym along with the spa. There are many different types of treatments to choose from that will suit your needs but we opted for an Amber massage. This entailed a full body massage with amber oil to ease our muscles. This was my first experience of a massage and I say, I wished the treatment could have gone on for longer! It was what I expected and even better. We were in a dark room, only lit by soft lights and we had enchanting relaxing music to take us on a journey of peace and relaxation.
Once we finished the massage we were able to experience a sauna and a hamman. The sauna was very lovely but the hamman was too sweaty for me! We were also given water, herbal tea and dried fruit.
I now definitely have a very high expectation of the next spa treatment I will have and I will definitely not forget this whole experience of the spa but also the cultural city of Vilnius.
Sadly, after finishing our spa we had to make our way to the airport but just had a quick bite to eat for the last time in the historic Vilnius city and soaked up the last of this wonderful trip.
If you are looking for some time away whether it’s for a long weekend or a birthday trip, Lithuania is the place to visit and you will be surprised how much you will enjoy it and the things you will see.
When you say Lithuania, the first thing you might think of is ‘an ex-soviet state’. However, arriving in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, any link with its Soviet past is the last thing you see!
This is a small, charming, and stunningly beautiful city.
With our Vilnius City Pass in hand, we took the local bus to the central bus station and walked the 15minutes into the old city centre as no buses circulate in the old town, so the short walk gave us a glimpse of what the city had in store for us.
Right in the centre of town is the Pacai Hotel, our home for the next 4 days. Staying here gives you the chance to understand this grand city. As a location, this stunning hotel cannot be beaten.
Walking into the entrance courtyard was like stepping into through the wardrobe of fur coats and into the world of Narnia; you just walked into a different world, where chic, simple elegance greeted you at every step. It is no surprise that this unique hotel is rightly part of the city's proud history linked to the great influential families of Lithuania and its flamboyant Grand Dukes.
More on the hotel later! With narrow streets and alleys each filled with inviting shops and café windows, the labyrinth of streets, offer a glimpse of the city’s past with courtyards and traditional houses, painted in pale shades of yellow, green and blue, as well as many churches at every turn, with stunning traditional and onion domes.
After a restful night in our luxury room, we woke to bright sunshine and clear blue skies. After an indulgent buffet breakfast, we toured the sites of the city including the rotating TV Tower, the tallest building in Eastern Europe, which also gave 360°views reaching the horizon.
Vilnius’ most famous sight the Cathedral Basilica and Bell Tower, with the Gediminas Tower proudly sitting high on the hill behind, and tucked behind the Cathedral is the Palace of the Grand Dukes, now the national museum. The cathedral is not your classic church style, but a beautiful example of Renaissance and early Baroque architecture.
The funicular ride to reach the Gediminas Tower, once the political centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Gediminas Hill Fort was home to the first inhabitants of the country. Inside the tower, climbing the narrow staircase each floor sees an interactive history exhibition.
The final spiral staircase brings you onto the observation deck where you keep company with a very large proudly flying Lithuanian flag. The views across the Neris River to the modern city of Vilnius with its towers of steel and skyscrapers are met in the opposite direction with plenty of church domes and red terracotta rooftops marking the old city, with endless thick countryside beyond.
Vilnius is a walking city with plenty of tours for walking, cycling and scooters as well as one ‘HopOn-HopOff’ sightseeing tour bus.
If like many 16 year olds, the thought of a museum is met with deep groans, then I can highly recommend two museums, where you and they will be totally immersed and happily lose track of time and enjoy immensely.
Firstly, as soon as you arrive in Vilnius go to the ‘Telia NonMuseum’. It is the 1st of its kind in the world and if every city in the world replicated this system, kids would be queuing to get in! This is a digital presentation of the history of the city in just 15 minutes! What is there not to like!
This concise history allows you to understand how and why the city and its people are and, how almost ‘fairytale’ it was when ruled by the Grand Dukes.
After the absorbing presentation, the next door room featured 5 VR players, each highlighting the culture, nature, sports, and heritage of the country. The VR experience is quite something, especially if, like me, you have never done it before. Apart from never having any legs when you look down in the goggles, the birds fly, the waves lap at your invisible feet, you soar above the treetops in a hot air balloon, among many other stunning projections, which only makes you realise, you have not got enough time to experience all the wonderful activities and experiences on off in the whole country let alone in Vilnius itself. This is a must visit museum; you will not be disappointed.
On to Museum No 2; The Museum of Illusions – this is a great way to spend a good couple of hours. The staff are friendly and helpful with taking photos and the collection of illusions is amazingly varied, where illusions meet scientific inventions and arts: physics and optics are displayed together with mysterious artworks and classical riddles. Located underground time becomes an illusion as you lose track of it as you are so involved – you will not be disappointed!
One thing you will find everywhere in Vilnius is Amber. This fossilised tree resin has been appreciated for its colour and natural beauty since Neolithic times and it is found all along the Baltic coast. Baltic Amber is considered the highest quality in the world.
What made our visit to Vilnius so fabulous was where we stayed. The Pacai Hotel; from breakfast to the bar and enjoying the delights of Vilnius in-between, you cannot go wrong choosing to stay here. With stylish rooms, grand bathrooms, it is elegant and cosy, yet chic and business-like.
The hotel occupies the Palace of Pacai, a former private mansion and is regarded as the most magnificent mansion of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 17th century. It beautifully incorporates authentic 17th century Baroque grandeur with contemporary design, of 4 interconnected historical buildings which form an inner courtyard. With original frescoes and statues from the 16th century, they blend with the pureness of abundant marble and a calm neutral colour scheme throughout the hotel.
The staff were so welcoming and friendly and full of useful information. Staying here is not only about celebrating the historical past of the building, but also a cultural engagement and feeling the local community, which is very strong.
While enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail of a ‘French 75’ (now a firm favourite!) in the hotel bar, the chic elegance and atmosphere led us to want to share it; and Madame & Madamoiselle was born!
As our first holiday away together, we were also trying a spa for the first time and we have clearly set the spa bar high! The PACAI SPA is indeed a sanctuary and offers many treatments, many using Lithuanian herbs and amber oil. We choice an Amber Gold treatment and hence entered a different world. We felt like we were in an Amber cave, with smoothly natural colours, walls decorated with amber resin and the gentle smell of the Amber oil instantly relaxing. Following the spa treatment, a dry sauna and hamman were ours to use as well as showers and refreshments of wood bark tea and dried fruits. Needless to say we are now hooked on Spa treatments!
Dining in Vilnius is difficult only because you are spoilt for choice; from traditional Lithuanian restaurants to burger bars, pizza parlours, Lebanese and Mexican options, the choice is yours and the prices are very agreeable too!
As our time drew to a close in this historical city, the autumn sun was still warm in the sky and so we sat outside in a restaurant in the main square for lunch before heading to the airport and home.