Table of Contents
- Why Visit Vilnius
- Vilnius Food Scene
- Vilnius Food Guide
- Vilnius Restaurants
- Vilnius Cheap Eats
- Vilnius Cafes + Desserts
- Vilnius Markets + Specialty Food Shops
- Vilnius Drinks
- Things To Do in Vilnius
- Lithuanian Food Tour in Vilnius Video
- Plan Your Vilnius Stay
- Thirsty for More in Vilnius?
- Pin It for Later
- About the Authors
Many restaurants have revised their hours and menus due to COVID-19. Some may close, either temporarily or permanently, without notice. Be sure to check this restaurant’s website for updated information before your visit.
We connected with Vilnius, a Baltic city with a complicated past, during a week filled with comfort food, gastronomic delights, flowing drinks and spirited conversation.
Each bite and sip revealed new flavors while each street in the surprisingly expansive city showcased unique Italian-inspired architecture and evocative street art.
Why Visit Vilnius
Vilnius may already be on your travel radar. Perhaps you’re American and have ancestors who emigrated from Lithuania prior to the horrors of World War II and later decades of communist rule. Or maybe you’ve already visited Riga and Tallinn and are looking to complete the Baltic capital city trifecta.
We didn’t fit into either of these categories even though we’d previously eaten our way through both of the other two Baltic capitals. As food travelers, we traveled to Vilnius specifically to experience Lithuanian cuisine at the source.
We didn’t know a lot about Lithuania and its food prior to our trip. Being ignorant sometimes leads to the bliss of discovery. In this case, Vilnius’ gorgeous structures, fascinating history and deep food culture revealed a city that sated our wanderlust for an entire week.
We quickly learned that Vilnius is a city that worships the four B’s (bible, black bread, basketball and beer) and that its Old Town earned a UNESCO World Heritage designation in 1994 as well as the shared title of European Capital of Culture in 2009.
Vilnius’ history transcends the many churches and statues that line its winding streets. This history dates back to the Middle Ages and includes periods of great prosperity as well as decades of occupation, oppression and war.
As descendants of Eastern European immigrants, we were particularly interested in learning about the city’s tragic Jewish history. Once a vibrant community of merchants and scholars, more than 90% of Vilnius’ Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
Remnants of Vilnius’ Jewish history hide in plain sight throughout the city on signs written in both Yiddish and Hebrew as well as in colorful street art. Soviet-era buildings like the utilitarian Vilnius Wedding Palace remain as well.
Vilnius Food Scene
Although Vilnius is no longer the Jerusalem of the North or a cog in the Soviet empire’s machine, history buffs can explore both aspects of the city’s past while food travelers can focus on eating their way through the city. We accomplished both every time we tasted Vilnius’ bittersweet history in foods like bagels and borscht.
Once defined by geography and politics, the city’s food culture is experiencing a modern-day renaissance. Today, Vilnius food transcends Lithuania’s physical location bordering Poland, Belarus, Latvia and the Baltic Sea as well as its years of stagnation under commuist rule.
This is a city where it’s possible to eat traditional Lithuanian cuisine that dates back centuries as well as modern dishes created with blow torches and tweezers. Some Vilnius restaurants honor the city’s past Jewish and Soviet cultures while others blaze forward by serving vegetarian, middle eastern and even Indian food.
Returning to their Lithuanian roots, young chefs have pushed and pulled Vilnius restaurants into the 21st century by re-introducing concepts like craft beer and farm-to-table dining to the community.
These concepts aren’t new in Vilnius but they were forgotten during decades defined by lower-quality, mass-produced food. Lithuanians, in a reflection a worldwide trend, are re-embracing activities like foraging, pickling and home brewing.
Vilnius Food Guide
Eating in Vilnius was a tastebud-tingling and belly-filling adventure. We ate zeppelin-shaped potato dumplings as big as our heads and slurped down multiple bowls of soup with flavors that belied their beet-dyed, Pepto-Bismal-colored appearance.
We chowed down at cheap but cheerful cafes and dined at restaurants worthy of Michelin stars. We also drank a copious number of cocktails, craft beers and flat whites. In a nutshell, we never got thirsty or hungry in Vilnius.
All in all, we ate a range of great food in Vilnius. The best dishes included traditional familiar Eastern European classics as well as modern gastronomic gems that respected the Baltic nation’s age-old culinary culture.
This Vilnius guide highlights our picks for the best places to eat in Vilnius and showcases what we ate at each. We’ve included photos of our favorite Vilnius foods from the simple to the sublime.
While food in Vilnius reflects the city’s cultural diversity, the very best Vilnius restaurants combine local ingredients with classic cooking techniques. We’re talking about chanterelles, beets and heritage grains as well as proteins like lamb and herring.
We researched popular restaurants in Vilnius before our inaugural trip and made advance reservations where possible. These were our favorites:
When we were researching Vilnius restaurants, Nineteen18 catapulted to the top of our list.
Chef Matas Paulinas, with a resume that includes long stints working in prestigious chef-run groups led by Renee Redzepi and Joel Robuchon, heads Nineteen18’s culinary team. He brings a world-class level of gastronomy to the Lithuanian capital.
The seasoned chef started cooking at age 19, trading physics studies for a global pursuit of the culinary arts. He returned home to Vilnius in 2016 after running Japanese concepts in Copenhagen for Redzepi and in Monaco for Robuchon.
Paulinas opened Nineteen18 two years later, exactly one century after Lithuania regained its independence from Germany in 1918. Within a year, his efforts were recognized by The White Guide which ranked the restaurant as the second best restaurant in the Baltics.
One of Paulinas’ goals is to build a great food community in the Vilnius area from the ground up by establishing a local agricultural network that emphasizes sustainability and seasonality. His 500-hectare farm fits into this master plan.
The chef utilizes a 50 kilometer rule for procuring ingredients, with many products sourced at his farm, whenever possible. These products include all kinds of berries, six different onions, cabbage, herbs, spices and grains like wheat, rye and buckwheat. Paulinas also raises cattle and chickens at the farm.
Sure, the food’s great (we’ll get to that in a bit) but there’s more to Nineteen18 than the food. We also loved the restaurant’s intimate dining room that offered us close proximity to an open kitchen with as many chefs as diners.
Our meal began with a seemingly silly introduction to the dough used to create our bread service. We have to admit laughing uncomfortably after our server formally introduced a raw boule surrounded by kale and topped with caraway seeds.
Our laughter transformed to flavorful awe when our finished bread later arrived hot out of the oven along with caramelized butter and salt flakes. After Daryl pulled off a piece of the artisan bread and a waft of steam puffed from the warm boule, he dipped it in a buttery salt mixture and tasted the hypnotically nutty flavors of locally produced rye.
After just one bite, Daryl spontaneously proclaimed Nineteen18’s bread to be the ‘best bread course of the year’.
A parade of dishes commenced starting with kohlrabi ice cream served with caraway seeds and served over rocks. Other snacks included dried wild mushrooms, 14-month Polish caviar and pickled kohlrabi.
While the concentrated mushroom flavor lingered for minutes, everything stopped when our server presented a tin filled with pecious caviar. Later plated with patty pan squash cream, the caviar’s saltiness met its creamy, sweet match.
Our dinner continued at a comfortable pace. Highlights included jet black carrots smoked in juniper, coated with black garlic blossoms and served with sweet carrot purée as well as pasta-like strands of potato plated with aged hard cheese, hay foam and summer truffles.
We’d be remiss not to mention the bull’s pizzle (penis) served on a pine needle skewer along with homemade shoyo and ants. Though not our favorite dish of the night, it certainly was memorable for its creativity and demonstrated the restaurant’s commitment to head to tail cooking.
While lounge classics sung by Henry Mancini and Herb Alpert drifted in the air, we gracefully segued to the dessert portion of the meal. Three sweets wowed us but none more than the restaurant’s signature creme brûlée made with three different Lithuanian trees (pine, oak and apple).
Our 13-course meal cost €115 per person at the time of our visit – a high price tag by Lithuanian standards. But, compared to similar restaurants in other European countries, it’s a great value.
Nineteen18 is located at Dominikonų g. 11, Vilnius 01131, Lithuania.
Džiaugsmas is a funny word. Pronounced djoke-mahs, there’s no literal translation for the word and its meaning is halfway between a joke and joyful glee.
Chef Martynas Praškevičius regularly pushes this gleefully joking envelope at Džiaugsmas by serving a range of beautiful sharable dishes at his self-described bistro and natural wine bar.
Praškevičius changes the Džiaugsmas menu on a daily basis based on items available at Tymo Market in Vilnius’ Old Town. He transforms these hyper-local ingredients into accessible modern cuisine.
Diners looking for a full experience can opt for the restaurant’s tasting menu which was priced at €60 at the time of our dinner. In deference to our stomachs which were getting quite a workout in Vilnius, we ordered a handful of à la carte dishes instead.
Following a bread course with salted butter, cured lard and apple jam, we enjoyed chanterelles in a melange that included Madeira wine sauce, potatoes and bilberries.
Beef tartare served on of a delicate rosti of potatoes popped with flavor thanks to components like baked bone marrow, smoked egg yolk sauce, onions and fermented black currants.
Tempted by dishes like schnitzel, veal brain and beef ribs, we ordered a dish called ‘happy chicken’ after the server shared that a local farmer raises free range chickens specifically for the restaurant. While we couldn’t vouch for the bird’s happiness, the tasty, juicy roasted bird left us more than satisfied.
Praškevičius’ desserts feature distinct ingredients like tonka beans, mustard, rhubarb compote and salted caramel. Natural wine completes the fine dining experience with bottles sourced from countries like France, Italy and Spain.
Džiaugsmas is located at Vilniaus g. 28 Vilnius 01144, Vilnius 01144, Lithuania.
Some European cities practically swim in seafood. Vilnius is not one of those cities. It’s ironic since Lithuanian fishermen have access to a bounty that includes bass, bream, catfish, carp, eel and salmon.
Open since 2004 in Šturmai, Šturmų Švyturys debuted in Vilnius a decade later. It’s the only Vilnius restaurant that serves wild Lithuanian fish caught in the Curonian Lagoon.
The restaurant’s chef, Česlovas Žemaitis, offers a tight menu designed for pescatarians and whole food eaters. In addition to wild fish, he sources products grown naturally in Lithuania.
Šturmų Švyturys’ succinct menu offers just five shareable items – fish soup, two starters, one main dish and dessert. Hungry diners can opt to eat the full menu (priced at €35 per person during our meal) while others can order specific dishes.
Eating lunch on the restaurant’s outdoor courtyard under a glass ceiling, we started with a large plate topped with salted fish and a hodgepodge of beets, pickled plums, blueberries, blackberries, chili peppers, bruschetta with soft white cheese and red currants. We also shared perch served with a vegetable medley and tomato stew for our main dish.
Šturmų Švyturys is located at Užupio g. 30, Vilnius 01203, Lithuania.
Grey stays in character with grey design elements and grey dishes. But don’t think that this restaurant is as desolate as a grey sky on a rainy Vilnius day.
The restaurant, with a sun-drenched room and eclectic menu featuring global fare, updated Lithuanian classics and colorful cocktails, is the opposite of bleak. We’d like to thank our friend Kate from the site Adventurous Kate for this solid recommendation.
Eschewing global dishes like nachos and kebabs, we dove into the Local Tastes section of Grey’s menu. Seriously, we can eat those ubiquitous dishes anywhere in the world.
It was a good move. We weren’t disappointed with classic Lithuanian comfort food like cold pink soup served with potatoes, meat-filled zeppelin topped with sour cream and deep fried potato pancakes layered with smoked salmon and curd cream.
However, our favorite Grey dish may have been our starter of fried Lithuanian bread with garlic and cheese dip. Known as Kepta Duona and rubbed with garlic, these crispy, toasty, highly addictive fried bread batons pair well with beer.
Consider yourself warned. Fried bread is dangerous albeit in a tasty way.
Grey is located at Pilies g. 2, Vilnius 01124, Lithuania.
Additional Vilnius Restaurants
Since the best Vilnius restaurants are both popular and limited in size, it’s smart to have a back-up plan in case you can’t secure a reservation at your top pick.
Plus, one or more may be temporarily closed at the time of your visit. As examples, Gaspar’s was closed for the entire week of our visit and Nineteen18 temporarily closed prior to its 2020 relocation.
Vilnius Cheap Eats
Eating well in Vilnius doesn’t have to involve fine dining and hefty bills. In fact, some of our most memorable meals cost us under €10.
From dumplings to burgers, these are our favorite spots for Vilnius cheap eats:
Šnekutis lives a double life as a beer bar and a traditional Lithuanian restaurant. While beer flows from multiple taps more freely than water, the food completes the experience.
We first visited Šnekutis during a Vilnius food tour. Since this visit motivated us to check out all three Šnekutis locations that same week, it’s fair to say that we found a happy place at this casual Vilnius pub with a funny name.
Our favorite Šnekutis dishes included zeppelins (Cepelinai su Mėsa) – the Lithuanian version of German knödel filled with ground meat , chilled pink soup (Saltibarsciai) similar to beet borscht, fried bread with garlic (Kepinta Duona su Česnaku) and fried Lithuanian chickpeas topped with cracklings (Lietuviški Žirnial su Spirgučiais).
We also tried smoked pigs ears with mustard and spices (Rūkytos Ausytės su Garstyčiomis). If you’re an adventurous eater, you should try them too. Otherwise, stick to the zeppelins.
Šnekutis has multiple Vilnius locations. We ate and drank at all three.
Meat Lovers Pub
First we eat meat then we do everything else.
Vegetarians should probably skip Meat Lovers Pub. As its name and tagline suggest, this pub is unabashedly designed for carnivores.
As for us, we felt right at home at the cozy spot with a menu featuring dishes like chili soup, BBQ ribs, steak burgers and chicken roast. We joined the meat party by ordering German sausage and beef tartare.
Details like braised celery and caper berries were a pleasant surprise. Or were they party favors? Either way, we were duly impressed.
Meat Lovers Pub is located at Šv. Ignoto g. 14, Vilnius 01144, Lithuania.
Invented in Poland in the 1600’s, bagels were a staple of Eastern European countries like Lithuania for centuries. Sadly, bagels left the region when Jews were sent to concentration camps during World War II.
We satisfied our unrelenting bagel craving by eating freshly baked bagels at Beigelistai. Though we went old school and topped our bagels with dry-cured salmon and cream cheese, the shop offers unique toppings like Nutella, bean spread, beets and a za’atar spice blend.
Beigelistai is located at Literatų g. 7, Vilnius 01125, Lithuania.
Boom! Burgers is an international operation. Adel Zakout and Lachezar Tsachev opened their original burger joint in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2012 before expanding to Vilnius a year later. With three locations in Sofia plus one in Vilnius, the burger chain cooks burgers with an Irish mixture of Hereford, Black Angus and Limousine beef.
The signature Boom! burger adds English cheddar, crispy bacon, caramelized onions, homemade pickles, lettuce, tomato and sauce to a 400 gram beef patty. We tried that one as well as a 370 gram cheeseburger with melted blue cheese, pickled red onion, lettuce, tomato and sauce. Both were winners.
Boom! Burgers is located at Gedimino pr. 1, Vilnius 01103, Lithuania.
Although it opened in 2011, Kavine Čeburekinė is a great spot away from Vilnius’ tourist trail to experience food eaten during the communist era. Staying on theme, the cafeteria-style restaurant keeps its prices cheap and groups its food into four categories – soups, snacks, hot dishes and desserts.
During our mid-afternoon break, we indulged in one snack and one hot dish – fried bread with garlic and cheese (Kepta Duona su Česnakais ir Sūriu) and a meat-filled turnover (Čeburekas su Mėsa). With a total cost under €6, this food break was a cheap eats Vilnius win.
Kavine Čeburekinė is located at V. Šopeno g. 3, Vilnius 01314, Lithuania.
Vilnius Cafes + Desserts
While we enjoyed desserts at restaurants like Nineteen18 and Džiaugsmas (see both above), sometimes we wanted a sweet treat on the fly. These were our favorite spots to eat Vilnius desserts:
Visitors who find Theobromine Chocolatier on its narrow Old Town street have a difficult choice to make. Do they want to order an edible handmade Belgian treat or a drinkable handmade Belgian treat? As for us, we chose both options.
The next difficult decision is where to sit – inside or outside. Life is full of difficult choices. However, those choices are more palatable when they involve chocolate.
Not to cause extra stress, but there’s a third decision point when ordering liquid chocolate – temperature (hot or cold) and flavor. Options include lavender, caramel, hazelnut and chili.
Theobromine Chocolatier is located at Vokiečių g. 18A18,, Vilnius, Lithuania.
Because one shop isn’t enough to satisfy chocolate cravings in Lithuania, AJ Šokoladas has two shops in Vilnius plus locations in cities like Trakai and Klaipėda. Visitors to each shop can select from more than a hundred sweet treats created by owner Algimantas Jablonska (AJ) and his talented chocolatiers.
Passing on cake after a robust lunch filled with Lithuanina food favorites, we shared two tiny treats – an orange-flavored chocolate bonbon and a chocolate-covered orange peel – at the old-fashioned dessert cafe. Since we were craving chocolate and citrus, we satisfied both urges in one fell swoop.
AJ Šokoladas has multiple locations. We visited the shop located at Pilies g. 8, Vilnius 01123, Lithuania.
Vilnius has been channeling Paris pastries since 2015 when the original Sugamour opened in Old Town. This homage to the city of light has since expanded to four boutiques including three in Vilnius plus one in Kaunas.
Sugamour offers a rainbow of macarons in flavors like raspberry, salted caramel and pistachio as well as a display case filled with sweet ‘jewels.’ Dazzled by the sugary gems, we narrowed our choice to a miniature cake with popcorn, rice crispies, chocolate mousse and a liquid pecan praline center.
Sugamour has multiple locations in Vilnius. We ate at the original cafe located at Vokiečių g. 11, Vilnius 01130, Lithuania.
Our desire to sample traditional kibinai pastries motivated us to visit Pinavija Bakery & Tearoom. Our reward was an outdoor breakfast with an excellent vantage for people watching, one of our favorite spectator sports.
We resisted meringues and tarts and and stayed on mission by ordering a kibinai filled with cottage cheese. Other filling options included mushrooms, spinach turkey, ham and lamb. To fuel our day, we also ordered scrambled eggs with smoky bacon and pickled mushrooms over dark rye bread.
Pinavija Bakery & Tearoom is located at Vilniaus g. 21, Vilnius 01402, Lithuania.
Although we swore off donuts after binging on one too many during a two-month US road trip, we couldn’t resist eating a donut at Vilnius’ Holy Donut. This Vilnius donut shop has been serving kava and spurgos (coffee and donuts) since 2015.
Skipping the shop’s American-style donuts in flavors like Irisuus (toffee flavored chocolate) and Hipsteris (pistachio chocolate and chopped pistachios), we instead ordered a hole-free donut made with cottage cheese and filled with strawberry jam.
Don’t judge us for our selection. We don’t typically eat Lithuanian food in America. Why would we eat American food in Lithuania?
Holy Donut is located at Vokiečių g. 9, Vilnius 01130, Lithuania.
Vilnius Markets + Specialty Food Shops
Restaurants are just part of the Vilnius food story. Local markets and specialty shops sell a variety of food that you can enjoy back at your Airbnb apartment or on the spot.
These are our favorite places to buy food in Vilnius:
Halės Turgus (Market Hall)
Every great European city has a great food hall. In Vilnius, that market is Halės Turgus.
Since its 1906 debut, Halės Turgus has been a bustling destination for home cooks and restaurant chefs seeking local products like pickles, charcuterie, berries and honey. Though part of the grand hall is dedicated to non-edible items, the heart of this market is the section where food vendors sale their wares.
Several stalls operate as restaurants and serve traditional food, global snacks and craft beer to hungry shoppers. Lingering at one of these stalls, we shared pink soup and potato pancakes for a quick pick-me-up.
Halle Market is located at Pylimo g. 58, Vilnius 01136, Lithuania.
Although Senamiescio Krautuve is exponentially smaller than Hallės Turugs, the compact market sells a comprehensive selection of authentic Lithuanian food products at its convenient Old Town location. Baskets are filled with apples and other produce while shelves are chock-a-block with dry goods like rye crisps and sweet sakotis cake.
During our visit, we sampled a selection of products including lardo, dried forest mushrooms and traditional curd cheese. Our favorite bites involved cucumbers slices topped with honey and charcuterie.
Senamiescio Krautuve is located at Literatų g. 5, Vilnius 01125, Lithuania.
We stumbled into Grapperia after our lunch at Šturmų Švyturys (see above). Specializing in grappa and as well as wine and liqueur produced in Italy and other European countries, the specialty shop pulled us in like moths to the flame.
Beyond grappa, Grapperia sells imported gourmet products like panettone and pine cone syrup. But grappa is the star of the show here. Based on the shop’s name, this should be no surprise.
Grapperia is located at Užupio g. 30, Vilnius 01203, Lithuania.
House of Naive
Call us naive but we had never heard of Chocolate Naive until we visited House of Naive in Vilnius. We were also unfamiliar with the concept of combining porcini mushrooms with milk chocolate.
Beyond the chocolatier’s intriguing Porcini flavor, owner Domantas Užpalis has been creating unique flavors like Imperial Stout, Kefir and Ambrosia under the Chocolate Naive name since 2011. He sells his bars at House of Naive in Old Town.
Quality comes at a premium around the world and chocolate bars at House of Naive are no exception. Expect to pay €7 per bar though that price point can change at any time.
House of Naive is located at Didzioji str 38, Vilnius 01128, Lithuania.
Visitors to Vilnius won’t go thirsty. Drinks abound with an abundance of beer, wine, mead, cocktails and specialty coffee available throughout the Lithuanian capital.
Things To Do in Vilnius
As tempting as it may sound, there are more fun things to do in Vilnius besides eating chocolate. Based on our experience, we recommend taking a Vilnius Urban Adventure tour or two to learn about the city.
Here are a few additional tours to consider:
- Explore the city via a Hop On Hop Off Bus.
- Take a trip to the past during a 3-Hour Jewish Heritage Tour.
- Get funky during a 2-Hour Alternative Vilnius Walking Tour.
- Eat your way around Vilnius on a 3-Hour Food Tour.
- Take a Half-Day Trip to Trakai.
Lithuanian Food Tour in Vilnius Video
We captured some of our favorite Vilnius food favorites in a YouTube video. Check it out!
Plan Your Vilnius Stay
Pin It for Later
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.