REVIEW: Visiting Vilnius and Hotel Pacai, Design Hotels (Marriott Bonvoy)
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REVIEW: Visiting Vilnius and Hotel Pacai, Design Hotels (Marriott Bonvoy)

REVIEW: Visiting Vilnius and Hotel Pacai, Design Hotels (Marriott Bonvoy)

I recently visited Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania on a press trip with Finnair. It was a destination I knew little about but I was very impressed with the amount of attractions on offer and the fine dining scene and luxury hotels. It is also great value for money for hotels, food and drink as well as being part of the Eurozone. 

 

Getting there

Most direct flights from the UK are with low-cost airlines such as Wizz and Ryanair, which are not my idea of fun. Otherwise, there is LOT from London City.

However if you want to fly Oneworld and earn or redeem Avios, Finnair is the obvious choice. It takes around 1 hour 40 minutes from Helsinki to fly to Vilnius, and if you have status, you can enjoy the lovely Finnair lounges in Helsinki if you have time to kill. There are several flights a day to Vilnius.

Finnair also use their A350 up to twice a day from London meaning you can have a very comfortable flight in their new business class seats.

Finnair’s new seat available on short haul from London

I’d recommend visiting during the warmer weather in late spring to early autumn, as there is a thriving cafe culture and plenty of outdoor activities. 

Once there most things are walkable but there is public transport as well. An Uber or Bolt from the airport is well under £10. Bolt generally works better than Uber there. 

 

Attractions

Trakai Island Castle

Trakai Island Castle

Trakai is only a 30-minute drive from Vilnius, and has a 14th century fairytale Castle set amidst stunning natural scenery in the middle of a lake. The castle was once the home of Lithuanian royalty, and usually, you can tour the interior, although when we were there, it was being renovated.

It is worth a visit even if you can’t go inside, as there are lots of lovely lakeside walks, boats for hire, and restaurants to visit.

I also recommend learning how to make the traditional kybyns which are a bit like a Cornish pasty. Trakai is home to many of the Karaite community; you also get to eat the tasty pastries afterward!

 

Gediminas Castle Tower

For a panoramic view of Vilnius, you can visit the Gediminas Castle Tower in the centre of the city. Accessible either by a short hike or a convenient funicular ride, the tower offers great vistas of the city.

 

Vilnius Old Town




This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with cobblestone streets full of boutiques, charming cafes, bars, and restaurants. There are also plenty of places to visit, such as the university, and admire the Gothic churches and former palaces.

 

Hot air balloon ride

Photo by Go Vilnius

Vilnius is one of the few cities where you can take a hot air balloon over the old city. Sadly the weather was not good enough to do it when I visited but during the summer there is a good chance of being able to experience this. You can also do a balloon ride over Trakai as well. 

 

KGB Museum

I hadn’t been aware of much of the history of the extensive Russian occupation of Lithuania, but this museum really brought it to life and included the former jail and death chamber where political prisoners were kept and executed. It is not for the faint-hearted, but I found it very interesting. 

 

Mo Museum

This is the Museum of modern & contemporary Lithuanian art, with lectures, film screenings & concerts.

 

Vilnius TV Tower

The TV tower is taller than the Eiffel Tower and has quite a few things you may not expect. As well as visiting the observation deck for the panoramic views of the city and old town, there is also a cool bar at the top and an edge walk around the top of and a chance to sit on the edge.



Most interestingly, there are now two very luxurious suites that you can rent to give a hotel experience with one of the most stunning panoramas of any hotel room. 

Lukiškės Prison

If you are a fan of Stranger Things, you will recognise this location, which has also been used in other TV shows and films. As well as being able to have a tour to understand the history of the prison, there are some fun things to do on-site, including a very unusual bar, artist studios, and a restaurant. 

 

Dining

I was most surprised by the thriving fine dining scene in Vilnius and am not surprised that several of the restaurants we visited are tipped to get a Michelin star. 

Nineteen 18

This restaurant only offers a tasting menu with optional wine pairings in an elegant setting. Ingredients come straight from the restaurant’s farm, or foraged nearby. Prices are reasonable at €94 for the tasting menu. 

Canapes

The beef was the standout dish for me with its pickled blackcurrants that almost tasted like capers as well as the playful take on donuts.

 

Amandus

Another fine dining restaurant also in the old town, Amandus offers a shorter tasting menu for €80 which was equally delicious. I would describe the presentation as a little more dramatic with some stand out experience dishes, perfect for those Instagram posts!

The meal begins with a glass of aperitif and homemade bread is brought to the table – after which snacks, soup, and the main course follow one after another. You can also add a wine pairing.

I particularly enjoyed the crackers that were beautifully arranged as a pre-dinner snack with different types of spreads and dips. The beetroot bread was also stunning as was the beef dish. 

 

Lokys

Down one of the narrow cobbled streets is Lokys, which is a must-visit for hearty Lithuanian cooking. You must try the famous pink soup which even has its own festival! They also feature game meats such as boar or even beaver!


Augustin

If you want something more casual and modern, Augustin is just a few steps from Hotel Pacai and offers small plates with an emphasis on plant-based eating, although many dishes have meat or fish, too. 

If you have a sweet tooth save room for the delicious apple tart.

 

Bars

Somm Wine shop and bar

For lovers of fine wine, Somm Wine Bar is a must-visit destination. Located in a historic cellar beneath Vilnius Old Town, this exclusive wine bar and shop boasts an impressive selection of rare vintages from around the world, curated by knowledgeable sommeliers who guide guests through bespoke tasting experiences.

 

Nick and Nora

Situated close to Amandus restaurant, the whole group loved the bespoke cocktails which contained modern twists on classic cocktails as well as making any classic cocktails you would like. I particularly loved the Bloody Mary, which featured Lithuanian Horseradish schnapps for an extra kick!


Nomads

Situated almost next to Hotel Pacai, this has an elegant luxurious feel and serves innovative, modern cocktails with several different flavour profile, but they will also make classic cocktails as well. 

 

Skybar

This is on top of Perched atop the Radisson Blu Royal Astorija Hotel, Skybar offers a sophisticated setting for cocktails with a view. Open seasonally.

 

Hotel Pacai

 

Hotel Pacai has a great location on the edge of the Old Town close to the Town Hall. Most of the restaurants and bars opened are around 5 minutes walk from the hotel as are many of the attractions.

reception

It is housed in an old palace that has been converted sympathetically to give it a modern twist while respecting its heritage. I loved the dramatic style of the decor and the friendly staff. Tours of the hotel which explain the history are available.

Lobby

We were welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine to the hotel. All the staff spoke perfect English and service was good. 

Room

I had a room on the third floor overlooking a church. The room had a luxurious but minimalist feel. It had everything you would expect from a 5* hotel, such as free still and sparkling water, which was topped up daily, a kettle and Nespresso machine, and turndown service. I loved the little gifts at turndown, like a Molton Brown Lip balm or hand cream mini. My only complaint was the bed was a little firm for my taste. 





I particularly loved the smart marble bathroom with its large bath and well-lit mirror.

Toiletries were by Molton Brown.



Food and drink

The hotel had a lovely bar which was nice to retire to at the end of the night.

We did not eat at the restaurant, but apparently, it is very popular for its fine dining.

Turkish eggs at breakfast

Breakfast was plentiful and even had sparkling wine on offer. As well as the buffet with hot and cold options there was a good selection of a la carte dishes. 









The hotel also had a spa and a gym on site.

 

Other hotels in Vilnius

There are a number of other luxury hotels such as the Grand Hotel Kempinski, the 5* Stikliai Hotel by Relais & Chateau in the heart of the old town, a Radisson Collection hotel  and a Hilton Garden Inn with a new Curio collection hotel due to open in May 2024. 

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