Things to do in Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, is not the most obvious of city break destinations, but it should be! Just a two hour flight from London, this charming Baltic city is filled with Baroque architecture, lust green spaces and an exciting culinary scene. I was lucky to spend a couple of days exploring some of the highlights, from climbing old clock towers to sampling speciality coffee, I was amazed by all that this city has to offer. But perhaps the most memorable part of the weekend was a hot air balloon ride over the nearby old town of Trakai, a rare chance to see the spectacular city from afar in a moment of total calm.

Lithuania

To Stay

Hotel Pacai – As demand grows for accommodation in Vilnius new hotels are beginning to pop up all over the capital. Hotel Pacai is perhaps the most exciting recent opening, a design hotel set in a 17th-century mansion in the heart of the Old Town, with beautiful, modern, stylish bedrooms. An exciting gastronomic restaurant is coming soon…

Lithuania

To Eat

Amandus – This modern restaurant in the Old Town is led by chef Deivydas Praspaliauskas. The menu focusses on Lithuanian ingredients but uses modern techniques to create imaginative dishes. We particularly loved the beetroot bread and whipped butter!

Sweet Root – Located in the heart of the bohemian Uzupis district, this chic high-end eatery is only open in the evenings and serves a meticulous tasting menu. The beautiful local cuisine is inspired by the seasons and uses ingredients from Vilnius and the surrounding area. It is widely regarded as the city’s best restaurant.

Sugamour – A patisserie heaven for those with a sweet tooth. This speciality dessert boutique makes elaborate cakes that are served alongside good quality coffee and tea. I can particularly recommend the honey cake and the mango and coconut mousse, equally beautiful to look at or taste!

Ertlio Namas – Ertlio Namas is a step back in time, with a menu of recipes that are inspired by past centuries. We were treated to four delightful and delicious courses, each served with a matching drink. Every dish had a story, which the waiter described while we waited patiently to eat the food!

Theobromine – Tucked away down a side street in the Old Town, this is an emporium of chocolate treats. Theobromine makes artistic chocolates with quirky, sometimes experimental flavours and also has cakes to eat in store. I tried the very decadent white chocolate and salted caramel tart.

Hales Market – For an immersive foodie experience head to Hales Market on the outskirts of town. The iconic building has housed a market since the 15th century. Today it offers locally grown produce, speciality meats and cheeses and stalls for snacks on the go. For a more leisurely lunch head to Hales Deli and choose from the regional daily delicacies.

Lithuania

To Drink

Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories – This coffee bar and microroastery is one of the most interesting caffeine stops I have ever discovered. The minimalist cafe is decorated with plants and niche magazines. Choose from the selection of special roasted beans (sourced from around the world) and enjoy a perfectly made pour-over coffee.

Coffee 1 – This friendly cafe is a great place to stop for a good coffee if you are wandering round the Uzupis area. Order a flat white and a piece of Lithuanian lazy cake, a simple but tasty chocolate biscuit cake.

King and Mouse – This whisky-dedicated bar serves well-made cocktails and also has a great selection of craft beers. The current menu features a drink called ‘3 Suns’ – a delicious take on an Old Fashioned.

Lithuania

To Shop

House of Naive – House of Naive was set up by a local couple who produce organic minimalistic women’s clothing in natural materials and organic bean to bar chocolate. I particularly loved the chocolate bars, which are made in intriguing flavours and packaged up in stylish boxes.

Ramune Piekautaite – Ramune Piekautaite is one of the best known Lithuanian designers. Her striking luxury collections are renowned in the Baltic region but have also travelled further afield. Her smart, centrally located boutique gives an insight into her imaginative designs.

Lithuania

To Do

Hot Air Balloon Ride – Vilnius is one of the only European cities with permission to fly hot air balloons and so it has become known for this special pastime. Head to the Trakai region and if the weather is right you can float over the beautiful Trakai Island Castle and surrounding forest. It is completely magical.

Bell Tower – For panoramic views of Vilnius old town head to the Bell Tower, dating back to the 13th century.

Non Museum – This tiny museum is a great place to get an overview of Lithuania’s history. Watch the whirlwind 10 minute film and have a go on the interactive headsets to see some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes.

Trakai – Trakai town is just west of Vilnius in southeastern Lithuania. Wander through the multi-coloured wooden Karaim houses and take a boat trip out on Lake Galvė to see Island Castle, a magnificent 14th-century fortress in the middle of lake.

I was a guest of the Lithuania Tourist Board, more information about Vilnius and Lithuania here.

My working life with the Intel NUC

I worked in an office for 5 years before going freelance. Suddenly, my tiny flat was my office space and I had to sort out all my computing needs, without the help of an efficient IT team! Over the last few years of being self employed I have evolved and discovered small ways to make my working life easier. Needless to say, I am always delighted to find electronic devices that assist me on my mission, and this is where the Intel NUC comes in…

Intel NUC

The Intel NUC is a Mini PC. This powerful portable box is a small (4×4 inch) replacement to the giant desktop. The Intel NUC Mini PC is so lightweight it can be carried around anywhere and plugged into any screen, as and when you need it. With the additional keyboard and mouse, you can then use it as a conventional computer, for all your needs from media editing to gaming apps, streaming videos to storing data. Best of all, the Intel NUC Mini PC is a complete system and comes already loaded with Windows® 10.

Intel NUC

For me the Intel NUC is most useful for photo storage and editing on the go. I can now just carry the little box around with me and feel reassured that wherever I am I can plug in and work stress-free. I am always on the go, and used to get bad back-ache from lugging around a laptop and hard-drive, now I fit my NUC in my handbag, perfect for when I’m working in more than one space within the same day.

Intel NUC

This new product is also built with the best processors to ensure a brilliant viewing experience, so when I am travelling I can use it to catch up on my favourite films and TV shows. With 4K Ultra HD video, 360° video, multiple video streams, and premium content playback, the Intel NUC enables users to have sharp and engaging content. The NUC also has in built dual-array front microphones so you can use a digital assistant to help with diary management and email usage.

With more and more people working on the go Intel NUC is a brilliant piece of equipment which is changing the way I work and is offering a solution to a lot of my freelance struggles. I urge you to give this clever little piece of equipment a try.

More information about the Intel NUC here.

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Intel.

‘tails of Discovery, The Booking Office

I use the Eurostar often, to visit family in France or visit one of the many easy-to-reach cities for a short European minibreak. Whenever I travel I can’t help but admire the magnificent St Pancras Renaissance Hotel which towers over the station, one of London’s most regal and glorious architectural feats. In my opinion the best Eurostar trips begin with a stay at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and end with drinks at the elegant hotel bar, The Booking Office… So you can imagine my delight when the hotel team asked me to join them for a day trip to Lille in search of ingredients for the new‘tails of Discovery cocktail menu.

'tails of Discovery

After a blissful night’s sleep in one of the hotel’s luxurious Chambers Junior Suites I awoke to the station tannoys, announcing exciting departures for the day ahead. I put on my most suitable French market-day outfit and hurried downstairs to meet the rest of the team. A few minutes later we were sitting in the Eurostar lounge awaiting our train to Lille, breakfast picnic baskets in hand. I was travelling with a few of the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel team and Terence Sestili the cocktail mastermind behind the menu at The Booking Office. On the short train ride (just 90 minutes from London to Lille) we learnt how to make Terence’s special Bloody Mary’s, complete with homemade tomato juice and fragrant citrus essences.

'tails of Discovery'tails of Discovery

Once in Lille we were on a mission to collect everything on Terence’s shopping list for a trio of unique new cocktails: perfectly ripe white peaches for the Peach Bellini, porcini mushrooms for the Mushroom Martini and rare purple potatoes for the Lavender Vesper. We wandered round several local markets, chatting to the stall owners in broken french and examining the beautiful fresh produce. Terence was filled with passion as he smelt and felt all the fruit and vegetables, obsessively finding the best possible produce for his drinks.

'tails of Discovery

After a few hours we proudly settled for lunch, satisfied that we had ticked off every ingredient on the list. Lille has a rich culinary heritage, and we enjoyed several speciality dishes (mostly involving maroilles cheese) at Estaminet Au Vieux de la Vieille in the older historic part of town. It’s amazing that you can be in London for breakfast and Lille for lunch!

'tails of Discovery

After lunch it was time to head back home. But before catching the train we had just enough time to visit the famous second-hand book and antique market in Lille, where Terence and I chose three stunning vintage glasses to serve his cocktails in.

'tails of Discovery'tails of Discovery

Back at The Booking Office it was time to use our lovely Lille ingredients… inspired by our brief visit to France Terence gave me an enthusiastic and expert cocktail classic, treating each ingredient with care and attention. He showed me techniques to get the right texture of peach, and how to ensure the purple potatoes keep their vibrant lilac colour. Terence is a true performer and it was great fun to watch him make each of the drinks with dexterous skill and love.

'tails of Discovery

We tried the cocktails with an array of accompanying snacks from the new bar menu. Each drink has a plate of food, designed to match and complement the qualities of that cocktail. I loved all three cocktails and was amazed by the intense but distinct flavours of each. For a light summer aperitif the Peach Bellini is the ultimate classic, mixed with the freshest sweet fruit and a touch of sparkle. After dinner try the Mushroom Martini, earthy in taste with a velvety smooth texture. And for something a little exotic order the Lavender Vesper, which tastes as beautiful and serene as it looks.

'tails of Discovery

The Booking Office’s new cocktail menu is filled with thoughtful touches and genius creativity. Next time you hop on the Eurostar arrive a little early and treat yourself to a tipple before the train ride, it is the best way to start any journey!

More information about the ‘tails of Discovery cocktail menu here.

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.