In recent years, city breaks have become increasingly popular, last year even surpassing package holidays as British holidaymakers’ holiday of choice.
However, in the summer, when temperatures rise and cities across Europe become even busier (and sweatier) than usual, the thought of spending time baking in packed streets or, even worse, on congested public transport, is not for everyone. Especially those who spend hours commuting on a daily basis.
Yet there is at least one European capital city where you can enjoy all the benefits of being in a thriving European capital, enjoy comfortable temperatures and not have to catch a train, tube, bus or taxi to get around. And, what’s more, it’s cheap.
Earlier this year, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, topped the list for the cheapest city breaks in 2019 in the Post Office’s annual City Costs Barometer.
And according to Go Vilnius, the official tourism and business development agency of the city, there are plenty of ways Brits who are seeking a late summer getaway can enjoy all of the perks of a European capital without having to use public transport to make the best of the city. The perfect way to escape the rat race.
Here are five of the activities they recommend for this time of year:
During the spring and summer months, kayaking is one of the most popular activities in Vilnius thanks to its kayaking routes which finish in the very heart of the city. The main route runs from the Pavilnys National Park on the outside of the Lithuanian capital, down the narrow Vilnelė river, through the self-proclaimed Republic of Užupis, and into the Neris river that runs through the City Centre. The route generally takes around two-to-three hours. However, first-time kayakers are urged to try a shorter route as a way of avoiding muscle fatigue. The route also passes the picturesque Bernadine Garden, which is a perfect place to relax with an ice cream or a drink after completing one of the two kayaking routes.
- Inner-city hot air balloon rides
Vilnius is the sole European capital that allows commercial hot air balloon flights over the heart of the city, meaning visitors have the opportunity to see the city’s iconic red rooftops, numerous churches, winding streets, and diverse architecture from above in a single flight. Hot air balloon rides are also one of the best ways to take in views of Vilnius’ inner-city and nearby green spaces and lakes to help better understand why the city has gained a reputation amongst visitors as being a city in a forest. Hot air balloon flights run during the evenings between spring and autumn.
- Waterparks and wakeboarding
A number of waterparks and wake-boarding facilities are scattered around Vilnius’ surrounding lakes and forests which are a short distance from the centre of the city. There are a number of water-based obstacle courses which include rope swings, trampolines, and even a floating island. Water sports enthusiasts of all levels from beginner to expert should check out one of the nearby wake-boarding parks. In addition to providing everything from wetsuits and equipment, they are also a great opportunity to take in some great summer foods and lakeside relaxation.
- Off-road scooters within the city
Liepkalnis is best known for being an inner-city ski slope. However, the facility also offers plenty of opportunities for inner-city exploration during the warmer months with its multi-level rope-climbing park, and the chance to explore Vilnius’ surroundings by hiring an off-road scooter.
- Walkable Vilnius
With the help of the city’s tourism board, Vilnius’ UNESCO-listed Old Town has been transformed into a walkable virtual reality playground. The recently launched ‘Walkable Vilnius’ initiative empowers visitors with the opportunity to use their smart device to follow a number of routes across the Lithuanian capital, including Artistic Vilnius, Around Vilnius, and Historical Vilnius. Smartphone and tablet QR scanners can also be used by scanning the codes on a number of talking statues dotted around the city, who will then explain their significance and the role they have played in shaping Vilnius’ history.
Article published 13th August 2019