If you have never visited the Baltics, you are missing one of Europe greatest areas, with three different countries with some similarities and many differences which makes them unique!
The most common starting point for a trip to this land is Vilnius, the beautiful Lithuanian capital!
Vilnius is quite small for beign a capital, with 500.000 inhabitants, but consider that Lithuania is a small country (around 3 million people) although is the biggest of the three baltic republics. In my opinion, should take you two days to visit it.
The city will surprise you, since many parts of it, specially the centre, doesn't look like a normal capital but like a fairytale town: Most of the city centre houses doesn't have more than 3 floors and are very beautiful, so you can see the sky quite clearly in all the city, as oposed as Madrid or London, where there are big buildings at both lane sides.
With the last years, the way to reach this city has become much easier than in the past, there is a Ryanair route connecting with most Western European countries, as well as another route in Kaunas, a nearby city. AirBaltic has also a great number of routes coming from here. But the cheapest route is by bus, with many companies avaliable for very good prices, for example Warsaw-Vilnius can be 17€ with Simple or Lux Express, 16€ with Ecolines or as cheap as 5€ with the new PolskiBus line!
Both Airport and Bus station are easily connected with the city centre, with 15 minutes in the right bus you should be close to your sleeping place.
What makes Vilnius so special is the way it is build, as a local friend told me: "more than a beautiful city, is a cute one", and I confirm it, it's not the same kind of charm as Riga or Prague but an unique one. You will spend hours in the Old Town, looking for all of its secrets and numerous churches (there is a considerable amount of them in this city). But the city also has a nice central European style big avenue, Gediminas avenue, which features most of the international shops and restaurants. But as the rest of the new EU Countries, its developement is very fast and you can see a growing skyline in the business centre in the other side of the Neris river, and finally, if you came to see a green city, this is also for you, since there are a lot of parks in the centre and some of them are quite special like Europos Park (which is considered to be the geographical centre of Europe).
As you will read later, some of the best sleeping options are around (not exactly in) the old town, like the ones you will find in Pylimo Street, and from there you can start your route in two directions, reaching landmarks in one minute and saving good money for just sleeping 300m further than centric hotels.
For an easier understanding, I will separate the city centre in the part composed by Gediminas Ave, the cathedral and the Gediminas tower and the other one composed by the Old Town.
In Gediminas Avenue you can find whatever you may look for in other European capital, as well as some museums like the Genocide Museum, State buildings like the Parlament, Drama theater, Library... and two big cathedrals at both ending of the avenue, one Orthodox and the main one beign Catholic. Take your time to see this main avenue and don't miss some of its side streets like Vilniaus street (one of the nicest streets in this part of the city). You will visit this avenue several times, so don't hurry to reach the far end so fast, since is better to see other parts first. The best meal option in this street is CanCan Pizza, where you can try both Lithuanian dishes and good international food for a very good price (For example a small pizza can be 1,67€). You should continue your route towards the main cathedral.
The main cathedral is very different than others in Europe and the small side chapel inside is definitely remarkable. You can visit also the top of the tower as well as the catacombs, but for this last one you will need a group tour. Close to it is the National Museum and if you cross the bridge up north you can visit the Technology Museum, a very cheap fun option if you have children. You can also see the statue of Gediminas (the man who they called all this area after) and the Gediminas Tower, which is what remains from the castle which was standing there. In a nearby hill there is the Three Crosses monument, from where you can get awesome pictures of all this part.
From Gediminas Square you should get into the Old Town by its main way: Pilies street. It's pretty turistic area so don't be surprised if prices are higher than in the rest of the city, but still, more things are affordable even if you are a student. You should get a map with all the highlights and visit most of this area, specially do not miss the University complex, in which you can get inside!
A very nice side street is Literatu Street, with a wall in which there are a lot of little details related to the country famous poets. The Information Office is in the town hall, which is located all straight from the Pilies street. From the town hall square you can fastly get to a great Lithuanian brewery in Stikliu street: Aline Leiciai.
Just a minute from the Old Town is the "Independent Republic of Uzupis", a so-called independent district of Vilnius, whith similarities to Copenhagen's Christiania (but in a much smaller scale). It well worths a visit since you will find very alternative things here. The funniest part is the Uzupis Constitution monument, where you can read the crazy rules the Uzupians follow such as #16 Everyone has the right to be happy or #26 Everyone has the right to celebrate or not celebrate their birthday.
You can find a lot of exotic stuff here, there is even a Tibetan shop where you can buy Tibetan flags for your room. But a unknown secret that you will know thank to this guide is that you can get your Visa Stamp from the Uzupis Republic in your passport, you can get it in the Uzupis Post office (don't worry, it's "oficial", I got many other Visas in my passport later without having any problem)
As I always recomend, use Booking.com or Hostelworld.com to choose your accomodation. Vilnius is very affordable in this way, specially for couples since you can find cozy double rooms in the centre for 25-31€ like in Pylimo sveciu namai or Silvija Guesthouse (9,4/10 in Booking).
But this is not all! One of Lithuania most beautiful castles is just 40 minutes away by bus! You can reach Trakai castle by public bus (3,4€ go/back) from the bus station, going every hour. The bus will leave you in the begining of the town of Trakai, and you will need to walk 20 minutes to the castle. The last part of the town is the most beautiful with wooden houses and sourronded by water. The castle is about 2-3€ and will take you an hour to visit. You can eat in Trakai, since they have a special cousine mixing Lithuanian with Tartar traditions, which you can try in the Kybynlar restaurant. Another activity you can do from Vilnius is going by car (25km) to the Soviet Bunker, where you can take part in a survival scape game.
Finally, don't think that Lithuania is just Vilnius, for just a few euros you can travel to nice towns such as Kaunas or go to the coast to Klaipeda. You can also go to Latvia to visit Riga and the rest of the baltics.
In this section you will find all you need to become a little expert in the guide place, without expending a lot!