I did not drink coffee until I turned 25 years old or so. And I never developed a habit to drink it everyday. Instead it got a status similar to the one wine has in my life: I really love the taste, I prefer to enjoy it in a good company and outside the house, but don’t see any problem in drinking it alone at home, as long as it is occasional and not every day. The only difference is the time of consumption – coffee and wine in my life do not meet often. Coffee time is before 3 pm, and the wine time is usually after. Unless of course we find ourselves in Italy – then I would have wine for lunch and espresso after dinner.
Vilnius is far from Italy, but nevertheless it is a good place for coffee. In the past there was a lot of influence of coffee culture from Italy actually, and many households would own an espresso maker. But sometime in the 2000s the concept of coffee as a long drink softened by the milk came along and it was a big hit. Since then having a quick espresso on the go became a rather rare sight, and instead so many cozy coffee places popped up, inviting you to spend sometimes hours there with friends enjoying your one cup of latte and savoring it.
I love those places. Before having my son I used to take them for granted. Now when I go alone, I enjoy each moment of it – the first sip, the stillness or some low buzz of voices in the background, those hipster-ish (or wabi sabi?) minimalist mess, which I adore as long as it stays away from my own house. To look through a magazine or a book, or just look around. Those cafes for me became a kind of petrol station – I run there when I feel that I need to get away from the motherhood for a bit, and usually come back recharged and with a couple of new ideas (or even a written text).
I say alone, but a good thing about cafe culture in Vilnius is that they are so flexible. Unlike Italy, you can order your cappucino any time of the day, and no one will laugh or tell you off (yes, both did happen). Unlike the UK, they are working long hours, so even after work you can go to have a coffee with a book instead of a bar. Unlike France, most of them are rather spacious, so you can have some private talks, without touching a stranger’s back with your back every time you move slightly on the chair.
And just like most places in Vilnius, they are kind of baby and child-friendly, without being overbearingly dedicated to children. Usually the staff will procure you a high chair, but only if you ask for it. I breastfed many times in those cafes without receiving a single comment, and later went there with a rather noisy and active toddler, again with no comments (although not too many smiles our way – but hey, this is the North for you).
I decided to prepare a list of my favourite ones – in no particular order. But I do think that each of them has a much longer story than I can fit in a list. So the idea is later to go through some of them one by one too, dedicating more time to details, ideas, thoughts – slowly, the way I like it.
Perfect for: Sunday cake with family
What makes it special: Two things, actually. The first one: their cakes. Pinavija in my opinion has the best cakes and pastry in town. You can chose between more traditional regional cakes such as Napoleon or honey cake, pies, cheesecakes. They also have cookies and savoury Lithuanian Karaim traditional pastry called kibinai. The second one: the playroom for children. Probably also the best place for children from 2 to 7, it has just enough toys and space to occupy several children at once for some good half to an hour, without making Pinavija a strictly children cafe. A good one, in other words. Both children AND grown up friendly.
What should I order there: Cherry-filled pastry with a pot of tea
Where do I find it: Vilniaus street 21, Vilnius
And online: Pinavija Facebook page
Crooked Nose and Coffee Stories
Perfect for: Educating yourself
What makes it special: Crooked Nose and Coffee Stories staff will not only serve you a coffee, but if you are interested, will tell you all about it. You can also check their page for events: lectures on coffee and other subjects, tastings and more. The coffee tasting I have been too was one of the best coffee-related events I have ever attended. You can also buy a unique Lithuanian coffee-maker called Bro, made of wood and linen. Or at least try a coffee made this way.
What should I order there: Try a variety of coffee you like in a various combinations, to see how the method will alternate the taste of the beans. Ask the staff for suggestions of snack to go with that particular variety. They normally have an original selection of rye bread, mature cheese, tradition Lithuanian cake called Sakotis and even port wine.
Where do I find it: Šaltinių street 20-7, Vilnius
And online: Crooked Nose and Coffee Stories Facebook page and home page
Perfect for: Brainstorming
What makes it special: This is a place where I try to plan all my work-related meetings. It has sombre interior, leather sofas and very serious (if not grumpy) looking staff, which really differs it from most of other coffee places. The only bit of bright colour are the signature blue cups they use. Brew always puts me in productive mood and I focus better both with colleagues and alone. It is not only me though. My friends went there for their morning coffee and wedding planning, and wedding planning needs as much concentration as you actually can have.
What should I order there: Flat white. While the coffee is excellent, the beauty of those blue cups for me gives it at least 20 extra percent of taste.
Where do I find it: Pylimo street 19, Vilnius
And online: Brew Facebook Page and home page
Perfect for: Spontaneous visit with or without kids
What makes it special: The croissants. The urban legend says that Thierry was first famous for. The story of a French baker, who moved to Vilnius, opened his first cafe in Uzupis and baked his croissants 5 o’clock every morning. I am planning to find out more details about that, but in the meantime you can visit any Thierry in Vilnius for some very tasty French pastries, including Galettes du Roi – one of those things I miss from my life in Strasbourg. During the day Thierry will also usually serve soup of the day and some savoury quiches and pastries, so consider this place for lunch too.
What should I order there: An almond croissant and a latte. Sweet sweet calorie overdose.
Where do I find it: The main one is on Užupio street 13, Vilnius. Check the home page for other addresses.
And online: Thierry Facebook page and home page
Perfect for: Coffee tasting
What makes it special: A combination of good quality everything. While I cannot really put my finger on anything really outstanding or extremely original in Taste Map, it is the overall guaranteed good experience which makes it so worth visiting. A beautiful yet simple interior, selection of desserts, which is not too wide, but always perfectly tasty. And most importantly – the coffee. Very carefully selected, not too many, but enough for you to chose from between different varieties and have some new experience.
What should I order there: Affogato (coffee with ice cream). It will come slightly resembling a set from your chemistry class. Tasty tasty chemistry set.
Where do I find it: Gynėjų street 14 (Rise Vilnius) and M.K.Čiurlionio street 8, Vilnius
And online: Taste Map Facebook page and home page
Perfect for: Meeting with friends by the fireplace
What makes it special: If I am trying to be objective, then I will say that it is the interior. The Coffee1 cafe in Uzupis has two floors, the lower one spacious with a big fireplace in the middle. I am already looking forward to visiting it in winter. While this is true, it is not the reason I love this cafe. It is rather for some subjective inexplicable feeling I get every time I am there – that I am loved. It is not that the staff is overly friendly, but somehow every time this love for their customers show in small details – a friendly talk, a glass mug they gave me to take with me and sit in the park, trusting I will bring it back. Inviting me to breastfeed Mark and making sure we were comfortable and cozy there. Bringing him a box full of toys to play with. At first I thought those things were accidental, but something nice happened every time of my visit, making all this love too big to just disregard. So yes, do visit Coffee1 and see for yourself.
What should I order there: Cortado. Coffee1 is one of the few places in Vilnius, where they make it. And they make it good.
Where do I find it: Uzupio street 9
And online: Coffee1 Facebook page
Perfect for: Hiding away from the world
What makes it special: Location. This is the most hidden cafe in Vilnius. Unless there are others I have not found yet. But if you manage to find it, then you can be sure that no one you know will just pass by and see you through the window. Backstage has a beautiful host – a dog, which will meet you when you enter and possibly follow you to your table. And it also has a very good selection of books and magazines, both Lithuanian and foreign, so you can easily spend a couple of hours there, reading, sipping your coffee and admiring the beautiful interior.
What should I order there: Ginger latte and a bagel. Winter is coming, after all. Keep your belly full and warm.
Where do I find it: Only if you are lucky or persistent. The address is T.Sevcenkos 16h-9, Vilnius. Look for the logo with the dog on the window.
And online: Backstage Cafe Facebook Page
Perfect for: Reading books
What makes it special: The combination of some of my favourite things: coffee and books. Mint Vinetu is not a cafe, it is first a second-hand bookstore, where you can also order and drink a coffee. It has a selection of books and magazines in Lithuanian, English and then many other languages – I went there to get books in Russian, Polish, French and Scandinavian languages. For sure there are many more.
What should I order there: Quince tea, if they have it. If they don’t, be sure that you will find some other original seasonal drink. Or just a good cup of coffee.
Where do I find it: Šv. Ignoto street 16, Vilnius
And online: Mint Vinetu Facebook Page and home page
Caffeeine or Coffee Inn
Perfect for: Coffee-to-go
What makes it special: The coverage. You can really find Caffeine almost anywhere you look in Vilnius and other Lithuanian towns. It is a kind of Lithuanian Starbucks, but with decent coffee. Espresso might be slightly burned, but then again it is not really their specialty. Caffeine cafes have different interiors and you can find some in the old town, shopping malls, bookstores and other locations.
What should I order there: You can fulfil some of your guilty desires and go for ice coffees, all kind of flavoured lattes and chai tea.
Where do I find it: Everywhere. Check this page to find the closest one.
And online: Caffeine Facebook Page and home page.
Perfect for: Lazy summer Saturday on the terrace
What makes it special: Well, the terrace. Located between the Cathedral and Bernardines Park right in the city centre, is has a terrace, which makes you feel like you are somewhere outside the town. It is a bit shabby, and you can sit on an old bench almost swallowed by the vines, or on a bean bag. The inside is completely different, white, cool and in a way strict – no wabi sabi here. Strange Love roast their own coffee and will usually have some good desserts to go with it.
What should I order there: Cold drip or espresso tonic. Somehow for me in Strange Love it is always summer.
Where do I find it: Barboros Radvilaitės street 6B, Vilnius
And online: Strange Love Vilnius Facebook Page and home page