Meet the Vilnius locals

Fresh from taking home second place in the Tourism Campaign of the Year category at the recent Emerging Europe awards (for the daring G-spot of Europe campaign), the Lithuanian capital Vilnius now wants visitors to get to know the locals even better.

The city recently expanded its volunteer-based hospitality programme by adding a new initiative, Meet a Local, to its already successful Vilnius Greeters service. The city’s mayor, Remigijus Šimašius, was the first to share his Vilnius secrets.

Travellers in Vilnius can use both the volunteer-powered Meet a Local and Vilnius Greeters services free-of-charge. Vilnius Greeters volunteers, recognised by their distinctive red vests, walk around the city to answer any questions, while a personal connection via Meet a Local starts with online booking (which can be done here).

“Vilnius is a city where various cultures and people have been mingling, exchanging ideas, and learning from one another for centuries,” said Mayor Šimašius. “We wanted to find additional ways to showcase the hospitality and openness of our city to our guests while making their stay in Vilnius as authentic and enriching as possible. When it comes to getting familiar with a foreign place, nothing beats a genuine conversation with a local.”

Meet a Local is precisely what it sounds – a platform connecting locals with visitors. Participating locals will spend time with tourists talking, walking, sharing knowledge on hidden gems or tiny streets, and offering their personal Vilnius stories.

The mayor’s first guests were a couple of guests from the United Kingdom. While his busy schedule prevents him from personally greeting every tourist, he did offer a few under-the-radar Vilnius places to visit.

“Apart from the well-known monuments and cozy old town streets, I would recommend exploring the area around the Central Station, as well as our Uptown, Naujamiestis,” he said. “In Naujamiestis, visiting the Open Gallery – an outdoor gallery in a post-industrial environment – is a must. Finally, the neighborhood of Fabijoniškės would be of particular interest to the viewers of hit TV miniseries Chernobyl, since extensive parts of the show were filmed there.”

The new tourist-welcoming programmes are timely, as the city is experiencing its biggest ever tourist boom. Last year, the number of tourists in Vilnius grew by 12 per cent to reach 1.2 million. More than 80 per cent of those visitors come from abroad.

Photo: Go Vilnius official Facebook page