Lithuania is full of diverse shopping experiences. Great shopping malls, equally massive dusty "Wild East" bazaars, high streets and fairs full of craftsmen stalls each have their appeal. Here are our top 10 ideas for buying something in Lithuania at the best price-to-quality (or price-to-experience) ratio - whether you need souvenirs to take home, food or imported goods.
1.Do what the locals do: spend an evening or a Saturday at Akropolis mall in Vilnius (Šeškinė borough). And it's not just the Lithuanians: Eastern European tourists have been flocking to Lithuania just to visit this single mall since it opened 2000. Other cities received their own Akropolis malls and copycats. Some of them are far cozier and better planned, yet both the size (100 000 sq. m) and popularity of the original Akropolis remains unmatched.
2.Akropolis may be the largest mall, but Gariūnai bazaar (Vilnius suburbs) is still the nation's largest trading zone. Full of small businesses (split among an old open-air zone and a tamer indoor area) it stocks mostly cheaper goods (haggling recommended). Back in the 1990s, Gariūnai was the place where Lithuanian businessmen first tried out their entrepreneurship and where consumers discovered Western and Asian goods - and some of that frontier feel still remains. By the way, if you need a used car a massive Gariūnai car market is nearby.
3.Arrange your Lithuanian visit during the annual Kaziukas Fair (the weekend nearest to March 4th). Taking place in Vilnius since 1636 it attracts thousands of salesmen from all over the country and beyond with an emphasis on ethnic art and crafts, making it a great place to bring back something Lithuanian. To locals Verbos of Vilnius are a must buy, but they are hard to transport.
4.Stroll at the Lithuania's top high street, Gedimino Avenue of Vilnius (Naujamiestis borough). The part of the street closer to the Cathedral has more upscale shopping opportunities and global trademarks. Moreover, during some festival weekends Gedimino Avenue is pedestrianized and becomes a fair where souvenirs are available. Other cities have their high streets too, but the smaller the city the more outcompeted by local malls they have become.
5.Take a detour from A1 highway to Rietavas bazaar, the Lithuania's largest weekly market. Every Sunday thousands of part-time salesmen arrive at this location in the middle of nowhere to sell their goods right out of cars or makeshift tents. The prices are especially low.
6.Learn the dates of upcoming town festivals. In addition to Catholic masses and Lithuanian musician concerts, they also transform the main streets into ad hoc shopping arcades, offering goods made by local craftsmen (among other things).
7.Buy international-style Lithuanian souvenirs at a supermarket. The souvenir stands at high streets tend to be limited and overpriced (unless you visit during fairs) but luckily the main urban supermarkets have their own souvenir sections for Lithuania-related t-shirts, magnets, and postcards.
8.Check the Amber market at Palanga if you fancy the Lithuanian "national mineral". Small in size it still has a competitive array of amber-clad goods and art items. Nearby stalls offer other types of souvenirs, such as paintings.
9.If you are into old things and antiquities, don't miss the Tauras hill in Vilnius New Town on Saturday mornings, when like-minded individuals meet up for some trading.
10.Stop by the makeshift roadside stalls during the berries and mushrooms season. Available at the major roads by the forests (especially in Dzūkija) they are erected by common people who sell what they have foraged in the forest (which is a popular Lithuanian hobby).