How to shop locally in Vilnius

The Lithuanian capital's many outdoor markets are an easy way to buy local. Photo by Nathan Greenhalgh/Baltic Reports

I put a lot of thought into where and on what I will spend my money. I think it is logical to support local designers and stores wherever you might find yourself, because it keeps money within the community rather than sending it out to some faceless corporation CEO to spend on his luxuries thousands of miles away.

While it is (nearly) impossible to live a completely local lifestyle (the computer I type on as we speak was manufactured in China) I think that there is still a great deal of benefit to be gained from spending your money wisely within your community. It’s also a lot more interesting than just buying whatever is on sale or is featured in an advertisement.

Shopping for handmade clothes, souvenirs, and accessories is really fun in Vilnius, much more so than anywhere else I have lived. Just yesterday, my flatmate took me to a design shop that is hidden away in a courtyard off Totoriu g. that I never even knew existed, and I walked out with two handmade bags for the price I would have paid for one purse marked “Lithuania” produced in the same overseas factory that produces all of the bags that proclaim “Berlin” and “Paris” and pretty much every other city that people might visit and want to spend their money in.

There are many such shops in the Vilnius Old Town, tucked away here and there, where you can buy things from people who are passionate about what they do, which is making unique and interesting accessories, often for much less than you might spend on kitschy souvenir shot glasses and mass-produced amber necklaces (not that there is anything wrong with amber jewelry, I have been tempted away from my moratorium on souvenir shops by a couple of pretty amber accessories).

I also like shopping from street vendors, partially because I am enamored by the atmosphere of street markets (I am an American, after all, and we have hardly any street markets where I come from), but also because the people selling in outdoor stalls are hardcore. The woman that I bought my gloves from sold them to me on a -17˚C day, with ice hanging from her rabbit cap. I like supporting someone who is there day after day, the weather be damned. I would certainly rather give her my money than someone who runs a vast chain of linen shops and souvenir outposts.

There is a whole movement dedicated to being a “locavore,” which is a person that only buys food produced locally. There are superstars in this movement who are able to get all of their food from within their community, who forego anything produced outside of the city they live in.

I admire those people without reservation, but I am not one of them. Instead, I buy produce from Lithuania whenever possible, and packaged food produced in Lithuania, its neighbor countries and sometimes Germany (for some reason, I am completely unable to give up Haribo Gold Bears).

That being said, there is a wealth of options for buying staple foods from small shops in the Vilnius Old Town,  and fruits and veggies from the outdoor markets. I am probably paying a higher price at the markets because of my poor command of the language and an almost pathological aversion to haggling, but the whole point is to keep the money in the local economy, so I try not to dwell on the odd cents that I am overpaying.

Vilnius is a great city for shopping locally; I have found lots of good deals on interesting things and I get to support the community. I am sure that shopping local isn’t a perfect solution to the problems of globalization and consumer culture, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Charissa Brammer is an American student that has been studying at Vilnius University since the fall. Read more of her writing here.

Disclaimer:

Views expressed in the opinion section are never those of the Baltic Reports company or the website’s editorial team as a whole, but merely those of the individual writer.

4 Responses for “How to shop locally in Vilnius”

  1. Adam Mullett says:

    What are your favourite places? Perhaps you could give us some addresses?

  2. Maing says:

    In Lithuania, a favorite term for produce is “ekolgiškas.” That’s because there is no such thing as a certifiable “organic” farm in the country, owing to the recent soviet legacy. At my garden-house association, there are people that will buy all of your produce to resell… which is very good, except for the fact that the well water used to grow the vegetables is completely unsuitable for human consumption. But anecdotal evidence does claim that lead paint chips are as tasty as candy. Eat up!

  3. Charissa says:

    I have a few favorite places I could share, I think. My favorite place for getting accessories and gifts is Aukso Avis on Subačius. I really like the Design Shop on Totoriu g, they have really unique clothes and provide an alternative to the “LITHUANIA” t shirts. If you want to go the kitschy route for gifts and stuff, the market stalls on Pilies are good, and the lady selling gloves and socks on Pilies in front of the Spauda is a trooper and I think she deserves everyone’s glove money.

    For food, I can’t get enough of the bread sold at the small bakery near the corner of Pylimo and Kalinausko (my flatmates refer to it as “magic bread”). For fruits and veggies, pick an outdoor market, they are all better than the grocery stores.

    There are tons more, and probably a bunch that I have yet to discover, but those are my favorites.

  4. Henkas says:

    Hello ! Nice article , I live in Vilnius and have another tip: Halles Turgus just outside Old Town, chaep and very nice.

    Regards
    Henkas

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