Anthea Gerrie visits the grande dame Radisson Blu Royal Astorija hotel boasting the best location in Vilnius
If Vilnius can be said to have reaped any benefit from generations of Russian occupation, it’s a wealth of the kind of gloriously baroque Czarist architecture which epitomises the Lithuanian capital’s Radisson Blu Royal Astorija. This handsome hotel, in process of being rebranded to join the high-end, highly individual properties which comprise the Radisson Collection, also has location on its side, sitting at the top of the city’s picturesque old town, peeking over the shoulder of an imposing town hall it threatens to eclipse with its own good looks.
Reconfigured as a hotel in 1901, a century after its original construction, the Royal Astorija entered its current iteration as a top business and leisure hotel in 2018, when the two lower floors were completely refurbished to give the hotel a public face in keeping with the grandeur of its spacious guest rooms.
Now a gleaming lobby with a dedicated bar at one end, a brasserie at the other, offers guests a warm welcome mitigated only by the few steep steps it’s necessary to haul a case up at the entrance. Doorman, where are you? If you exist, you might have directed me to another entrance, given that the hotel claims to be wheelchair accessible.
Perhaps step-free entry would have been designed in if the building had been a hotel from the outset, but it actually started life as the base for a Latvian wine trader boasting one of the largest private houses in the city. Homage has been paid to that heritage with an attractive basement wine cellar which was part of the 2018 refurbishment and is used for corporate dinners and meetings as well as being opened up to leisure visitors for wine tastings.
Since its inception, the property has undergone six renovations, reflected in a mix of interior styles which range from classic fin de cycle, some of the hotel’s 126 rooms boasting fragments of the original friezes at picture rail level, to streamlined Art Deco.
Superior rooms are spacious and high-ceilinged, many enjoying a far-reaching old town view which includes the flamboyant 14th century St Casimir’s church bang opposite the hotel and the magnificent, pedestrianised town hall square framed by historic streets which is a central gathering place for this gorgeous city.
Breakfast in the Radisson Blu Royal Astorija Hotel brasserie which doubles as a French restaurant later in the day is exansive, offering both classic Anglo-American egg-based choices and a Lithuanian corner whose cured herring and pickled cucumber were this guest’s favourite part of the selection. On the other side of the lobby a snug overlooking the street not intended for catering purposes is, as has been noted by appreciative guests, a useful place to meet and pore over maps in comfort while planning the day.
There is a spa including steam and sauna and a small pool as well as a gym, but a perfectly good workout can be had walking to the attractions which lie in every direction. There’s the old town right outside the front door, with its Glass Quarter – a retail enclave within the old Jewish Ghetto, whose population was obliterated by the Nazis 80 years ago – and five minutes beyond, lively Pilies Street leading to the main cathedral square where Vilnius was founded 700 years ago.
Not to be missed is the buzzy and subversive art colony of Uzupis across the river, just a 10-minute stroll from the hotel; self-styled as a friendly “republic”, this is a great place to spend afternoons and evenings browsing galleries, street art installations and lively bars and cafes.
But perhaps the greatest attraction of the location of the Royal Astorija is its proximity to modern Vilnius as well as Uzupis and the historic city centre. It’s only a 10-minute stroll behind the hotel to Pylimo Street, a major thoroughfare leading to both the superb MO modern art museum and the lively covered food market close to the railway station.
Tell Me More About The Radisson Blu Royal Astorija Hotel Vilnius
Didžioji str. 35/2 Vilnius, Lithuania
Rooms from €139