Monte Pacis hospitality complex is located in Pazaislis Monastery, near Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city. With the hotel situated in the former guesthouse, a chef with experience in Michelin-rated restaurants, an award-winning wine list, and proximity to both nature and sightseeing, Monte Pacis may just be an ideal weekend retreat. Even heads of state and celebrities think so!
Monte Pacis Hotel is the front-facing building of the monastery complex, the church of which is visible through the back doors of the lobby. Two wings, each with an attic level, flank the central vestibule, complete with its Baroque ceiling decorations. One wing terminates in the breakfast room, which also serves as the restaurant during the winter, and the other terminates in the grand “Founder’s Room,” which can serve as a reception or conference room.
Due to the historic nature of the building, original elements have been preserved or refurbished, and any changes have been made according to rules for historic buildings. High ceilings of sturdy beams, dark wood, leaded glass, ironwork, and richly colored floor tiles embody a masculine, pared down, old-world luxury that welcomes.
Three types of rooms are available. The top-tier room is the apartment, which contains one bedroom, a sitting area with chairs and a pull-out couch, and a bathroom. The second type is the suite, which has a loft-style bedroom accessible by a set of stairs, with the bathroom and sitting area below. The attic level contains the standard rooms, which is the option available if you need more than a single bed for your party. These are spacious but simpler in their décor than the other room options.
We requested an apartment room with the pull-out couch option, which was already made up on our arrival. While the bed was pleasantly comfortable, the pull-out couch would not be an option for someone with back problems or sleeping problems related to comfort due to the thinness of the mattress and the presence of many squeaky springs.
The bathroom had a full complement of soft towels, robes and slippers, and plenty of grooming supplies in individual bottles, including hair conditioner, hair and body shampoo, and shower gel. Unfortunately, while the tub looks nice, it had no shower option except for a hand-held sprayer, the strong water pressure of which created a private comedy every morning. If kneeling to bathe is not your thing or you have mobility issues, you may want to request a room with a shower, though you may have to downgrade to get one.
Furthermore, you should be aware that all rooms of the hotel face the two parking lots that are accessible from the road, which means that car traffic can be heard. In the winter, the windows and shutters are sure to block out this noise, but if you’re sensitive and staying in the summer, bring earplugs. The wooden shutters do a decent job of blocking out sunlight, though you may have to sacrifice airflow because, due to the age of the building, no air conditioning has been installed.
All rooms are accessed by stairs. On the bottom level, the stairs are wide stone stairs with short flights that connect the lobby to the hallway. The standard rooms are reachable only by spiral wooden staircases. If you are someone who has problems with stairs, keep this issue in mind when you book.
You won’t find many restaurants in Lithuania of the quality of Monte Pacis restaurant. During the summer months, the main dining occurs on the terrace in front of the hotel, where the breeze carries the scent of flowers and of food being grilled in the outdoor kitchen.
A la Carte Menu
The a la carte menu may look ordinary at first, with its choice of steak, chicken, fish of the day, and other unassuming dishes. The secret is in the preparation and presentation, as we found throughout our stay. The food is clean, with an emphasis on high-quality, fresh ingredients. All food comes directly from the kitchen to your table, and in some cases, you can watch it being made.
If you love breakfast, Monte Pacis won’t disappoint. Instead of a buffet, the food made to order and brought to your table—choose a starter, such as marinated salmon, curd cheese with berries, or a cheese plate; a main, such as eggs benedict or omelet; and a dessert, such as pancakes. The omelet, which is perfectly prepared, comes with a generous side salad. The pancakes are served with sour cream and maple syrup with a berry garnish.
We didn’t think the restaurant could stand out any more until we tried the tasting menu . Keeping our allergies in mind, the chef prepared us our five-course menu, which was priced at 50 euros. (A three-course tasting menu is also available, as is a wine-tasting menu). When the hotel manager requested our food limitations, she indicated that the menu was always kept a “surprise,” which I took to mean that they were using what was fresh on hand to devise dishes according to our request. We were certainly surprised—and delighted. Our menu included:
- A pineapple-salmon salsa amuse bouche
- Tuna tartar with passionfruit and avocado puree
- Shrimp with lemongrass and pineapple in a coconut milk broth
- Octopus on a bed of grilled vegetables with a garnish of caviar
- A raspberry sorbet palate cleanser
- Lithuanian beef with mushrooms, carrots, and a coffee and bouillon sauce
- A dense, slightly sweet chocolate and hazelnut dessert with meringue and berries
The amount of food was filling, but due to its quality and the combination of ingredients, we did not feel uncomfortably stuffed. The balance and harmony of flavors, and the small, pleasant surprises in the form of garnishes or sauce, along with wonderful service and an impressive summer storm, made the evening one to remember.
**Note that if you order the tasting menu, it should be arranged one day in advance! If you plan to try the tasting menu on the day of your arrival, be sure to let the hotel know so that they can make the necessary arrangements.
Monte Pacis would be nothing without its elegant approach to service. As I often mention in my reviews, service in Lithuania often leaves much to be desired, though this issue is improving. However, the staff at Monte Pacis are attentive to guest needs, always pleasant, well-informed, and helpful. We were regularly checked upon and asked how our stay was or if we needed anything, but not to excess. Our food allergies were taken seriously and communicated through the chain of command to the kitchen. Everyone was welcoming and spoke excellent English.
For me, the high point was at the end of our tasting dinner, our server and sommelier Simone shared our pleasure in the meal and the wine, clearly passionate about both, and expressed how proud he was to work at such an establishment. We didn’t get the wine-tasting menu for this meal, but my Bordo came recommended and made the glass of wine I had later in Kaunas seem like oenological punishment.
What to Do When You Visit Monte Pacis
Monte Pacis is situated near the Kaunas Reservoir in the Kaunas Reservoir Regional Park. You can stroll along the trails in the forest or go off the paved paths for a more strenuous hike. The wind through the leafy oaks and fragrant pines, rustling of ferns, and lapping of water soothe away stress. Take a book to read on one of the benches or rent a bike for further-afield adventures.
Of course, you can also visit the monastery associated with the hotel. We did not get to see the church or the monastery, even during Sunday mass, due to Covid-19 restrictions; mass was broadcast to the yard for the few attendees. A fee is required to tour the monastery when it is open.
You can also take a taxi into Kaunas, which is about 10-15 minutes away. A taxi will cost you around 7-10 euros and can drop you right on Town Hall Square, where you can start your exploration of this city so important to Lithuanian history.
Getting to Monte Pacis
While car may be some people’s first choice to get to Monte Pacis, if you’re visiting Lithuania from abroad and prefer to use public transportation, you have two choices.
The train from Vilnius to Kaunas is about two hours, and is clean, comfortable, and inexpensive (12 euros for a return ticket in first class). The train station, relative to Monte Pacis, is closer to the bus station. However, regular buses also go between Vilnius and Kaunas. When you arrive either to the train station or bus station, a cab can be ordered via a ridesharing app such as Bolt or a taxi app, such as eTaxi. Be sure to tell your driver you want to go to Pazaislis Monastery, which should be immediately recognizable to them. Taxi drivers were uncertain both about the street address and the name of the hotel when we visited.