If you want to discover culturally rich cities, pretty coastal towns and lonely national parks, you have come to the right place in Lithuania, because Lithuania offers its visitors this varied overall package. While Kaunas and Vilnius attract with culture and history, the Curonian Spit and the other national parks convince with untouched nature and wonderful landscapes. Note: Lithuania is one of 9 countries starting with letter L featured by Countryaah.com.
With more than half a million inhabitants, Vilnius is the largest city in Lithuania, capital and seat of government at the same time. Vilnius is a city of different nations: only 60 percent of the population come from Lithuania, about 19 percent from Poland and 14 percent from Russia. This means that Vilnius is in vogue, as a multiethnic population is typical of the history of the region in the whole of the Baltic States.
Cobblestone streets, narrow streets, neat little houses – Vilnius is simply pretty. The old town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. The diverse architecture ranges from baroque to brick gothic to classicism and into the renaissance and gives the city a varied appearance.
The Lithuanian capital is – especially in the architectural sense – a religious city: visitors can marvel at around 50 churches. The St. Anne’s Church from the 15th century is a fine example of the typical brick Gothic. Your architect also designed parts of the Prague Castle. The Casimir Church from the early 17th century, on the other hand, reflects the baroque architectural style. The same goes for the Peter and Paul Church: the white stucco decorations on the inside astonish visitors. The special thing about it: Even during the Soviet era, services were held in the church, which is well worth seeing.
Vilnius used to have a distinct Jewish culture and the country offered shelter to Jews fleeing persecution. The “Jerusalem of the North” was also called Vilnius. The population structure changed significantly with the Second World War. The Jews were murdered under the Nazis, about 80,000 Jews were living in Vilnius at the time, after which Russians and Lithuanians were settled. As a result, the once flourishing Jewish life in Vilnius was lost, the former Jewish quarter fell apart, and houses were demolished. In the Paneriai forest there is a memorial dedicated to the Jews murdered here during the Second World War.
The Gediminas Tower is an important sight. The structure was part of the Upper Castle, which was built in the 14th century at the confluence of the Vilna and Neris rivers. Inside, a museum illustrates the history of the city and its castle. From the tower you have a wonderful view of Vilnius.
If you want to buy souvenirs or relax in one of the restaurants and cafés, you should visit the Pilies gatve, it is one of the main streets in the old town. Numerous small alleys branch off from it. A nice ambience to stroll and browse.
Incidentally, Vilnius is one of the oldest university cities in Europe. The university is actually the oldest in the whole of the Baltic States; it was founded in 1579. The building complex presents itself in a variety of architectural styles and is well worth seeing.
In Vilnius people like to celebrate: Especially in the summer months, various festivities take place here, such as the Vilnius Festival with classical and world music, jazz festivals, dance and folklore events. The city is thus also a cultural hub of Lithuania. In 2009 Vilnius was European Capital of Culture together with Linz in Austria.
A stone’s throw from Vilnius is Trakai, the “city on water”. It was temporarily the capital in the Middle Ages, until it lost that rank to Vilnius. The main attraction is the castle built on an island. It can be reached via a long wooden walkway, the three lakes Galvesee, Lukasee and Totoriskessee separate it from the land. The fortified structure was built in the 14th century, but was destroyed again in the 17th century. Reconstruction has been underway since the 1950s. The historical museum, which deals with the history of Lithuania, the castle and its restoration, is housed in the castle.
Trakai is also known for the Karaites, a Turkic people originating in Turkey. Members of the people were brought to Lithuania in the 14th century. Some of their descendants still live in Lithuania today, especially in Trakai. The Karaites form an independent Jewish religious community and have split off from Judaism. There is an interesting museum in Trakai about their life and customs.
The second largest city in the country can safely be described as a cultural center. Kaunas has museums and galleries, cultural events and architectural monuments. It was the capital of the country between the world wars.
Kaunas Castle is often the first port of call on a city tour. It is located at the confluence of the Neris and Nemunas (Memel) rivers and was built in the 13th century. Only its thick walls and a defensive tower of the defiant building have withstood to this day. It is still worth a visit.
The town hall is also famous. The building, which is often referred to as the “White Swan” due to its appearance, now only serves as a registry office. The original building, which fell victim to several fires in the course of history, dates from 1542. The town hall square is a wonderful place to relax, especially in summer: cafes and restaurants have placed their chairs and tables in the sun, souvenirs sellers offer souvenirs.
The Perkunas House is very close by. The magnificent brick building in the typical Hanse style now houses an art school. The Peter and Paul Cathedral from the early 15th century surprises with its baroque interior. Kaunas is also famous for the Laisves aleja, the avenue of freedom. It was laid out by the Russian tsar in the 19th century and renamed several times in the course of history. Here you will find cafes, restaurants and shops, a nice place to stroll. Incidentally, smoke-free: Smoking is prohibited on the avenue.
Kaunas is not stingy with museums and galleries – so an interesting place for those interested in art and culture. The Mikalojus-Konstantinas-Ciurlionis National Museum was named after what is probably the most famous Lithuanian artist: Ciurlionis (1875-1911) was a painter and composer. The museum shows many of his exhibits, but is also devoted to Lithuanian art in general. The Maironis Museum is the country’s most important literary museum and presents evidence of Lithuanian literature. Maironis was a national poet and lived in the 19th century, the museum was set up in his home. The Meno parks gallery, located on the Town Hall Square, belongs to the Lithuanian Artists Association. It is dedicated to contemporary art and was founded in 1995. A little scary compensation:
“It’s Ännchen von Tharau that I like, she is my life, my property and my money” – these are the first lines of the famous folk song written by Simon Dach. At the fountain named after him in the center of Klaipeda you can admire the sculpture of the graceful Ännchen – a symbol of Klaipeda. A nice starting point for a city tour to discover the former Memel on foot. But you don’t have to go far: the Klaipeda Theater is right here. The current building was built in 1857, but plays were staged in the square before. If you are looking for a souvenir, you will definitely find it here: You can buy jewelry and amber work at market stalls around the Theaterplatz.
The Historical Museum of Lithuania Minor is located very close to the Theater Square. Here you can learn a lot about the interesting history of the region. In general, the city has many museums to offer. There is also the clock museum, the sea museum in Smiltyne (a district of Klaipedas, which is located on the Curonian Spit), the castle museum or the blacksmith museum to discover.
On a tour of the city, you will be surprised by unusual sculptures in many places: the money jug, the chimney sweep, the old town guard in the form of a dog, or the dragon on the wall of the Peda Gallery are worth a little voyage of discovery in the footsteps of these sculptures.
The market halls are also worth a visit. Sausages, vegetables, bread, cheese and flowers can be purchased here. A visit to the market halls is a must for many tourists, as you can observe the everyday life of a city here.
And last but not least, the ruins of the Memelburg belong on the list of sights. If you need a break now, you can stop off in one of the many cafés or restaurants. The city is well arranged for guests. And in Klaipeda you can also celebrate: on the last weekend in July, for example, the Sea Festival is celebrated. And every year at the beginning of June the international Burg Jazz Festival takes place. Maybe an idea for a visit?
Klaipeda has the only port in Lithuania. The city is and has always been an important trading center. Today it is also the gateway for many tourists who travel to Lithuania by ferry from Kiel or Denmark and Sweden. And Klaipeda is an excellent starting point for discoveries in the Memelland or on the Curonian Spit.
Under the Soviets, Klaipeda was a so-called “closed city” – a restricted military area. Today it has blossomed, spruced up and awaits its visitors with a friendly appearance.
The town of Siauliai (formerly Schaulen) in northern Lithuania is actually not a special tourist attraction, even if it has now been nicely restored. The Peter and Paul Cathedral in the Renaissance style, a bicycle museum, the Frenkel Villa, cafes, restaurants and a pedestrian zone attract visitors to the city.
Historically significant: At the Battle of Schaulen in 1236, the knights of the order despaired of the tenacious resistance of the inhabitants.
The Hill of Crosses near Siauliais is the real attraction of the area. Since the suppression of the Lithuanian uprising in 1831, countless crosses have been set up on a hill: small, large, ornate, unadorned – crosses can be seen wherever the eye looks. During the Soviet rule, the collection was destroyed several times, but this did not detract from its holdings and the mysterious atmosphere. It is a popular place of pilgrimage and an important place for the Lithuanian Catholics.
White sandy beach, a dreamy dune landscape, airy pine forests and the pretty wooden villas make Palanga a popular tourist destination. It is the largest health resort in Lithuania and the signs have been pointing to relaxation since the 19th century. Sanatoriums initially attracted mainly the Russian nobility to the coast, today spa guests and holidaymakers come from Lithuania and abroad. At the same time, Palanga is also a lively place in the summer months. Cafes, bars, restaurants and nightclubs offer entertainment in the evenings. If you are looking for beach life, you will find it in Palanga.
The amber museum, housed in the castle of the von Tiskeviciai family, shows many thousands of exhibits: the jewelry or stones with interesting inclusions are extremely worth seeing. The castle itself was planned by the German architect Franz Schwechten and built in 1897. A stroll through the botanical garden is a nice way to end a day at the beach.
Under the name Neringa, the places on the Curonian Spit were combined into one town in 1961. The name goes back to the legend of the beautiful girl Neringa, who created the spit. Neringa is also the name of the headland. The municipality of Neringa includes the places Juodkrante, Pervalka & Preila and Nida.
Juodkrante (Schwarzort) is the oldest place on the spit. Fortunately, the surrounding forest protected him from falling victim to the dune hike. The new promenade invites you to stroll along the lagoon. Colorful fishermen’s houses and neat wooden villas – the place conveys a pretty picture of a fishing village. In a park on the lagoon, sculptures by Lithuanian artists await admirers.
The witch mountain (Raganu kalnas) of Juodkrante is definitely worth a visit. Here the walker is whisked away into the Lithuanian fairy tale world on a circular route: 82 wooden figures along the path embody legends and fairy tales and make the walk a magical experience. The village had a brief heyday of amber in the 19th century when large deposits were discovered. However, these were exhausted after only a few decades.
Pervalka & Preila
Pervalka (Perwelk) is the smallest place on the spit. Just 40 “permanent residents” live here. It was not created until the 19th century, when residents of other spit villages had to flee from the shifting dunes. They settled in Pervalka. Preila (Preil) was also created through resettlement. In 1850 the residents of Nagliai (Neegeln) and Karvaiciai (Karwaiten) settled here, their villages being buried by the sand. Between the villages is the Skirpsto kopa dune, which once buried the Karvaiciai village.