Kaunas, Lithuania: European Capital Of Culture 2022
We first visited Kaunas, Lithuania during a Thanksgiving weekend about five years ago on an exchange trip. Our gracious hosts were musicians and fellow teachers and they bent over backwards to show us a good time. We left after four days impressed with Lithuanian history, culture and food. However, we knew we’d have to go back during a more favorable season to really get a feel for tourism in this former Soviet controlled country. I finally had the chance when I climbed aboard the tall ship Stadrad Lehmkuhl for a tall ship race from Turku, Finland to Klaipeda, Lithuania. After leaving the ship, I made my way to Kaunas for a weekend break before flying home to Germany. The article about the tall ship races will be coming soon, but for now, we’ve compiled this list of the top things to do in Kaunas, Lithuania.
What are the Top Things to Do in Kaunas?
On this last visit I discovered that Kaunas has been selected as a European Capital of Culture for 2022 and the city has already begun getting ready. I noticed several changes from my last visit. First, there are major works being done on city infrastructure. New water pipes are going in along major thoroughfares and street upgrades are being accomplished after the digging is finished. Street lights, landscaping, and new asphalt are transforming some old, previously potholed streets and avenues. Additionally, green painted bike lanes are snaking throughout the city center with more being planned and delivered. The goal is to make Kaunas the most bicycle friendly city in the Baltics. Kaunas is already a top notch tourism destination, but with more and more work going on with the Culture Capital preparations, it will just get better and better! So what is there to do in Kaunas, Lithuania? Read on for our top ten recommendations.
1. Visit a Lithuanian Castle
Originally built in the 14th century as Lithuanian defensive works against crusading Tuetonic Knights, the castle was taken and retaken. Not much is left of the castle today, but the grounds are beautiful and the remaining ruins are picturesque. There is also a good sized playground where children can play in the shadow of the castle walls. How cool is that?
Pilies g. 17, Kaunas 44275, Lithuania
2. Explore Kaunas’s Old Town
Kaunas’ Old Town has a well preserved selection of building and architectural examples spanning hundreds of years. Walking the cobbled streets is like walking back in time. One of my favorite is the supposed Hanseatic building pictured here. There are a few other buildings sharing similar characteristics, all are beautiful and well maintained.
The old town hall stands right in the center of the old town. There is a small museum inside the gorgeous building, but otherwise it is used for weddings and other functions. What a grand venue for a wedding!
Rotušės a. 15, Kaunas 44279, Lithuania
The old town is chock full of quaint pubs, cafes, and restaurants where you can stop for a little refreshment and rest during your walk.
3. Attend Mass in an 18th Century Cathedral Basilica
Whether you are religious or not, you should step inside the massive cathedral basilica to admire this 17th century masterpiece. This is the largest Gothic church in Lithuania. If your timing is right, you’ll here the choir singing or chanting and haunting tones of the organ.
4. Take A History Lesson At The Presidential Palace
Kaunas held the position of temporary capital during the Interwar period between WWI and WWII. Russian Bolsheviks occupied Vilnius in 1919 and later was annexed by Poland. The Soviet Union annexed Lithuania in 1940 but after the Nazi invasion of the USSR in 1941, rebel Lithuanians regained independence from the Red Army. Of course, the unstoppable German army soon came and claimed occupation of the region. Eventually the Soviets returned, pushed the German army out, and reclaimed the Baltic states. This would set off a long period of Lithuanian resistance that was centered around Kaunas and lasted until independence was reclaimed in 1990. A visit to the temporary capital’s Presidential Palace and the grounds around it, are a good place to start your history lesson.
Vilniaus g. 33, Kaunas 44290, Lithuania
+370 37 201778
5. Enjoy Some Coffee And A Pastry
There are more coffee and bakery shops in Kaunas then I’ve seen in many other similar sized cities. One of my favorites is the Motiejaus Kepyklele located in one of these classic brickwork facade buildings.
Vilniaus g. 7, Kaunas 44280, Lithuania
Open at 8:00 AM
6. Visit A Museum Or Two
Kaunas has a wide variety of good museums to while away your time, especially if you have some rainy weather to escape. One of the most unique is the Devil’s Museum, Zmuidzinavicius Museum. This museum will run your emotions through the whole range from laughter to shock, from scared to confused. You’ll find devils collected from cultures around the world. Other museums options include the Vytautas the Great War Museum where the visitor will discover military artifacts from the early wars against the invading Teutonic Knights all the way to modern times and struggles with the USSR.
V. Putvinskio g. 64, LT-44211 Kaunas
Tu-Sun 11–17, Th 11–19
Vytautas the Great War Museum
K. Donelaičio g. 64, Kaunas 44248, Lithuania
7. Go For A Bike Ride
Kaunas has gone to great lengths to make this a cycle friendly city. Visitors today will find these green bike lanes throughout the city center. The goal is to make Kaunas a biking haven. They are off to a good start! You can rent a bike for cheap from the CityBee bicycling sharing service.
CityBee Bike Sharing Service
22 Locations throughout the city
8. Go Shopping
Lithuania is known around the world for amber, the Baltic gold. Shoppers will find several high quality shops in Kaunas sure to have that special piece to please someone special back home. You’ll find amber of every possible color and variety including amber encased insects and plant material. It’s all beautiful and affordable.
J. Naugardo g. 17
Kaunas 44280, Lithuania
9. Street Art
Sculptures, statues, graffiti and murals abound in Kaunas. Some are still remaining from before the independence of 1990 when Kaunas was a hotbed of resistance to Soviet occupation. Keep your eyes open and your observation skills awake as you travel through the city.
One of my absolute favorite Lithuanian snack foods is fried bread. It sounds so simple, and I suppose it is, but this crunchy, chewy, garlicky, cheesy, buttery snack will knock your socks off. This is the national snack food of Lithuania and you’ll find it in every pub or bar. It goes perfectly with a cold half liter of local brew.
Hungry for more than a snack? Why not try the traditional Lithuanian Zeppelin? This meat filled dumpling will fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied. Forto Dvaras has a wide selection of these tasty rib stickers, as well as so many other culinary treats you won’t know where to start. That’s why we say to start with the zeppelins!
Rotušės a. 4, Kaunas 44280, Lithuania
Where To Stay In Kaunas
There’s always a decision to be made when looking for a hotel in a new place. Kaunas hotels are all affordable and even cheap by other European city standards. These three and four star hotels are all great options for your next vist to the city.
Near the bus station, Magnus Hotel
In the Old Town, Daugirdas Old City Hotel
On Laisvės Alėja, Hotel Kaunas
We love traveling around the Baltic region of Europe, and we’ve seen and done some amazing things, but definitely Kaunas is one small city we’ll return to again and again. We love it!
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