Lithuania is one of our neighbours and we visit it often. The most popular travel destination is the capital of this beautiful country. This time I will try to convince you to visit the first capital of Lithuania. Kaunas for the weekend is a very good option for an interesting trip!
Kaunas is the second, largest city in Lithuania. It is located 430 kilometres from Warsaw, and about 105 kilometres from the Polish border in Budzisko.
From my country, you have several transport options to Kaunas. The first is the plane. Kaunas has an airport from which you can fly, for example, to Warsaw. However, I chose another travel option, which is slightly less comfortable but also has its advantages – a bus.
I took the Ecolines bus, which leaves Warsaw after 9 pm and it is in Kaunas before six in the morning (local time). The return journey also takes place at night. The buses are spacious, each seat is equipped with a tablet with films, and the ticket prices are good (my ticket on the Warsaw-Kaunas route cost 16 Euro one way).
History of Kaunas
The first mention of Kaunas comes from 1361, but the city in this region was built a century later. The castle located there was supposed to defend Lithuania against Crusaders invasions (it was not always successful). At the castle stayed, among others Crusaders Master Ulrich von Jungingen and Władysław Jagiełło. Kaunas received city rights two years before the battle of Grunwald, i.e. in 1408. King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk spent the winter of 1464 in Kaunas (due to the plague in Cracov). At that time, the city belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Later, Napoleon and his army stayed in Kaunas, which did not have a positive effect on the city’s history. The inhabitants of Kaunas actively participated in the uprisings. After 1882, the Russian authorities decided to start building 9 defensive forts. Apparently, because of them, the height of buildings in the city could not exceed 3 floors. During World War II, in one of the forts, the Germans organized a KL Kauen concentration camp, and in the city itself – a Jewish ghetto.
There is definitely something to choose. During my stay, I lived in the Kaunas Hotel – a building located on the main, pedestrian street. A high standard hotel with large rooms that were nicely designed. A huge plus for the number of sockets in the rooms. With my needs often charging 4 devices at a time, I had no problem. Often in hotels, there is the only one available, and here I could easily charge the phone by the bed, and the camera, photo camera and laptop on the desk. At Kaunas Hotel I also had breakfast, which was very diverse. They had both international and local accents (Lithuanian bread, cheese, sausages and cheese in chocolate), and the whole was very tasty and gave the energy to start the day. The hotel has a restaurant called 55 °. It owes its name to the alcohol produced there called samanė (moonshine).
I spent the whole 3 days in Kaunas. I arrived in the morning (using the bus) and after 3 hours of the nap, I was ready to explore. The schedule was tight. On the first day I was visiting the old town (Castle, Town Hall, museums: Pharmacy, Folk Instruments, Devils, Arts), and in the evening a basketball game! On the second and third day, I was also accompanied by other bloggers – podruzujacarodzina.pl. The schedule of the day was also tight! However, there was time for a bit of street art, a synagogue, a church of the Resurrection, the House of Sugihara and the Stumbras Museum. We started the third day with leaving Kaunas. We visited the water reservoir created on the Nemunas river, one of the fortifications, the Monte Pacis monastery and the cemetery. Later we split up and I walked around the old town and in the evening I went to Warsaw.
What to see in the city?
The Kaunas Town Hall does not currently have official functions. There is a museum and an impressive hall used, e.g. for weddings. The museum itself is interesting and covers several areas. There you will find information about the history of Kaunas, a section devoted to art, but also former prison rooms. A tower is also available for tourists, from which we can admire the surroundings through small windows. The city hall is illuminated at night and takes on a slightly different character than during the day. The building itself has been rebuilt several times, but you will learn about it on the spot.
In front of the Town Hall, there is a monument to the mayor of Kaunas – Jonas Vileišis, who was immortalized as returning home from work in the Office.
The Museum containing over 3000 exhibits is a unique place. The collection initiated by Antanas Žmuidzinavičius has grown over the years to reach today’s size. It is also worth paying attention to Antanas Žmuidzinavičius himself, who was a well-known artist throughout the country and took part in the design of the national flag or Lithuanian pre-war money.
Museum of Pharmacy
The museum located at the square where the Town Hall is located is very interesting. It presents exhibits related to the production of medicines, their use and the development of “medical art” over the years. The exhibits come mainly from Lithuania, often from local doctors. An interesting fact is that e.g. in the old days, cocaine was used to anaesthetize teeth (although in very low concentration, but still …;)).
In the museum itself, a separate fragment of the exhibition is devoted to the popular superstition in Lithuania regarding “tangled hair”. Well, according to beliefs, if the hair gets tangled and a “tangled” is made, it cannot be cut off because it may cause blindness. Apparently there are still cases of older people who still believe in it!
National Art Museum
This museum, or rather its building, is the essence of Lithuanian modernism. It was created from bricks collected all over the country. It is located in the same building as the Military Museum. Inside you will find an exhibition dedicated to the works of M. K. Čiurlionis – an outstanding painter and a part devoted to Lithuanian folk art.
Folk Instruments Museum
The Museum of Folk Instruments is a facility that can be super interesting, and it can be boring. In this case, the first option wins. If you like music, be sure to check it out. This place is suitable for both young and older guests. Many instruments are available to visitors. If you are there, be sure to visit DJ Folk and you will see what I am talking about!
I think everyone has heard of Stumbras vodka (it’s the one with the grain in the bottle). The factory is located in Kaunas and can be visited. There is also a museum and a tasting room. It is a place full of interesting stories, amazing smells and interesting flavors!
Walking around Kaunas is also worth visiting several churches. Those located in the old town (near Market Square) are interesting, but two others made the biggest impression on me. The first is the Church of the Resurrection in the photo on the left, which is a modernist style stands out in the city landscape (for some time it operated as a factory!), And the second is the church of Archangel Michael located on the promenade and which was originally an orthodox church.
During my trip, I found out about a man whose name was Sugihara in Kaunas. I am surprised that I did not know about him before. It was a Japanese consul who, while in Kaunas, issued visas to Polish Jews and officers so that they could leave the country at the beginning of World War II. This is an amazing story of a man who chose to help others obey. He saved a few thousands of people!
There were 36 synagogues in Kaunas before World War II. The Choir Synagogue has survived to this day. It dates from 1872 and serves the religious purposes of the local Jewish community.
Modernism and Street Art
Another element that is worth paying attention to in Kaunas is, of course, its architecture. Not every one of you is certainly a fan of modernism, but it’s worth learning the history of these buildings and the people who designed them. If you are bored with severe modernism, then Kaunas is also rich in various forms of street paintings that you can look for while walking!
I rarely recommend a visit to a shopping mall, but this time I will make an exception. It is a shopping centre located close to the Żalgirio Arena, but this does not make them interesting. It is interesting that it was built in the factory and the original objects were not demolished. In the centre of the shopping centre you will find factory houses or warehouses with modern stores.
Where to eat?
The restaurant located in the city centre (near the pedestrian zone) has a beautiful interior. However, this is only an introduction to tasty, seasonal, and above all local cuisine served in a modern way. Potato pancakes, snails, duck stomachs or borscht are just some of the delicacies. Original kvass is produced on the premises. I recommend you try it, but if you have only drank bottled kwas so far, this one may surprise you (it lacks a lot of beer :)).
Lithuanian Pub Entry
It looks like a modern pub, but surprises with good cuisine. I was most interested in the menu related to the interwar period. You will find in it, among others Zander soup with crayfish, fried herring, fire cutlet, cymes or a dish that I would describe as potato dumplings with buttermilk sauce. Very tasty and unusual dishes with an interesting, historical background.
The place that I visited last day, but if you are looking for a restaurant at the highest level, then do it too! Monte Pacis is located next to the monastery of the same name and is a modern world-class restaurant. The chef can conjure up miracles!
Delicious amuse-bouche, sensational, fresh bread, essential Thai soup and main course … A dish that was perfectly composed in every centimetre! Perfect beef steak, baked cabbage, millet cake, chanterelles, beets and many other additions. The perfect summary was dessert – a cheesecake ball with orange glaze, candied skin, toffee and fruit – heaven in my mouth!
If you are a cider fan, I recommend this place to you too! This is the only Cider Bar in Lithuania. The offer has a very large number of types of cider, both in bottles and poured. You will also find local Lithuanian species. In addition to the drink itself, you can also get a bite of something. I was tempted by a hot dog that satisfied my hunger and was tasty!
I visited this place one of the evenings. If you are hungry, be sure to find them. It is located near the castle and offers a lot of kraft beers, but also interesting snacks. I ate a very successful burger with pulled chicken and fried camembert. Friendly service, interesting interior combined with a good offer is definitely a plus.
Finally, a place, or rather places that you’ll love! If you see a sign saying Ruta somewhere, be sure to check it out. It is a Lithuanian brand producing sweets. Their stores are full of sweets and personally reminded me of the Goplana stores I remember from my childhood. Inside you will find everything your heart desires. I bought various chocolates (e.g. cherry with pumpkin or orange with cookies).
As they say in Kaunas – basketball is the second religion in this city! There is no wonder because Żalgiris Kaunas is a team not only successful in the country, but also in the European league. The Żalgirio Arena was built in 2011 and can seat about 15,000 people.
During my stay, I took advantage of the opportunity and went to a Euroleague match between Żalgiris Kaunas and FC Barcelona. Despite the fact that the hosts lost, the form of the team but also the fans impressed me. If you want to feel the sporting atmosphere of the city, save your visit to the match on the list of must-see points!
Kaunas, however, is not just a city. All you need to do is go beyond its borders to discover completely new areas. Both the Nemunas River and the lagoon formed on it are impressive, and the forts passed along the way will certainly appeal to history fans. If during sightseeing, you also need to rest, then the Kaunas area creates perfect conditions for it.
- The Kaunas promenade is considered one of the longest pedestrian routes in Europe
- There are two funiculars in Kaunas that will take us to the hills, they are the only ones in Lithuania
- Kaunas lies between two rivers – the Nemunas and Neris
- It is possible to enter the roof of the Church of the Resurrection from where there is a very nice panorama of the city
- The building of the National Art Museum was on a 20 litas banknote (before the change to the Euro)
- Kaunas is not big, but sometimes you have to use public transport. You can use buses, trolleybuses or use Bolt
- Being in the Stumbras factory, you can buy over 100 products
- The Bus Station is modern and you can wait for the bus there warmly
Worth to visit?
Coming to Kaunas, I didn’t know what to expect. Before leaving, I found a few places that I wanted to see, but I also passed on the advice of local residents. I was not disappointed! Kaunas is not an obvious city. Requires knowledge, but can surprise. If you like to explore places, then Kaunas should definitely be on your list. This city has a lot to offer, which I will continue to try to convince you of!
I visited Kaunas at the invitation of Kaunas IN as part of their Interreg project
#kaunastic #Interreg #lietuvapolska