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Lithuania Destination Guide
Lithuania is a country that is a wonderful mixture of Western and Eastern European traditions and customs. It is nature's benevolent grace with beautiful green planes, vastly spread out primordial forests and mystifying marshes possessing about 4000 lakes and over 700 rivers. The people from Lithuania, or the Baltic people as they are known, have very close ties to nature. Historical records mention Lithuania as far back as the year 1009. For a country that ancient, Lithuania is the ideal destination for nature lovers. You are bound to come across a treasure chest of impressive monuments and beautiful landscapes in architecturally rich cities and, of course, a country full of fun and vigour.
Lithuania is blessed by nature offering up some of the most beautiful landscapes and most spectacular scenery in all of Europe.
Our Lithuania Destination Guide below together with our Lithuania tour suggestions will tell you many things you need to know about the best places to visit in Lithuania. For tips on how to get around in Lithuania, read our Lithuania Transportation guide.
Things to Experience in Lithuania
Vilnius is the capital of the Republic of Lithuania and is the chief administrative, political, business, and cultural centre. One seventh of the country's people live here. The eventful history of Vilnius and its varied cultures and customs over the past several years has influenced the town. The Old Town (UNESCO protected site) lies in the heart of the capital and is one of the largest old town centres in Europe. It is situated in a beautiful scenic valley of two rivers, Vilnele and Neris, near the ford, which was guarded by the Vilnius castle in ancient times. The architecturally rich and diverse historical spots, charming churches, mysterious monasteries and museums make Vilnius an interesting and lovely place to visit. The most beautiful parks and picnic spots are found here. No wonder then that it is popular with the tourists and the residents. Vilnius has retained many of the old monuments to this day. This largely reflects its unique nature and spirit.
The Curonian Spit is a natural formation crafted by the waves and winds of the Baltic Sea more than 5000 years ago. In the year 1961, the separate villages of Nida, Preila, Pervalka and Juodkrante joined together to form a single unit called the town of Neringa. It was officially made into a national park in the year 1991. Everything has been protected in spite of changes in administration and rule. This is what makes it so very different and worth a visit.
About 2700 locals dwell in Neringa. Their main occupation is organising leisure activities for tourists. If sunbathing on the soft white sand tires you in summer, then you can feel the high of wind surfing, yachting, boating or biking in the Curonian Bay. You could also play a relaxed game of volleyball at the beach. At the end of the holiday season, don't worry about what sport or activity will keep you happily engaged. Discotheques, cafes, swimming pools and bars will keep you busy as well as relaxed. Neringa is a place with activities for everyone at all times of the year.
The Curonian Spit is a place to enjoy thoroughly while you have a relaxed time. New hotels have come up, attracting more and more visitors from all over the globe. Some of the more interesting places to visit are the Ethnographic Fisherman's House, The Fisherman's Business Exposition, the carved wooden sculptures at The Witches Hill, The Thomas Mann Museum and The Nizgiris Amber Gallery, The Ethnographic Cemetery, and G.D. Kuvertas' grave. Kuvertas was a forester, who was also the saviour of Neringa.
Be sure to time your trip for the annual Kaziukas Festival that brings the city to life. Artists line up along the street to sell you their wares and the place becomes a buzzing marketplace. Watch artists at work or pick up a handmade product or two - either way, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for any tourist to interact with the people of Lithuania and celebrate their culture and understand their craftsmanship.
Also known as the Lithuanian Sea Museum, this is situated in the Smiltyne area of Klaipeda. It was inaugurated sometime in the 19th century and was later renovated in 1979. Close to the sea, this museum consists of the Sea Museum, Aquarium, the Museum of the Curonian Spit Nature and the Dolphinarium.
The museum was the brainchild of a group of architects, engineers and museum workers, who restored the fortress of Kopgalis and arranged an exposition, which consisted of an aquarium of fresh water fish of Lithuanian lakes and rivers and marine life of the Baltic Sea. An exhibition of archaeological and ethnographic items and coins housed in a fisherman's farmstead also form part of the museum. You can also learn a lot about ships and other vessels and their equipment from the displays put on show under the fortress ramparts.
The outdoor pools at the museum are the living areas of the Baltic grey and East Atlantic harbour seals, penguins, and North Sea lions. The big pools also have huge sturgeons. A large collection of molluscs are also to be found here. The museum is divided into several floors and each floor is dedicated to a particular theme.
The Dolphinarium, however, forms the centre of attraction for most visitors. Children, in particular, are happiest here. Three times a day, the dolphins and Californian sea lions put up an impressive show for the visitors. Dolphin therapy for children with health problems is another commendable activity which the museum undertakes.
Kaunas is the second largest city of the country and is reputed to be the only city that still retains most of its Lithuanian culture when compared to most other cities in Lithuania. It is located about 100 km west of Vilnius.
The Old Centre is the most impressive part of the city. It is situated between two rivers, the Neris and the Nemunas. A lot of old merchant houses dating way back to the 16th century can be seenther with remains of the Kaunas Castle near the Town Hall Square. Also seen are a few walls and a bit of the tower, leaving the rest to the imagination.
Visitors also get to see the beautiful Cathedral from the times of Vytautas the Great. Most of what is seen now are structures from the 18th century.
The Laisves aleja or Freedom Avenue is a huge pedestrian shopping street that runs through the new town. The Church of St. Michael the Archangel, located in the background of the Nepriklasomyes Aikste (Independence Square), is one of the most beautiful sights at the end of the Freedom Avenue. Apart from this, one of the best collections of art in the Baltic States can be seen in the Mykolas Zilinskas Art Museum.
King Mindaugas had the wooden cathedral constructed at the base of the Gediminas hill in 1251 after he converted to Christianity. When the rest of Lithuania also converted to Christianity a cathedral in the Gothic style was constructed. The newer cathedral of 1387 became a prized venue for coronation ceremonies and funeral services for the Grand Dukes. The cathedral has survived many a war and has been restored by each generation, making it a grand testimony to the faith of the people of Lithuania. Travellers even today have the opportunity to visit this great site.
The bell tower of the cathedral is legendary. While the original bell tower was destroyed, a new one was erected in its place in 1801 and this is the tower we see today. At 57 metres high, this bell tower has become something of a landmark in the Old Town of Vilnius.
The Church of Mary, Queen of Peace, is located on Rumpiskes gatve, which is about a kilometre southeast of the Theatre Square. This was built between 1960 and 1962, but was seized by the Soviets and turned into a concert hall. In 1988, it was finally returned to the Catholic community and is now used for worship. This modern structure has a tower from where visitors can get a panoramic view of the city.
Klaipeda ranks third among the largest cities of Lithuania and is one of the most significant ports. It is situated on the east coast of Lithuania at the Curonian Strait.
Klaipeda was ruled by different nations during different periods in history. Some of the nations that ruled it were Sweden, Russia, Prussia and Germany, and so it carefully retains some ancient monuments from the past, which are quite popular with German tourists. Lithuania was also under French rule until the year 1923.
The Theatre Square, taking its name from the nearby neoclassical theatre, is located right in the middle of the old town with a fountain named Anna in front of the theatre. Local costumes and artefacts can be seen in the History Museum of Lithuania Minor.
The most interesting sights in the town of Klaipeda are the 19th century Post Office and a Clock Museum that has 18th century clocks. To locate the exceptional Maritime Museum that is located in an ancient German fort, you need to take a short ferry ride across Curonian Lagoon and reach Nida at Neringa peninsula.
With over 1200 breathtaking buildings, the city of Vilnius lends itself to flights of imagination! Often called a living museum, Vilnius is one of the finest examples of medieval town planning in Middle and Eastern Europe. The labyrinth of streets winding through the scenic setting of hilly slopes is intriguing to the first time visitor.
For the spiritually inclined, the many places of worship are a great retreat. The faithful can pick from grand synagogues, serene monasteries and spectacular churches.
Old Town's other oft-explored treasures are the alleyways that are home to little shops selling all kinds of wares local to Lithuania. You can pick up a souvenir or two and invest in some fine workmanship by the local craftsmen at the many handicraft stores.
The Klaipeda Castle, also known as the Memelburg or Memel Castle, is located at the mouth of the Dane River. It was built by the Teutonic knights of Klaipeda and has been declared an archaeological site. The castle has been mentioned in texts as early as 1252 and was later subjected to a number of demolitions and reconstructions. It was only in 2002 that a museum was opened in the castle to commemorate the city's 750th anniversary. The museum is located in the Prince Fredric Chamber under the bastion, which was used to store artillery in the 17th century. The castle is a popular site with visitors and is also the location for the annual Klaipėda Castle Jazz Festival.
The Klaipeda Clock Museum is housed in a renovated 19th century building. It was opened to the public in 1984 and shows the progress of the science of measuring time through the ages - from original or reconstructed models of ancient calendars and sun, fire, water and sand clocks to mechanical devices. The exhibits also show different models of clocks sourced from various locations right from the Renaissance era to present day models. The history of the development of clocks is shown in four halls of the first floor. The present collection is the result of the work of several Klaipeda clock collectors.
On one wall of the building, a vertical sun clock is mounted and on the other is the 1991 composition of designers Lolita Sadauskaitė and Romualdas Martinkus, called ‘The Sun Path Through Constellation'.
A part of the 19th century park is still retained near the museum and this has a large ‘quator' clock on display. Close to this museum is an old post office where a working belfry is located and one can hear concerts of carillon music on weekends. The Clock Museum courtyard is a popular venue for music festivals, and theatre and dancing events.
The lifeline of the city and the centre of action is the famous Pilies Street in the Old Town. Any time of year you're sure to find something of interest on this street. Whether it is shopping for bargains or great souvenirs or whether it is just getting a flavour of life as a local, this is the place to be!
Don't be fooled by the length of Pilies Street. While it may not run the length of the city this scenic road does connect all that's important in the Old Town. So if you're new to the city, all you really need to do is wander the length of Pilies Street from Cathedral Square right down to the Town Hall Square. Most celebrations of the townspeople happen at one of the squares on the route and it isn't uncommon to spot festive celebrations along the way as processions wind their way through the street. Whether it is an organised town celebration or just a group of revellers being spontaneous, the destination of choice for everyone in Vilnius is Pilies Street. If you're unsure of whether there are any festivities on during your stay, the easiest way to find out is to head there and find out for yourself!
Lithuania's passion for food is evident at the Farmer's Market where you get to see only the freshest of produce. Farmers from the surrounding hamlets gather here and sell fresh vegetables and the best meat cuts.
Europos Parkas is an open-air exhibition spanning an area of 55 hectares which gives artistic value to Europe's geographical centre. It was founded in the year 1991 by the Lithuanian sculptor Gintaras Karosas and was made primarily to portray the best of Lithuanian and international modern art and also an important geographic locale of the European continent. The French National Geographic Institute confirmed this in the year 1989.
An impressive monument stands at the spot of Europe's geographical centre. What is unique about this is that it mentions the name, distance and direction to every European capital in the world.
The open-air museum displays the work of over 90 artists from all corners of the world like Armenia, Canada, Croatia, Byelorussia, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Egypt, France, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Hungary, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Peru, Poland, Venezuela, and USA.
28 kilometres from Vilnius is the idyllic setting of Trakai, a delightful little town and lake resort. The town is a great getaway from the bustling city of Vilnius and makes a pleasant change from the monument hopping you do there. At Trakai you'll have the opportunity to lie back, relax and truly unwind.
To soak up some history, head to the 600-year-old castle on the lake or just amble about the trails near the five lakes in the area. The castle itself is one of Lithuania's busiest architectural monuments and definitely worth a look.
Trakai was once the administrative capital of Lithuania, but today takes pride in being home to gatherings of a different kind. Festivals, concerts and music are central to life in the area and you'll do well to time your trip around an event.
The Hill of Witches is also known as ‘Raganų Kalnas' and is located at Juodkrante. It is basically an open air exhibition of wooden sculptures which was opened in 1979 and is the creation of many Lithuanian carvers. Over 70 oak sculptures of characters of Lithuanian legend adorn the Hill of witches. These include witches, devils and wizards.
Palanga is a seaside resort of Lithuania and is popular for its white sand dune beaches, the best in the whole of the Baltic Coast. First mentioned in the 12th century, Palanga was originally a fisherman's village that also exported amber to countries like Europe and Asia through the merchant routes. Over time, with the influence of Western economy and modern standards, a lot of development has taken place here. So, not only do you get to feel at one with nature, but you also get to take advantage of all the modern comforts. You are sure to feel comfortable at the resort, with its innumerable facilities of hotels, guesthouses, pubs, cafes, bars, restaurants and casinos.
Discotheques are an added attraction. For the more adventurous vacationers, horse riding, pedal boats, bicycles, tennis courts, pools and bath complexes are also available. Cycling and hiking tracks can also be made use of whenever desired. The wild natural landscape spread over a vast area in the Palanga Regional Park attracts tourists by the hordes.
The city of Vilnius is also home to Eastern Europe's oldest university. This 400-year-old centre of learning has been around since 1579 when it first opened its portals to scholars of the arts and sciences. Located in the Old Town, the university is a sight to behold, with its sweeping archways, carved edifice and relaxed open spaces. The library housed in the complex has a collection of rare manuscripts and books dating back to the 13th century.
In 1948, the Finns built a wooden vessel for their navigation school, which was later handed over to the Soviets during the Second World War. Today the ship is owned by a lawyer who has turned it into an international restaurant. The vessel is easily recognised by the presence of yellow sails with advertisements of the local Svyturys beer company.
Trakai is an attractive little settlement situated in the middle of five large lakes. It is one of Lithuania's former capitals and is situated 28 km west of Vilnius. Trakai is one of the most frequented historical sites in Lithuania as it is a popular spot for relaxation by the water for both the local people and visitors. As far as Lithuania's history is concerned, it finds mention way back in the 1st millennium A.D firstly being mentioned in 1099.
There is special mention of a fortified castle constructed on the peninsula of Lake Galve in the 14th century followed by the construction of an insular castle in the 15th century, which became home to the Lithuanian Grand Dukes. An ethnic group called the Karaites later came to reside here, brought in by the Grand Duke of Vytautas. There were around 400 of them then. It is generally believed that the 15th century Trakai enjoyed the Magdeburg Rights (town laws which regulated the autonomy granted by the ruler) too.
Many Karaite families still live in Trakai, having gracefully retained their ancient culture and rituals. In fact, it is a heritage community located in a historic place, protecting Lithuanian lineage and history. It is a beautiful place of great aesthetic landscape and importance. Its glacial scenery, ancient history and the Karaite culture have transformed it into a place of unique magnificence. The very fact that 350,000 people visit Trakai annually is proof of the fact that Trakai is a place worth visiting.
The 13th century Gothic style Gediminas Castle in the centre of Vilnius has a past that is tied closely to the history of the city itself. A must-see section is the exhibit on the life and times of Lithuania. Before leaving the grounds visitors usually also head up to the top of the tower, where you can catch a dazzling panoramic view of the Old Town and whole city.
This Sculpture Park in Klaipeda is named after the author of the first Lithuanian book, Martynas Mazvydas. The park was originally a cemetery which was first opened in 1820. After the Second World War, the cemetery slipped into a state of neglect. It was then that the government decided that a sculpture park would be established on this land so that visitors could appreciate these works of art and also relax.
Today there are about 100 sculptures from the latter half of the 20th century. Nearly all the gravestones were removed, barring a few in the northeast corner of the park. A few of the crosses were relocated to be displayed in the Blacksmith's Museum. It also includes an obelisk commemorating the victims of the rebellion from 1923.
Fishing has been the vocation of most Lithuanians for many years now. Visitors to Lithuania enjoy the adventurous fishing tours. They can even try their hand at ice fishing in winter or relish smoked fish as they travel along the Baltic Coast.
Lithuania is a holiday destination you can go to at all times of the year for its scenic beauty and the fun loving nature of the people. The natural landscapes will always be there to entice you and the activities will draw you back again and again.
The Hill of Three Crosses is at once a monument of hope and mourning. This site (legend has it) was the spot where several Franciscan monks met their end by crucifixion and being drowned in the river. Crosses (dating back to the 17th century) have been erected on this hill to honour their martyrdom.
Close to Klaipeda is the resort town of Palanga, where waters of the Šventoji and Rąžė Rivers flow into the Baltic Sea. The resort gets plenty of tourists in the summer months. To cater to the tourists, there are many restaurants, bars, music shows, and pleasure rides. The Amber Museum located in a botanical garden is also an attraction.
Ausros Vartai or the Gate of Dawn was once called the Medininkai gate and marked the southern entry point into Vilnius along the trading routes from Moscow and Minsk. Today this gate, built in 1522, is a three-storeyed building in the Renaissance style and stands at the entrance to the Old Town.
The Curonian Spit is a long and thin peninsula of sand dunes and is 98 kilometres long and only 400 metres in width. While half of it is in the Lithuanian territory, the other half is in Russia. The settlement of Nida is situated right in the middle of the spit where it is the widest. It is the also the largest settlement and is close to the Russian border.
The settlement is charming with majestic dunes dotted with rustic houses. A lagoon is on one side and the open sea is on the other of Nida. This makes it impossible for Nida to expand any further. The permanent population is less than 2000 people. But it attracts around 50,000 visitors every tourist season. Nida is a perfect family retreat, away from high rises and the usual urban hustle and bustle. There is no loud music or boisterous bars to be found here.
The entire stretch of the peninsula has been acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has also been declared a national park since 1976 and is thickly forested with trees such as birch, pine, elm and linden and is home to a lot of wildlife. Needless to say, the beaches at Nida and its neighbouring settlement at Juodkrante have been certified as having a ‘blue flag' status, which means that they are clean and meet stringent quality standards needed for quality tourism.
Europe has a number of geographic centres and one of them is near Vilnius. As per data based on gravitation centre calculations from the National Geographic Institute of France, this point is precisely 26 km from Vilnius.
Treasure Trove of Art
This location is home to Europos Parkas which along with being a beautifully landscaped park is also a treasure trove of art. Visitors can wander through the open air displays of more than a 100 pieces of art by artists from 31 nations around the globe. Interestingly, the park holds a Guinness Record for having the largest work of art based on TV sets!
National Golf Resort is a golf resort that is presently being completed in Western Lithuania. The Golf resort is situated in a geographically favourable position- barely 12 km from the Klaipeda city centre and only a 20 minutes drive from the Palanga International Airport. National Golf Resort will soon not only offer a game of golf, but also a wide range of entertainment services and recreational activities. In the picturesque valley of the Dane river you will find a classic 18-hole 72 par golf course that conforms to the world standards with a 3-hole short-game field and a practice area. Golf players will be delighted by the variety of landscapes.
For more information please visit National Golf Resort website or contact us.