4 LITHUANIAN CITIES TO VISIT ON YOUR NEXT WEEKEND GETAWAY
Lithuania might not be the first European country that comes to mind for a weekend getaway. But with picturesque cities that are drenched in history and stunning architectural treasures, this vibrant Baltic country is slowly finding its way onto the radar of in-the-know travellers.
Whether you want to explore the fortifications of Kaunas or marvel at the soaring churches of Vilnius, here are four Lithuanian cities that each offer something unique.
Serving as the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius is the first stop for many travellers to the country and captivates with its cobblestoned streets and diverse architectural styles. It’s home to some of the country’s best restaurants, as well as a fascinating KGB Museum that details the country’s 50-year Soviet occupation.
Exploring the city’s majestic churches is a “must”, with more than 2,000 statues housed within the Baroque-style St. Peter and Paul’s Church. Marvel at the stunning frescoes that decorate the interior of the Neoclassical-designed Vilnius Cathedral and the Flamboyant Gothic exterior of the UNESCO-listed St. Anne’s Church before soaking up the Old Town views from the iconic Gediminas Tower.
“Looking across the red-roofed buildings of Vilnius”
Perched on the shores of Lake Galvė just 30 minutes’ drive west of Vilnius is Trakai, which has long been a popular getaway resort. It was established in the 13th century and has supported a diverse population of Karaims, Tatars, Russians, Jews and Poles throughout its storied history.
No visit is complete without touring the red-roofed Trakai Island Castle, which is connected to the main town by a narrow causeway. It was established in the 14th century by the medieval ruler Kęstutis, although much of the current structure was completed by his son, Vytautas the Great, to serve as one of the main hubs for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
“Paddle boating around the Trakai Island Castle”
Situated at the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers in the centre of Lithuania, Kaunas is the country’s second largest city. It clusters around a compact Old Town that’s dominated by the Kaunas Cathedral Basilica and home to the outstanding Lithuanian art collection of the MK Čiurlionis National Museum of Art.
But travel just a short distance outside the city and you can explore the recreated 18th and 19th-century villages at the Open Air Museum of Lithuania, which represents all regions of the country. Head east to the ornate Pazaislis Monastery, which was built by Camaldolese monks in the 17th century, or make the short drive north to the Ninth Fort Museum that remembers those who died under Soviet Occupation and at the hands of the Nazis.
“The opulent interior of the Kaunas Cathedral Basilica”
Overlooking the Baltic Sea, Klaipeda is an important port city that also serves as the gateway to the magnificent Curonian Spit. Its cobblestoned Old Town is renowned for its German fachwerk architecture and the lively gathering spot of Theater Square, which is dominated by a sculpture of locally-born poet Simon Dach.
You can discover the region’s rich sea-faring history at the Lithuanian Sea Museum, which occupies a 19th-century fort, then explore the towering sand dunes and outstanding birdlife of the Curonian Spit. This almost 100-kilometre-long sand bar separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea, with its beautiful beaches, untouched pine forests and wildlife now protected within the Kursiu Nerija National Park.
“A wind-swept dune overlooking the Baltic Sea along the Curonian Spit”