When I decided to visit the city of Kaunas in central Lithuania, I hadn’t really given much thought to what there was to see and do in the city. I had included Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city, in my itinerary because I like to try to see at least a few different destinations in a country to gain a great understanding of the place. While I was already keen on visiting the Curonian Spit and Vilnius, I didn’t really know of any other spots.
While researching how to get between Lithuania and Poland, it became clear that Kaunas was a necessary stop along the way. Some very brief research later and I decided to make it my last stop on my trip through Lithuania. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Kaunas, from its lively atmosphere to the many landmarks I soon came to learn about. So here is my list of the essential sights to see in the city of Kaunas.
1. Devil Museum
In case you missed it, I’ve already explored this most unusual of museums in a prior article, hence it’s top spot. A quirky and informative visit that you can read about in greater detail in the above link.
2. St. Michael’s Church of the Archangel
This imposing 19th century church is found in the eastern end of the city centre, with a large square about it. Built as a Russian Orthodox church for the military, its Neo-Byzantine architecture is rather typical of the style but it’s size certainly makes it a key landmark of the more modern part of the city.
3. Laisves Street
This pedestrian thoroughfare cuts through the centre of the city from the above St. Michael’s Church of the Archangel to the Old Town of Kaunas. Lined with all sorts of shops and businesses, the centre of the street is transformed into a pseudo-park with the unbroken corridor of trees.
4. Streets of Old Town
At the end of the arrow-straight Laisves Street you’ll find the edge of the Kaunas Old Town. Perhaps not as striking and extravagant as other Baltic old towns, there’s a casual, unpretentious charm to its cobblestone streets. I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the old town and the bursts of colour from the blooming flowers in the balconies above.
5. City Hall
Naturally, one of the central landmarks of the city is the Kaunas City Hall. Surrounded by a nice open square, the historic building dates back to the 16th century. Aside from its architecture, it’s clearly an important spot in the city as I saw both wedding parties heading into the building, but also a huge gathering of rally cars amassed outside in the square the day before a big regional race.
6. Historic Buildings
This one is sort of a catch-all, but Kaunas does indeed have some historic buildings. There’s the Gothic detail of the Perkunas’ House, the house that Napoleon Bonaparte resided at in 1812 as his forces marched to Moscow, not to mention multiple churches and the Seminary pictured below.
7. Kaunas Castle
While only a fraction of the castle remains today, it’s still quite a remarkable sight, especially when it glows at sunset. First mentioned in the mid-14th century, in its day Kaunas Castle was a giant and daunting keep. As if often the way, it fell into ruin and was untouched for centuries. It wasn’t until the 1930s that restoration and excavation started and only in 2010 was the southeast tower fully restored.
Considering how small the hill actually is, it’s a little odd that a funicular was built for the hill to the north of the city centre. The funicular itself seems quite dated but I find these older forms of transport quite fascinating so was happy to jump aboard. My small city guide said there was a viewpoint nearby but I never really found it, although heading towards the old town I did find a few good spots to see out over the city.
9. Street Art and Statues
There may not be an abundant amount of street art and sculptures throughout the city, but the ones I saw caught my eye. The below piece near Kaunas Castle definitely stood out to me, because of its incredible detail and the way the pipe has been done.
10. Hot Air Balloons
I’m not sure whether this was a regular occurrence as there was a bit of a festival on while I was visiting and it was a weekday, but still it was pretty cool to watch hot air balloons take off not far from the old town in the middle of the day. I imagine it would be great to see Kaunas and the rivers from up there, but also cool to just watch these balloons slowly rise through the trees.
11. Two Rivers at Sunset
Kaunas seems to be blessed with some pretty epic sunsets thanks to the meeting of two rivers, the Neris and the Nemunas, to the city’s east. Sitting by the riverbank, watching the sun go down is a pretty great way to end the day and certainly a special sight. At the confluence of the rivers is an wide-open park that is actually a great spot to relax at any time of day.
Have you visited the Lithuanian city of Kaunas? Where else would you include? If not, where would you head first? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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