A Day Trip to Kaunas

Friday, December 19, 2014



As part of my 2014 New Year's travel goals I wanted to take more day and weekend trips around Lithuania. J and I accomplished this goal throughout the late summer and early fall with trips to Kaunas and Trakai. I'm still really hoping to visit Siauliai (for the Hill of Crosses), Druskininkai (for a spa weekend), and Nida (for the gorgeous sea-side town) prior to our leaving Lithuania.

I want to focus today's post on Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania. Kaunas became the interim capital of Lithuania from about 1919 to 1939 at a time when Vilnius was occupied. Kaunas is located at the intersection of the Neris River (which also flows through Vilnius) and the Nemunas River.

What I first noticed about Kaunas was that its dirtier, darker, and tougher than Vilnius. That certainly doesn't mean that I didn't like the city though. Kaunas has a serious edge to it that makes it feel very rough and real. Even the architecture was very different from that seen in Vilnius.

It is best to begin your visit in Kaunas with a stroll down the tree lined Laisves Aleja (Freedome Avenue) that leads directly into the Kaunas Old Town. On Laisves Aleja you will see numerous shops and restaurants. I really enjoyed the little cafe called Mio (Laisves al. 31), which served delicious cupcakes - a rare treat to find in Lithuania!

The statue in the photo below is to commemorate a Lithuanian student who died after self-immolation as he protested against Soviet rule.

looking down the tree lined streets in Laisves Avenue in Kaunas, Lithuania

A statue to commemorate Roma Kalanta who died from self-immolation during a protest in Kaunas


While walking around Kaunas keep your eyes peeled for cool street art and unexpectedly beautiful ruined buildings. I particularly loved the exterior of the partially ruined church in the photographs below.


street art of a little girl holding a blue balloon

strange but cool street art on a dilapidated building in Kaunas, Lithuania

The face of Jesus Christ on a church in Old Town Kaunas
A church in disrepair in Kaunas Old Town


The Old Town is marked by its beautiful low-storyed buildings and intricate roofs. You couldn't possibly miss the Old Town Hall because you'll see flocks of people taking wedding photos in the square. The Old Town Hall currently serves as the marriage registry office, but previously held offices for the mayor and magistrates and had an underground prison (I wonder if we can tour that!). One thing that you'll notice when visiting Lithuania in general are the large numbers of weddings and elaborate wedding photos happening every weekend pretty much throughout the year.


The cobblestone streets of the Kaunas Old Town

a blue bicycle with flowers in the basket in Kaunas Old TownA shop window selling wooden ornaments in the Kaunas Old Town
Intricate blue and white roofs in the Kaunas old town

bright blue skies and red buildings in the Kaunas old town

a detailed brick roof with red shingles in the Kaunas Old Town

The Kaunas Old Town Hall is a tall white building surrounded by a popular square
The Old Town Hall - what you can't see in this photo are the 3 different wedding parties taking photographs


Just like everywhere else in Lithuania, you can find a church on pretty much every street. Probably the most famous church in Kaunas is the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul. Inside the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul is an icon from the 17th century that supposedly grants miracles.

Another famous church that you will see while walking down Laisves Avenue is the Church of St. Michael, which is clearly identified by its blueish grey onion-shaped domes. This church was originally Russian Orthodox, but was later used for the Lithuanian army (in Lithuania you see a lot of churches that are converted for other use). 



the large brick exterior of the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Kaunas Old Town
The Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul

The detailed interior and bright ceilings in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul
the gilded organ in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul
The Russian Orthodox church of St. Michael in Kaunas
The Church of St. Michael


The Kaunas Castle (Pilies g. 17 - Pilies gatve translates to Castle Street) is the oldest stone castle in all of Lithuania. On a spooky note, the castle is thought to be haunted by the spirits of prisoners. I'm unsure whether or not you are allowed to go into the remaining part of the castle. I didn't notice an entrance but also didn't walk around the whole structure. From the Kaunas Castle you can stroll along the point where the Neris River and the Nemunas River meet. This park is very beautiful!



The remains of the oldest stone castle in Lithuania

looking at the old town of Kaunas from the park


If you end up visiting Kaunas I'd really suggest that you visit the Devil's Museum (V. Putvinskio g. 54). I know it sounds completely like a strange choice, but is actually really interesting. I really enjoyed visiting the Devil's Museum because the displays were described well in English and there was a lot of information about Lithuanian culture and superstitions (most of which I didn't previously know).

The Devil's Museum has over 3,000 images/statues of the Devil in his many forms. The first two floors of the exhibit are collected from Lithuania and other Baltic States, while the collections on the third floor are from elsewhere in the world.


A wooden devil from the Devil's Museum in Kaunas

the outside of the Devil's Museum in Kaunas




The Details: Taking the train from Vilnius to Kaunas is easy and inexpensive. You can pick up a free map when you arrive at the Kaunas train station and easily use it to navigate to Laisves Ave. Remember above when I said that Kaunas is a bit rougher and toucher than Vilnius? Be a bit careful when walking through certain areas of the city and just be aware of your surroundings.


What do you think of this second city of Lithuania? Would you visit the Devil's Museum?

8 comments:

  1. I'm absolutely in love with the architecture in the Baltic states. So pretty!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! The architecture in both Lithuania and Latvia is wonderful. I've still not been to Estonia, but I'm sure it is just as lovely.

      Delete
  2. I'd definitely go to the devil's museum!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was such a cool museum! I loved learning more about Lithuanian culture.

      Delete
  3. Everything there is so lovely - it reminds me a lot of Russia, architecturally, just 1000x more picturesque.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A lot of the buildings here are built in what I imagine is Russian style but mixed with both older and newer buildings. The different between the two cities, though just 45 minutes away, is interesting to me.

      Delete
  4. such cool street art. do u know who did them? that first one is so similar to banksy. :) i can't believe how nowadays people are trying to steal the street art since it's worth so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I don't know who the artists are. I didn't know that people are trying to steal street art - that is crazy!

      Delete