Basically, this is a massive post about Lithuania. Since having Baby ISO, we've been doing a lot of local travel during work vacations and long weekends. We've seen more of Lithuania this (academic) year than in our past two years of living here. I love local travel and have been happily checking off activities from my Lithuanian Bucket List. Vilnius, where we live, is the main tourist hot-spot of the country, and I think that many visitors don't even consider seeing anywhere else in the country. I think this is a mistake!
Lithuania is highly affordable: meals average around 10 EUR, cappuccinos around 2 EUR, admission fees to museums/events under 5 EUR, etc. In addition to it being an affordable country to visit, it also has an interesting history and culture, as well as incredible nature. See 16 reasons you should visit Lithuania in 2016 for more reasons. I'd argue that Lithuania has something for every traveler out there. Read on to learn more about Lithuanian cities and determine what city, town, or village you may want to visit.
Let's first talk more about Lithuania. Lithuania, the largest of the Baltic states, is a small country with an area of 25,212 square miles (a bit larger than size of West Virginia, USA) with a population of about 3 million. Lithuania has a rapidly declining population, because of its high rate of emigration, yet it has a quickly growing economy. The main language spoken is Lithuanian, although many people speak Russian (particularly older people) and English (especially younger people), and a small amount of the population speaks Polish.
Lithuania is primarily a Catholic country, although a small amount of the population are Russian Orthodox or Protestant. You'll find numerous, beautiful Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches throughout the country.
Much of the population lives in the capital, Vilnius, which is also the main tourist hot-spot; however, there are several other cities that also have much to see and do. Though we don't have a car, we've managed to visit several other cities in Lithuania and if you are spending some time in the Baltics, I'd highly suggest taking some time to visit at least one other city/town/village in the country. Below I've compiled a few facts and suggestions for things to do in each place.
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is the largest city in the country with a population of about 526,000. The city founded in the 14th century by Grand Duke Gediminas. Vilnius boasts many large museums including excellent art museums, history museums, the National Drama Theatre, Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, and many more venues to experience culture for low prices. There are also many unique restaurants, huge parks, great street art, and interesting outdoor markets. As with many capital cities, there is a ton to do in Vilnius. You should visit Vilnius if you want to take a city break.
Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania and has a population of ~350,000. From 1920 to 1940 Kaunas was the temporary capital of Lithuania. In Kaunas, you'll find many smaller museums, including the Devil's Museum and the Natural History Museum, as well as the 9th Fort, which is supposed to be interesting to visit. You can walk along the tree-lined Laisves Prospektas or wander the cobbled streets of Kaunas' old town.
Visit Kaunas if you are interested in off-beat architecture and unique museums.
Klaipeda, the seaport in Lithuania, connects Lithuania with northern Europe via cruise ships and trade, thus the architecture is slightly different than what you'll see in other cities. Though the city is pretty quiet most of the year, in the summer it sees an influx of tourists visiting from the cruise ships. The population of Klaipeda is approximately 184,657. Dane River runs through the city, where you'll see a tall ship and a tree-lined park. Klaipeda is a great weekend destination for a slower pace and is the gateway for visiting the Curonian Spit.
Visit Klaipeda for a cozy city and to get to the Curonian Spit.
The fourth largest city in Lithuania, with a population of 127,059, Siauliai is a key industrial area in Lithuania. For visitors, Siauliai holds the Hill of Crosses and St. Peter and Paul Church.
Visit Siauliai as a quirky pit stop along your Lithuanian road trip.
Commonly known as a resort town, Druskininkai is popular among Lithuanians for a relaxing break. Boasting numerous spa centers and a huge, indoor water park, Druskininkai makes for a fun weekend trip. We visited Druskininkai in March and I was pleasantly surprised by this cute town. About a 15 or 20 minute drive from Druskininkai is also Grutas Parkas, which is a park full of statues and propaganda from the Soviet times. If you visit Druskininkai, be sure to also spend a few hours at Grutas Parkas.
Visit Druskininkai for a relaxing spa weekend.
Palanga is a seaside resort town with sandy beaches, sand dunes, and pedestrian streets. Other than the beaches, one of the highlights is a public pier that goes out 470 m into the water. Palanga is very crowded in the summer and often a popular spot for parties. I've not yet visited Palanga, but I'm hoping to make it there late in the summer this year or spring next year.
Visit Palanga for a beach and party vacation along the Baltic Sea.
The Curonian Spit (Smityne, Juodkrante, Nida)
The Curonian Spit is a 98 km long spit of land just off the Lithuanian coast. On the Spit, you'll find several fishing villages of varying sizes, long stretches of sandy beaches, and beautiful nature. There are great birding locations, excellent photography spots, an interesting border shared with Kaliningrad, and plenty of hiking and biking trails -- some even have wood carvings of witches.
Visit the Curonian Spit for a nature-filled escape full of biking, photography, sunsets over sand dunes, and birdwatching.
Sources: http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/lithuania-population/; http://www.truelithuania.com/palanga-resort-330
Linking up with Mummy Travels for #CityTripping
Where do you want to visit in Lithuania? Where else would you suggest visiting in Lithuania?