10 Things To Do In And Around Kaunas
Kaunas -- Lithuania's second largest city -- is a bit hit and miss for me, but I do think it is absolutely worth visiting for its outstanding historical relevance and nearby sites. Kaunas is super easy to reach -- by car, plane, or train -- making it a good option for a day or overnight trip.
1) 9th Fort
The highlight of my visits to Kaunas was the 9th Fort, a historical site where over 50,000 Jewish and Lithuanian people were murdered during WWII. The memorial statue truly leaves an impression on visitors, with its powerful movement looking as though it burst forth from the ground.
From something serious to much less so, Spurgine is a traditional doughnut (spurgine) bakery with very stereotypical "lunch ladies" serving the food. My advice is to grab a few doughnuts to go (I liked the plain balls and apple filled) and enjoy them outside on a bench while people watching.
3) Sugihara House
The Sugihara House was another highlight of my visits to Kaunas. The Sugihara House is a tiny, three room museum displaying information about Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul to Lithuania prior to and during the start of WWII. Sugihara bravely went against his government and issued thousands of visas to Polish and Lithuanian Jews so they could escape persecution from the Nazis. The Suigihara House shares his powerful story.
4) Pazaislis Monastery
The beautiful Pazaislis Monastery is the largest monastery complex in Lithuania and is the best example of Italian Baroque architecture in the Baltics. It is located on the Kaunas Lagoon and the grounds are stunning. We unfortunately didn't pre-register for a guided tour, but I really suggest you do this because I think it would make viewing the monastery so much more interesting. Nonetheless, the Pazaislis Monastery is a really beautiful sight to see while in Kaunas.
5) Old town
Kaunas' old town is very much different than Vilnius' and Klaipeda's. The old town has lovely architecture, especially the Kaunas Rotuse (town hall), which is stark white and set alone in a square. However, the problem I find with the old town is that you can't just drop into a restaurant and find some really tasty food as you can in Vilnius; finding good food is really where I struggled in Kaunas.
6) Kaunas Castle
Walking just past Kaunas' old town are the ruins of Kaunas Castle. I find this to be a pretty impressive sight, particularly because of the surrounding park and confluence of the Neris and Nemunas Rivers.
7) Laisves al.
A great way to spend an hour or two is strolling along the lovely tree lined walking street of Laisves al. This lovely street is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants including Spurgine and Green Cafe.
While I've yet to find somewhere tasty to eat a meal in Kaunas, I do like several cafes. Green Cafe on Laisves al. is a great option for a coffee, and Holy Donut (one of my favorite spots in Vilnius) first opened its doors in Kaunas before moving to Vilnius. Holy Donut is located in the old town.
9) Street Art
Kaunas is embracing its newly named title of Cultural Capital of Europe for 2022 by bringing in street artists to work on dilapidated or old buildings throughout the city. While visiting Kaunas I really enjoyed the street art pictured below (I unfortunately can't find the name of the artist -- if you know it please share it in the comments1), which is near Kaunas Castle.
10) Devil's Museum
J and I visited the Devil's Museum on our first visit to Kaunas and we both really enjoyed it. I found the collection and topic to be fascinating and absolutely suggest a visit while in Kaunas.
Have you been to Kaunas? The Vilnius airport while actually be closed over the summer (super frustrating), so if you are flying into Lithuania, you'll likely be heading into the Kaunas airport. Do consider spending a day or two exploring the city because there are certainly sights worth seeing!
If you'd like to read more about Kaunas, check out my road trip itinerary for the in and around the city.