Kaunas Area Road Trip Itinerary
You know what? I wasn't blown away by my first two visits to Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city and former capital city. So, I thought I'd try to do it a bit differently this time by renting a car, exploring the surrounding areas, and doing some serious research through blogs and Instagram. But still, Kaunas didn't capture my attention the way Vilnius, Klaipeda, or even other smaller cities in the Baltics have. And I can't really put my finger on why.
Nonetheless, I do suggest that you visit Kaunas, time permitting, because there are numerous great things to see, especially in the surrounding area. Read on to find out the exact road trip itinerary that we took during our weekend trip to Kaunas.
Pazaislis Monastery is the largest in Lithuania and the best example of Italian Baroque architecture in this area of Europe. Pretty easy to find if you follow a GPS, Pazaislis Monastery is surrounded by beautiful grounds and even has a very fancy restaurant that is listed on the Nordic White Guide.
We didn't sign up for a tour ahead of time (but I'd suggest you do), so we walked the grounds and took turns marveling at the amazing frescoes inside the church.
The next stop on our road trip was the Sugihara House, which was located just outside of Kaunas' nice walking street, Laisves Avenue, in an area that looked like former embassies. The Sugihara House is a small, but very informative museum located in the former Japanese Consulate that was located in Kaunas during the inter-war period.
Chiune Sugihara was the Japanese consul to Lithuania prior to and during the start of WWII. During this time, Sugihara issued approximately 6,000 visas to Polish and Lithuanian Jews without approval from the Japanese government because he felt it was the right thing to do. What a brave man!
Entrance to the Sugihara House costs 3 EUR per person.
Kaunas old town, Laisves Avenue, and castle
After visiting the Sugihara House, we parked our car at the Daugirdas Hotel in Kaunas' old town (I wouldn't necessarily recommend the hotel) so that we could begin our afternoon explorations around Kaunas. After checking in, we were able to get out to explore the city by around 1:30 -- just a time reference so you can plan your day.
We've seen Kaunas' old town and Laisves Avenue before, but hadn't tried the iconic Spurgine (a traditional doughnut place) yet, so that is where we headed first. Stepping into Spurgine is like being transported back into the 80s (garish makeup and all), but the traditional doughnuts are oh so good. We ordered two plain balls and one filled with apples that was really stellar. Definitely try this place if you are in Kaunas.
After and early breakfast and short walk around Kaunas' old town again, we jumped back into our rental car and went to the nearby 9th Fort. In my opinion, the 9th Fort is the number 1 thing to see in Lithuania because of its historical relevance. I've written a ton more about it here.
Entrance to the 9th Fort museums costs 3 EUR per person.
After a morning exploring the fort and visiting all of the exhibits, we drove to Raudondvaris Castle, which was actually only about 15 minutes from the 9th Fort, although it was in a different county. Raudondvaris Castle is located on a hill above the Nevezis River, and has really lovely grounds that look perfect for a picnic (we should have planned ahead for this!). On the castle grounds, there is an orangery, which is now a restaurant, stables, gardens, and sculptures from the artists who currently stay in the renovated stables (now an art incubator).
Raudondvaris Castle is free to visit, unless entertain the museum, and is a nice spot for a picnic or a hike, but doesn't offer too much else to visitors.
The highlights of this road trip were by far the 9th Fort and the Sugihara House. Both were informative and really worthwhile places to visit and super affordable. I have to recommend a visit to both if you are in Lithuania.
Have you been to Kaunas? What did you think?