- Old city
- New town
- Kaunas museums
- Lithuanian restaurants
- Shopping in Kaunas
Kaunas is the second largest and largest city in Lithuania. At the same time, the most mono-ethnic, only 5% of “non-Lithuanians” live here. Kaunas has a rich history. It was first mentioned in chronicles in 1361, but most likely it was founded even earlier. By the way, there are several legends about the founding of Kaunas, but almost all of them agree that the city was founded by a ruler named Kunas, who was born from the priestess of the god Parkunas and her lover. In different legends, they try to separate this couple in different ways, but love always wins.
Due to its advantageous geographical position at the confluence of the Vilna and Neman rivers, Kaunas quickly became a rich trading city; in the 15th century it entered the Hanseatic League (a community of trading cities, which included, for example, Riga, Novgorod and Bergen). However, over the next two centuries, difficult times came for Lithuania and Kaunas, when the country came under the rule of first Poland, then the Russian Empire. However, during the time of the latter, the city began to grow again. In 1919-1940 Kaunas was even the capital of the provisional Lithuanian republic. And in the late 1980s, it was Kaunas that became the site of an anti-communist uprising that led to the secession of Lithuania from the USSR.
Kaunas is today considered the "cultural" capital of Lithuania. There are 4 theaters, more than 40 museums (with a population of only 370 thousand people), cultural, musical and sports events of the Lithuanian and international level are held annually. By the way, Kaunas is home to a very strong Lithuanian basketball school, as well as the Zalgeris club, one of the strongest in Europe.
Kaunas boasts a well-kept Old Town with a variety of architectural styles. Kaunas Castle with Gothic elements, the Town Hall in the Baroque style, the Church of Michael the Archangel in the neo-Byzantine style, and the Soviet buildings, those of architectural value, are built in the neoclassical style.
In addition, Kaunas is a large trade center. It produces knitwear, ceramics, leather and wood products.
Many tourists note that they like Kaunas even more than Vilnius, thanks to its quiet, non-capital atmosphere and an abundance of historical and cultural attractions, among which you can always choose something interesting in order to decide where to go in Kaunas.
Let's take a look at some of the most characteristic sights of old Kaunas.
- Kaunas Castle is the main attraction of the city. The castle was built in the middle of the XIII century at the confluence of the Neris and Neman rivers, as one of the strongholds against the Teutonic Order. The main feature of Kaunas Castle is one of the first stone castles in Lithuania, which also has two rows of defensive structures. A settlement quickly grew around the castle, which was the beginning of the formation of the city. Now the castle has been well restored; there is a museum inside one of the towers. And although over the years the castle has lost some of its grandeur, it still looks very impressive.
- Not far from the castle is a beautiful red brick Gothic building with high lancet windows and a gable roof - this is the Church of St. George and the ensemble of the Bernardine monastery. This is one of the oldest churches in the city, dating back to the 15th century. The church was destroyed several times, but it was rebuilt better and richer than before. Now in the monastery you can see the original elements of the 18th century: a wooden altar, icons, pulpit, organ and choir with wooden galleries.
- The Town Hall and Town Hall Square have been the center of the city since the beginning of the 15th century. In 1408 Kaunas received the Magdeburg Law, which allowed the city to independently control trade (collect taxes in its treasury) and have self-government. Buildings of local self-government bodies were built around the Town Hall Square, and there was a brisk trade here. Here the decisions of the master were announced. It was very honorable to have a house near the Town Hall Square. Now the Town Hall Square remains the center of the city; concerts, festivals and city events are held here. The dominant feature of the square is the town hall, in the building of which various city "offices" were located, from the treasury to the prison. The Town Hall is an interesting mix of styles from Gothic to Early Classicism. Due to its elegance and white color, the town hall is often called the "white swan". The height of this "swan" is 53 meters. Now the local wedding palace is located in the town hall.
- Vilnius Street is the most beautiful street in the city. It was part of the old road to Vilnius and is now the axis of the city. Vilnius street is completely pedestrian, perfectly reconstructed, very well-groomed. Many of the houses on it are authentic. It is a pleasure to walk on it.
The new city of Kaunas was actively developing and building up in the late 19th - early 20th centuries, especially actively during the short time Kaunas was the capital of Lithuania.
- Laisves Alley is the main street of the New Town of Kaunas. It is the longest pedestrian alley in Europe, the length of the street is 1.7 km. Its construction began in 1849 and lasted for almost half a century. This was due to the fact that some of the houses had to be demolished, and the residents had to be relocated. Now Laisves avenue is a great place for daytime and evening walks, filled with cafes, restaurants, bars, music venues and other entertainment.
- The Zaliakalnis funicular was commissioned in 1931. It rises to the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in just 1 minute. Now the funicular cars have been given an antique look, music is playing inside, and the employees are dressed in uniforms of the 1951 model.
- The Church of the Resurrection of Christ was conceived as a symbol of Lithuanians' gratitude to God for the freedom they received. This was in 1922. The church was built with donations from ordinary Lithuanians. It is built in an interesting, neoclassical style. In 1940, when all that remained was to decorate the interior of the building, Lithuania lost its independence. The church was confiscated. In 1952, by decision of Stalin, the building of the church was adapted for an 8-storey radio factory that produced televisions. After the collapse of the USSR, the church was returned to believers, and in 2004 it was consecrated again. There is an excellent observation deck on the roof.
In the New Town you will find such attractions as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, a mosque, the Resurrection Church and the Annunciation Cathedral, the Church of the Holy Cross (Carmelites). Pay attention also to contemporary art - many walls of Kaunas are decorated with interesting graffiti.
More than 40 museums are located in Kaunas, some of which have no analogues in the world. The Čiurlionis Art Museum was founded in 1921 and is the first and largest art museum in Lithuania. The museum contains over 350 thousand works of art in 12 branches.
The Ethnographic Museum near the city in the village of Rumsiskes is located in the open air and tells about the Lithuanian culture, way of life and the life of the Lithuanian countryside.
The Devils Museum is the only one of its kind in the world. Here is a collection of devils of all types, shapes, sizes and materials. There are more than 3 thousand devils here. When you are sent to hell, you can safely go to Kaunas.
The Town Hall houses the Museum of Ceramics with an interesting souvenir shop.
The Aviation Museum displays samples of aviation equipment, including a copy of the aircraft on which the Lithuanian pilots flew from America to Kaunas.
Lithuanian cuisine, to a lesser extent than the cuisines of other Baltic states, has absorbed the features of German and Scandinavian cuisines. Lithuanian cuisine is more distinctive. It differs, first of all, in the "forest" orientation. Game, mushrooms, honey are used here. Lithuanian cuisine is distinguished by a simple recipe, a large number of dishes from potatoes and dairy products, from meat - pork, and a very moderate use of spices.
Here are some restaurants in Kaunas where you can taste Lithuanian cuisine. The portions are large and the prices are very reasonable.
- The Forto Dvaras restaurant of Lithuanian cuisine is a wonderful establishment with a colorful interior. You can try zeppellins, potato pancakes, blood sausage, pork ears. Large selection of Lithuanian beer.
- Bernelių užeiga restaurant attracts with its interior. You will be greeted by waiters in livery, linen tablecloths and decorations collected from all over the country. There is a tourist menu consisting only of national dishes.
- Aviys Restaurant is located in a former brewery building. Perhaps that's why you can taste the best beer in town here. In addition, there are many signature treats here.
Shopping in Kaunas
Kaunas does not have such a wide range of brands as in Vilnius, but many European brands are represented here as well. There are two main shopping centers in Kaunas - "Akropolis" and "Mega". The choice of brands is about the same. In order not to leave the center, take a stroll along Laisves Alley, where there is an overwhelming number of boutiques of European and Lithuanian brands.
What to bring as souvenirs from Kaunas? This is flax, which is of very high quality here at prices several times lower than in Russia. Knitted items that are sold in other countries around Christmas can be found in Lithuania at any time of the year in any souvenir shop. Handmade leather goods are also a wonderful souvenir from Lithuania. Purses, gloves, clutches, wallets - all these things can be bought at Akropolis or in souvenir shops. The leather goods are of very high quality.