The city with old charm and a modern heart
With a majestic brick fortress with towers that dominate the historic centre and a sixteenth-century Baroque town hall known as “the white swan” due to its white colour, Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city situated on the confluence of the rivers Nemunas and Neris, surprises for the beauty and harmony of its urban fabric.
The old and new town
Among the old buildings present in the city, the Church of Vytautas and the House of Perkunas, the old Hanza merchants’ house, stand out for their originality and unique style. The well-preserved Old Town, located on a strip of land between the two rivers, is filled with historic monuments such as the castle, numerous churches, monasteries and elegant residences.
To the west it is joined to the decidedly larger New Town, the modern commercial and cultural heart of the city. The New Town is the centre of the banking, commercial and administrative sector of the city, the main area for shopping and home to most of the museums and principal entertainment venues. The city has characteristic and perfectly functional funicular railways. The pedestrian-only main street Laisves aleja (Street of Freedom) is a long treelined avenue of some 16 km and one of the most beautiful in all of Lithuania.
The artistic treasures
Kaunas is home to numerous museums: the museum dedicated to M. K. Ciurlionis, a genius of Lithuanian painting, the War Museum of Vytautas the Great, the Žilinskas Museum with works from all over the world, and the “Devil Museum”, the only one of its kind in the world with more than 3,000 sculptures and carvings of devils. During Soviet rule some nine military forts were built around Kaunas. The fort known as the “ninth” today houses a museum that remembers those who perished under Nazi rule and the genocide of the Lithuanian Jewish community.
The Pazaislis Monastery
The splendid Baroque Pazaislis Monastery, one of the greatest architectural and artistic treasures of the country, is situated in an isolated forest near the sea, in the far east corner of the city.
The Surroundinds of Kaunas: Rumsiskes e Klaipeda
The most popular trip from Kaunas is to Rumsiskes, which is located 25 km to the east, towards Vilnius. Here a large open-air Ethnography Museum can be found, which features 180 reconstructed buildings depicting rural life. Situated on the Baltic Sea at the entrance to the River Danè, Klaipeda is the third city in Lithuania. It is surrounded by lush green forests, and has an attractive Old Town and important port. With many large eighteenth-century buildings that were once merchants’ houses, customs buildings and goods stores, Klaipeda is known as the “city of warehouses“.
The Lithuanian coast is famous for its particularly beautiful white sandy beaches and dunes. Palanga, situated to the north of Klaipeda on the Baltic Sea, is the largest and best known seaside resort in Lithuania. One of the most beautiful places in Palanga is the Tiškeviciaus Palace, which houses the Museum of Amber.
From Kaunas to Vilnius
Vilnius can be comfortably reached by bus from Kaunas. The capital of Lithuania, Vilnius is well known for the variety of its architectural styles, magnificent churches, winding alleyways and Medieval courtyards. The Old Town of Vilnius is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers an area of 360 hectares. The symbols of Vilnius are the tower of the Castle of Gediminas (founder of the city), the Cathedral at the foot of the mountain and the main place of worship for Lithuanian Catholics, the Church of St Anne, considered a masterpiece of Gothic art, and the Church of St. Peter and Paul, a triumph of the Baroque style housing masterpieces of Italian and Lithuanian art.
The Gates of Dawn are one of the best known holy Catholic sites in the world. Vilnius is an innovative and expanding city with modern buildings, new skyscrapers and shopping centres, making it the business, political, educational and cultural centre of the country. The University of Vilnius, founded in 1579, is one of the oldest in eastern Europe.
Text by Federica Fusco
Published on Avion Magazine
Photos: Sisterscom.com, Shutterstock
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www.visit.kaunas.lt/en/ - www.lithuania.travel
Where to sleep in Kaunas
Where to go
CITY HALL SQUARE
FRANCIS XAVIER CHURCH OF JESUS
ARCHANGEL GABRIELE CATHEDRAL
MUSEUM OF THE DEVIL
MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE AND PHARMACY
Destinations found in the vicinity
Airports nearby Kaunas