Lithuania is one of the three Baltic countries that gained it’s independence during the fall of the Soviet Union. The other 2 are Estonia (the smallest of the Baltics) and Latvia. Honestly, the Baltics hold a special place in my heart. No trip to eastern Europe is complete without discovering the top gems of Lithuania that we will be sharing with you!
Vilnius – Capital of Lithuania
Our favorite thing to do when starting to explore a new town is to take a free walking tour. In Vilnius, the Yellow Vilnius Free Walking tour is definitely worth the time. And they not only offer a tour of the Old Town of Vilnius but also of Uzupis. As with any walking tour we always make sure to tip the guide – this is the way that they earn a living.
The Old Town of Vilnius dates back to the 13th century and is a UNESCO world heritage site. There is so much to see and do in this historic capital. But first it is best to start with Gediminas Castle. Because it sits on top of a hill which overlooks old town Vilnius. It is a great way to see the windy cobblestone streets and the pastel colored buildings of the old town from the hill to get your bearings.
In addition there are a lot of interesting bars, shops and cafes in this area.
The Republic of Uzupis
Užupis is the smallest district in Vilnius, covering an area of a bit more than half a square kilometer. And it is separated from Old Town by the Vilnelė River. What used to be a seedy part of the city in the early 1990s has grown into an affluent neighborhood of artists, intellectuals, and a few local moguls.
Užupis humorously declared it’s independence on 1 April 1997. However, the new republic comes complete with its own currency, government, anthem, constitution and an ever-present free spirit.
This place feels absolutely magical. As we crossed the little bridge into the Republic of Užupis we noticed the massive pieces of art in the river, on the embankments and decorating many of the buildings.
Besides the many pieces of art in Užupis, Vilnius has many interesting murals and sculptures adorning the city.
- The Stotis District has many very large pieces. From the giant statue at the train station to the many murals around.
- Literatai Street is an homage to many of the Lithuanian authors and poets. It is one of the most visited places in Lithuania. As such, the walls of the street have been decorated with metal, wood, and glass effigies, as well as other plaques and pieces dedicated to various authors. The Modern Art Centre is also located on Literatai Street.
- Open Gallery is an art initiative to creative alternatives to traditional art forms. As such, this area has murals on factory walls, installations, sculptures, performances, and non-commercial film screenings. In addition, this project is a collaboration between Lithuanian and foreign artists as well.
Bernadine Garden which covers over 9 hectors of Vilnius is located in the Old Town. It is a lovely place to take a walk, or bring a picnic lunch. This place is huge, housing many gardens, fountains and even a monastery.
Just 100 kilometers from Vilnius, is the second biggest city in Lithuania. However in 1413, Kaunas was the largest city and the most important one culturally to boot. Today, Kaunas is the scientific hub for the country. In addition it is the European City of Culture for 2022.
Kaunas has an incredible amount of green spaces, museums and art overall. In addition, Kaunas is known as a fashion city with a strong cafe culture.
Strolling down the Freedom Boulevard was our favorite thing to do in Kaunas. This is a wide pedestrian only street with many shops, cafes and restaurants along each side of it. This boulevard is over 1.6 km long and is considered to be one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe.
Kaunas Old Town
The cobblestone streets of Old Town Kaunas never disappoint. There are endless cafes, restaurants, shops and galleries to browse.
The Kaunas Castle was built in the 14th century to defend the city against crusaders. It was created in the Gothic style and is the oldest “object” in Kaunas. The castle has been renovated and shows off paintings, sculptures and ceramic exhibits important to the history and culture of the country.
The majority of street art in Kaunas is just that – large murals on buildings. They are fun to find around the entire city. If you want to discover all of them – follow this map of Kaunas street art.
We truly enjoyed discovering the gems of Vilnius and Kaunas in Lithuania. The history, culture and the street art of this country truly surprised and inspired us.
Have you been to the Baltics? What was your favorite gem there?