Kaunas is famous for having the first school of theatre, the first opera performance, the first Song Festival, and – most importantly – the city is home to the basketball team “Žalgiris”.
You can feast your eyes on Kaunas from the top of Žaliakalnis Hill, getting there by using one of the oldest funiculars in Europe. 11 panoramic view platforms in Kaunas open up the most spectacular views of the city featuring green alleys, squares and a unique ancient oak wood. The city is surrounded by 7 regional parks. You can experience the spirit of Kaunas by going for a walk in Laisvės Avenue and the cobblestone streets between 16th century buildings. The provisional capital city is famous for its festivals and celebrations: in spring and autumn it hosts the international “Kaunas Jazz” festival, in May the streets and squares of the Old Town are full of locals and tourists celebrating the city’s birthday, while the three summer months are devoted to the Pažaislis Classical Music Festival. The number of residents in Kaunas makes up 10.5 percent of the whole Lithuanian population. The city is situated at the crossroads of the most important roads in Lithuania. This is where two European transport corridors – IX and I (Via Baltica) meet. Close to the city is the International airport of Karmėlava, and finally Kaunas also has a well-developed railway infrastructure.
In Kaunas you’ll immediately notice green alleys, open squares and tidy river banks. The city is surrounded by seven natural regional parks, each calling with its beautiful nature. Here you will find the old Oakery, Napoleon’s Mountain, and 11 observation spots offering the most fascinating panoramic views. Feel the city’s spirit as you walk down the Alley of Freedom and wander the stone-paved streets passing the 16th century houses!
Kaunas was the provisional capital of Lithuania for over two decades, between the First and the Second World War. Kaunas Town Hall is one of the three remaining town halls in Lithuania, and is, by the way, considered to be the most beautiful. It now houses the Museum of Ceramics. Every weekend brings an opportunity to see an impressive array of brides in their white dresses, as the Town Hall also contains a Marriage Chamber. To the right of the Town Hall lies The Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul (Vilniaus St 1), which is the largest Neo-Classicist building in Lithuania. Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevičius, the Lithuanian moral authority, was buried in the church, while outside the church by the wall lies the mausoleum of the poet and priest Maironis. Near the Archcathedral you can see the Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier (Rotušės Sq. 8). The premises of the former monastery are located by the church. They now house a Jesuit Gymnasium. In the 19th century, one of the most famous poets in Lithuania and Poland, Adam Mickiewicz and Pharmacy containing a 19th Century hall and displaying numerous ancient utensils and other original exhibits. By the way, do not be surprised to see not only tourists but also medical students here. They also visit the museum to gain some knowledge of ancient medicine. You can get acquainted with Maironis, a figure that is significant for every Lithuanian, in a house with a beautiful Baroque gable (Rotušės Sq. 13). The poet lived in the building when he was working as the Rector of Kaunas Priest Seminary. Now the house contains the Maironis Museum of Lithuanian Literature. In addition, in front of the building stands a monument dedicated to Maironis, which was created by Gediminas Jokūbonis. In the North-western corner of the square is the late Renaissance style Church of the Holy Trinity and the Priest Seminary. In this church the Samogitian Bishop and writer Motiejus Valančius lived in 1864. Outside the seminary stands a 4-metre high monument dedicated to M. Valančius. The creator of the sculpture is Leonas Žuklys. A much-loved site for visitors is house number 28 in the Town Hall Square. It is the unique Museum of the History of Medicine Perkūnas was the supreme deity in the Lithuanian pagan system. He was the god of thunder and the sky. A house dedicated to him is located in Kaunas. It is a twostorey residential brick house, considered to be one of the most beautiful and original monuments built in the late Gothic style in Lithuania.
The building was given the name of “The House of Perkūnas” after a small statue of God Perkūnas was found at the beginning of the 19th century. For a long time the house belonged to private persons but after the war of 1655– 1661 and the subsequent reconstruction, the building was taken over by the Jesuits. In fact, Jesuits own it to this day; it now houses a gymnasium. Additionally, lively excursions are organised and we recommend that you join one of them. After some fun there – rush down the same street to see another Kaunas masterpiece.
Not far away from Kaunas we recommend the visit of the Pažaislis Monastery.
The complex of the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Camaldolese Monastery is rich in decorations and grandeure. The beauty of the Monastery was praised throughout the whole of Europe and, as a result, was visited by numerous historical figures including Charles I of Sweden, and Tsars Alexander I and Nicolas I of Russia. The latter was so impressed by the splendour of the church that he awarded 130,000 Roubles so that the church could be renovated and turned into an Orthodox church. The foundation stone of the church was sanctified in 1667; however, its consecration only took place in 1712. The complex was designed by an Italian architect, Giovanni Battista Frediani, and decorated with plaster casts by the sculptors of Lombardy, and with the frescoes of Michelangelo Palloni, a master from Florence. The interior of the Baroque church, which contains the mausoleum of its founder Krzysztof Pac (Lith. Kristupas Pacas) Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is decorated with marble of different colours, impressive woodcarvings, valuable images, and 140 frescoes. Eleven of them depict the mission of Saint Bruno in Lithuania 1000 years ago. The frescoes in the corridor to the sacristy were painted at the end of the 17th century by Michelangelo Palloni. He depicted the arrival of the monk (Saint Bruno) in Lithuania in 1009, the baptism of Netimeras and the martyrdom of Saint Bruno. Describing the death of Saint Bruno, German chroniclers mentioned the name of Lithuania for the first time thus making the date acquire vital importance in the history of Lithuania. Yet the artistic value of the buildings is not the only factor to have determined the fame of the church and the monastery. Every year on July 2 crowds of pilgrims would arrive to the feast day to see the miraculous painting “The Mother of Beautiful Love”. For 15 years the monastery has been home to the international annual Pažaislis Music Festival held in summer, which is highly ranked at an international level. This year the festival starts in May. It is now time for you to explore folk architecture.
Another great site to visit nearby Kaunas is the Ethnographic Museum in Rumšiškės.
The museum invites you to travel back in time and discover the region’s past. You can do this whilst becoming familiar with the heritage of Lithuanian rural life from the period of the late 18th to the early 19th century. The open air museum by the banks of the Kaunas Reservoir, opened in 1974, occupies an area of 175 hectares. The museum contains around 100 buildings with restored original interiors and surroundings as monuments of folk architecture. The collection is arranged in such a way that the buildings represent the main ethnographic regions of Lithuania: each region has its own authentic farmsteads with their own tools, implements, household items, and clothes. Rumšiškės is the last site in your route in and around Kaunas, the city of green hills and medieval churches. But it is a very convenient place from which to head for Panemunė and get acquainted with the much older history of Lithuania.
Source: Lithuanian State Department of Tourism under The Ministry of Economy