Pažaislis Monastery is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Lithuania. The ensemble, designed by Italian architect Giovanni Battista Frediani, is decorated with mouldings by Lombardy sculptors and frescoes by Florentine painter Michele Arcangelo Palloni. Since the summer of 1996, the monastery hosts the annual Pažaislis International Music Festival. During the off-season, the halls of the monastery serve as the meeting point for local artists and their audiences.
The Monte Pacis hospitality complex is located on the grounds of Pažaislis Monastery. Dining in one of its spacious halls will surely make you feel like a Lithuanian noble. Having a glass of wine here is definitely a good idea, as the place has been recognized as the best in a number of categories at the Baltic Wine List Awards 2020.
The Medieval Kaunas Castle was built at the meeting point of two of Lithuania’s rivers – Nemunas and Neris – to repel frequent Crusader attacks. The country’s oldest stone castle is the only one that has two rows of defensive walls (as you might guess, the Crusaders were quite good at attacking cities). Kaunas Castle is open all year round to everyone interested in Medieval history.
Surrounding the castle is Confluence Park, oftentimes called the heart of Kaunas. It’s a place fit for both relaxation and contemplation. Close to the point where Nemunas and Neris meet, you will find a pagan altar where ancient Baltic rites were performed millennia ago. After this journey back in time, you can climb Pope’s Hill, where both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis held Mass when visiting Lithuania.
Kaunas Town Hall
Gothic, Baroque, Classicism - Kaunas Town Hall displays a number of architectural styles, and its main façade features a tower resembling a swan’s neck. That’s where its nickname - the White Swan - comes from. At 53 metres tall, the tower is the highest point of Kaunas Old Town.
As time went by, Kaunas Town Hall changed many purposes. In the past, it hosted fairs and court cases, an Orthodox church and even a wax melting furnace. Today, this is the go-to venue for the city’s flashiest wedding ceremonies.
Kaunas Street Art
Every year, new works of street art are being added to Kaunas' increasingly colourful buildings. From large-scale murals painted by professionals artists through to walls dedicated to free and legal self-expression, there are plenty of eye-catching pieces to enjoy as you explore Kaunas' Art Deco streets.
One must-see mural is the Master (or the Wise Old Man), which covers an area of 440 square m. and was probably the first large-scale piece of street art in Lithuania.
Interwar Modernist architecture
Kaunas' Modernist Interwar architecture is the city's most striking aesthetic feature. After the First World War, Kaunas was Lithuania's temporary capital. With the authorities and the intelligentsia concentrated in Kaunas, and industry developing rapidly, new buildings designed by talented architects rose across the city. Most of the architects responsible had completed their studies abroad and returned to Lithuania with fresh ideas and perspectives. Be sure to visit the former Central Post Office, the Kaunas City Municipality, the former Pieno Centras milk processing building, the Romuva cinema, and the Officers' Club. These are just the tip of the iceberg of Kaunas' Art Deco and Bauhaus inspired architecture.
M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum
Coming to Kaunas and not paying a visit to M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art is akin to skipping the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Čiurlionis was the most famous Lithuanian artist, successful both in painting and music. In his museum, you will be able to get acquainted with the many sides of Čiurlionis - from his symbolist art to the recordings of his symphonies. Check the museum’s website before you visit, as you might catch a concert or a performance while you’re there.
Aleksotas and Žaliakalnis funiculars
Kaunas is the only city in Lithuania to operate not one, but two funiculars - one in Žaliakalnis and another one in Aleksotas. A treat for engineering and dieselpunk enthusiasts, the funiculars provide an easier way to get up the steep hills of Kaunas.
Aleksotas Funicular, in operation since 1935, connects the old part of the city with the slopes of Aleksotas district. The funicular’s wagon will take you to the Aleksotas Observation Deck, which gives a great view of the city in all seasons.
The Žaliakalnis funicular has been operating since 1931. Travelling at a speed of 1.4 meters per second, the funicular will lift you and 24 other passengers from the city centre to Kaunas Jesus Christ's Resurrection Basilica in less than two minutes, offering a panoramic view over the city in the meantime.
Sometimes it takes art to bring neighbours together. When Lithuanian artist Vytenis Jakas moved to this building with a large courtyard, he noticed that the common space was left unused. Jakas received great support from his new neighbours in drawing pictures and life stories of the Jewish families that once resided next door on the walls of the shared courtyard. The courtyard has since become a vibrant art space, with new objects and drawings appearing frequently.
Aleksotas observation deck
The funicular’s wagon will take you to the Aleksotas Observation Deck, which gives a great view of the city in all seasons. You’ll get to see the smiling sundial on the wall of Kaunas Faculty of Vilnius University and a panorama of Kaunas Old Town. If you’re into guided city tours - take notice, as this is the place where they usually start!
Ninth Fort Museum
The Ninth Fort is one of the many fortifications that were erected around Kaunas in the 19th century. The site hosts a museum where visitors are introduced to the military architecture of the fortifications and can take a close look at World War I military equipment.
Another part of the exposition is dedicated to the period when the Ninth Fort served as a labour prison. Its authentic chambers, which still bear inscriptions of prisoners on their walls, host an exposition recounting the tragedy of the Jewish people in Lithuania.MORE →