Travelling to Lithuania: Medieval Cities And Stunning Scenery.

A castle on a lake, a mountain of crosses and a museum dedicated to the devil. You will wonder why you didn’t consider travelling to Lithuania sooner.

When you tell someone that you are travelling to Lithuania you may get a questionable look! ‘Where is that? and What is there to do?’ You’ll probably be asked. Well, there is plenty to discover in this less visited Baltic country. Do you want to know more about discovering Lithuania? Read on.

Check out Trakai castle when travelling to Lithuania.

Where is Lithuania?

Lithuania sits between Latvia, Poland and Belarus and has a small coastline along the Baltic sea. You may be surprised to hear that there’s a Scandinavian influence here! This is due to Sweden and Denmark being easily reached from the coastal town of Klaipėda.

The capital, Vilnius is found very close to the Belarus border and home to its medieval old town which gives Prague a run for its money.

The old and the new in Vilnius.

Vilnius is a great starting point when travelling to Lithuania

Boasting the largest old town in Eastern Europe you won’t want to miss a trip to the historic centre of this city. In 1994 Vilnius was added to the World Heritage list and whilst exploring this magnificent place you will notice a mix of architectural styles including Gothic, renaissance and baroque.

Top sights to see:

  • Gediminas tower and the castle. Climb to the top for lovely views across the city.
  • The Gates of Dawn. A city gate adorned with a painting of the blessed mother Mary.
  • The Cathedral and Cathedral square. A great meeting place outside this very large decorated Cathedral.
  • The Church of St Anne. A stunning Gothic brick church.
  • The Three Crosses. A large statue topping the hill opposite the castle and a bit of a hike to reach the top!

Not into architecture? Vilnius has much more to offer. With a range of restaurants, bars and clubs, you will find something here that suits your taste. The craft beer scene is really taking off too in addition to a bit of a foodie culture. Lithuanians want to be known for their modern statement restaurants just as well as their local traditional food.

If you are used to very busy European cities, such as Lisbon, then Vilnius will seem relatively quiet. Much like its neighbour Latvia, the towns in Lithuania are not as populated as they could be since many young Lithuanians are migrating. However, with increased tourism, the government hopes to change this.

Vilnius is a great starting point when travelling to Lithuania since it has good transport links, helping you to explore the rest of the Country easily.

Trakai Castle – a day trip from Vilnius

You may not believe in fairy-tales but this beautiful castle, set in the middle of a lake might change your mind. The picturesque Lake Galve is home to twenty small islands and on one of these islands stands Trakai Castle and history museum.

Walking along the bridges over the lakes, you will feel like you are stepping back in time. The Castle walls sprawl out in front of you and the open gates await. You won’t regret taking a walk up to the top of one of the towers for the stunning views of the natural surroundings.

You can get to the small old town of Trakai easily by train or by bus directly from Vilnius. The castle is then only a short walk away. Free maps are usually available at your hotel (if you are not fond of using your phone for directions!)

If you want the place virtually to yourself then visiting in the winter/spring months is the best option. The summer months bring the better weather and more activity options but also many more tourists! Whenever you visit Trakai castle should not be missed if travelling to Lithuania.

The Legendary Hill of Crosses.

The spectacle known as the hill of crosses is the most popular tourist attraction in Lithuania. Situated near the city of Šiauliai, the historic landmark is forever growing as visitors leave their own crosses behind. You can guide your way through more than 100,000 crosses of all shapes and sizes and marvel at some of the beautiful intricate designs as well as the simple.

The Hill of crosses is a symbol of faith and resistance. Even during the soviet rule people risked their lives to plant their crosses on the hill.

It can take you around three hours to reach Šiauliai by car from Vilnius. From there you can take a tour, public transport or drive to the Hill. Remember to take your own cross with you and plant a memory in this eerie but beautiful place.

Kaunas, the city on the river.

Devils in the Devils museum in Kaunas. Add this to your list when travelling in Lithuania.

When you hear words like quaint and pretty used to describe Kaunas you may be surprised to learn that it is Lithuania’s second city.  You can easily and cheaply reach Kaunas from other European countries thanks to the rise of low-cost airlines flying to this destination. The old town here is really a lovely town square and a few surrounding streets. However small the town it is also very nice. If you want to see the local way of life and still have things to do whilst travelling in Lithuania then Kaunas is for you.

Top sights to see:

  • Kaunas castle. Mostly restored today, yet this castle is the oldest stone castle in Lithuania.
  • The Devils museum. A strange and interesting museum and would you believe it, the only museum of its kind in the world!
  • The Kaunas town hall city museum. Dominating the town square a place for weddings and perusing the small museum inside.
  • Cathedral of St Peter and Paul. You will find this Cathedral beautiful inside and out.

When it comes to eating out you will find a small variety of bars and restaurants within and near to the old town.When travelling to Lithuania you won’t go hungry! Prices are cheaper in Kaunas than Vilnius too so you can get a good meal for your money!

Some other things you might want to know when travelling to Lithuania …

Lithuania is part of the European Union and its currency is the Euro. Yes, that’s right, no need to exchange currency if you are travelling through Europe. The weather here is pretty moderate. Temperatures can drop quite low in the winter and summers tend to be mild, though can be wet too. But I doubt you’ll be visiting for the weather!

Well, that’s it! With all of this to offer you would be mad not to consider adding Lithuania to your bucket list. Have you been to Lithuania? I would love to hear what you think and where you are planning to visit next?

Originally posted on Pre-Travels.com

Devils museum Kaunas Lithuania

devils museum

Kaunas Devils museum.

Kaunas has some interesting things to offer visiting tourists and the Devils museum is one of those things. A popular place for tourists as its something different to do and is enjoyed by adults and children alike.

Devils museum
The entrance and outside of the Devils museum Kaunas.

On our last day in Kaunas before of flight home we decided to visit the museum while we were here after reading some good reviews. We found art, sculptures and devil themed artefacts from around the world. Worth the visit and passed our time before going home.

The collection was originally collated and put together by an eccentric named Antanas Žmuidzinavičius (1876-1966) who picked up over 2000 Devils from around the world. Now an extension has been built to house the collection because of the ever-growing hoard.

Devils museum
Some of the many devil masks on display in the museum since its opening.

The museum spans over 3 floors and contains over 3000 exhibits. Highlights include Stalin and Hitler devils dancing over Lithuania and a large wooden carving donated as it was said to be causing bad luck to its original owners.  The first floor is filled with traditional Lithuanian devils in many different mediums. Including wood carvings, paintings and ceramics. The second floor contains more comical and strange devils also including items donated by local people.

devils museum
Some funny rather than scary looking devils.

Finally the third floor is dedicated to devils from across the world. It’s amazing to see how different cultures depict the same figure and how they have changed throughout time. Foreign visitors often bring their own devils to add to the collection therefore the museum is ever increasing.

Devils museum
We found devils masks from all around the world while exploring the museum.

About visiting and admission.

The devils museum can be found at V. Putvinskio g. 55, Kaunas 44211, Lithuania.             Opening hours are 11 am to 5 pm daily and closed on Sundays.  Visitors can pay 2 euros to enter and 50% discount for students and senior citizens. We found it’s probably best if you have the right change!

For further information and directions visit the local website here. 

So if you are in Kaunas why not check out this quirky museum and maybe bring your own little devil to add to the collection!

devils museum.
Maybe my favourite piece in the museum.

 

 

Kaunas spring market

Kaunas market.

Kaunas spring market Lithuania

Due to the flights being extra cheap with Ryanair from Birmingham to Kaunas, rather than Vilnius we flew into and out of Kaunas airport. On arrival we went straight to Vilnius, however we stayed in Kaunas at the end of our trip. I’m glad we did as when we arrived the streets were lined with stalls being set up for the annual Kaunas spring market.

The stalls spanned the length of the old town all the way up to St Michael the archangel church. There were very few tourists here at this time and many stall holders did not speak English. We managed to get by with hand gestures, laughter and the odd word to make our purchases!

The vendors consisted of lots of food stalls, both hot and cold,  local crafts including carvings and iron mongers and also every day items. It was great to browse the stalls taking in the sights and smells and sampling some of the foods on offer!

Here are a few pictures which are much better at showing the market than I can explain!

Kaunas market
The view of Kaunas Spring market from our room.
Kaunas spring market
Hot food cooking away at the market.
Kaunas spring market.
Sweets and treats.
Kaunas spring market.
Local crafts. We bought one of these fabric Lithuania banners.
Kaunas spring market.
More fresh cooked food on the go.
Kaunas market.
Smoking fish sold at this stall.
Stalls lining the streets in Kaunas.
Stalls lining the streets in Kaunas.
Kaunas market.
Amazing carvings at the Kaunas spring market.

 

Kaunas spring market.
Love these crisps on a stick! So simple, a potato spiralled and fried!

 

 

 







Vilnius to Trakai day trip in Lithuania

Trakai

Trakai day trip from Vilnius

Trakai
Trakai castle Lithuania.

I had read about a castle surrounded by a lake in Lithuania. A little research revealed Trakai was only a 30 minute bus ride away from Vilnius where we were staying for a few nights.

For a couple of Euros we took the bus from Vilnius bus station.  You can also take the train, however we heard the bus’s are more reliable and the bus station is closer to the castle. Being out of season we had no choice but to walk through the town to the castle. There are some pretty buildings, churches and a museum to explore on the way. The walk was pretty much a straight run following the single road through the town. Taking us about 20 minutes.

We arrived quite early and were almost the only people there. This was great for photo opportunities. I guess the area would look prettier in the spring and summer but there would also be a lot more tourists to contend with.

The castle itself is mostly rebuilt and restored. With little of the original design left to see. The history and exhibits however are interesting. It shows just how diverse this countries past really is.

trakai
Entering Trakai castle.
trakai
Drawbridge to the castle.
Trakai
Trakai castle grounds.

Entrance inside the castle grounds and to the exhibits cost 6 euros for adults. It’s 3 euros for seniors and children. Its worth knowing that it is closed on Mondays during off-peak seasons so its worth checking before setting off!

For more about the museum and castle see the visit Trakai website.

We spent around an hour exploring the castle exhibits and grounds. The information cards and plaques were available in English, making it much easier for us to understand what it was all about.

The surrounding area was quiet and a nice place to walk around. We found a coffee shop to stop and have a break on the way back to the bus station. However there were not many places to eat around, and even less that were open when we visited.

Trakai
View of the castle across the lake.

Trakai 3 Trakai bus station

When you are in Lithuania it’s definitely worth a visit. Especially as its only 30 mins from Vilnius. Depending on the season (and the weather) spend half a day or a whole day here – it’s up to you! During the summer there are boats that can be taken out onto the lake and it looks like it would be a lovely place to relax.

Trakai
Trakai map

Have you been to Trakai? What do you think?




Vilnius – Top things to do

Exploring Vilnius – What are the top things to do?

We spent a few days in Lithuania in March and Vilnius was our main base to explore from. Being the largest city and the capitol, there are plenty of things to see and do.  Here are my highlights  🙂

Castle Hill and Gedimina’s Tower

Vilnius
Castle Hill – Vilnius.

The top of the hill is reached by either walking a sloping path or the easier and cheap funicular. Most of the buildings have been reconstructed however there is a stunning view over the city. To climb a little higher, pay 4 euros to enter the tower for 360 views from the top. Inside the tower there are some interesting exhibits including suits of armour and other historic pieces. The stairs of the spiral staircase are a little steep but worth it!

The Hill of Three Crosses.

Vilnius
Hill of Three Crosses – Vilnius.

The crosses stand on the old site of the crooked castle and are believed to have been erected in the 17th Century. The climb is a steep one, entering through Kalnų Park. Climbing up the slopes and steps you will reach a plateau where the crosses stand. Another great view across the city and also castle hill.

Vilnius Cathedral and Cathedral square.

Vilnius
Cathedral Square Vilnius.

This great open space is full of interesting architecture. The Cathedral itself is French Classicist style and mostly dates from the late 18th century. Built on the site of an original pagan temple . It has had various uses throughout its life, including being used by the Soviets as a garage for truck repairs. Today the chapels, sculptures and paintings are to be enjoyed by its visitors.

The old town and Pilies street.

Vilnius
Vilnius Old Town.

With one of the largest old towns in Europe, there are many streets to explore. In contrast to Cathedral square, Pilies and the surrounding streets are narrow and winding. Get lost within the souvenir and local craft stores, coffee shops and restaurants. Especially popular for its local Amber-ware.

The Gates of Dawn

Vilnius
Gates of Dawn Vilnius.

The Madonna of Mercy is the focus of this classical chapel. Following the custom of having a chapel or religious image in gateways to protect leaving travellers and guard from enemies. This is the only gateway to have survived from the early 16th Century. Entrance is from the outside, steps lead up from a door in the street below.

Vilnius.
Gates of Dawn Vilnius.

These are just a few of the main sights to see in here. More top attractions worth visiting are.. The Presidential Palace. St Johns church. Vilnius picture gallery and The Church of St Anne.

Find more information here Vilnius tourism.