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Lithuania’s second largest city is Kaunas (population 373,700), situated at the confluence of the Nemunas and the Neris, the country’s two biggest rivers. This was the capital of Lithuania between the wars in 1920-1940, but the history of the city began in the 13th century when the biggest stone bastion in Lithuania was built here. Attacks by the Crusaders faded at the beginning of the 15th century and Kaunas revived. It quickly became an important trading centre and a large river port. Today, more than 420,000 people live in Kaunas.

The city’s main landmarks include a slim, white Town Hall with its photogenic Baroque features, the Vytautas Church and the Hanza Merchant House. The Town Hall was built in the 16th century and is often referred to as the “white swan”. The Hanza Merchant House, the most beautiful Gothic building in the city, also goes by the name of Perkunas House. Perkūnas was once a pagan god of the Lithuanians, a similar figure to the ancient Greeks’ Zeus.

Pažaislis Abbey, which stands on the bank of a picturesque peninsula that stretches into a lake, is considered to be one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Eastern Europe. Every summer it hosts well-attended festivals of classical music.

Panoramic views of Kaunas can be had from its funicular railway, which still uses original pre-war carriages.

Kaunas has a lot to offer for museum and art lovers. Several are within walking distance of each other – the bizarre Devils Museum, which has more than 3,000 puppets, toys, mannequins and ornaments on display, the Vytautas Didysis War Museum and a museum dedicated to the renowned Lithuanian artist and composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis.

The IX Fort was an old Lithuanian prison which was turned into a death camp by the occupying Nazis during World War II. Today it is a museum that relates unforgettable stories from the past.
Kaunas has a reputation both as a city of students and a city of sports. Žalgiris, one of Europe’s best basketball teams, whose most famous player is Arvydas Sabonis, as well as a strong handball team have their bases here, as do no less than five institutions of higher education.

The city has hotels and guest houses aplenty, suiting every budget, plus countless cafés, bars and nightclubs. Kaunas, which Lithuanians affectionately call their “temporary capital”, has a largely pedestrianised main street which is a must-walk for every visitor! It is called Laisvės alėja (Freedom Avenue) and  is considered to be the loveliest street in Lithuania.



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86 Gloucester Place,London W1U 6HP,tel:+44 (0) 20 70 34 12 22,fax:+44 (0) 20 7935 4661, info@lithuaniatourism.co.uk