Kaunas is a real under-rated gem of a city. If you’re ever in Lithuania try and give this city a visit. It’s yet to take off tourist wise but it really should be about to boom. Swanky, cosy cafes and bars, friendly people and loads of Lithuanian history mixed in with Soviet times to keep every type of traveller happy. Architecturally rich and brimming with intelligence, Kaunas is a welcome addition to my backpacking badges. It’s a little bit trendier than your Berlins or Parises too.
In Lithuania I decided to tour Vilnius, Kaunas, the crazy Republic of Uzupis, Kryziu Kalnas and Siauliai but I kicked things off in Kaunas. stayed in the cool Monk’s Bunk hostel and made my way to each of these places on my city tour. These are my top 11 sights in Kaunas:
1. Laisves Aleja
Laisves Aleja is the second longest pedestrian street in Europe! Which of course makes it a must see and a very pleasant stroll.
2. Church of St. Michael the Archangel
There are lots of churches here in Kaunas and I won’t include them all in this list, but the St. Michael the Archangel is worth checking out – it sits on a square at the end of Laisves Aleja, on the way out of the city centre. There are some statues nearby too.
3. St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral
This stunning Cathedral is in the heart of the old town. It dates back to 1408 and is the largest Gothic structure in Lithuania. The Cathedral is also the final resting place for two famous religious writers – Maironis and Bishop Montejus Valancius.
4. Santakos Parkas
Santakos Parkas is a quiet and tranquil riverside park, perfect for a peaceful stroll and to go right to the tip where the two rivers converge.
5. St. George’s Church
Yet another striking an old church the St. George’s Church sits down near Kaunas Castle and Santakos Parkas – however it’s a bit old and worn and could do with a refurb!
6. Kaunas Castle
Kaunas Castle is one of the key sights in the city. It’s down by the river convergence and Santakos Parkas and is free to walk around, you can pay to go inside the museum and up the steps to the top. It sits on a bank with an area around it which was once a moat.
7. Old Town Square
It seems like a cliche but seriously the Old Town Square in Kaunas is worth a visit. Here you have the City Hall/Palace of Weddings and the Perkunas House (Thunder House). I was there in Winter and nothing was happening, apparently there are bars and people about in the hot Summer.
8. Palace of Weddings
While you’re not here to get married, the old city Hall is now named the Palace of Weddings.
9. Sacrifice Field
The sentiment of this place is important. It’s a memorial to a 19 year old student called Romas Kalanta. On May 14th 1972, Romas set himself on fire here as a protest against the Soviet System. It was officially unveiled thirty years later.
10. Freedom Monument
Lots of places in the ex USSR have Freedom Monuments and Kaunas has its next to a burning flame and in a small central park.
11. Pazaislis Monastery Complex
For me this place was the undoubted highlight of my brace of days in Kaunas. You need to make a bit of an effort to get out to it and after that, it takes a bit of finding but is an awesome monastery with zero tourists around so you’ll have the place to yourself and be inspired.
I’ll try and write a post about it on its own at some point as I loved it.
So I visited all of those top 11 sights and loved them – Kaunas is a truly under rated city and I hope this post can inspire more of you to go there. By night I drank in the bars too and found them cheap – see my Thirsty Thursdays in Kaunas stuff. While in Lithuania I also toured the mighty Kryziu Kalnas Hill of Crosses, the city of Siauliai, a bus tour of Vilnius and the loony wacky self proclaimed Republic of Uzupis.
There was one major sight in Kaunas I missed out on though, bogged down with work, wanting a night out and the Pazaislas Monastery didn’t leave me enough time to visit the Ninth Fort – a memorial to the 80,000 people murdered here by the Nazis, so that’s a twelfth one for you to work your way through when you reach Kaunas on your backpacking in Lithuania adventure.
Here are some of my videos from my time in Kaunas: