Your mental travel life continues to surprise. I was absolutely convinced that the town of Siauliai would be coming down with backpackers. I was ready for the onslaught and sharing 2 litre bottles of cider on quiet street corners. Not so. Siauliai is 12 kilometres from Kryziu Kalnas and makes a decent stop over on route to/from Latvia. However, after a 3-4 hour bus from Vilnius, I found myself to be the only backpacker in Siauliai, shocked to the core. By night this ghost town forgets that it’s the fourth largest city in the country.
Lithuania was by far my favourite of the three “Baltic countries” on my recent journey. There were just so many things that surprised me about this gorgeous little country that I arrived with no expectations and I left in awe, inspired. You can check out my other stuff on Vilnius, Kaunas and the Republic of Uzupis. But here we are in Siauliai.
Siauliai makes a perfect stop over city if you’re overlanding between Lithuania and Latvia. Indeed, I used Siauliai as a base to explore the awesome nearby Kryziu Kalnas which is the Hill of Crosses. But while you’re here in Siauliai you have a pretty cool city to check out. I based myself in the Hotel Siauliai, grabbed a map from the tourist information on Vilniaus Gatve Street and headed out to explore.
1. St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral
More prominent than most and for a good reason – Siauliai ain’t that commercial. Hoardes of skyscrapers haven’t ghosted their way into Siauliai yet. So the St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral still shoots high into the skyline.
You can go inside during the day and when Mass is on as well as admiring the quiet pretty square that it fronts onto. If you choose a room near the top of the Hotel Siauliai you can view this beast from your bedroom window. It’s memorable and it’s my favourite building in the city.
2. Bicycle Museum
Odd museums are all the rage in unknown Siauliai. It’s an unusual city to possess a bicycle museum but one worthy of it given that Lithuania’s biggest bike maker is based in Siauliai. There are lots of quirky rooms featuring bikes of different eras (including wooden “tyres”).
3. Ruta Chocolate and Candy Museum
I did say this city is full of crazy quirky museums and I’ve stuck two of them in my top 5. One for chocolate and candy lovers, you can check up on the history of Ruta here. Even better it’s open from 10am – 7pm during the week. You can pick up some sweeties for your border bus to Latvia.
4. Sun Clock Square
When you’re in places like Siauliai sometimes it’s the simple sights on the street that intrigue you and I enjoyed the Sun Clock Square. I don’t know why but for some reason, the town reminded of the Northern Irish town of Coleraine, even though nothing seems similar.
5. Vilniaus Gatve
If one street defines Siauliai and deserves a dander, it’s Vilniaus Gatve. This pedestrianised boulevard is a great walking street with art on the footpaths, shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and museums. The fact that my Hotel was at the top of a hill on this street meant I could walk the whole.
6. Siauliai City Municipality Building
In other words the City Hall. Siauliai is the fourth largest city in Lithuania, with a population of 134,000. From 1994 to 2010 it was the capital of Šiauliai County. Unofficially, the city is the capital of Northern Lithuania.
As well as all that, there’s a cool shopping centre called Saules Miestas, some decent bars and restaurants (I ate at Cafe Prie Teatro) and of course the fantastic Kryziu Kalnas (Hill of Crosses) which was a must visit for me.
All in all Siauliai is a top notch city to visit and I thoroughly recommend stopping over and staying at least a night and day. Here are some of my videos from Siauliai: