As the second largest city in Lithuania, there is no shortage of things to do in Kaunas. From the intriguing museums and beautiful architecture to shopping and delicious food, the city has a lot to offer. We only spent a short time here and instantly wished we had more time to experience more. If you find yourself in Lithuania, Kaunas is definitely a city you should add to your list! Here are twelve great things to do during your visit.
1. Visit the Kaunas Castle
The Kaunas Castle is an old gothic structure built in the 14th century. It was designed to defend its inhabitants against intruders and is the oldest stone castle in Lithuania. The settlement around the castle grew and it later became a prison. The castle is said to still be haunted by those who died within its walls. Today, the restored building houses a museum covering the history of the castle and the city. It costs €3 per adult to enter.
If you aren’t interested in going inside, the area around the castle is still nice to see. There are pretty grassy spaces around it where many locals gather and hang out. Various events also often take place here.
2. Visit the Ninth Fort of Kaunas
Kaunas has multiple forts that were built in the early 1900s to protect the city. The Ninth Fort of Kaunas was one of these forts that later became a hard-labor prison and then a prison used by the Nazis. Over 50,000 Jews were murdered at this site. A memorial stands on the grounds around the fort and the fort holds a museum detailing the history of the building and the lives of those held inside of it.
It’s difficult to comprehend the painful history of the Ninth Fort, but the museum is interesting and does a great job of covering this important part of Lithuania’s past. Check out our post for more information on visiting.
3. Hit the Museums
Aside from the museums just mentioned, there are many other intriguing museums in Kaunas covering various subjects.
One of the more popular attractions is the Devils’ Museum, which houses the largest collection of sculptures and carvings of the Devil, displaying how this figure is depicted all around the world. Other great museums to check out include the Vytautas the Great War Museum, M.K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum and Kaunas Picture Gallery to see some art, and the Kaunas City Museum in the historic Town Hall.
4. Explore Old Town
Old Town Kaunas is very beautiful with multicolored buildings, unique architecture, lively streets, and a striking main square. The square and surrounding streets, particularly the pedestrian Vilniaus Street, are lined with restaurants and bars, cafés, and shops. Events and markets that frequently take place in the square bring even more buzz to the area.
The cobblestone streets are lined with historic buildings and many renowned buildings, like the Town Hall, Church of St. Francis Xavier, and the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, can be seen as you stroll around the heart of the city.
5. Walk Laisvės Avenue
Aside from Vilniaus Street, another pedestrian street worth walking down is Laisvės Avenue. These two walkways actually meet not far from the Presidential Palace. Laisvės is one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, so there is plenty to keep you entertained as you walk down it!
Laisvės has more of a modern look than Vilniaus as you walk further from the old town area. This street is also lined with many boutiques, restaurants, and cafés, and there are many trees and benches down the center that make this a nice space to watch street performers, take a break, and just enjoy the area. At the east end of Laisvės is the beautiful Church of St. Michael the Archangel. It is free to enter.
6. Try a Tasty Spurginė
Along Laisvės street is the old Spurginė spot that has been serving up tasty treats and other eats for around 50 years. The restaurant is known for their spurgos, which are a kind of donut. These fried treats sometimes contain filling and are very popular in Lithuania.
We have to admit that it wasn’t quite the donut we were expecting based on all of the hype, but it was pretty good and we enjoyed grabbing some spurgos and a coffee to go and munching on this treat as we watched the world go by on Laisvės Avenue.
7. Peek Inside Kiemo Galerija
About a block off Laisvės is Kiemo Galerija – also known as the Yard Gallery. This is a small alleyway and courtyard where artist Vytenis Jakas placed a number of unique art installations. His goal was to grow a sense of community, bringing residents of the area together through art and encouraging people to get to know their neighbors and connect with those around them.
This little space contains sculptures, paintings, and other art forms. The courtyard is free to enter; please just respect the residents who live in the buildings surrounding it.
8. Admire the Street Art & Unique Sculptures
As we explored Kaunas, we encountered many beautiful murals and unique sculptures. Street art is quite popular here and there are many amazing pieces we came across beyond Kiemo Galerija. If you’d like to see some of the city’s best murals, click here to view the street art map.
A few of the cool murals we came across include the Contemporary Ladies, Pink Elephant, Princess on a Horse, and the Wise Old Man. Some great sculptures we saw were the Pinecone Man, the Insects of Vladislavas Starevičius, and the quirky Zen Rabbit. There are many more in addition to these. Some of the art you come across may not even appear on the map linked above because new pieces pop up all the time!
9. Take in the Views from Aleksotas Hill
Heading up Aleksotas Hill is one of the great things to do in Kaunas if you’re looking for pretty views over the city. From the observation deck, you’ll get a great view of the river and old town with the spires of the historic buildings standing tall over the surrounding structures.
Cross the Nemunas River via the Vytautas Bridge and climb the hill directly above it. If you’d rather not walk, you can take the funicular up for €1. For the funicular schedule and more info, click here.
10. Stroll Along the River
Much of Kaunas is situated between the Nemunas and Neris Rivers and there are some pretty walking paths along the waterways. Head to the Nemunas and Neris Confluence Park to see where the two rivers meet and take in the pretty city views.
The park was very popular among locals when we went with people lounging in the grass, kids playing on the shore, and many people out jogging, biking, and walking their dogs.
11. Take a City Tour
If you’re trying to cover the city highlights in a limited time and learn a bit more about Kaunas, a city tour is a great option. There are free walking tours that take place on select days (depends on the company). Don’t forget to tip! Popular tours include Vilnius With Locals, and GuruWalk.
Additionally, there are bike tours and other paid tour options available on sites like Get Your Guide and Viator. City tours usually cover some of the churches, castle, and other historic points in the city.
12. Visit the Pažaislis Monastery
On the outskirts of Kaunas is the Pažaislis Monastery that was founded by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the mid-1600s. A turbulent history plagued with wars left much of this building destroyed. Since its formation, it was occupied by Russian Monks, German officials who turned it into a hospital, and the Soviets who made it a psychiatric ward. Finally, in the 1990s, it was returned to the Sisters of St. Casmir and again operated as a monastery.
Today, the Sisters still run the monastery. There is a museum and events are sometimes held here. It is a popular place to visit for its history, beautiful baroque architecture, and famous paintings that have withstood time.
For more information on visiting the Monastery, click here.