The 15 best places to visit in Lithuania

 

Erected in 2004 just north of the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, the village of Girijos Kaimas is home to a monument that marks the geographic centre of the European continent. Though there are many such monuments in the surrounding countries that also claim to be the geographic centre of Europe, this monument has the backing of the International Institute of Geographical Sciences and Guinness World Records.

15. Geographical Centre Of Europe

 

Built in 2008 in Lithuania's second largest city, Kaunas, is the Office Centre 1,000, though more popularly referred to as The Bank Note Building. Designed to look like a 1,000 Litu note, the building was constructed to commemorate the countries acceptance into the European Union.

14. Office Centre 1,000

 

Constructed in the late 19th century, in the centre of the country just north from Lithuania's second city, Kaunas, is the Ninth Fort, a stronghold that is part of the Kaunas Fortress. During occupation by the Soviet Union the fort was a prison, and during the occupation by Nazi Germany it was used as a place of execution. The site is now a museum containing collections of historical artifacts relating to Soviet atrocities and Nazi genocide.

 

Pictured is the Memorial To The Victims Of Nazism sculpture, standing at 32 metres (105 ft) high.

13. Devintas Fortas

 

Completed in 1980, slightly to the west of the capital, Vilnius, is the Vilnius Television Tower, standing at 326 metres (1,071 ft) high it is Lithuania's tallest building. At 165 metres (541 ft) above ground level the observation deck houses a restaurant and a revolving platform that offers some fine views over the city and its surroundings. Visitors can also bungee jump from the roof of the observation deck.

12. Vilniaus Televizijos Bokštas

 

Dating from 1500 AD in the countries capital, Vilnius, is the Church of St. Anne, a prominent example of both Flamboyant Gothic and Brick Gothic style architecture. As a major historical landmark of Vilnius' Old Town and one of the most interesting examples of Gothic architecture in the Baltic's, it is one of the most important contributors in the Old Town of Vilnius UNESCO World Heritage Site.

11. Šv. Onos Bažnyčia

 

Built in 1783 AD in the countries capital, Vilnius, is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Stanislaus and St. Vladislav, the main Roman Catholic cathedral of Lithuania. The building today holds more than forty works of art dating from the 16th to 19th century including one fresco dating back to the 14th century, the oldest known in the country. The cathedral along with its bell tower in the heart of Old Town Vilnius is one of the most widely known symbolic locations in the country.

10. Šv. Stanislovo Ir Šv. Vladislovo Bazilika

 

Originally built in 1409 AD, rebuilt in 1930 guided by archaeological research is Gediminas' Tower, the remaining part of the former Upper Castle. An important state and historic symbol of the city of Vilnius and of Lithuania as a whole, the towers vantage point atop a hill offers excellent panoramic views of the cities old town.

9. Gedimino Pilies Bokštas

 

East of Lithuania's second largest city, Kaunas, lies the town of Rumšiškės, best known for its excellent open air ethnographic museum. Opened in 1974, the complex displays the heritage of Lithuanian rural life in a vast collection of authentic resurrected buildings where the Lithuanian people lived and worked. Containing over 90,000 exhibits, including 140 buildings from the 18th and 19th century with the restored original interiors and surroundings, the museum was established to help preserve a former way of living. It is today one of the largest open air museums in Europe.

8. Rumšiškės

 

In the centre of the country, north from Lithuania's second largest city, Kaunas, is the town of Kėdainiai, one of the oldest cities in Lithuania. Among the quiet cobbled streets of small houses is a smattering of ancient churches dating back hundreds of years, while the old town centre is home to Kėdainiai market square with its traditional Lithuanian architecture of pastel coloured shop fronts.

7. Kėdainiai

 

In the north east of the country, covering some 406 square kilometres (157 square miles) is the Aukštaitija National Park, Lithuania's oldest area of protected land. Famous for its biodiversity, most of the land within the park is made up of forests, more than 125 lakes, over 100 villages dotted among the trees and many archaeological artifacts dating back from 3,000 to 9,000 BC. With such a varied number of landmarks and attractions, it is definitely one of the countries prime natural areas.

6. Aukštaitija National Park

 

Between 1920 and 1939 when Vilnius was under Polish control, Kaunas was the temporary capital of the country, but today it is Lithuania's second city. The old city with its Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style buildings is a wonderful place to wander with many historical landmarks and cute little cobbled shopping streets of tiny coloured facades. One of the main streets to visit is the Laisvės Alėja, at 1.7 kilometres long it is the longest pedestrianised shopping street in Europe.

5. Kaunas Old Town

 

West from the capital, Vilnius, covering some 82 square kilometres (32 square miles) is the Trakai Historical National Park, the only historical national park in Europe. Among the lakes, forests and villages, the parks most notable feature is the Trakai Island Castle. Originally constructed in the 14th century, it suffered major damage during the battle of 1878 AD before falling into disrepair. In 1961 reconstruction took place and was carried out in a later 15th century style. Today this huge and wonderful looking fortification on one of the many small islands in a large lake has become one of the countries top attractions.

4. Trakai Historical National Park

 

In the far south west of the country, the Curonian Spit was designated a national park to protect a 98 kilometre (60 mile) long thin sand dune that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Home to the highest drifting sand dunes in Europe, some of which can reach up to 60 metres (197 ft) tall, both the portion that lies within Russian territory and that which lies within Lithuania has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. Kuršių Nerija National Park

 

In the northern centre of the country, north from the city of Šiauliai is the Hill Of Crosses, a unique and strangely captivating site that has become one of the most iconic in Lithuania. The precise reason people started to leave crosses on the hill is unknown, though it is believed the first ones were laid at the site of a former hill fort around the time of the 1831 AD uprising. Over the years crosses, crucifixes, statues, carvings and effigies have been brought by catholic pilgrims, and in 2006 it was estimated that over 100,000 individual items had collected here. The site has endured many attempts on its existence, the most significant being the two attempts by the Soviets to bulldoze the area, yet despite everything it still stands to this day and continues to grow year on year.

2. Kryžių Kalnas

 

In the south east of the country lies the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, famed for its historic old town. One of the largest surviving medieval old towns in northern Europe, some of Europe's greatest architectural styles of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo Classical buildings stand side by side in huge numbers. With over a thousand buildings of historical importance including many palaces and religious monuments down almost every street it is no wonder the entire historic centre of Vilnius has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Pictured is the Basilian Gate.

1. Vilnius Old Town

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