Lithuania became the first country in the Soviet Republic to leave the USSR in 1990 and since then has been trying to re-establish itself in its own right ever since. There are many relics of the Soviet period such as bunkers and museums, but you will also find a whole lot more in this country including beautiful churches, monasteries, and palaces.
From the capital city of Vilnius to wide open spaces like the Curonian Spit, there is a lot to see in this country and a surprising number of quirky and interesting museums like the Beekeeping Museum and the Money Museum. Several spots in the country are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and wherever you choose to go you will find winding cobbled streets, charming local markets, and impressive red brick architecture.
Here are the best things to do in Lithuania:
1. Wander around Vilnius Old Town
Vilnius Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sits at the point where two of Lithuania’s main rivers converge.
It is known for being one of the premium medieval towns in Europe thanks to its amazingly well preserved buildings, and showcases architecture in the Gothic, Renaissance, and Neo-Classical styles.
All the structures are centered on a main piazza and you will find cobbled streets that are dotted with bars and eateries.
Some of the signature spots here include St. Anne’s Church, the Presidential Palace, and two Jewish quarters.
2. Take a trip to Trakai
Trakai is a lake resort and historically important city that sits close to Vilnius and makes a nice day trip if you are looking to get out of town.
Trakai dates from the 13th century and is also the home of the Trakai Historical National Park that dates from 1991. One of the main sights in the city is the Island Castle which is also the host of the Trakai Castle Festival and the entire town is surrounded by pretty water.
In the wider Trakai region there are some 200 lakes to enjoy during the warmer months.
3. Brave the Devil’s Museum
The Devil’s Museum is found in Kaunas and as you would expect from the name it has a huge collection of art work that depict images of the devil, witches, and a range of other wicked mythological creatures.
You will find over 3,000 different pieces here and visitors can even donate items to the collection.
There are a huge range of works here that use different materials such as ceramics, textiles, and paintings and you can even find other interesting items like pebbles that feature images of the devil.
4. Visit St. Anne’s Church
St. Anne’s Church in Vilnius is one of the prettiest buildings in Lithuania and is made up of picturesque brick towers and rose windows.
The spires date from 1501 and were designed in the Gothic style and inside the church you will find high ceilings as well as carved pews.
The church has a grand bell tower that sits to its right and together with St.
Bernadine and St. Francis churches that nestle close by it makes up part fo the wider Bernadine Priory.
5. Explore the Curonian Spit & Kursiu Nerija National Park
The Curonian Spit refers to a long strip of sand between the Curonian Lagoon and the mighty Baltic Sea.
Part of the spit is located in Russia with the northern side in Lithuania.
The spit is the product of a glacier that dates back 5,000 years and it has some of the highest dunes in all of Europe.
Some of these measure 60 meters and lead on to beautiful sandy beaches.
The national park here was formed in 1991 to guard the precious ecosystems found in the Curonian Spit and you will find a wide range of waterfowl here in the wetlands and dunes.
6. Wonder at the Siauliai Hill of Crosses
Close to the city of Siauliai is the Hill of Crosses which sits atop a small promontory.
Here you will find thousands of different types of crosses that include small crucifixes as well as large crosses made from metal and wood.
The site is meant to pay tribute to the devotion of many people in Lithuania and has become a pilgrimage spot for many followers.
The Hill of Crosses is also a memorial for those who have died in the country over the years due to uprisings and other civil strife.
7. Visit the Money Museum
The Money Museum is aptly located on the former site of the Bank of Lithuania and will take you on a journey to find out all about Lithuanian litas.
As well as the currency of Lithuania you can also find out about other world currencies and much of the museum is interactive to allow you to get hands-on.
The museum also tells the history of banking in Lithuania and how silverware was returned to the country after the fall of Communism.
There is also a great exhibit where you can weigh yourself to determine your weight in gold or other precious metals.
8. Journey to the Gate of Dawn
The Gate of Dawn is part of the original walls of defense of Vilnius which date from the medieval period.
In the days of old the walls would have had nine different entry points which would have been marked with a picture of the Virgin Mary as a good luck symbol to protect the city.
The wall was attacked by Russia in 1799 and most of it was destroyed except for the Gate of Dawn which can still be seen to this day.
9. Visit the Ginuciai Water Mill
Nestled close to Ignalina is the Ginuciai Water Mill which dates from the 19th century and still straddles the waters that travel down to scenic Lake Linkmenas.
In the days of old it would have been used to make flour and produce electricity although now it is a museum that also has a hotel attached.
It is famous for being the only remaining wooden mill in Lithuania and you can still see all of its traditional machinery such as water wheels and mill stones.
10. Enjoy Grutas Park
Grutas Park is made up of a cultural center that has a range of quirky relics from the Soviet era as well as an adjoining sculpture garden.
After independence in 1991 Lithuania began to dismantle and jettison Soviet monuments, and these have now been preserved in the park.
The grounds sprawl over 20 hectares and you will find 86 different monuments here as well as models of Soviet prison camps including guard towers complete with barbed-wire fences.
There are also a range of statues of famous Communist leaders like Marx, Stalin, and Lenin and for any history buffs this is definitely not to be missed off the itinerary.
11. Visit the Museum of Genocide Victims
The Museum of Genocide Victims sits in the old Gestapo and KGB headquarters in Vilnius and acts as a permanent memorial to all those who lost their lives during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania after the Second World War.
The museum tells the story of how Lithuania suffered under Stalin and has models of torture chambers and execution grounds.
There is also a section of the museum dedicated to the Jewish ghettos and the period during the Holocaust.
12. Explore Aukstaitija National Park
Aukstaitija National Park sprawls for over 400 square kilometers and is filled with beautiful pine and spruce trees.
If you want to check out the local flora and fauna in Lithuania then this is the place to do it and you will find wild boar as well as deer and elk.
An amazing 30% of the park is made up of water and you will also find 30 rivers and 126 lakes here.
The most famous of these is Lake Baluosas which has seven islands within it that let you island hop and take in the gorgeous natural landscapes.
As well as natural attractions you will also find buildings such as a water mill and the quirky Beekeeping Museum.
13. Learn some history at Rumsiskes Open-Air Museum
Rumsiskes Open-Air Museum is the place to come if you want to learn more about the fascinating folk customs found in Lithuania.
This open-air museum celebrates traditional customs that date back 200 years including national costumes, traditional toys, historic buildings, and religious artifacts.
There are around 80 buildings here including farms and reconstructed villages with churches.
You can look at the traditional rooms here and see typical Lithuanian period furniture as well as cooking implements and tools.
14. Pay your respects at the Church of the Holy Spirit
The Church of the Holy Spirit dates from the 15th century and is one of the most picturesque churches in Vilnius.
Over the years it has seen a lot of changes and used to be a Catholic church and a monastery before becoming an Orthodox parish church.
The interior of the church is something of a spectacle and you will see ornately carved wooden pews as well as flower arrangements, gilt furnishings, and brightly colored decorations.
There are also different hued frescoes and marble inlays as well an impressive 16 altars.
15. Marvel at Pazaislis Monastery
Pazaislis Monastery is widely thought of as the most beautiful Italian baroque building in Lithuania and, along with the church of Kaunas, it is also the largest monastery complex in the country.
The monastery dates from 1662 and was restored in the 1990s having been used as a psychiatric hospital and an art gallery.
Aside from being incredibly beautiful the monastery is also home to an international music festival held here every summer.
16. Visit Kaunas
Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania and sits at the point where the majestic Neris and Nemunas rivers converge.
It is known throughout Lithuania as the city of culture as there are over 40 museums housed here as well as a picturesque Old Town area.
Many of the buildings located here showcase baroque, renaissance, and gothic designs and tops spots not to miss include the Kaunas Cathedral Basilica, the Kaunas Castle, and Vyautas Church.
17. Take in the views from Gediminas Tower
Gediminas Castle Tower is part of what would have been called Upper Castle, a wider complex built in the 14th century in Vilnius.
The tower can be reached by either climbing Castle Hill or you can take a scenic funicular if you are in the mood for something a little more relaxing.
The tower is located 48 meters above the city allowing you scenic views and you can take in the signature hexagonal shape from the outside or explore the weapons and armory exhibitions inside.
18. Explore vibrant Uzupis
Uzupis used to be part of neighboring Vilnius when it was known for being the main Jewish area of the city.
In 1997 it declared independence from Vilnius and has its own president and even its own constitution.
Nowadays it is known for being one of the most exciting areas of Lithuania and has a great street art scenes as well as a wealth of art galleries and underground music venues.
It is also famous for its street market every Thursday which sees a range of organic produce from all over the country.
19. Visit the Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace in Daukanto Square in Vilnius is the official home of the President of Lithuania and dates from the 14th century.
It sprawls over a large piazza and has a signature neo-classical façade.
One of the big draws here is the flag changing ceremony that is held at noon every Sunday as well as the daily Changing of the Guard that takes place at 6 pm.
20. Have a spa session in Neringa
Neringa is located in the Curonian Spit National Park and is primarily known for being a scenic spa own.
The reason for this is the waters of the Baltic Sea which flow here and which are said to be rich in healing minerals that can treat a range of illnesses.
Visitors from all over Lithuania flock here for the spa treatments and the area is surrounded by sandy beaches and majestic sand dunes.
21. Buy some gems at the Amber Museum-Gallery
Amber used to be referred to as Baltic Gold and was once the most important part of the maritime trade routes in this part of the world.
The Amber Museum in Vilnius is located in the basement of a home that dates from the 15th century and you will find pieces here that are said to be over 50 million years old.
As well as traditional amber you will also find different hued pieces including red, green, black, and white and some even contain the fossilized remains of insects that date from the prehistoric period.
There is also a gift shop here where you can buy your own amber jewelry pieces that make great souvenirs.
22. Enjoy the Beekeeping Museum
There was once a time in Lithuania when bees where considered sacred, and even in the modern era honey is considered a friendship symbol.
Located in the Aukstaitija National Park, the Beekeeping Museum is one of the stranger attractions in Lithuania and first opened its doors in 1984. The museum tells the story of beekeeping in the country over the years and you can see ancient bee related tools and hives.
There are also a range of glass fronted beehives located outside the museum where you can watch the industrious bees making honey and the museum also takes you through the importance of beekeeping in other cultures such as Egyptian and Native American.
23. Visit Kedainiai Old Town
Kedainiai Old Town has the claim to fame of being one of the oldest towns in Lithuania and is covered in pretty baroque architecture.
The town was first founded in 1372 and used to be a fishing village before growing in size and the city center is full of wondrous sights.
These include townhouses from the Baroque period as well as Protestant and Orthodox churches and a range of synagogues.
There are also a number of market squares that sell local produce during the week.
24. Enter the Atomic Bunker Museum
One of the most famous attractions in Kaunas is the Atomic Bunker Museum which offers you a glimpse of war history in Lithuania.
The museum is located in a nuclear bunker which is 6 meters underground and would have been set up during the Soviet period.
There are 1,200 items here that date from the Second World War to the modern era and you can see Cold War memorabilia like period radios and transmitters.
There is also a range of medical equipment and you will even find gas masks and air horns.
25. Explore Vilnius Cathedral
Vilnius Cathedral started out in the 13th century under the watchful eye of King Mindaugas who ordered its construction.
The building was razed to the ground by fires several times and the building that currently stands was rebuilt in 1801 in the neoclassical style.
During the Soviet period it would have been used as a garage although now it has been restored to its former glory and has ornate decorations and a belfry that measures 57 meters high.