Are you a fan of modernist architecture? Avid stair climber? Dog statue lover? Into second cities? Run a street art-focused Instagram account? There’s a new location for you to discover, including all of the above, plus vibrant history, lush nature and a unique sense of marvel and discovery called ‘kaunastic’. Time to pack your bags for Kaunas, Lithuania, and leave plenty of space for inspiration.
Kaunas is just a short flight or a memorable road trip away from you. It makes the city a perfect weekend getaway full of cultural activities, modern and contemporary art, historical curiosities, nightlife and gourmet spots, green spaces and sports events – all of this without the usual big city fuss. It’s a walkable city perfect for solo travellers, couples, digital nomads, families with children of all ages, party animals and even pilgrims.
Conveniently located in the centre of the biggest of the Baltic countries, the Northern part of Central Europe, Kaunas can easily be reached by plane (our airport is even called Fluxus), car, international bus from various European cities or a direct train from Warsaw.
Since 2004, Lithuania has been a proud member of NATO and the EU, so the entry procedures are non-existent for fellow Schengen zone residents.
The city is compact, so it’s up to you where you will stay. Both Old Town and downtown Kaunas have plenty of hotels, hostels and private accommodation options. We recommend checking out the hip Moxy Kaunas Center, the renewed Radisson Kaunas or boutique hotel BōHEME HOUSE offering signature rooms and a roof terrace with magnificent views of the Old Town.
For a more upscale stay, think Monte Pacis, a boutique hotel in the baroque monastery of Pažaislis, which is near the Kaunas Reservoir. The complex was chosen as the best European filming location, as HBO’s Catherine the Great was shot here. Hellen Mirren, the show’s star, also stayed in Monte Pacis – and loved every second of her time here.
Also, a night in a fantastically decorated interwar villa seems like an event in itself – check out Vila Grabytė, located outside the city centre in a picturesque Panemunė neighbourhood by the river Nemunas.
Be it a traditional jazz or folk music festival, a rock concert in one of the city centre’s indoor and outdoor live music venues, or a four-day electronic music and contemporary art festival that occupies all of Kaunas (pssst, it’s called Audra and is scheduled for June 29-July 2) – it is a city for party animals of all ages and species.
One of the biggest parties this year is planned for the last weekend of May, when the Kaunas city birthday will occur, together with the traditional Courtyard Festival. The latter is actually a 1-km-long dinner table in Laisvės alėja, the pedestrian boulevard intersecting downtown Kaunas, where concerts and other performances are served as desserts.
Looking for places to warm up before marathon nights? We suggest Kultūra, Vingiu Dubingiu, Nuogas, Rebels, Holas or the hottest new fusion spot Sosa for bottomless glasses and the most exciting chats.
The most anticipated weekend for sports enthusiasts all over the continent this spring is scheduled for 19-21 May. Tickets for the Euroleague Final Four tournament at Žalgiris Arena sold out in hours, meaning the whole of Kaunas will be flooded with the basketball rhythm on those days. Colourful fans from all over Europe and the passion for the orange ball that unites them all are guaranteed to fill the city’s bars, squares and other spaces where you can hang a screen.
Oh, and the joy of Kaunas having the first stadium at the international level in Lithuania hasn’t faded. This year, the Darius and Girėnas Stadium (located in an ancient oak grove!) will host several international matches - the Lithuanian national team will take to the pitch in June, September and October for the European Championship qualifiers.
The world’s only Devils museum (to be reopened after renovation in July 2023) is right here in Kaunas and has been included in numerous ‘wicked and strange places you must visit’ kind of lists since forever. It sports over 3000 devil figures from Lithuania and around the world – you are welcome to send one from your country when you’re back home!
Kaunas offers two must-visit spots for modernist architecture, art deco and interbellum period lovers. The first is the Art Deco Museum, located in an authentic interwar flat full of furniture and design objects you can actually sit on and touch. The only option to visit is booking a tour; a glass of bubbly is included in the price! The second stop is Amsterdam School Museum, another historic apartment offering guided excursions. The flat was one of the locations in HBO’s Chernobyl series.
The list could go on and on – for example, families will love the Folk Music Branch of Kaunas City Museum, while art lovers should not miss the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art and its departments. Interestingly, the Čiurlionis museum is located in the same modernist palace as Vytautas the Great War Museum, another exciting stop for those keen to discover more about the turbulent history of our region and the Lithuanian fight for independence.
We were not joking about the dog statues and the stairs! Some five dozen stairs connect downtown Kaunas and Žaliakalnis, an uphill neighbourhood full of modernist villas and a magnificent oak grove. You can get up there with a funicular, too – Kaunas has two of them, both installed in the 1930s. The funiculars are part of the city’s rich modernist architecture network - thousands of new buildings were erected when Kaunas was serving as the temporary capital of Lithuania between 1919 and 1940. Many buildings, including private villas, public institutions, museums, and cinemas, can be visited today. Later this year, the Kaunas bid for UNESCO World Heritage List should be finally approved…
As for the dog statues, find one next to the Žaliakalnis market, while two more await in the Old Town. These are just one example of the rich public and street art culture in Kaunas – look out for digital and printed maps called “Wallographer’s Guide” and immerse yourself in the colourful murals, statues and other works of art with stories behind them. The Pink Elephant and The Wise Old Man murals are among our favourites!
Kaunas is also lucky – and proud – for being born in the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers. Getting engaged in that very place is something very traditionally kaunastic to do. So, if you have been thinking of tying the knot, don’t forget to pack that ring before you come over.
Don’t miss the most exciting activities by following the Kaunas cultural event calendar at kultura.kaunas.lt and, of course, checking our social networks! When you are finally in Kaunas, come say hi at Laisvės al. 36, where the Kaunas IN Tourism information office is located.