Lithuania must be one of the least known countries in Europe. And when someone eventually visits it most likely it is Vilnius – the beautiful capital (that’s especially the case of Polish people).
But how many of you have actually heard of Kaunas, second biggest and probably the coolest city in Lithuania?
My first visit to Kaunas
While I’ve been to Vilnius many times that’s where my knowledge of Lithuania ends.
Technically I did visit Kaunas before too but I was only at the New Year’s Eve party at my friend’s brother’s place in the suburbs and we went for a quick walk around the Town Hall Square the next day.
I only remember an original Christmas tree made of plastic from back then.
I felt that Kaunas have a big potential and I wanted to return ever since.
Years have passed when I finally found a really good offer on buses, with the timing perfect for a weekend trip! Needless to say, I’ve bought the ticket right away!
I thought that the end of March will be already a good moment to visit Kaunas, with the spring knocking on the door but well, I was so very wrong!
Tricky March weather
As soon as I arrived in Kaunas it started snowing. Like, really snowing!
The center was full of people attending some sort of market – kudos to them for enjoying being outside in such terrible weather.
There was no way I could look around to see what Kaunas is about as the snow was all over my face.
I quickly headed to my accommodation and after small troubles with finding it I finally checked in and called it a day.
It was snowing all evening long, I didn’t even go out to get some food and just stayed inside catching up on tv shows. I was slightly angry and disappointed but that’s the risk you take when traveling in March.
Kaunas castle – the oldest in the city
Fortunately the next morning the weather was much better, even if grayish, and I was ready to have the most of the rest of my visit to Kaunas.
As it quickly turned out Kaunas is so much more interesting than I’ve ever expected and I was even afraid the day I have might not be enough to see all that Kaunas has to offer!
Most of the tourist attractions are located within a walking distance which makes Kaunas sightseeing so much easier.
I started in the Old Town, as that’s where my accommodation was located anyway and it was just convenient to move onwards from the confluence of Nemunas and Neris – two largest rivers in Lithuania that happen to meet in the heart of Kaunas.
That’s also where the castle is located – the oldest building in the city and the first stone castle in Lithuania. It dates back to the 14th century and at some point, it could have been an impressive structure but not anymore.
Only a small part remained to our times, now it hosts the city gallery and is often the venue for cultural events.
The heart of Old Town Kaunas
From the castle, it’s only a few steps to the City Hall Square with the City Hall itself standing proudly in the middle.
Locals call it The White Swan for its tall and slim structure and it really is a gem of the renaissance architecture.
The square is surrounded by small pastel houses and – on the contrary – massive churches.
Altogether the place looks really nice and I can only imagine how great it must be there in the spring or summer time when you can chill out at the outdoor cafes during long, warm evenings.
Best view of Kaunas
The best view of the Old Town and its numerous church towers can be seen from the Aleksotas Hill.
You just have to cross the bridge over Nemunas river and you are at the lower station of the funicular, opened in 1935 (Kaunas is the only city in Lithuania that has funiculars, even two of them!).
Unfortunately, during my visit, this railway was not operating but the hill isn’t that high so going up there wasn’t so much of the deal.
And the view from there was really amazing, worth all the effort. Everything was covered with a thin layer of snow which even added up to the atmosphere.
The interesting fact is that until the year 1918 Kaunas was a border city and this very part already belonged to the Kingdom of Poland!
The edgy side of the Kaunas Old Town
I returned to the Old Town and joined the crowds on Vilniaus – the main pedestrian street. It got the name after the capital of Lithuania as it used to be the beginning of the long way from Kaunas to Vilnius.
The street is packed with interesting architecture but since it was also packed with people very quickly I started just wandering in the backstreets. They were often not so pretty anymore but they definitely had this cool, edgy vibe around.
The layer of paint was often scratched to unveil bare bricks. The place was also full of street art in the most unexpected places!
This was when I started really falling for Kaunas and the more I explored, the stronger my affection was!
Cool, alternative Kaunas
The Old Town very smoothly changes into the Center. That’s where you can see one of the greatest murals I’ve ever seen – a girl on the pony that looks like it’s painted with crayons! So beautiful!
But the center of Kaunas hides numerous cool, alternative and quirky spots, I was over the moon when I was trying to chase them all and randomly kept finding even more hidden attractions.
Like the courtyard on Ozeskienes street, close to the synagogue.
At first there you see just a Charlie Chaplin painted on the wall but when you go further you find so many little quirks you don’t know where to look!
But the weirdest of all must be the Devils’ Museum. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sunday but just the sound of it seems crazy enough for me and the museum itself is the reason why I know I will return to Kaunas soon!
Did you know that Kaunas has one of the greatest collection of interwar architecture – modernism?
After the WW1 Kaunas was temporary the capital of Lithuania, that’s when the city grew and the new buildings appeared especially in the center.
It was a way to create a new look of the place, the architecture was based on the national identity, emphasizing the importance of Kaunas.
The Zaliakalnis Funicular, even older than Aleksotas one, can take you to the Christ’s Resurrection Church – the most spectacular modernist building in the whole Lithuania if not all of the Baltic countries.
And it really is impressive, you can see it from more or less everywhere in the city and well, taking a picture of this church isn’t such an easy task.
It is very likely that Kaunas modernism will be rewarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site title and I support these efforts as the place definitely deserves this award!
Make sure to give yourself some time when you visit Kaunas, to discover Kaunas modernism – it’s definitely worth it!
Laisvės alėja – the salon of Kaunas
The core of the center is 2kms long Laisvės alėja running from the Old Town all the way to the Church of St. Michael the Archangel and the nearby park (with the small mosque!).
It’s all pedestrian, very neat and some of the fancy shops, cafes, restaurants, and most important institutions.
Laisvės alėja is like the runway of the city, it’s worth to be seen there and you go there to see others.
It’s the best to do some people watching from one of the cozy cafes here, that’s what I did when I was done with exploring Kaunas. And it was the perfect ending of my weekend there!
Is it worth to visit Kaunas?
I went to visit Kaunas totally unprepared, I literally knew nothing about the city.
Even if the weather wasn’t really on my side on this weekend Kaunas still managed to intrigue me and made me itch for more.
I thought that 2 days will be more than enough there yet I’ve left with a feeling there are still so many places I need to see in Kaunas!
I’ve been a huge fan of Vilnius as it is this alternative, quirky capital but now I can see it has strong competition. I can’t decide which city is actually cooler and I slightly lean towards Kaunas, to be honest.
So whenever I have a chance I will head back to visit Kaunas to fall for it even more!
Revolut bank card is the best way to save money when traveling. It’s a pre-paid service that offers very good exchange rates and no fees for ATM’s use. Click here to learn more and order your Revolut card.
You can find the best accommodation options at Booking. They have many discounts and excellent customer service. Click here to look for the place to stay in Kaunas
Never travel without travel insurance, you never know what might happen and better safe than sorry. You can check the insurance policy for Lithuania here.
I recommend joining organized tours to get to know the place better and to visit more places during your trip. You can find a great selection of tours at Get Your Guide – click here.
Make sure to have the offline map always installed on your phone, they can save you so many troubles. I always use the free app Maps.Me.
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stacjabalkany03/03/2017 at 10:28
Powiem Ci, że ja także od jakiegoś czasu zamierzam wybrać się na Litwę, a ponieważ nie lubię stolic to chodzi mi po głowie właśnie Kowno i myślę że jak będzie ciepło to musi ono faktycznie być piękne:)
kami03/03/2017 at 23:10
Do Wilna też trzeba obowiązkowo jechać! Niby stolica, ale zupełnie nie sprawia takiego wrażenia, bardzo kameralnie tam jest. A Kowno w ciepłym sezonie musi być fantastyczne, polecam bardzo!!
stacjabalkany04/03/2017 at 11:34
Kurde tylko kiedy na to czas:)? Już mam kalendarz zapełniony praktycznie do sierpnia…a kiedy jeszcze bloga pisać?
kami06/03/2017 at 17:40
a to blog jest priorytetem ;) ? świat się nie zawali jak będziesz miał opóźnienie w pisaniu, ja o Kownie po roku w końcu napisałam. U mnie nawet lepiej, cały rok mam już praktycznie zaplanowany ;)
stacjabalkany20/03/2017 at 00:17
no właśnie masz chyba rację:) priorytetem ma być moje własne chyba szczęście z podróżowania a nie brak zaległości na bogu:)
kami29/03/2017 at 14:56
każdy priorytety ustawia sobie sam, ale chyba jednak nie blog powinien być najważniejszy ;)
Nick03/03/2017 at 20:40
I think the most interesting thing about Kaunas is its amazing amount of Art Decco. The city really needs to start helping protect more of it. Its a shame that Vilnius sucks up all the Oxygen, because Kaunas needs the love.
kami03/03/2017 at 23:20
Yes! I need to return there for a proper art deco and modernism exploration! This city is such a gem!
Stefania07/03/2017 at 15:45
I didn’t know Kaunas, thank you for sharing. Some of these streets with snow falling and people taking a stroll are enough to prove it is worth a visit!
kami23/03/2017 at 10:14
It’s definitely worth it! The city was a huge surprise to me, I’m already thinking of returning!
Janek08/03/2017 at 10:27
Patrząc na tytuł spodziewałem się wpisu o atrakcjach życia nocnego w Kownie. ;) Zręczna gra słów.
kami23/03/2017 at 10:18
przypadkiem wyszło ;)
Rangel30/03/2017 at 10:48
I’d love to go to Lithaua some day! Seems very nice.
kami17/04/2017 at 18:48
It is lovely! I hope you will have a chance to visit it soon!
David Amando Trombetta14/09/2017 at 18:29
I loved Kaunas, it was my favorite city in Lithuania! Vilnius was very European and too modern for me and Kaunas is a great mix and has a bit from everything that’s why I liked it more! –
Kami and the rest of the world15/09/2017 at 10:10
I always loved Vilnius but then I visited Kaunas and I’m not that sure about Vilnius anymore ;)
Jamie Polivka14/09/2017 at 19:40
I need to go to Kaunas!! Get well soon!
Kami and the rest of the world15/09/2017 at 10:02
Thank you! Kaunas is really great!
Katarzyna Koźlikowska14/09/2017 at 19:58
No właśnie coś słyszałam o jakimś wirusie… Zdrowiej! A Kowno zrobiło na mnie bardzo pozytywne wrażenie – byłam kiedyś pod koniec czerwca. I bardzo przyjemnie jedzie się stamtąd do Wilna. ;)
Kami and the rest of the world15/09/2017 at 10:10
dzięki, już jest zdecydowanie lepiej, ale jeszcze mam godzine żeby zdecydować co robię ;) A Kowno naprawdę wielkie zaskoczenie, bardzo fajne miasto!
Lecebochce.pl - blog podróżniczy15/09/2017 at 08:46
Kowno zawsze kojarzyło nam się z miastem, w którym nic nie ma (byliśmy dwa razy przejazdem). Będzie trzeba to zweryfikować:)
Kami and the rest of the world15/09/2017 at 10:03
to jak można uważać, że nic nie ma skoro się tylko przejazdem było :) ? Zdecydowanie trzeba to zweryfikować!
Lecebochce.pl - blog podróżniczy15/09/2017 at 10:58
Kami and the rest of the world Zawsze się ma jakieś wyobrażenie:)
Evi Mielczarek17/09/2017 at 19:04
Zawsze można znaleźć coś ciekawego, choć akurat w Kownie o to nie trudno! Cudowne miasteczko, idealne na weekend!
Mark Davies15/09/2017 at 10:59
Loved Kaunas, we stayed at R hostel for 4 nights and really enjoyed. Went to the open air museum of the countryside which is a couple of buses away but worth it
Kami and the rest of the world21/09/2017 at 13:55
I didn’t know about the museum! Thank you for telling me, I will do my best to check it next time I’m there!
Rasa Mar15/09/2017 at 16:41
There is a great project – Nykoka (the website – nykoka.lt – has a map with most of the Kaunas murals). Also Kiemo galerija – it’s near Laisvės al., you will see Chaplin’s mural beside the entrance. A lot of little streetart projects are done all over city centre. If you need specific addresses – drop me a PM, will mark it on map ;)
kami07/05/2018 at 15:03
I’m so sorry for my late answer, I swear I already wrote back so something must have gone wrong… Anyway, thank you for the tip about the street art map! I’m actually hoping to go back to Kaunas next month so it will be very useful! I’ve discovered Kiemo galerija by accident but loved it! If you have time I’d love you to mark some of the best spots in Kaunas for my next trip there. Thank you so much!!
Brittany24/04/2018 at 13:16
Thank you for the information! How many days would you recommend between Kaunas and Vilnius?
kami07/05/2018 at 15:04
I think 2 days in each city should be enough to see the best attractions. And in Vilnius make sure to go for at least half a day to Trakai, it’s so interesting!
Stan Pleskunas10/02/2019 at 02:50
Thanks for the information. Going to Lithuania for the 1st time in September 2019. As a Lithuanian-American, I am looking forward to using your suggestions to plan our trip.
kami12/02/2019 at 13:54
I’m sure you will have a great time Stan! Enjoy Lithuania!
Jaiven's Travel Blog16/09/2019 at 21:01
You captured Kaunas very well. I had a similar experience too – jumping in without expecting much, being so surprised by its many murals and edgy hipster vibe. Well worth a visit. #Kaunas ! :)
kami04/10/2019 at 21:33
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed Kaunas too, it’s such a great city!