Kaunas – Central Lithuania

February-March, 2015

Although the best time to visit Kaunas is early May to late August and not during February to March as it’s bitterly cold, the 6 days spent in Kaunas was memorable.

location map of Kaunas

Kaunas

I guess it’s not everyone’s idea of fun when layer upon layer of clothes are donned each morning during a 10-minute ritual, only to be peeled off layer by layer again when back indoors. But rest assured, Kaunas is worth visiting at this time of year as the scenery is stunning. Locals are lovely but I doubt the time of year really matters.

Shops, restaurants, transport, hotels, and apartments are all well heated and draft-proofed, so it’s not too unpleasant. Remember, the cold is only a brief experience for you whilst travelling and it’s not permanent.

Travel

Unfortunately, had to leave the lovely apartment in Klaipėda today although could of stayed much longer. We need to be mindful of time, which I hate doing when travelling.

Old Town square statue and local, Lithuania

Contemplation – Old Town Square

Caught a cab (€3) from the apartment to the Autobusu Stotsi (bus station), where the bus (€14.34) to Kaunas left at 12:50hrs, although buses do leave on the hour (midday is a civilised time). An expensive bus journey as this is only a 3-hour trip, but then again, Eastern Europe seems to be expensive for buses. However, they do all run on time, are very good quality, mostly include wi-fi, and heated!

The scenery along this journey is quite flat with some farms, snow, and iced water.

Sights

Kaunas was established at the convergence of the two largest rivers in Lithuanian (Nemunas and Neris) in the 4th and 5th century BC. Built in the 14th century, the castle is now considered to be the oldest in Lithuania.

Kaunas City Tour operates from May-October, but as with most sights and tours in the Baltics, much is closed during the bitterly cold winter months. Boat trips are also available during the summer months.

The upside of travelling during winter is the lack of tourists (apart from public holidays) and lower prices, but the downside is that some sites are closed. Typically, if you haven’t done your research or visited a Tourist Information office beforehand and just rock up to a sight, it may be closed for the winter and you will be disappointed.

Old Town Kaunas: horse and cart, Lithuania

Old Town transport

In addition to what I’ve written below, whilst you meander around the Old Town, you’ll bump into gorgeous buildings such as the Town Hall, Basilica of St. Peter and Paul, Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption, and much more.

Old Town

As with Old Towns in other countries in the Baltics, this Old Town is amazing to wander around for hours taking in the stunning Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. The Old Town encompasses the nine forts, the castle, City Hall Square, many churches, and much more.

Immerse yourself in a bygone era by hiring a horse and cart to take you around a few of the main sights, whilst listening to the echoes of the horse’s hoofs on cobbled stones.

Kaunas Fortress

Around nine forts surround the Old Town of Kaunas with the 7th and 9th forts only open for visiting, and with a museum that offers information on fortification. This impressive fortress was constructed and renovated between 1882 and 1915, as protection to the Russian Empire’s western borders. However, during World War I, as the largest defensive structure in the entire state, the complex occupied 65 km2.

Kaunas Castle (Pilies g. 17)

As the oldest castle in Lithuania, the first mention of this castle in written records was in 1361. The legend goes something like this…the army of Queen Bona Sforza disappeared underground in the castle. In addition to the disappearance, the castle also had a prison in the 16th century, and so, spirits that have not yet found peace haunts the castle. Regardless of legends, this is another elegant castle to explore, which also houses an art museum and the occasional festival.

Kaunas Castle, Lithuania

Kaunas Castle

Devil’s Museum (V. Putvinskio g. 64)

Sadly, I only read about this museum afterwards whilst travelling through Poland and that it’s the only devil’s museum in the world. Would have liked to visit as apparently collections are from Armenia, Yakutia, Mexico, Cuba, the Ukraine, Japan, and other countries, which I think, would have been very interesting and enlightening.

Laisvės Avenue Kaunas, Lithuania

Laisvės Avenue

Laisvės Avenue

Take a walk on Laisvės Avenue in the New Town. At 1.7kms long, this is the longest pedestrian avenue in Europe so walking the length is a must. Not to mention the amazing assortment of shops, banks, supermarkets, restaurants, a cinema, casinos, nightclubs, museums, tourist information office, places to stay, and a central post office; you won’t be bored on the avenue. Later in the morning and afternoon also sees many foods, hat, souvenir, and other stalls pop up so check these out as well; it’s free to look.

Accommodation

Alpetri Apartments (Nepriklausomybes a. 5b) – booked 4 nights and extended another 2 nights at this apartment as cheaper than a hotel for an Australian budget. Typically, hostels and guest houses are not much cheaper and only offer shared bathrooms – I’m past Dorms and will only do shared bathrooms if I have to…been there done that!

Although this apartment is under ‘Serviced Apartments’ in booking.com, it’s not serviced. As an example, apart from the initial supply on arrival, fresh towels or more toilet paper were not provided, and the apartment was not cleaned during the 6-night stay.

The actual apartment is excellent though as it’s a great size, warm, full-sized kitchen, and everything you require; just like being at home. The location is fantastic as it’s right outside of the St Michael’s Cathedral Square, a 7-minute walk to the Akropolis Mall (with a massive Maxima XXX), and a 15-minute walk to the bus station.

Street art in B&W - Kaunas, Lithuania

Cheeky street art

Food

Apart from cooking meals in the apartment to keep daily costs down (but also because there’s an amazing plethora of choices at the Maxima XXX supermarket), did have a birthday dinner out, which was incredibly excellent!

Buon Giorno Tratoria (Laisves Aleja)

Excellent service and menu advice from staff. This Italian restaurant offers delicious mouth-watering pizzas (not your typical mixes), excellent table wines, sumptuous deserts, and a wonderful cheese board, all for pretty reasonable prices.

Had a wonderful night here celebrating and would definitely visit again.

Skliautau (Rotušės a. 26)

If you’re hungry and need to hide from the cold for a spell, then visit this lovely cosy place for great coffee and service; local meals are also on offer. Prices are a little more expensive here due to its location.

Vero Cafe (Laisves Aleja – a couple on this avenue)

At €3 for 2 medium-sized coffees and 2 large freshly backed pastries, this has to be the cheapest coffee and bakery place in Kaunas, and always super busy with locals. There are two of these bakeries on the same street but on opposing ends. Cheap meals are also on offer and although I didn’t indulge, they looked very good and tasty.

Kaunas pastries, Lithuania

Wonderful pastries!

Leaving Kaunas and bound for Vilnius

The 1.5-hour express train (€5.21 in 2nd class) from Kaunas to Vilnius, leaves at 12:08hrs. Apparently, it’s a brand new very flash train, which offers 1st and 2nd class tickets.

Many trains leave on this route from 04:56-21:28hrs; trains seem to run every half-hour at peak times, then drop off at 10:55hrs to about hourly.

Visit my Nilla’s Photography Baltic States gallery for more images. More posts on Lithuania at Image Earth Travel.

Kaunas:Lady Beetle street sculpture, Lithuania

Old Town street sculpture

Historical Presidential Palace Kaunas, Lithuania

Historical Presidential Palace

Kaunas: Old lady, Lithuania

Kaunas local

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