Avilys, Terasa

Kaunas - Lithuania

Get a taste of this Lithuanian city – and its freshly baked doughnuts – and you’ll find that the former industrial port has many treasures to offer, says Alicia Miller.

Travel Time 2hrs 30min

Why go?

A Baltic city through and through, Kaunas has relied for centuries on the two rivers that frame it. From them has flowed the city’s eclectic history of domination and defeat, booming industry and downturn. Having thrown off the shackles of Communism in 1989, Lithuania’s second largest hub has found a new lease on life as a tourist destination. The best time to visit is in late summer, when a host of festivals run late into the long, light nights.

What to do

Located between the Neris and Nemunas rivers, at the spot before they merge and start winding towards the Baltic Sea, Kaunas’s old town is marked by the ruins of a castle and a large park in which locals gather for picnics on summer days. The central square, Rotušes aikšte, boasts the town hall, restaurants and the nearby Jesuit monastery. Wander along Vilniaus, the main cobble-stoned street, where café tables spill onto the sidewalks and people chatter over beers. Small and brick-built, St Gertrude is one of the oldest churches in Lithuania. Laisves aleja is the main pedestrianised street of the new town; its eastern end is marked by the blue and white Church of St Michael the Archangel. The eternal flame and Lithuanian crosses surrounding the Freedom Monument here mark the country’s interwar independence. For something different, pop into the Devil Museum (00 370 37 221587), an odd but amusing collection of over 3,000 devil themed sculptures. Symbolist art lovers will love the MK Čiurlionis Museum (ciurlionis.lt), which houses a large collection of the Baltic artist’s works. Take a ride on the restored Žaliakalnis funicular, which still contains original parts from the 1930s. It takes you to Lithuania’s largest church, a striking vision in white which, during the Soviet era, functioned as a radio factory. During the Second World War, Lithuania’s Jewish population was almost wiped out; around 80,000 people are thought to have been killed at Ninth Fort. This former concentration camp is a short a taxi ride from the centre; pay your respects at the museum here, or visit the memorial in the Kovno Ghetto, the former Jewish quarter.

Where to stay

Situated just where the old town merges into the new, Santaka Hotel (00 370 37 302702, santakahotel.eu) has 92 rooms decked out in solid oak and paintings from Lithuanian artists. There’s a pool and sauna, and the front desk staff are exceptionally helpful. Hotel Kaunas (00 370 37 750850, kaunashotel.lt) is centrally located on the main drag of Laisves aleja and serves a generous buffet breakfast. Its downstairs café is always popular in the evenings.

Where to eat and drink

Follow the flow of locals in the morning and head for the bar stools at Spurgine on Laisves aleja – the ladies in this unassuming retro café have been serving sweet and savoury doughnuts since Soviet times; the marmalade-filled version is a classic. Feast on a wealth of traditional Lithuanian cuisine such as kvass (a fermented drink made from bread), cep mushroom soup, herring, cepelinai (dumplings) and šaltibaršciai (chilled beetroot soup) at Berneliu Užeiga (berneliuuzeiga.eu). There are a few located in the city, but the one at K Donelaicio gatve˚ 11 is the most atmospheric. If you come on a Thursday evening you’ll catch some traditional Lithuanian folk music and dancing. Classic dishes are presented in a more refined light at Sadute˚(00 370 68 508662), a restaurant and wine bar in Rotušesaikšte. Here the šaltibaršciai comes served in a martini glass and the bread ice cream is particularly good – plus it has the city’s best wine list by far. Brewery Avilys (00 370 68 668525, avilys.lt) on Vilniaus offers light, honey-brown brews alongside a menu of hearty dishes such as beer soup with hop butter. Wind down after a big meal at Kavos Klubas (00 370 3722 9669), a cosy coffee and wine bar on Valanciaus gatve.

Time running out?

Sample samane, a strong (55 degrees), traditional grain spirit at the restaurant in Hotel Kaunas, where you can also sample authentic offal dishes.


Travel Information

Travel Information

Currency is the litas (Lt). Kaunas is a two-and-a-half-hour journey from London and two hours ahead of GMT.

Getting There

Air Baltic (airbaltic.com) operates daily flights from London Gatwick to Kaunas via Riga.
Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and London Gatwick, Luton and Stansted direct to Kaunas.


Lithuania Tourism (020 7034 1222, lithuania.travel) provides practical information on visiting Kaunas and Lithuania.

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

Min Temp-5-6-627111212830-3
Max Temp-1-131017202121151030

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