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About Lithuania » Kaunas

Kaunas

Some facts: Kaunas with 364 000 inhabitants is one of the most significant cities of Lithuania. It is not only a city of old traditions, but also a large centre of business and industry. It can also lay claim to be a city of young people with over 35,000 students studying at one of the seven universities here. Tourists can reach the city by all types of transport. Kaunas is only 12 kilometers away of the international Karmelava airport and 100 kilometres away of the Vilnius airport. Kaunas can also be conveniently reached by the main highways and railroads. On the way from Helsinki to the Western Europe, towards Warsaw, or from the Lithuanian seaside to the East, towards Vilnius, one will always pass by Kaunas.
History: The current site of Kaunas City and the old town at the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers has long had inhabitants. One of the main first settlements that grew up to become the present day Kaunas old town, was first mentioned by the chroniclers in 1361. Toward the end of the 14th century, in order to defend Kaunas from Crusader's attacks, a brick castle was built and installed itself as an integral part of the town's defence. In 1408, Vytautas the Great granted the Magderburg rights to the town and after this Kaunas began to grow at a fairly rapid pace, especially its importance as a centre and main port for trade with Western Europe. By the end of the 16th century, the town of Kaunas had its first school, public hospital, and chemist shop and was fast becoming one of the most developed towns in the Kingdom of Lithuania. At the end of the 18th century, the fortunes of Kaunas revived a little but only until 1812 the year that saw Napoleon's army cross the Nemunas River in Kaunas on their path to Russia. Heading towards the end of the 19th century, Kaunas experienced several major developments that helped it back onto a path of prosperity and growth. The First World War stemmed the further development of Kaunas mainly because of the occupation, which meant Kaunas lost its independence until 1919. With Vilnius occupied by Russia in the same year, the State Council and Cabinet of Ministers moved and established themselves in Kaunas. Kaunas became the capital and the most important city of Lithuania. In the same year the national parliament (Seimas) gathered in Kaunas and laid the basis for the country's legal system. The city, devastated by the Second World War, also suffered further over the next forty years of soviet occupation as many buildings and signs of Lithuanian independence were demolished or removed. One of the first public protests against the Soviet rule was in 1972, when Romas Kalanta set himself on fire in the square in front of the Musical Theatre of Kaunas. In 1988, upon the rising of the liberation movement, many city sights were revived: streets and museum names were returned, and many monuments of independence times were restored. When the Soviet army attempted to encroach upon the newly independent Lithuania in 1991, the residents of Kaunas kept watch at the Sitkūnai radio and television transmitter, and like the rest of Lithuania's people, they were more than willing to give their lives for the freedom of Lithuania.
Town: Numerous significant and interesting architectural and historic monuments can be found in the cozy Old Town. They all reflect the great and honorable past of the city. Remains of Kaunas castle, built in the 13th century, stand at the confluence of the rivers Nemunas and Neris, while many other interesting and attractive objects can be found near the "white swan" - Town Hall, standing in the center of the Town Hall square. One can easily reach the center of Kaunas walking along the pedestrian street, which joins Laisves avenue - the central pedestrian street of the city. For the convenience of tourists, numerous shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars are established along these streets. One can buy souvenirs and pieces of the folk art there. Many objects and monuments related to the history and culture of Lithuania and Kaunas can be found both in the city center, and in the new districts. Kaunas funiculars, Darius and Girenas airport, railway tunnel, bridges, and factories are valuable objects of technical heritage. Magnificent view of the Old Town, confluence of the two rivers, central part of the city, Žaliakalnis district hillsides, and the old Oak Park opens from the Aleksotas hillside place. An exclusive element of the city panorama is the Resurrection church, still under reconstruction, symbolizing resurrection and determination of the Lithuanian nation striving towards freedom and independence. The variety of exhibits in 26 museums of Kaunas city provide opportunities for tourists to get acquainted with the history of Lithuania and Kaunas, living habits of the nation, development of culture. The city is also surrounded by the remains of the circle of 9 forts, constructed at the times of the Russian Empire. One of the forts - the Ninth one - hosts the museum for commemoration of those who suffered from Fascism and Jewish Genocide. Kaunas Sea Regional Park, Rumšiškes open air museum, Raudondvaris castle and other objects can be found in the adjacent territories of the district of Kaunas. There are 7 professional theatres in the city, which organize popular festivals and events. People take pleasure taking part in the Pažaislis Music Festival, Kaunas Jazz Festival, Kaunas city days, national music and theatrical festivals, etc. 1089 places are available in 18 hotels and 4 motels of Kaunas . Many private apartments and 4 tourism companies with 350 employees offer their services to the city guests. Tourists will be kindly offered Lithuanian and exotic meals as well as pleasant environment to spend their time in modern and traditional restaurants, cafes, and bars of Kaunas city. There are 7 professional theatres in the city, which organize popular festivals and events. People take pleasure taking part in the Pažaislis Music Festival, Kaunas Jazz Festival, Kaunas city days, national music and theatrical festivals, etc.
What to see: The Devil‘s Museum. The famous collection of thousands of representations of the Devil from all over the world as well as an exhibition of Žmuidzinavicius's works and it is possible to also take in a tour of his apartment and studio left as he left it!
Kaunas Picture Gallery. A super place to visit and spend some serious time. It has a retro-stylish bar and some quality exhibitions - both permanent and temporary. You can see art collections from Modern (1945 onwards); painting, graphics and sculpture of Lithuanians; and perhaps the most underrated exhibition (but for me one of the most impressive in terms of content and historical significance) is the study of Jurgis (George) Maciunas, the initiator of the avant-garde movement "FLUXUS". Maciunas was also fairly intimate with most of the key movers - and interested bystanders! - of the avant garde movement including Warhol, Mekas, Yoko Ono (who was probably introduced to John Lennon through Maciunas) and Joseph Beuys.
Mykolas Žilinskas Art Gallery almost as famous for the statue of the naked man (bar the laurel leaf crown upon his head) outside as for the contents of the Gallery inside which include: The art of ancient Egypt; the history of porcelain of the 17th - 20th centuries; European art and crafts of the 16th -20th centuries; and European painting and sculpture. They also have a film club here and often show an excellent selection of travelling Photographic exhibitions and textile art shows from around Europe. There is also a Centre for Contemporary Art housed within the building
National M. K. Čiurlionis Art Museum includes paintings and graphics by M. K.Čiurlionis along with Lithuanian art from the 16th to the 19th centuries; Lithuanian art from the beginning of the 20th century; folk sculpture and paintings
The Museum of Ceramics. In the impressive vaults of the Old Town Hall in Rotuses Square, you can see collections of the historical ceramics of Lithuania; the history of Lithuanian ceramics and porcelain in Lithuania. It also includes a exhibition of the work of modern craftsmen of ceramics.
The Ninth Fort Museum. Highly impressive representation of what happened towards the end of the Second World War. Here you can get to know more about the role of the Ninth fort as part of the Kaunas stronghold; as a branch of the prison of interwar Lithuania; as a death camp in the years of the Nazis occupation; and a full historical picture in the new museum - the genocide of Lithuanian nation in the years of Soviet and Nazis occupation.
The Museum of Excile and Resistance. Expositions tell about the resistance of the nation from 1944 to 1954 and the brutalities of the Stalin regime, the fight of Lithuanian partisans against the invaders and the suffering of Lithuanian state prisoners. Exhibits are items from former expatriates, guns of partisans, decorations, things excavated from partisan bunkers, and documentary photos.
Sugihara House. Between 1939 and 1940 this building was the Japanese Consulate. Consul Chiune Sugihara was responsible for helping to save the lives of approximately 6,000 Jewish people by issuing them with Japanese visas. In 2001 his widow Yukiko Sugihara visited and planted several Japanese Sakura Cherry-trees.
Vytautas Magnus Military Museum. Has one of the richest collections of weapons in Eastern Europe as well as an interesting range of archaeological finds from many hundreds of years ago. With Lithuania's role as a nation either conquering others or fighting to expel invaders from the 14th Century through to the end of the last Century, there is certainly a lot to keep the mind interested here.
The Museum of the History of Lithuanian Medicine and Pharmacy considered one of the finest in Europe, this collection includes a 19th century pharmacy from Lithuania's towns (a stock room, a laboratory), doctors' cabinets of the beginning of the 20th century, the history of Kaunas Medical University, and a survey of folk medicine. The museum is situated in a 16th century building.
Accommodation: Includes something for everybody's price range and comfort requirements. We have over one thousand beds available in twenty hotels - many of them offering first class facilities. We also have four motels situated within easy reach of the main transport connections; numerous private apartments; and four tourism companies catering for every service that you may need whilst here in Kaunas. Guests can sample a range of cuisine from many European and Asian countries as well as an abundance of traditional Lithuanian food, drink and hospitality in one of the hundreds of modern and traditional restaurants, bars, tea-shops and cafes in and around the city.