Lithuania Holiday Planning Guide
Characterized by its majestic Baltic coastline and adjacent white sands, Lithuania boasts lush green forests, hidden lakes, and coastal wetlands. While the nation enjoys peace and prosperity today, traces of Lithuania's turbulent history remain, including a former nuclear site and the remnants of defenses along the Tsarist empire's frontier. At the same time, it pays homage to its national heroes, honored in sculpture parks and museums throughout the country. Contemporary Lithuania boasts a thriving musical, cultural, and visual arts scene, hosting a range of festivals and concerts year-round.
Places to Visit in Lithuania
Regions of LithuaniaVilnius County
: Characterized by the winding streets, pleasant parks, and buzzing, youthful energy of Lithuania's Baroque capital, Vilnius County plays home to a wealth of historical tourist attractions equally fascinating year-round.Klaipeda County
: Home to Lithuania's only stretch of coastline, Klaipeda County combines quaint Prussian towns with Lithuanian village life and offers plenty of things to do for both active and relaxed visitors to the region.Alytus County
: Bursting with more than 400 lakes and an array of tourist attractions ranging from water parks to ski resorts, Alytus County makes an ideal place to visit in Lithuania for lovers of the great outdoors.Kaunas County
: The locale around Lithuania's "second city" entertains and delights with its rich collection of historical buildings, art repositories, and energetic festivals displaying its lively music and theater scene.Siauliai County
: One of the nation's northern gems and home to a renowned religious site, Siauliai County serves as a regional capital and makes an excellent addition to your Lithuania itinerary.
Cities in LithuaniaVilnius
: Boasting one of Europe's biggest and best-preserved medieval old towns (listed as a World Heritage Site), Lithuania's vibrant capital features an elegant mix of architectural styles, a riotous array of bars and restaurants, and some of the continent's finest churches.Kaunas County
: With a historical core arguably as charming as that of Vilnius, riverside Kaunas and its active arts, theater, and music offer visitors plenty of things to do while on their Lithuania trip.Trakai
: Protected as a Historical National Park, Trakai and its peninsular old town lead up to an island castle that serves as one of Lithuania's most iconic national landmarks.Druskininkai
: A solid place to visit in Lithuania for nature-lovers and water babies alike, Druskininkai stands as one of the country's most popular spa locales, featuring mineral baths, saunas, and resorts from the 19th century through Soviet times.Klaipeda
: The historical capital of the nation of Prussia, Klaipeda entices visitors with its Northern European old town filled with cobbled lanes, as well as proximity to the country's pristine stretches of dune-backed beaches.Siauliai
: Dating from the 13th century, Siauliai still maintains plenty of medieval charm as well as Lithuania's famed collection of hilltop crosses.
Things to Do in Lithuania
Popular Lithuania Tourist AttractionsVilnius Old Town
: Colorful Baroque buildings stand alongside preserved medieval churches, narrow side alleys, and the hilltop ruins of a castle in Vilnius Old Town, a World Heritage Site representing a premier attraction in Lithuania.Gediminas Tower
: A climb up Vilnius' castle hill rewards with a visit to the reconstructed medieval Gediminas Tower, home to a small archaeological exhibition and some of the best panoramic views in the city.KGB Museum (Genocido Auku Muziejus)
: Lithuania's occupation and suffering during the years of the Soviet Union is preserved and memorialized at the KGB Museum (Genocido Auku Muziejus), housed in the former headquarters of the notorious secret police.Trakai Castle
: Sturdy towers, massive walls, and a fairytale setting on a small island within a lake make Trakai Castle one of the country's most enduring symbols, ranking among the most popular places to visit in Lithuania.St. Anne's Church
: Once the envy of Napoleon himself, 16th-century St. Anne's Church represents a stunning example of elaborate Gothic architecture and some impressive brickwork.Cathedral (Arkikatedra Bazilika)
: Set prominently within one of Vilnius' main squares, Cathedral (Arkikatedra Bazilika) boasts sizeable decorative columns, a wealth of interior decoration, and the grave of Lithuania's patron saint.Aušros Vartai
: Built during the 16th century as a part of the city's system of defensive walls, the Gates of Dawn (Ausros Vartai) house a peaceful and heavily-gilded Catholic chapel hidden above the street.Siauliai Hill of Crosses
: More than 100,000 crosses, crucifixes, and memorials pack the Siauliai Hill of Crosses, a resilient, spiritual reminder of Lithuania's religious heritage and historical perseverance. St. Peter and St. Paul's Church
: As the nation's most spectacular Baroque church, St. Peter & St. Paul's Church (Sv. Apastalu Petro ir Povilo Baznycia) makes a great place to visit, where you can marvel at the 2,000 intricately carved stucco figures within.Vilnius TV Tower
: Rising 326 m (1,071 ft) above the city, the Television Tower (Televizijos Bokstas) pays tribute to those killed in a Soviet raid in 1991 and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Planning a Lithuania Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Lithuania with Kids
Thanks to a large complement of waterparks, beaches, and outdoor activities, Lithuania certainly stands as a bit of a hidden-gem holiday destination for the whole family. Druskininkai
is a fine choice a kid-friendly itinerary; the ever-popular Druskininkai Aquapark
features an extensive array of speedy slides, relaxing floats, and a classic wave pool. There are even some indulgent spa and wellness treatments for the adults tagging along on their Lithuania vacation. Alternatively, the city's Snow Arena
offers the chance to hit the slopes and let the kids practice their ski and snowboard techniques year-round at one of the world's biggest indoor ski areas. Head for the coast near Klaipeda
to enjoy some classic family beachfront fun at Nida Beach
or Palanga Beach
, blessed with long stretches of sand, dunes, and forests perfect for letting the kids run wild. Of course, a Lithuania itinerary wouldn't be complete without a stop in the historical capital of Vilnius
, which captures young imaginations with its Vilnius Old Town
and host of World Heritage-listed sites.
Things to Do in Lithuania with Kids
Whether it's wandering cobbled medieval alleys in Kaunas County
, exploring the halls of the mighty Trakai Castle
, or simply getting out into the countryside for a glimpse of a bygone era of village life, Lithuania offers tons of things to do and places to see. Educational institutions like the Money Museum of the Bank of Lithuania
and the Palanga Amber Museum
represent great ways to stimulate the mind and keep younger travelers entertained with their range of hands-on exhibits and displays.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Lithuania
Due to the country's relatively small size, a family vacation in Lithuania can certainly cover some ground without much trouble. Renting a car can be a great way to make the most of your holiday in Lithuania, as you can cross between Vilnius
and the coastline in just a few hours, allowing you to experience both historical wonders and vibrant nature in the span of several days. Children are welcome in Lithuania and the nation has seen plenty of tourism since its accession to the European Union in 2004, but keep in mind that in the country's multitude of churches visitors should behave with respect and consideration. Stopping by a religious service on a Sunday, such as at the spectacular St. Peter and St. Paul's Church
, can be a fascinating glimpse into local culture, but make sure the kids can stay calm and well-behaved during its entirety.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Lithuania
Cuisine of Lithuania
As a fascinating cultural crossroads, Lithuania intrigues visitors with its varied culinary favorites. Though few might deem the cuisine sophisticated, Lithuania's mish-mash of Germanic, Baltic, and Slavic influences offer plenty of tasty and hearty choices when it comes to eating out. Potatoes, barley, and mushrooms all play starring roles in many dishes, as does the rye that most notably stands out in Lithuania's famous assortment of extremely dark breads. This tasty baked good will feature heavily on the side of just about any dish you'll find in the country. Cold borscht soup, colored brightly with beetroots, is a great way to cool down on a hot day, while kibinai, savory pastries, or pierogi, Polish-style dumplings, can warm you up in chillier months. However, the real show-stopper is the fan-favorite cepelinai--translated as "zeppelins" in English due to their recognizable shape. These football-shaped dumplings are made with a thick mixture of grated potatoes and contain a tasty stuffing of minced meat. Top this national dish with creamy mushroom sauce or traditional fried bacon bits for an extremely filling meal.
Shopping in LithuaniaVilnius
features a whole range of shopping opportunities that run the gamut from ever-present souvenir shops and stands to upscale stores featuring popular international brands, more or less covering those you'd expect to find at home. The capital also boasts several large malls, namely the Akropolis
chain, which can serve as an entertaining way to escape from the heat or cold, grab a bite to eat, and shop until you drop. Of course, plenty of local markets and bazaars in cities around the country make for terrific browsing, and a tour through a crowded hall packed with vegetables, smoked meats, and cheeses results in both a very cultural experience and, often, a satisfied belly.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Lithuania
History of Lithuania
Once one of the largest and most powerful nations in Europe, Lithuania has certainly left its mark on history and features a past chock-full of turbulent struggles, thriving golden ages, and a fiercely resilient people. During your vacation in Lithuania you'll witness a land steeped in tradition, but with eyes firmly focused on the future.
Lithuania as a state first came together in 1253 under the rule of King Mindaugas, the first and only national leader to hold such a title. The medieval-era Grand Duchy of Lithuania, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea, was Europe's largest nation, fielding fearsome armies and asserting its might across the continent. Its glory days continued when in the mid-16th century Lithuania and Poland joined forces to create the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The stunning Trakai Castle
, constructed by revered King Vytautas the Great, represents a prominent example from this heyday of Lithuanian power and influence in the region.
However, the good times didn't last, and by the end of the 1700s Lithuania had fallen to the neighboring Russians. More than a century of Russian domination followed, and while a brief stint of independence after World War I represents a shining moment in Lithuanian history, the resurgent Soviet Union put an end to the fledgling republic in 1940. World War II led to devastation at the hands of Nazi Germany, as well as the horrific murder of nearly all of Lithuania's vibrant Jewish population, but the nation remained unbroken. You can learn more about Lithuania's tribulations under Soviet rule at the KGB Museum (Genocido Auku Muziejus)
, documenting the secret police's operations to silence dissenters and keep citizens under control. Alternatively, the Hill of Crosses
serves as a moving memorial to the enduring spirituality and integrity during years of Communism.
A pivotal moment in the nation's struggle to rid itself of Communism came on January 13, 1991, when Soviet troops attacked a crowd of peaceful protestors at the Vilnius TV Tower
, killing 13 and wounding many more. Far from crushing the young republic, this event in many ways spurred Lithuania onwards, finally gaining recognition of its independence in September 1991. Since the fall of the USSR, Lithuania has moved decisively westward, joining both NATO and the European Union in 2004.
Customs of Lithuania
As an ancient land, Lithuania, and its people, place a great deal of emphasis on deep-rooted traditions. Elders are looked upon with respect, and giving up your seat on public transportation goes a long way towards demonstrating this reverence. While sightseeing in Lithuania, you may very well be invited to a gathering or to someone's home, as Lithuanians are a friendly people. Bringing along a small gift is traditionally a popular way to show appreciation for hospitality and always a good idea. However, make sure that if bringing flowers you bring an odd number, as even numbers are generally reserved for periods of mourning. Though Lithuania was a part of both the Russian Empire and Soviet Union for decades, keep in mind during your trip to Lithuania that these periods in its history are often not remembered kindly. Therefore, don't assume that the older generation is necessarily comfortable or willing to speak Russian, so using English or asking beforehand is a crucial courtesy.
Holidays & Festivals in Lithuania
Thanks to its long and storied history as a bastion of pagan beliefs long after the Christianization of Europe, Lithuania features several major holidays and festivals you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the world in these forms. Most of the nation's major commemorations and celebrations are spaced out throughout the year, so you'll likely have no trouble joining in during your holiday in Lithuania. Independence Day, on February 16, commemorates Lithuania's original break from the Russian Empire in 1918, while Statehood Day on July 6 pays tribute to the country's founding way back in 1253. All Saints' Day, though a Christian celebration, has deep pagan roots in Lithuania and involves visiting the graves and tombs of both loved ones and older ancestors. However, the festivals around the summer solstice, including St. John's Day and Midsummer's Day, draw some of the largest crowds, and the trademark crowns of leaves, dance performances, and traditional music displays are not to be missed during your trip to Lithuania.
Lithuania Travel Tips
Climate of Lithuania
Lithuania has four distinct seasons, each changing the country's varied landscape. Generally, the country experiences cold winters with plenty of snow, and both Vilnius
and other inland counties can drop well below freezing during the darker months. Fall often puts gorgeous red-, yellow-, and orange-hued leaves on display, while hot springs and summers burst out in riotous shades of green. The warmer months commonly bring heavy rain showers across the country, so prepare for your Lithuania holiday accordingly. The coastal zone around the popular Curonian Spit / Kursiu Nerija National Park
boasts a milder climate overall, but still cools down and heats up with the rest of the country.
Transportation in Lithuania
You can make the most of your vacation in Lithuania by taking advantage of the country's extensive network of public transportation and roads. Urban networks of buses are present in major cities, and a combination of trains and regional buses make traveling between several counties on your Lithuania trip a breeze. Links between Vilnius
are frequent, as are those between the capital, Kaunas County
, and Klaipeda
, putting many of the major places to see in Lithuania within an easy day's reach. Lithuania's small size makes the road network even easier to navigate, though keep in mind that driving in the winter months can take some care and patience due to icy conditions.
Language of Lithuania
Lithuanian is the official language of Lithuania and is used in all aspects of daily life. Part of the Baltic language family, Lithuanian is also thought to be one of the world's most ancient and preserved tongues. However, now that Lithuania is an EU member and an increasingly popular place to visit, plenty of younger people speak English, particularly in Vilnius
. The older generation, due to the country's Soviet past, speaks Russian as a second language, though using it can cause offense. Learning a few basic Lithuanian phrases for your Lithuania trip is a fantastic way to earn some smiles and appreciation wherever you go, as a little bit of effort goes a long way.
Tipping in Lithuania
While tipping in Lithuania is nowhere near as common as in North America, a little extra for a job well done is always appreciated. Restaurants may sometimes in larger cities add an automatic service charge, but otherwise adding 10 or 15 percent to the final bill, in cash if possible, is sufficient. In taxis, rounding up the fare to the nearest whole number is normal, and often times rounding up to the closest 5- or 10-euro increment is a nice gesture. Small tips are expected when dealing with porters and restaurant staff in higher-end hotels.