PAŽAISLIS MONASTERY COMPLEX. The church and monastery complex are one of the most mesmerizing examples of late baroque in North-Eastern Europe, contributing to the history of Kaunas for over 350 years. Now the location is among the most popular destinations of cultural and film tourism in Kaunas: pilgrims, artists, fans of series such as Catherine the Great and other visitors are welcome here, festivals take place in summer along with religious celebrations.
From Temporary to Contemporary
This year, 2022, the eyes of Lithuania and Europe will be on Kaunas – it became the European capital of culture. This title includes an invitation for Kaunas to jointly create the city of the future and its cultural life, to reveal their own uniqueness to Europe and the world, to enhance the link with other European cultures discovering them in Kaunas. The idea, which earned this title to Kaunas in the contest for European Capital of Culture, sounded “From Temporary to Contemporary“.
There’s nature within Kaunas, and there’s nature surrounding it – here is everything from beautiful city parks to hillforts reflecting the pre-Christian traditions of Lithuania. Kaunas is full of rivers, forests, ponds, fields – and everything in between. Greenery occupies around one-third of the city’s territory. There is also a biggest oak park in Europe Ąžuolynas which is loved by locals.
KAUNAS RESERVOIR NATIONAL PARK… is so big you could spend weeks exploring it! Established in 1992, the institution aims to preserve the unique complex of Kaunas reservoir landscape. The objects safeguarded by the park’s dedicated team include picturesque outcrops of the shores, the Pažaislis monastery complex, the ecosystem of the Kaunas reservoir and its biosphere, also the precious Gastilioniai forest and its dormouse population and numerous objects of cultural heritage.
It took just a few years for Kaunas to become a street art city. It might seem like an ambitious statement, but collaboration between talented artists, the city municipality and building owners proved to be a successful formula. The less legal side of the subculture, graffiti and tagging, has been part of the urban face of Kaunas for decades; just recently, it became renowned, appreciated, and anticipated form of public art.
Kaunas Fortress is the remains of a fortress complex in Kaunas which was constructed and renovated between 1882 and 1915 to protect the Russian Empire’s western borders and was designated a “first-class” fortress in 1887. After the start of the anticipated conflict, Kaunas fortress collapsed. Despite it being the most modern in the whole of the Russian Empire, the fortifications were breached after 11 days. After the war, the project lost its defensive purpose. In the last few years, several significant and necessary steps were taken towards the preservation of this cultural heritage. Today, the protection and conservation of Kaunas fortress are carried out by Kaunas Fortress Park. The most famous of nine fortresses is the ninth.
The gigantic monument by Alfonsas Vincentas Ambraziūnas, Gediminas Baravykas and Vytautas Vielius, erected some 30 years ago, is one of the most awe-inspiring landmarks of Kaunas – and a reminder of all the blood that was spilt here. Before WW2, the Ninth Fort of the Kaunas Fortress was used as a jail. Later, thousands of Jews were killed here, coming from local vicinities, and transported from other countries occupied by Nazi Germany. There is also a museum presenting the painful chapters of this period of history open here.
LAISVĖS AVENUE. The avenue might have lost the title of the longest pedestrian boulevard in Europe, but it’ll always be one of the oldest. Stretching between the St. Michael the Archangel’s Byzantine-style church often called Soboras, through numerous shops, cafes, restaurants, museums, galleries, public institutions to the Old Town of Kaunas, the street dates to the 19th century. It was called many different names and received the principal name – “Freedom Avenue” – in 1919 and became completely car-less in the 1980s. The boulevard was recently renewed, as well as its iconic 80s-style fountain that plays music and spreads mist. It’s one of the most popular dating spots in Kaunas.
TOWN HALL AND THE TOWN HALL SQUARE. Nicknamed ‘The White Swan, The Town Hall is where lucky couples get married, as well as being the venue for prestigious international meetings. It’s also where the main exhibitions of the Kaunas City Museum will be showcased after the reconstruction is complete. For now, you can usually see a few temporary exhibitions, and if you have a head for heights, you can climb up the tower or, if not, explore the vaults of the building, which were once a jail!
KAUNAS CASTLE. Most people arriving at Kaunas start their sightseeing tours at the partially rebuilt ruins of Kaunas Castle, the oldest building in the city and witness of Medieval times. In the remaining tower, there’s a permanent history exhibition hosted by Kaunas City Museum.
VYTAUTAS THE GREAT BRIDGE – aka the longest bridge in the world. To cross the bridge from one bank of the Nemunas to the other took 13 days (!!!), because Kaunas belonged to the Russian Empire and Aleksotas to the Prussian kingdom up to 1807. The different sides of the river had different calendars, which included a 13-day difference. During World War II the bridge was blown up twice, only to be reborn in 1948; the bridge retraction mechanism is still of use today. Across the river Nemunas from the city, the hill itself is one of the best places to fall in love with the panoramic views of Kaunas, conveniently reachable by funicular, the vintage, and very trendy means of transportation in Kaunas. It’s the most-pictured panorama of Kaunas! So, make sure to charge your camera.