Why should you come to Lithuania?
Lithuania has reappeared on the map of Europe relatively recently. Although some have already discovered this fascinating country, for others Lithuania remains something of an enigma. Many, upon their first visit, are pleasantly surprised to discover a country rich with tradition, natural and cultural treasures.
Why should you consider a visit? Just some of the answers to that question can be found on this page…
1. Lithuanian language
Listen to the way they spoke in ancient times
About half of the world’s population speak languages that originate from an original Proto-Indo-European language, including English, Spanish, French, German and many others. Most scientists agree that in its phonetics and morphology Lithuanian is the only living language closest to the Proto-Indo-European language. So while in Lithuania you have a chance to listen to what you distant ancestors could have spoken like.
2. Vilnius Old Town
Admire the majestic views
From the tower of Gediminas Castle visitors are presented with breathtaking views of the baroque Vilnius Old Town. The abundance of churches is particularly eye-catching: it is often said that regardless of where in the Old Town you are, you are always next to a church. From the gothic masterpiece of St. Anne’s to the baroque splendour of Sts. Peter and Paul, the architectural variety demonstrates the rich heritage of the city, drawing from influences of different cultures.
3. Trakai castle
Visit a medieval fairytale
A small town surrounded by lakes, Trakai, once the capital of Lithuania, is proud of its rich history. Its beautifully restored medieval red brick castle on an island in the lake, the residence of Lithuanian dukes, looks as if it could only exist in fairytales. Medieval buffs will surely spend some quality time exploring the castle and its surroundings. This popular tourist destination also offers a chance to acquire Lithuanian souvenirs or to learn more about the local Karaite food specialities.
4. Užupis republic
Discover the artist within
The Užupis quarter in Vilnius, favoured by artists and those with bohemian inclinations, is a veritable republic with its own traditions, border crossing points and even a constitution – or this is at least what many Užupis residents posit. Contrasting with the renovated and commercialised Old Town, Užupis offers a real look into the avant-garde as working artists open their studios to the public, sculpture pieces are tucked alongside the river and local cafes play host to poets scribbling verse and students having animated philosophical debates.
5. The song festival
Feel the breath of the nation
Folk song has always served Lithuania as means of asserting its national identity, a unique expression of national culture that at certain points gained political significance. Thus the traditional folk song and dance festival, started more that a hundred years ago and taking place every four years, is often seen as the central event of Lithuanian cultural life, attracting many people from within the country as well as abroad. This event is on the UNESCO list of Oral and Intangible Heritage.
6. Shrove Tuesday in Rumšiškės
Take part in special festive proceedings
Lithuania, being the last country in Europe to accept Christianity, has specific folk festival traditions, where Christian and pre-Christian elements are often combined. One such event is Užgavėnės, or Shrove Tuesday in Lithuanian. It takes place in the Rumšiškės open-air ethnographical museum close to Kaunas. The traditions come back to life here in all of their pictorial splendour, including people acting as special festive characters, special dishes and winter-chasing rituals. As winter is chased out, residents take on personas and lovely dishes are
The rituals of chasing winter away include residents acting the part of characters.
Communicate in the international language of jazz
In Lithuania, the interest in jazz rose particularly in the sixties and seventies as an expression of aspirations towards a greater amount of freedom. The sustained popularity of jazz music is reflected in the fact that there are several sizeable annual international jazz festivals taking place in the capital as well as other cities. A jazz devotee, with a little planning, will easily find a chance to enjoy some fine music.
Discover ancient civilizations
Traces of ancient civilization dating back to 11 000 years ago have been discovered in the unique Kernavė archaeological reserve, which was also an important political centre for Lithuania in early Middle Ages. The reserve is inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Every year in the beginning of July, on the Day of Statehood, a Lithuanian national holiday, the Days of Living History & Archaeology are held in Kernavė. The event offers a chance for visitors and locals to learn about the daily life of pre-historical and early medieval Lithuanians with an emphasis on the lives of artisans and craftsmen.
9. The Curonian Spit
Seek refuge in the arms of nature
The Curonian Spit is a long and thin peninsula, separating the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Covered in sand, it has been preserved due to human effort to counter the natural erosion process by deforestation. The landscape of the Curonian Spit, an entry in the UNESCO heritage list, is dominated by picturesque sand dunes and pine tree forests. The beaches here are exceptionally clean. Resort towns on the Curonian Spit manage to preserve their old fishing village charm. This is a splendid place for a tranquil seaside family repose.
10. Classical music
Hear the perfect harmony
Lithuania has an old and deep-running classical music tradition. A number of internationally prominent musicians have connections to Lithuania; visits by world famous performers are not uncommon. Many local performers and companies are known as high-level, internationally acclaimed professionals. Numerous classical, as well as modern classical, music festivals are regularly held. The discerning listener will always find some fine events to attend, and will be pleasantly surprised by the box office rates.
11. The Hill of Crosses
Witness the miracle of faith
The Hill of Crosses is a special monument of faith. Tens of thousands of crosses crowd the slopes of the hill. The first crosses were put here for those fallen during the 1831 uprising against the tsarist regime. Since then new crosses were constantly being put up there. The hill that was seen as a symbol of resistance was razed four times under the Soviet regime, but it was resurrected every time. Pope John Paul II visited this site in 1993. A cross donated by him still stands.
12. The geographical centre of Europe
Find yourself right in the middle of the continent
In 1989 the French national geographical institute determined that the geographical centre of Europe lies about 26 km north of Vilnius at 54°54′ N 25°19′ E. Some other Central European countries claim their own centres of Europe, ascertained by using different methods, but the Lithuanian one is in the Guinness Book of World Records. The exact spot is marked by a column that was erected to commemorate Lithuanian accession to the EU.
13. Grūtas park
Take a tour behind the Iron Curtain
Many post communist countries had their symbols of a bygone era removed and hidden away or destroyed. In Lithuania a singular theme park was created using removed ideological sculptures and other symbols of the Soviet era by private initiative of a local entrepreneur. This park affords the opportunity to imagine the special atmosphere of these years to those who have never experienced living socialism.
14. Druskininkai and Birštonas
Recharge your batteries
Resort towns of Druskininkai and Birštonas, situated on the Nemunas River between pine forests, have been known for its mineral waters as well as beauty and health spas for a couple of centuries. Here you can enjoy excellent and very reasonably priced mud and whirlpool baths, massage and many other treatments, stroll or ride bikes on trails surrounded by lakes and pine forests.
Enjoy the beach
Lured by sandy beaches, entertainment and a wild nightlife, this is a small seaside town to which people flock in the summertime. The obligatory evening promenade on the sea pier to bid goodbye to the sun setting into the sea has become a long-standing tradition. Of interest is the seaside landscape park, which features a neo-classical palace, now housing an amber museum.
16. Castles along the Nemunas River
Travel along the medieval front line
The Nemunas River has long been a front line of Lithuanian resistance to the crusaders. On the right bank many castles and fortifications were built, some have survived and can be visited today on a day trip on the road running along the river. It is worth climbing atop the towers of Raudonė and Panemunė castles – stunning views open up towards the plains on the opposite bank.
17. Canoeing in the Aukštaitijos national park
Row your boat along tranquil streams and lakes
The Aukštaitija national park, occupying a significant territory, is rich in picturesque lakes and forests as well as a great variety of wildlife and flora. One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of nature is to go on a canoeing trip for several days on one of the chosen routes. Specialised travel companies will be happy to rent you canoes and other equipment and supply you with more detailed information.
18. Hot air ballooning above Vilnius
Admire an awesome view
Only a few European capitals allow flying over the city in a hot air balloon. In Vilnius you can enjoy this breathtaking activity that is sure to leave a lasting impression as the city reveals its full beauty from an aerial view. It is noteworthy that hot air balloons can take off and land right in the city centre, by the Neris River.
19. Beer and fried bread
Lithuanian beer has won acclaim on many levels – from enthusiastic Old Town bar patrons to international fairs and championships. There is a plethora of different types of beer, several large breweries are operating, and some are successfully exporting their brew. The most popular beer snack is the famous fried bread with garlic. Well-prepared fried bread has a crunchy crust and nicely complements the taste of beer -you just have to try it!
20. Cepelinai and other potato dishes
Fill up your stomach!
Hospitable Lithuanian hosts will always make sure their guests are so full they would be unable to swallow another bite before they leave. Lithuanian cuisine has peasant origins, designed to give power and energy to those who work in the fields and is mostly characterised by meat and potatoes prepared in one or another way. The local favourite, epitomising Lithuanian food, are so called cepelinai – potato dumplings stuffed with meat, served with bits of bacon. Other potato dishes, such as kugelis, žemaičių blynai (Samogitian pancakes) and potato pancakes also are firm favourites.
21. Lithuanian handicrafts
Don’t come home without souvenirs!
Traditional Lithuanian handicrafts, such as artistic linen, ceramic or amber articles, can make beautiful decorations for your home or great gifts. Probably the best time for souvenir shopping is in the beginning of March, when the traditional Kaziukas fair is held in Vilnius. The fair is also famous for its verbos – traditional ornately beautiful Palm Sunday arrangements of dried plants.
22. Vilnius nightlife
Party into the morning hours
After dark the Vilnius Old Town becomes busy with nightlife. Cafés, bars, clubs, discos, and casinos of all descriptions are in abundance, and usually filled to capacity. Happy partygoers, a great atmosphere and reasonable prices have already met international enthusiastic response. From those who favour the latest house beats to those preferring some live music, everyone will be sure to find a place that is right for them for a memorable night-out.
23. Countryside tourism
Enjoy your stay in idyllic surroundings
The fast evolving countryside tourism industry offers a great opportunity to enjoy yourself in a picturesque natural setting, often next to a body of water of some sort.
Aside from being a perfect place to spend some days off, active or otherwise, the Lithuanian countryside also makes for a good place to hold your next seminar, conference, incentive event and the like. Modern infrastructure reaches into the more remote idyllic corners to make sure guests can enjoy the tranquillity of nature without having to sacrifice conveniences.
Visit the European basketball powerhouse
Basketball has made its appearance in Lithuania in the twenties and has since become the dominating national sport. It became especially popular after Lithuania won the European championships of 1937 and 1939. A purpose-built basketball arena that hosted the 1939 championship still stands in Kaunas. In the Soviet era successes of Lithuanian teams on basketball courts have become a kind of a symbol of resistance. The continual popularity of the game is witnessed by the fact that Lithuania is still a major source of European basketball talent, represented internationally by players in top leagues, including NBA.
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