Nestled between Latvia, Belarus, Poland, and the Baltic Sea, Lithuania is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural landscapes, this small Baltic country offers a unique experience that captivates every kind of traveler. From the bustling streets of its capital city, Vilnius, to the tranquil settings of its national parks, Lithuania is a destination that promises both adventure and serenity.
Why Visit Lithuania?
If you’re a history buff or a cultural enthusiast, Lithuania is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. The country’s rich history is reflected in its art, architecture, and folklore, offering a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences. Don’t miss the traditional songs and dances, which are a crucial part of Lithuanian identity.
Lithuania is not just about its cities and history; the country also offers stunning natural landscapes that will take your breath away. From the Curonian Spit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the beautiful lakes and forests in Aukštaitija National Park, nature lovers will find their paradise here.
The country offers a wide range of architectural styles, including Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and modern designs. The capital city, Vilnius, alone is home to an old town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with churches, palaces, and other historic buildings.
Compared to other European destinations like France, Italy, or the UK, Lithuania offers a high-quality travel experience without breaking the bank. You can enjoy delicious meals, comfortable accommodations, and a range of activities at a fraction of the cost.
Lithuanians are known for their warmth and friendliness, often going out of their way to help visitors. The hospitality you’ll encounter here is genuine, making you feel comfortable and welcome throughout your stay.
Top Cities to Visit
The capital city of Lithuania, Vilnius, is a captivating blend of the old and the new. The city’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a maze of cobblestone streets, baroque churches, and quaint cafes. But step out of the historical center, and you’ll find a city buzzing with modern energy, complete with art galleries, boutiques, and a vibrant nightlife.
Often considered the country’s cultural capital, Kaunas offers a mix of history, art, and youthful energy. Don’t miss the Kaunas Castle, the city’s oldest building, or the Devil’s Museum, which houses one of the most extensive collections of devil-related artifacts in the world. The city is also home to a number of festivals that celebrate everything from jazz music to modern art.
If you’re looking to explore Lithuania’s seaside, Klaipėda is the city for you. Located on the Baltic Sea, it’s the gateway to the Curonian Spit, a narrow strip of land that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. With its sandy beaches and unique landscapes, Klaipėda offers a different kind of Lithuanian experience.
Most famous for the Hill of Crosses, a pilgrimage site with thousands of crosses, Šiauliai is a city that offers a deep dive into Lithuanian spirituality and folklore. While the city itself is more industrial compared to other Lithuanian locales, the Hill of Crosses makes it a must-visit, especially if you’re interested in understanding the spiritual aspect of Lithuanian culture.
For those seeking a resort-like experience in Lithuania, Palanga is the perfect destination. Known for its long sandy beaches along the Baltic Sea, the city becomes a bustling resort town in the summer. The Palanga Amber Museum, housed in a beautiful manor surrounded by botanical gardens, offers a fascinating look into the ‘Baltic Gold.’
Located just a short drive from Vilnius, Trakai is renowned for its stunning medieval castle situated on an island in the middle of Lake Galvė. The town is also known for its unique wooden architecture and its historic significance as the former capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
If relaxation and wellness are what you’re seeking, Druskininkai should be on your itinerary. Known for its mineral waters and mud therapies, this spa town offers a range of wellness treatments. The Grūtas Park, a sculpture garden filled with Soviet-era statues, adds a quirky cultural touch to the town.
Situated along the banks of the Nemunas River, Alytus is a city that offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural attractions. It’s a popular base for those looking to explore the Dzūkija National Park, and the city itself features interesting landmarks like the Alytus Castle and the White Rose Bridge.
Often referred to as the ‘capital of the Aukštaitija region,’ Panevėžys offers a slice of urban life amid a rural backdrop. The city is known for its theatre culture, with the Juozas Miltinis Drama Theatre being one of the most prominent in the country. The Panevėžys Civic Art Gallery is also worth a visit for art enthusiasts.
By exploring these cities, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of Lithuania’s diverse landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. Each city offers its own set of unique attractions and experiences, ensuring that your Lithuanian journey will be filled with variety and excitement.
Nestled on an island in Lake Galvė, Trakai Castle is a stunning example of Gothic architecture and a testament to Lithuania’s medieval history. With its stone walls, wooden interiors, and scenic surroundings, it offers a captivating journey back in time.
Aukštaitija National Park
A paradise for nature enthusiasts, Aukštaitija National Park is dotted with lakes, forests, and traditional villages. It’s a perfect location for hiking, boating, and even mushroom foraging. The park also offers opportunities for bird-watching, with many rare species calling it home.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Curonian Spit is a unique geological formation consisting of a narrow sand dune peninsula. Known for its high dunes and rich biodiversity, it’s an excellent location for both relaxation and outdoor activities like hiking and cycling.
Although technically just across the border in Latvia, Rundāle Palace is often included in Lithuanian itineraries due to its proximity and cultural significance. This Baroque palace, designed by the architect of St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace, is a masterpiece of 18th-century architecture.
Hill of Crosses
Located near Šiauliai, the Hill of Crosses is a powerful symbol of Lithuanian faith and resilience. With thousands of crosses placed by individuals from around the world, it serves as both a pilgrimage site and a monument to freedom of expression.
Part of the upper castle in Vilnius, Gediminas’ Tower is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The tower offers panoramic views of Vilnius and is a significant symbol of Lithuania’s history and independence.
The Ninth Fort
Located in Kaunas, the Ninth Fort serves as a museum and a memorial dedicated to those who suffered during the 20th century. It is a poignant reminder of the atrocities committed during WWII, and a visit here provides valuable historical context.
An unofficial “bohemian republic” in Vilnius, Užupis is known for its artistic flair, with galleries, workshops, and cafes lining its streets. Don’t miss its tongue-in-cheek constitution, which includes rights like “Everyone has the right to understand nothing.”
A quaint little town on the Curonian Spit, Nida is famous for its pristine beaches, charming fishermen’s cottages, and the towering Parnidis Dune, where you can watch a mesmerizing sunset.
The Money Museum of the Bank of Lithuania
Located in Vilnius, this museum offers an interactive and informative experience detailing the history of money and banking in Lithuania. It’s an unusual but fascinating stop that is both educational and fun.
These must-see attractions provide a mix of natural beauty, historical depth, and cultural richness, making Lithuania a versatile destination that offers something for every type of traveler.
Local Cuisine You Must Try
Often considered Lithuania’s national dish, Cepelinai are potato dumplings stuffed with meat, cheese, or mushrooms. These hearty dumplings are usually served with sour cream and a sprinkling of bacon bits.
This cold beet soup is a Lithuanian summer staple. Made with beets, cucumbers, and dill, it’s usually served chilled with a dollop of sour cream and is both refreshing and nutritious.
Originating from the Karaim community in Trakai, Kibinai are savory pastries filled with mutton and onions. Nowadays, you can find variations with chicken, turkey, or even vegetarian fillings.
A sour cabbage soup, Rūgštynė is beloved for its comforting warmth and unique tangy flavor. The soup often features potatoes, carrots, and smoked meat, making it a filling meal especially favored during colder months.
A traditional Lithuanian sausage, Skilandis is made from a mixture of meat, fat, garlic, and various spices. It’s then smoked and aged, resulting in a rich and intense flavor.
These are Lithuanian potato pancakes, often served with sour cream or applesauce. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, they are a favorite at family gatherings and traditional celebrations.
Also known as a “tree cake,” Šakotis is a traditional Lithuanian dessert. It’s made by layering batter onto a rotating spit, resulting in a cake with spiky branches. This sweet treat is often seen at weddings and special events.
A fermented beverage made from black or regular rye bread, Kvass is enjoyed for its refreshing taste. It’s a popular homemade drink, especially during the summer, and can also be found in many Lithuanian shops and restaurants.
This honey liquor is a traditional Lithuanian alcoholic beverage. It’s often spiced with various herbs and enjoyed during celebrations or as a digestive aid after a hearty meal.
Similar to crepes, Lietiniai are thin pancakes often filled with sweet or savory fillings like cheese, berries, or jam. They are a popular choice for breakfast or dessert.
Indulging in Lithuanian cuisine offers not just a gastronomical delight but also a cultural experience. Each dish and drink is a window into the country’s traditions, geography, and even its history. Don’t miss out on these culinary highlights during your visit.
Popular Festivals and Events
Held in Vilnius every March, the Kaziukas Fair is one of Lithuania’s oldest and most cherished festivals. The event features arts and crafts, traditional food, and live music. It’s a vibrant celebration that captures the spirit and culture of Lithuania.
Song and Dance Festival
This UNESCO-recognized event takes place every four years and is a massive celebration of Lithuanian folklore, music, and dance. Participants from all over the country and the Lithuanian diaspora come together to perform in this highly anticipated event.
This pre-Lenten festival marks the end of winter and is celebrated with costumes, masks, and pancakes. It’s a lively event where people engage in games, dances, and even a quirky tradition of burning an effigy of winter.
Vilnius International Film Festival
Also known as Kino Pavasaris, this is one of the most significant film events in Central and Eastern Europe. The festival showcases a broad spectrum of high-quality international films every spring.
Vilnius Jazz Festival
Held annually in October, the Vilnius Jazz Festival is one of the oldest jazz festivals in the Baltics. It features a range of performances from Lithuanian and international jazz artists, attracting enthusiasts from all over the world.
This annual event in Klaipėda celebrates the city’s maritime heritage. It includes boat races, concerts, and various water activities, making it a highlight of the summer season.
Light Festival (Šviesos Festivalis)
This event transforms Vilnius into a dazzling spectacle of light and color. Various artists use light installations to decorate the city’s landmarks, creating a magical atmosphere.
An electronic music and arts festival, Sūpynės is set in the scenic woods near Vilnius. The festival aims to blend natural beauty with artistic expression, offering a unique experience for its attendees.
Rumsiskes Harvest Festival
Held in the open-air museum of Rumsiskes, this autumn event celebrates the harvest season. Visitors can learn about traditional Lithuanian farming methods, taste local foods, and enjoy folk music and dance.
Palanga Smelt Festival
This winter festival celebrates the smelt, a small fish that is a local delicacy. The event includes ice fishing competitions, smelt cooking contests, and plenty of opportunities to sample this seasonal treat.
Participating in or witnessing these festivals offers a unique way to immerse yourself in Lithuanian culture. Each event provides its own set of experiences and memories, making them highlights not to be missed when visiting the country.
How to Get There
The most convenient way to reach Lithuania for most international travelers is by air. The primary international gateway is Vilnius International Airport, which is well-connected to various European cities. Kaunas and Palanga also have airports that serve a limited number of international flights.
Lithuania is part of the European rail network, making it accessible by train from neighboring countries like Poland, Russia, and Latvia. The train journey offers scenic views and is generally comfortable, albeit slower than flying.
Various international bus services connect Lithuania with other European countries. Companies like Eurolines and Lux Express offer routes that link Vilnius, Kaunas, and other cities with destinations like Warsaw, Riga, and Berlin.
If you prefer the flexibility of driving, renting a car is a viable option. Lithuania is well-connected by highways, and border crossings are relatively straightforward within the Schengen Area. Just ensure you’re aware of the driving laws and have the necessary documentation.
Klaipėda, Lithuania’s primary seaport, offers ferry services to various destinations, including Germany and Sweden. The ferry journey offers a unique and leisurely way to enter the country, particularly if you’re traveling from Scandinavia or northern Germany.
For the adventurous, cycling into Lithuania from neighboring countries is also possible, thanks to an increasingly well-developed network of bike paths and trails. Just be sure to plan your route carefully and take into account the varying road conditions.
Multiple Entry Points
Lithuania is part of the Schengen Area, which means that you can enter the country without going through customs if you’re already in another Schengen country. This opens up multiple entry points and makes multi-country trips more straightforward.
Choosing the best mode of transportation will depend on your point of origin, time constraints, and personal preferences. Each method offers its own set of experiences and gives a different perspective on the Lithuanian landscape and way of life.
Best Time to Visit
Spring (April to June)
Spring is a delightful time to visit Lithuania as the countryside bursts into bloom and outdoor attractions become more accessible. The weather is generally mild, although there can be occasional showers.
Summer (June to August)
Summer is the peak tourist season, offering the warmest temperatures and the longest days. This is the best time for beach activities in places like Palanga and the Curonian Spit, as well as outdoor festivals and events.
Autumn (September to November)
Autumn brings a splash of color to Lithuania’s landscapes, making it an excellent time for scenic drives and hikes. The weather starts to cool down but remains pleasant enough for outdoor exploration. Fall is also the harvest season, making it an excellent time to enjoy Lithuania’s local cuisine.
Winter (December to February)
If you enjoy winter sports and festivities, this season has a lot to offer. While it does get cold, the country turns into a winter wonderland with opportunities for skiing, ice skating, and enjoying traditional Christmas markets.
Off-Season (November to March)
Aside from the winter activities, the months from late autumn to early spring are generally considered the off-season. While you’ll find fewer crowds, some attractions may also have shorter operating hours or be closed.
In summary, the best time to visit Lithuania depends on what you want to see and do. Summer offers the best weather and the most activities but also comes with more tourists. Spring and autumn offer milder conditions and fewer crowds, while winter has its own snowy charm. Choose the season that aligns with your interests to make the most of your Lithuanian adventure.
Currency and Payments
The official currency of Lithuania is the Euro (€). Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, including in most hotels, restaurants, and shops. However, it’s advisable to carry some cash, particularly if you plan to visit smaller towns or rural areas where card payments may not be an option.
Euro current exchange rates
- 100 EUR = $107.84 or $1 = 0.93 Euro
- 100 EUR = 85.71 British Pounds
- 100 EUR = 163.20 Australian Dollar
- 100 EUR = 146.38 Canadian Dollar
- 100 EUR = 1,123.41 Swedish Krona
- 100 EUR = 433.58 Polish Zloty
- 100 EUR = 2,435.07 Czech Koruna
- 100 EUR = 141,315.35 South Korean Won
- 100 EUR = 770.19 Chinese Yuan
- 100 EUR = 15,576.08 Japanese Yen
The official language is Lithuanian. While many people in urban areas and the younger population speak English, it’s less common among the older generation and in rural areas. Learning a few basic phrases in Lithuanian can go a long way.
Public transportation is efficient and relatively inexpensive. Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipėda have good public bus networks, and Vilnius also has a trolleybus system. Long-distance buses and trains connect the major cities.
Lithuania is generally a safe country for travelers. However, like anywhere, it’s important to take basic precautions, especially in crowded places and tourist areas where pickpocketing can occur.
Free Wi-Fi is commonly available in public areas, cafes, and hotels. If you need a more reliable connection, consider buying a local SIM card for mobile data.
Tipping is not compulsory but is appreciated for good service. In restaurants, it’s common to leave around 10% of the bill if you’re satisfied with the service.
Local Customs and Etiquette
Lithuanians are generally warm and hospitable, but they also value personal space and formalities, especially upon first meeting. A firm handshake is the standard greeting. Also, it’s considered polite to bring a small gift when visiting someone’s home.
Health and Insurance
No specific vaccinations are required to enter Lithuania, but it’s a good idea to have comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies.
Options range from luxury hotels in cities to charming bed and breakfasts in the countryside. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak tourist season.
Vilnius and other major cities offer a range of shopping options, from high-end boutiques to local markets. Traditional Lithuanian crafts, amber jewelry, and local food products make popular souvenirs.
- Visit Lithuania – Official Tourism Website – The official tourism website, offering comprehensive information on attractions, accommodations, and travel tips.
- Vilnius Tourism – A detailed guide to Vilnius, covering everything from historical sites to contemporary culture.
- Litrail – Lithuanian Railways – Official site for Lithuania’s railway system, perfect for planning train travel within the country.
- Trafi – A useful app for navigating public transportation in major Lithuanian cities like Vilnius and Kaunas.
- Booking.com – Lithuania – Offers a wide range of accommodations including hotels, hostels, and vacation rentals throughout Lithuania.
- Skyscanner – Flights to Lithuania – Compare and book flights from various airlines to Lithuanian airports.
- Lonely Planet – Lithuania – Provides travel guides and tips, focusing on attractions, food, and local culture.
- TripAdvisor – Lithuania – User-generated reviews and recommendations for restaurants, attractions, and accommodations.
- Culture Trip – Lithuania – Offers articles and recommendations on Lithuanian culture, art, and must-see spots.
- Klaipėda Tourism and Culture – Information on Klaipėda’s tourism and cultural offerings, including the Sea Festival.
- Lithuania Weather Forecasts – Official weather forecasts to help you plan your trip according to the climate.
- Baltic Holidays – Specializes in tailored holidays and tours in Lithuania.
Lithuania is a hidden gem in Europe, offering a rich blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re captivated by ancient architecture, intrigued by local festivals, or eager to explore the scenic landscapes, this Baltic nation has something for everyone. With a range of travel options, from bustling cities to tranquil countryside, your Lithuanian adventure can be as varied as your interests.