The most popular destination in Lithuania is the capital Vilnius. With just over 550,000 inhabitants, it is the country’s largest city and economic and cultural center. Although Lithuania has long been part of the Soviet Union, with what it meant for architecture in most Eastern European cities, Vilnius is a picturesque city with well-preserved ancient buildings characterized by its many, very beautiful and unique Catholic churches and cathedrals. After the independence of Russia and the entry into the EU, many modern houses have been built, the business district Šnipiškės gives the city an almost futuristic skyline with many tall skyscrapers in glass and metal. An example is the Europa tower, which is the Baltics’ tallest skyscraper with its 149 meters. Šnipiškės in general and the Europa tower in particular are for many Lithuanians a symbol of the country’s modern history and future,
If you want to experience Vilnius’ best side, you should visit the Old Town, where many historical architectural styles in combination leave a breathtaking impression on most visitors. If you walk the Pilies street from the Old Town to the Royal Palace, you walk straight through the Lithuanian National Museum, where the castle along with several historic buildings are included. Another important and symbolic street for the city is Gedimino Prospekta, along which many government buildings and also the parliament are located. Gedimino has had many names, determined by various occupying powers and political influences. During the Nazi occupation in the 1940s, the street was called Adolf-Hitler-strasse and during the Soviet era Stalino Prospektas. If you go down Gedimino, you should take the opportunity to check out the Seimas parliament building at the end of the street. Along the same street are also several museums, including the Holocaust victims’ museum, which tells about the part of the Holocaust that took place in Lithuania, and the KGB museum, where the guides are former KGB prisoners who tell about strange and horrific experiences during their time in the Soviet intelligence service’s violence. The Užupis district is Vilnius’ equivalent of Stockholm’s Södermalm. In the past, this was a slum, where crime and unemployment were widespread. Today, many artists, juppies, hipsters and newly rich people flock to Užupis and the district is rich in theaters, nightclubs, bars and other events.
However, Lithuania is not only Vilnius, several other cities and places are worth a visit. Several other resorts are popular tourist destinations, mainly for the Lithuanians themselves but also for people from the other Baltic countries, Poland and Russia. One of them is the former capital and now the country’s second city, Kaunas. Here is beautiful architecture and a lot to experience for those who are interested in opera, theater and ballet. Another tourist destination worth visiting is the spa town of Druskininkai in the south, which offers the opportunity for recreation in the form of baths in mineral water and treatments with mud. The towns of Palanga and Klaipeda on the Baltic coast are also well visited, especially in the summer when the beaches can be almost overcrowded with overheated summer strollers. Palanga is known for its impressive and beautiful piers, on which festivals are held in the summer.
For those who are not interested in city life, the countryside also offers experiences in the form of magnificent nature and beautiful historical monuments. Lithuania’s landscape is similar to southern Sweden, as it is flat and has many lakes (there are close to 3000 lakes in the country). The national parks are perfect for those who like untouched nature and tranquility, there are five in the whole country and they include different types of nature areas, from rivers and lakes to steppes and vast fields. Kernave should also be included in the countryside, the bay is a small village west of Vilnius that has great historical value for Lithuania. Every summer, something similar to Kernave’s response to Gotland’s medieval week is organized here. Kernave contains a lot of medieval history, which mainly consists of forts and fortifications built into the landscape. Many important archaeological finds have been made here and the area is on the World Heritage List. If you are Swedish in Lithuania and long for home, you can go to Kernave at midsummer, because this old holiday is celebrated in a medieval way, which is similar to the Swedish celebration.