As the first Soviet country to leave the USSR, Lithuania is still trying to regain its sense of self and flourish. However, that doesn’t mean this destination should be left off of your bucket list. The Baltic nation thrives on its influences from its history with Poland, its gorgeous palaces, and its quirky museums. As you walk down the cobblestone roads in some of the country’s most historical cities that date back to the 1400s, don’t forget to take part in these 13 things during your trip:
1. The Dead Dunes
This landmark in the resort town of Nida offers panoramic views of the coastline. Miles of sand and the lush forests can be found in this area on the Curonian Spit between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon. It’s considered a protected, national park that comprises the Nagliai Nature Reserve, and visitors can travel down the wooden boardwalk and view the remains of the granite sundial that was destroyed during a 1999 hurricane.
2. Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Since the 4th century, the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania has been a glorious fixture designed with baroque elements. The palace has been remodeled various times throughout history, and guests are now able to see the final restoration in all its glory. Tours will take you around the ceremonial halls of the building and explain the history of the palace and what it means to the Lithuanians.
3. MK Čiurlionis National Museum of Art
Art buffs can gather at this national museum to find the paintings of one of the country’s greatest talents – Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis. The painter, writer, and composer was born in the town of Senoji Varėna. This museum is just one of the many in the country that houses some of his folk art and romantic paintings.
4. Hill of Witches
This outdoor masterpiece includes wooden art that’s proudly displayed in the city of Juodkrante. The Hill of Witches has an array of monsters, devils, and mythical creatures throughout its public trails. Take a guided tour through the woods to learn more about Lithuanian folk history and the country’s legends as you peruse these hand-crafted works of art.
5. Europos Parkas
Located outside of the capital city of Vilnius, this outdoor museum was founded in 1991 by Lithuanian sculptor Gintaras Karosa. He designed modern pieces of art and had them scattered throughout the park. The park is also the home to various natural springs; Liubavas, one of the oldest estates in the country; and a display dedicated to the country’s watermills.
6. Antakalnis Cemetery
This final burial ground honors Napoleonic soldiers who died in the capital city while retreating from the Soviet soldiers, Polish soldiers, unknown tombs, and the grave of former President Algirdas Brazauskas.
7. One Million Cent Pyramid
After the country converted its national currency to the euro, Lithuanian’s one-cent coin was paid homage to by two Lithuanian college students. They built this massive pyramid using one million of the coins to create the largest coin pyramid in the world.
8. Orvidas Garden
Take a walk through this picturesque garden to see the religious statues that were created during the Soviet rule. Christian artist, Vilius Orvidas, felt ostracized by the Soviet system because of his faith, and he allowed his pain to flow through his statutes that are now on display in this garden. The garden, which is housed on his family’s plot of land, contains classic wooden and stone scriptures and tree trunks carved into Lithuanian folk heroes.
9. Church of St. Anne
Found in old town Vilnius, the Church of St. Anne is recognized as a historical World Heritage Site. The Roman Catholic church was first built out of wood in honor of Anna, Grand Duchess of Lithuania. It was destroyed by a fire in 1419 and reconstructed with brick. The exterior of the church has remained the same since the 1400s, with its gothic style architecture. Visitors are able to explore outside and inside the church, including the bell tower and the main altar.
10. Hill of Crosses
One popular tourist destination is the Hill of Crosses. Constructed in the 19th century, the original crosses were bulldozed and destroyed by the Soviets. However, every night, people would sneak past the barbed wire and risk their lives to add more crosses to the field. Many of the crosses were placed in honor of those who were deported to Siberia during the Soviet turmoil, while others are devotional.
11. Gate of Dawn
The Gate of Dawn towers over the capital city of Vilnius as one of the most important cultural sites in the country. The gate was built in the early 1500s to protect the city. Later, religious artifacts were added to it in an effort to bless the city and strengthen its defense fortifications.
12. Kaunas Museum for the Blind
Inside St. Michael the Archangel Church you’ll find the Kaunas Museum for the Blind. Opened in 2005, it was originally intended for the blind. But later, it transformed into a museum that allows those with sight to experience what it’s like to live without this sense. Visitors can explore the olfactory, tactile, and aural senses through a serious of various textures, aromas, and sensory tools as they walk through the catacombs.
13. Trakai Castle
It looks like something you’d see in a movie, but Trakai Castle is a real-life gothic castle that was built in the 1400s. A bridge is attached to the shore which makes traveling to the castle atop Lake Galvė a breeze. Visitors are allowed to roam the outer courtyard and the main tower’s ballrooms and galleries. During the summer months, the castle puts on religious plays and musical concerts for all in attendance.