Five Top Sights in Lithuania

July 30, 2015 by

City Tours & Sightseeing, Day Trips, Europe, Places to Go, Suggested Itineraries, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

 

Lithuania’s lovely, small capital of Vilnius has a deliciously photogenic Old Town and many reasons to tempt visitors to explore; but Lithuania has tons of things to do outside the capital, from remote sandy beaches to bravura Baroque architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage memorial constructed from crucifixes. Here are five top sights in Lithuania, all within easy reach of Vilnius:

Vilnius Old Town

Vilnius Old Town.

Vilnius Old Town.

Vilnius Old Town is the best-preserved medieval town center in Europe, happily crammed with a rainbow of architectural styles. Most of the city’s major attractions are clustered here, from the Gothic pinnacles of St Anne’s Church to the Baroque shrine of the Virgin Mary at the Gate of Dawn, the Neo-Classical splendor of Vilnius Cathedral and the majestic Presidential Palace. The labyrinthine streets are lined with medieval townhouses, sugar-coated Baroque churches and cramped Jewish quarters. Overlooking all this from the Hill of Subacius stands the Higher Castle, with panoramic views across the modern city from the rotund Gediminas Tower.

Kèdainiai

One of the oldest towns in Lithuania, Kèdainiai’s outskirts hide a Baroque jewel founded in 1372 on the banks of the River Nevezis. Located north of Vilnius, it became a medieval refuge for Protestants from across Europe and remained a thriving cultural melting pot until World War II, when the German army murdered the Jewish community in 1941. Today it is home to a maze of narrow streets and cobbled plazas and is packed with multi-hued, ornately gabled Baroque townhouses, Protestant and Orthodox churches and Jewish synagogues.

Rumsiskes Open-Air Museum

Lithuania’s open-air museum celebrates rural life with the country’s largest collection of national costumes, art, toys, agricultural implements and historic houses. About 80 pre-Soviet buildings have been moved here and reconstructed – farms, churches and primitive village houses – and decked out in period style with kitchen utensils, tools and simple furniture. The museum’s staff dress up in peasant costumes to work the fields around the museum with traditional methods and they demonstrate typical crafts such as amber carving and textile weaving.

Neringa and the Curonian Spit

Sand dunes and beaches of Curonian Spit, Lithuania.

Sand dunes and beaches of Curonian Spit, Lithuania.

Located among the dunes and sandy beaches of Kursi Nerija (Curonian Spit National Park) in western Lithuania, Neringa is a stylish town neighboring the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. It is one of Lithuania’s most popular tourist resorts, a spa town and a mecca for artists. The UNESCO-listed peninsula of sand dunes and forest is popular for activities like swimming in the Baltic Sea, searching for amber along the shores, hiking or cycling the forests trails, fishing in the Curonian Lagoon and sailing in the sheltered waters.

Hill of Crosses

Siauliai Hill of Crosses.

Siauliai Hill of Crosses.

The Siauliai Hill of Crosses is a symbol of national faith and identity and is found just north of the workaday city of Siauliai in northern Lithuania. Pilgrims from all over the world journey to worship among the one-hundred-thousand crosses that encrust a small, artificial hill; they range is size and status from simple wooden crosses to elaborate crucifixes made of precious metals and symbolize the country’s struggle for independence throughout history. Now UNESCO listed, the site gained notoriety after Pope John Paul II visited in 1993 and established a monastery close by.

Contributed by Sasha Heseltine

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