Kaunas

Kaunas in the centre of Lithuania, is the country's second biggest city with approximately 350,000 inhabitants (2009) in the municipality. For a time it acted as temporary capital and as such benefited from investment and the status.

Understand

Aleksotas Bridge and Old Town of Kaunas

A visit in February is not everyone's idea of peak holiday time but it may add to the city's appeal. Yes it will be -15 degrees C outside, and yes there was snow and ice and it takes 10 minutes to dress before venturing out and another 10 to undress when you go back inside but when else do most of us get to experience that? It's not like England where one snowflake brings the transport network to a halt. Don't forget the people of Kaunas are used to it and life goes on with great efficiency. Museums have cloakrooms, buildings are well heated and draft proofed, supermarkets have lockers to leave your coats, hats, scarves, gloves, sledges and so on and nobody minds you sipping vodka from a 200 ml bottle to keep your insides warm. As well as the usual attractions, this time of year allows you to go sledging (sledges from LTL3 in supermarkets) or across the bridge to the park on an island in the river to build snowmen, have snowball fights and drag huge chunks of ice up to the bridge to send crashing onto the frozen river below. You will notice that some couples have attached padlocks to the bridge with their names scratched or painted on - a custom one may have observed in Riga, Cologne or Paris. The gist is pretty clear and the bridge to the park is an ideal location to continue. There is a locksmith who sells padlocks in a courtyard off the northern side of Laisves Aleja towards the eastern end - reasonably priced too. Go for the ones with the longest hasp (loop) as the bars of the bridge are really thick. Failing that, attach yours to one that is already there!

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) -3 -1 3 11 18 21 22 22 17 11 4 0
Nightly lows (°C) -8 -8 -4 2 7 11 13 12 8 4 -1 -5
Precipitation (mm) 39 31 35 42 55 69 80 78 56 45 53 47

See Kaunas day forecast at Lithuanian hydrometeorological service

The best time to visit Kaunas is between early May and late August. July has the highest mean temperature, 16.0 °C (63.0 °F). Most of Kaunas's annual events are held during spring and summer. The rainy season often starts July, yet at the same time rains are short in time. Winter can be sometimes stinging cold, with short daylight hours.

Kaunas has a milder climate than other major cities in Lithuania. Its gets fewer windy and rainy days than Klaipeda, and less freezing in winter than Vilnius.

History

The tower of Kaunas city wall

Between the 4th and 5th century B.C. at the confluence of the two largest Lithuanian rivers the settlement was established. In the 14th century a castle was built here. Now it is considered to be the oldest in Lithuania.

Kaunas was first mentioned in written Teutonic Knights sources in 1361, who captured the town and destroyed the Kaunas Castle in 1362. It was rebuilt at the beginning of the 15th century.

In 1408 Kaunas was granted Magdeburg Rights by Vytautas the Great. While being located at the intersection of trade routes and a river port Kaunas has become one of the major trade centers in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and joined the Hanseatic League in 1441. By the 16th century, Kaunas was one of the best-formed towns in the whole country.

In 17th and 18th centuries Kaunas was attacked by armies of Russia and Sweden several times, some parts of the city was destroyed by fires. After the partition of the Polish-Lithuanian state in 1795, the city was taken over by the Russian Empire. During the French invasion of Russia in 1812, the Grand Army of Napoleon passed through Kaunas twice, devastating the city both times.

Kaunas was one of the centres of the two uprisings in 19th century. To suppress the local population, the Russian authorities placed a large military garrison with a formidable fortress, including many forts, artillery bastions, and fortifications. At the same time Kaunas grew as an important center of transport and industry. In 1862 a railway connecting the Russian Empire and Germany was constructed, making Kaunas a significant railway hub.

The Interim Capital

Kaunas played a central role in developing and consolidating Lithuania‘s statehood at the 1920s and 1930s. When the local red rebels took the Vilnius region at the beginning of January in 1919, the Lithuanian government moved from Vilnius to Kaunas. It de facto continued in the role of temporary capital until July, 1940. The transfer of the capital stimulated the development of the city of Kaunas. The new status transformed Kaunas in to the state‘s political, administrative, and cultural center. The growth of large-scale architectural and urban development was paralleled by the extremely intensive social and cultural life. Kaunas was the only provisional capital in Europe during the interbellum.

At the period after Vilnius was occupied by the Russian Bolsheviks in 1919 and captured by Poland in 1920, the government of Lithuania established its main base in Kaunas. The city became the Temporary capital of Lithuania. Between the world wars Kaunas grew rapidly and was extensively modernised, a lot of buildings were built, representing neoclassicism, functionalism, and art deco. Kaunas become the largest city in Lithuania.

Up to the Second World War Kaunas had a significant Jewish population, who constituted about one-fourth of the city's total population. Jews were concentrated in the city's commercial, artisan, and professional sectors. Kaunas was also a center of Jewish learning.

In 1940 Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union. Following Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Soviet forces fled Kaunas. Immediately before and following the German occupation of the city, several thousand Jews were killed. The Nazis eventually established the Kaunas Ghetto, which by the end of the war would be nearly completely liquidated.

After World War II Kaunas became the main industrial city of Lithuania, at the same time citizenry of the city were under continuous oppression of Soviets. After the restoration of Independence in 1990, Kaunas became a center of logistics, transport, computer technologies, sports, and tourism of Lithuania.

Tourist information

The official contacts are:

Get in

By plane

Bus stop at Kaunas airport

Kaunas Airport

Kaunas International Airport (IATA: KUN) can accommodate planes of practically all types. It is 14 km (8 miles) or approximately a 25–30 minutes drive from downtown Kaunas and directly linked to the A6/E262 (Kaunas - Daugavpils) highway, which borders the airport's northern boundaries and meets up with A1/E85 motorway at the Murava junction about 7 km south of the airport.

As of 2014, the airport is only served Ryanair, the largest low-cost airline in Europe. Kaunas airport was chosen as the first Ryanair base in Central Europe in May 2010. Today it connects Kaunas with Birmingham, Bristol, Brussels-South Charleroi, Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt-Hahn, Leeds-Bradford, Liverpool, London-Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, Oslo-Rygge, Stockholm-Skavsta and Tampere. In the summer season there are also flights to the Greek islands Kos and Rhodes, Alicante and Mallorca in Spain, as well as Pafos in Cyprus, and Malta.

A modern new terminal for passengers was opened in March 2008. There are some vendors in the terminal building, including a restaurant, bars, and duty-free shops, as well as car rentals. Travel agency, currency exchange, and ATM services are also available. Airport has three parking lots with about 1000 parking spaces offering short- and long-term parking.

From the airport a bus #29 - found right outside - takes you into the center of Kaunas, going by route: Kaunas Central Train Station - Central Bus Station - Savanoriu ave. - Kaunas Airport (tickets for LTL2 (€0,58) are available from the driver). If you arrive on a late night flight, Kaunas City bus #29E is for your convenience. Every day the bus #29E leaves the airport for downtown only after the last flight has arrived. Be aware that the last Ryanair flight usually arrives before 23:00 and the last 29 bus departs at 22:30 while 29E departs at 00:30.

Shuttle bus #120 goes by route: Kaunas Airport - Savanoriu Ave. - Kaunas Castle (in the Old Town) bus stop. There are also two regular routes by shuttle bus from Kaunas airport to Vilnius and Klaipeda.

There is a taxi stand in front of the airport. A taxi to the Old Town of Kaunas costs around LTL55 (€16). Some Kaunas' hotels offer a shuttle to/from the Kaunas airport.

Other airports

Vilnius airport is just 100 km away The airlines that operate from there are Aer Lingus, AirBaltic, Czech Airlines, Ryanair, Estonian Air, Finnair, Lufthansa, Norwegian AirShuttle, Brussels Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and LOT.

The Latvian flag carrier AirBaltic runs a nighttime shuttle bus between Kaunas and its huga at the airport in Riga, which is free for AirBaltic passengers. The journey lasts 4 hours 20 minutes.

By road

Kaunas is served by a number of major Baltic freeways. The international road Via Baltica E67 (connecting Warsaw to Tallinn) crosses Kaunas just after about 70 km (45 miles) from the Lithuanian-Poland border. It is the most important road connection between the Baltic states. Via Baltica also serves as the western bypass of Kaunas city.

There is a 210 km (130 miles) motorway A1/E85 connecting the western part of Lithuania, Klaipėda and Palanga (a resort by the Baltic sea) to Kaunas and Vilnius in the east. The major junction of the highways Via Baltica and Vilnius-Kaunas-Klaipėda is constructed in Sargėnai in the northeastern part of Kaunas City. Buses serve section Kaunas-Vilnius every 30 to 60 min.

Another important highway, A6/E262, links Kaunas with Jonava, Ukmerge, Utena, and Daugavpils, in Latvia. The modern four-lane motorways and highways are in a very good state. The speed-limit is 130 km/h on the motorways (110 km/h in winter), but just 100 km/h on the Vilnius-Kaunas sector.

National status roads connects Kaunas with Alytus, Šakiai, and Klaipeda through Jurbarkas and Šilute.

By train

At the Kaunas Central Train Station (M.K. Čiurlionio g. 16) there are lockers next to the ticket office, a tourist office, an ATM and a small café. There are many trains from Vilnius to Kaunas. If travelling from Klaipeda by train to Kaunas, you must make a stop at Kaišiadorys, and wait for another train running from Vilnius or travel from Siauliai on Fridays and Sundays to Kaunas directly. Some trains run from Vilnius to Šeštokai, and, Poland, through Kaunas. There is also an international rail route connecting Kaliningrad, Russia and Kharkiv, Ukraine, that crosses Kaunas. Czech-made double-deck electric trains, alongside with older ones, go from Vilnius to Kaunas, and vice versa. Recently renovated 1,3 km (0,8 miles) long Kaunas railway tunnel built between 1859 and 1861 near Kaunas central railway station is worth attention for tourists. It started operations earlier than the Underground of London. A restored steam engine stands at the western entrance of Kaunas railway tunnel.

By bus

There are some frequent bus routes that radiate out from Kaunas and serve other countries. These particularly go to Riga in Latvia, Tallinn in Estonia, Minsk in Belarus, and Warsaw in Poland. Bus companies also serve other parts of Lithuania, such as tourist destinations Druskininkai, Palanga or Trakai.

Get around

Kaunas has well developed public transport system. There are 16 trolleybus routes and 47 bus routes inside of the city. Buses and trolleybuses tickets can be bought at press kiosks and in the transport. The Kaunas Public Transport site offers useful information and a downloadable map of the bus and trolleybus routes. Since 2007 electronic monthly tickets are being introduced for public transport in Kaunas. From July 2012 tickets, which are valid for single journey in Kaunas public buses and trolleybuses, can be purchased from public transport drivers only. You must purchase a ticket immediately after boarding the vehicle. Each public transport stop in the downtown area is equipped with Kaunas public transport maps and electronic scoreboards. Price for one journey is LTL 1.8 (€0.52) or LTL2 (€0.56) if ticket is bought in the bus or trolleybus. You must validate your ticket on entry in one of the machines. Tickets purchased from the driver are already time-stamped. Single journey (paper) tickets are valid for buses and trolleybuses. E-ticket prices: E-ticket card price containing e-tickets – you are not allowed to purchase empty card) - LTL6 (€1.74); 3-day e-ticket - LTL16 (€4.64); 7-days e-ticket - LTL29 (€8.40). Electronic tickets for 3, 7 days, 1 or 3 months are valid for both public transport means as well. Activation of the 3 or 7-day e-tickets is done pressing validator's button No. 2 and approaching e-ticket card to the validator. If already purchased at the news stand, electronic ticket may be replenished at the internet site (regrettably, at the moment, only in Lithuanian). E-ticket for 3 or 7 days is valid from the moment of its activation using ticket punchers in the public transport.

Kaunas Tourist Card is an option for getting around Kaunas for less money. The card costs LTL68,99 (€19,98) and is valid for 7 days in Kaunas. It offers a public transport e-ticket for travelling in Kaunas and gives discounts up to 50% in Kaunas' museums, city tours, restaurants, and some hotels.

By bus

The bus network covers the whole city and is the widest public transportation system in Kaunas. Three guided routes by bus (bus tours) are for your convenience in Kaunas. A two hour sightseeing tour starts and ends at the Town Hall square. It is possible to arrange Kaunas City Tour in English, German, Russian, Polish, French, Spanish, Italian or other languages upon request. Price: LTL20-30 (€5,8-8,7) per person. Discounts are available for groups by making a call +370 686 72224 or at E. Ožeškienės g.4.

By trolleybus

Kaunas trolleybuses service is very reliable. The fleet of trolleys is relatively new, represented by Polish Solaris and some of older Czech Skodas.

By taxi

Taxi prices varies from LTL2 (€0.6) to LTL2.5 (€0.72) per kilometer. For travelling with taxi, it is advisable to order one by phone because halting a cab on the street is not a custom. In the evening and at night, the price will be higher. Reputable companies are:

By car

Driving a car in Kaunas is easy, as long as you comply with traffic regulations. Admittedly, the central part of Kaunas city is heavily affected by intensive traffic flows. It is notable, that some main central streets, i.e. K. Donelaicio/Kestucio are the part of a one-way system. It facilitates a smoother flow of traffic through the Kaunas city centre grid. Drivers must have a valid driving license and vehicle registration document, insurance (green card is valid in Lithuania). Renting a car for at least 24 hours in Kaunas is effortless. There are some companies renting cars in Kaunas, including Fortuna, Avis, Hertz, Europcar, Budget, AviaEuropa, NeoRent, Autonuoma Kaune and Carent. All of these companies have offices at Kaunas airport. The vehicles are provided with a full tank. The car must be returned with a full tank, otherwise, €1 per litre is charged. To rent a car without a driver a deposit must be paid. The speed limit in Kaunas is 50 km/h, except for some bigger streets which have a speed limit of 60, 70 or even 80 km/h.

Parking in central Kaunas, as well as in the Old Town area, is paid. Central Kaunas is divided into three zones with different parking fees - red (LTL3/h; LTL2/30 min), blue (LTL2/h; LTL1/30 min) and green (LTL1/h). All parking ticket machines are equipped with card readers for city chip cards, and some of them accept coins. Also one may pay for parking with a special 1 or 2 hour parking card or by sending special SMS to number 1332 if one has a local mobile provider - Omnitel, Bite or Tele2 card. A special sticker on the windscreen of the car to indicate that SMS payment can be used is required. The parking ticket or parking card must be clearly visible to be valid. Chip cards or parking cards are available in news-stands, in the Parking in Kaunas company office, Gedimino g.45, or at dressed in green parking controllers. Everyone is liable to an excess charge if they park beyond selected parking period. The excess period is 15 minutes.

By bike

There are more than 50 km (30 miles) of bicycle roads in Kaunas and the number of available roads is increasing each year. The Eurovelo international route goes through the city. Kaunas city bike routes chart is available here.

Bicycle rental

By boat

Regular water tourism routes: Kaunas - Kruonis Pumped Storage Plant - Kaunas (duration: 3 hours; price: LTL20 adults, LTL10 children) and Kaunas - Rumšiškės - Kaunas (duration: 6 hours; price: LTL17 adults, LTL8 children) are available on Saturdays and Sundays from Kaunas Pažaislis pier. Each route start from Kaunas Reservoir pier at 11:00 Another water tourism route Kaunas - Zapyškis - Kulautuva small resort town (duration: 2 hours; price: LTL10 adults, LTL5 children) starts from Kaunas Vytautas' church pier in the Old Town on Sundays at 12:00. Tickets are also available in advance at Kaunas region tourism information center, Laisves aleja, 36.

See

Kaunas city hall

Kaunas has several districts and sites interesting for tourists. The Old Town was mostly built between the 14th and 17th centuries, resembling buildings in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. Open spaces, parks, and places of interest are in the compact New Town as well as some other locations. A walking tour is the best way to see the Old Town. Guided excursions are available at Kaunas region tourism information office. You can also get a free tour from a local guide (often a student). They take you on a three hour tour, showing you all the popular and also less known spots and telling loads of funny stories. Afterwards, you can give them a tip (LTL10 per person). More information on kaunasfreetour@gmail.com. Kaunas boasts around 40 museums of art, nature, literature, history, science, and sports, as well as historical and memorial museums.

Old Town

Inside Kaunas Arch-cathedral
St. Gertrude church
The Historical Presidential Palace

Central Kaunas

Kaunas downtown area is compact so everyone is able to stroll around on foot and take some photos. Be prepared for great variety of sculptuary on display in the public areas of Kaunas. Kaunas Old Town ends at the remnants of the former Kaunas City wall near the garden of the Musical Theatre.

Laisvės Alėja in Kaunas

Romas Kalanta

A high school student, Romas Kalanta is well known for his public first self-immolation protesting Soviet occupation of Lithuania. He was religious, and at the same time attended an evening school while working at the factory. His sympathies with the hippie movement were later exploited by the Soviets to discredit R. Kalanta among the population. On May 14, 1972, he poured 3 liters of gasoline on himself and set himself on fire in the square adjoining the Laisvės Alėja in front of the Kaunas Musical Theatre. R. Kalanta' death provoked the largest post-war riots in Lithuania. On May 18 and 19, 1972 the gathered high school students and young workers broke into a politically-charged riot and marched along the Laisvės Alėja, which was forcibly dispersed by the KGB. Demonstrations spread to other cities reacted as well. R. Kalanta became a symbol of the Lithuanian resistance throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Zoological museum
Vytautas the Great War Museum
Funicular
Bridge to the park

Other sights

Church of the Resurrection
Interior of the church at Pažaislis Monastery

Do

Lovers of nightlife may enjoy Kaunas’s theatres, nightclubs, cafes and bars, offering a wide range of entertainment, including casinos, striptease, local and foreign DJs, or, for instance, basketball/football games translations on large screens.

Festivals

Kaunas is home to a variety of festivals, including famous summer time Pažaislis Music festival, Kaunas Jazz festival (at the end of April/ beginning of May) and International Modern Dance Festival (at the beginning of October). All year round in Kaunas one will have an opportunity to see some annual cultural events like Kaziukas Fair (at the beginning of March), Days of Kaunas city (in the middle of May), National Brass Band Festival Let's pipe for Kaunas in the squares of the city (on May 21), International auto-moto fan fiesta Bike Show Millenium attracts huge amount of bikers and their bikes in the middle of June, Operetta in Kaunas Castle (at the end of June and the beginning of July) or traditional folk music competition Play, Jurgelis (in November). Kaunas is proud of being the only city in Lithuania that belongs to the international towns' union The New Hansa. Every year, Kaunas presents itself at the annual event of the union International Hansa Days by introducing the heritage of cuisine, folk art, medieval music and theatre; Hansa Kaunas festival is usually held in the last decade of August. The shopping festival Akropolis Kaunas Grand Shopping Festival is held in the first decade of July at Kaunas Akropolis shopping center. During the festival, the great discounts apply to all goods in all stores of the shopping center.

Theatres

Kaunas has many theatres showing plays of different kinds:

The Kaunas Philharmonic

Cinemas

There are two multiplex cinema complexes in Kaunas. Both multiplexes - Cinamon and Forum cinemas are located in shopping centers Mega and Akropolis, respectively. Other option is the oldest movie theatre in Lithuania named Romuva (at Laisves aleja, 54) available on rare events, such as Kaunas International film festival only.

Sports

Kaunas‘ sports and leisure centres are scattered throughout Kaunas offering swimming pools, sports courts, fields and exercise equipment.

Beaches

There are some beaches on the banks of Nemunas river, shores of Lampedziai lake and Kaunas Reservoir. Beaches are open in summer time.

Learn

Kaunas is known as a city of students. Some of Kaunas' universities, listed below, attract students from abroad for good quality, yet inexpensive studies.

Buy

Interior of one shopping center in Kaunas

The best known grocery stores are: Maxima, IKI, Rimi, Norfa, Šilas, Samsonas and Senukai (household goods). Each of them offer everything for daily needs. There are also a great amount of well known Western brand stores, stylish boutiques usually set at the central streets of Kaunas or shopping malls. Also one may choose to stroll around in the areas of some Kaunas outdoor markets.

What to buy

Where to buy

Within Kaunas there are several malls which are usually open from 8AM until 12PM. Typically most shopping centers have not only dozens or more stores, but also a food court, restaurants, multiplexes, branches of commercial banks, ATMs, bowling alleys and even may have a skating rink. Shopping lovers should visit the cozy craft shops in the Old Town for Lithuanian souvenirs as well.

Mega aquarium

Eat

Courtyard in Kaunas Old Town

While in Lithuania, one should try these national dishes: appetizers - Piršteliai prie alaus - thin, rolled-up puff pastries served with beer (LTL4-7); main courses: Cepelinai (or didžkukuliai) su spirgučiais - potato balls with meat (about LTL11/€3.20); Vėdarai - a sausage, made of a potato stuffed intestine of a pig (about LTL10/€3); Skilandis - pig stomach stuffed with meat, garlic and cold-smoked; Plokštainis - meal of potatoes(about LTL8-12/€2,3-4); Bulviniai blynai (grated potato pancakes) with different sauces (about LTL8-11); Virtinukai - curd patties (about LTL10); Kastinys - soft sour cream butter (LTL3-4); Šaltnosiukai - dumplings filled with lingonberries; Fish - pike or perch, is often baked whole or stuffed, or made into gefilte fish (various prices); Silkė - marinated, baked, fried or served in aspic herring; soups - Šaltibarščiai (a summer soup based on beets and soured milk), Juka (blood soup) or Cabbage soup flavored with carrots, ham, onions (around LTL4-6). Ruginė duona (dark rye bread) is very advisable to try with soups. Lithuanian cuisine is also famous for wide use of wild berries, mushrooms, and cheese. Honey and poppy seeds are commonly used as filling in pastries. For desserts, try Žagarėliai - twisted, thin deep-fried pastries dusted with powdered sugar or Spurgos - a Lithuanian variant of doughnuts, often filled with preserves. Of course, European, Oriental, French, Italian, Russian and other cuisines are available at Kaunas' restaurants.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Beer (Alus in Lithuanian). Utenos, Švyturys and Horn are brands worth trying. Expect to pay around LTL5 (€1.50) per 0.5l in tourist bars and restaurants (Around LTL3 (€1) in local bars.

Nightclubs

Sleep

The number of places to stay grows every year. Also the choice of distinct types of accommodation increases as well. Despite that, in the summer it's recommended to book in advance.

Camping

Bed & breakfast

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Kaunas usually is a safe place but everyone should take some precautions against pickpockets and baggage theft, especially in public transport and at stations.

Opposite of the central train station there is a "Station‘ market“ - a rough area, especially on evenings. The baggage lockers in Kaunas railway station are a cheap and secure place to store bags and other items.

Cope

Internet

Free Wi-Fi hotspots all over the city, especially in restaurants. Since June 2009 free Wi-Fi available on all Laisves aleja.

Tourist offices

For tourism information there is Kaunas region tourism information center functioning since 1999. It also has offices at Kaunas airport, Central train station, Kaunas Bus station, and "Park Inn by Radisson Hotel“.

Hospitals

Kaunas' hospitals offer generally high quality services at a small price if compare to the cost of a Western hospital. Probably the best-regarded is:

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 26, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.