There are so many things to do in Kaunas Lithuania that you won’t want to miss on a trip to this country.
I am a short two-hour drive from Kaunas and since moving to Lithuania I will find any excuse to visit.
When a country has a huge city that gets all of the tourists and sees more of the international limelight, these second cities get a chance to figure out exactly who they want to be and there’s a soul about them that draws me in.
Kaunas is one of those cities. It has unique museums, a beautiful pedestrian street in the new town, a stunning old town that has recently received a huge facelift. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe and the rest of the world is starting to notice.
It has been named the European Capital of Culture in 2022 and after visiting a few times, I can see why. Here are all the best things to do in Kaunas and more importantly, why I think you should add Kaunas to your Lithuania itinerary.
Getting to Kaunas Lithuania
Getting to Kaunas is very easy if you are coming from Vilnius.
There are direct trains and buses all day long between the two cities and it only takes about an hour.
If you want to take the train, you can pre-book your tickets here (although it isn’t any cheaper than buying them at the train station). This is also the best website to use for checking train times.
If you want to travel by bus, it tends to take about the same amount of time and cost slightly more. You can book bus tickets ahead of time on Lithuania’s bus app (Google Play here and Apple App Store here).
This app also tells you what bus companies are available, how long it will take, how much the ticket will cost, and the timetable for all of the buses.
If you are planning to visit Kaunas from outside of Lithuania, there is an airport here (code: EYKA or KUN). There are daily Ryanair and Wizz Air flights available to tons of different cities around Europe.
The main hubs that I’ve seen offered most days of the week are London, Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Dublin.
Once you arrive at the Kaunas airport you can catch a bus to the city center. The city bus is the 29G and runs once an hour. You can see the timetable here. The bus tickets cost €1.
Where to Stay in Kaunas
There are tons of great serviced apartments and cute hotels in Kaunas. You get a lot for your money in this Lithuanian city and thankfully it’s very easy to get around, so anywhere within the downtown area is a great location to stay.
These are some of my favorite hotels in Kaunas.
- Boheme House – This boutique hotel is locally owned and operated. It is without a doubt the best boutique hotel I have found in Lithuania. If you want artist architecture, thoughtful touches, beautiful decor, an outstanding breakfast, and a seriously comfortable place to rest your head each night, then book a night at Boheme House. On top of that, it’s also located right in the heart of the old town, so you can walk absolutely everywhere. Rooms start at €80 per night. Book a stay at Boheme Hotel here.
- Four Luxury Flats – The value for money of these apartments in Kaunas Old Town is absolutely outstanding. You are a few minutes in either direction of museums, cafes, restaurants, and fantastic bars (of which there are many in Kaunas, see below). For less than €50 a night, you get a full kitchen, living room and TV, plush bed, and plenty of tea and coffee for your stay. I stay here regularly when I visit Kaunas because you can’t beat the price for what you’re getting. Book a stay at the Luxury Flats here.
- Art & Comfort Rooms – This is the best budget hotel in town in my personal opinion. You get a beautiful room and private bathroom inside an apartment with a shared kitchen. The apartment has three separate rooms and each one is fully contained other than the kitchen. Check-in is a breeze and the place is absolutely spotless. Rooms start at under €30 a night. Book a stay at Art & Comfort Rooms here.
Getting Around Kaunas Lithuania
Getting around Kaunas is incredibly easy. The city is quite small and very walkable. Most of the streets and areas that you’ll want to visit on a short trip to Kaunas are pedestrian streets.
If you want to get to some of these places that are slightly further away or you don’t feel like walking anymore you have a few options.
You can take the bus or tram. There are tons of buses and trams (really they’re electric buses) that skirt the city and they are all less than €1 each. The best way to learn the timetable is through the Trafi App. I’ve talked about this in my guides to Vilnius, but the Trafi App shows you all of the different buses you can take based on where you currently are and where you want to go. It tells you the times of each one and when one is due to arrive.
To book your bus tickets, however, you’ll need a different app (I know, it’s kind of annoying). The app that you use in Kaunas to pay for the bus is called Žiogas. You can download it from the Google Play Store here or the Apple App Store here.
This is a great app to use if you plan to be in Kaunas for a week or more because you can also use it to get week or month bus passes which will save you plenty if you are taking the bus every day.
If you are going further afield, you can also use the Bolt App. This is like Uber in many countries. It’s a taxi app where you enter your current location and the location of your destination. You are linked up with a driver, they pick you up and then take you to your requested destination. You pay directly through the App. They also have Bolt Food if you want to order takeout to be delivered to your hotel.
Awesome Things to Do in Kaunas Lithuania
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This list of things to do in Kaunas will keep you busy for several days.
Click on the Google location linked at the bottom of each description to see its location, opening hours, and to mark it on your map for easy access while traveling around the city.
1. St. Michael the Archangel’s Church (Šv. Arkangelo Mykolo bažnyčia Soboras)
The St. Michale the Archangel’s Church is the centerpiece of the city as you walk in from the bus or train station. You’ll see it from most angles as you explore the new town and it is the start of the city’s pedestrian street, Laisvės Alėja.
The church was built between 1891 and 1895, when Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire. It was built in the Neo-Byzantine style and was used as a Russian Orthodox Church for military service members.
After World War I, it was converted into a Catholic Church until Lithuania once again fell into the hands of the Soviets. During the Soviet Occupation, the church was used as an art gallery until once again it could be converted back into a Catholic Church, which is what you see when you visit today.
2. Walk Along Laisvės Alėja and Vilniaus Gatvė
Once you’ve visited St. Michael’s Church, you can take a walk down the city’s main boulevard which is completely closed to cars.
If you are walking away from the church, the right side is mostly used as a bike lane while the middle and left sides are wide open for pedestrians (and sometimes those electric scooters).
You’ll also find Green Cafe who are roasting their own coffee beans and serving up delicious pastries.
You can take this street all the way down until it meets Vilniaus Gatvė. This is the pedestrian street that will take you through the city’s stunning Old Town. Recently completely dug up and relayed (during 2021), the street has been given a total facelift.
This is where you can begin your walk through the city’s history and see some of the nicest architecture in Kaunas.
3. Mykolas Žilinskas Art Gallery (Mykolo Žilinsko dailės galerija)
Before you head all the way to the end of Laisvės Alėja you’ll want to make a stop at this beautiful art gallery. It’s a branch of the larger M.K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art, but it doesn’t matter which you visit first.
Both have a stunning collection of art and this one in particular often has changing exhibits, so is nice to visit if you’ve been to Kaunas once or 100 times.
4. Vytautas the Great War Museum (Vytauto Didžiojo Karo Muziejus)
This is perhaps my favorite museum in all of Lithuania. I’m a bit of a history buff and I find Lithuanian history particularly interesting because I never knew anything about this region of Europe before moving here.
This history museum trumps the rest because it not only goes into depth about the last few hundred years here in Lithuania, but it shows it to you. There are photographs, weapons, armor, artillery, and even an old wrecked airplane on display.
It feels like this sort of balance between an art museum and a history museum because so much care and detail has been taken in each display. It is a modern approach to teaching history and it’s a museum that I cannot recommend enough.
5. M.K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art (Nacionalinis M. K. Čiurlionio dailės muziejus)
Located just behind the Great War Museum, you could easily visit these two museums in one morning or afternoon (with a doughnut from Spurginė in between to energize you!).
M.K.Čiurlionis is one of Lithuania’s most prolific artists and musicians. The museum showcases many of his personal paintings as well as work from other Lithuanian artists.
You’ll be able to learn more about this artist through stories about him and his work as well as photographs and many of his possessions which have been kept and displayed by the museum.
6. Kaunas Picture Gallery (Kauno paveikslų galerija)
If you only go to one art museum while you’re in Kaunas, it should be this one. While this gallery is also a subdivision of the M.K. Čiurlionis Museum, I find that it has more events and exhibits worth checking out than the actual M.K. Čiurlionis Museum since that is really just his personal art and story.
There are some permanent collections that are well worth seeing from both Lithuanian and international artists. But it is the different exhibits that they get that make this the best art museum in Kaunas in my opinion. There are pieces here that are interactive and fun, that are thought-provoking, and some that are simply beautiful to see.
7. Check out All of the Street Art (Especially Kiemo Galerija!)
The street art scene in Kaunas is one of the best you’ll find in Lithuania (except maybe in Marijampole).
The best place to start is at the Courtyard Gallery or Kiemo Galerija. This is an absolutely fantastic courtyard of houses that are covered in art that tells a story. In fact, it tells many stories.
It all started when one of the residents of these houses, Vytenis Jakas, who also happens to be an artist, wanted to get to know his neighbors. He felt it was so sad that they passed each other each and every day and they didn’t know anything about one another.
So, with their permission, he began collecting their stories, organizing get together’s amongst the neighbors, and together they share their stories through the art on the outside of their homes. See the location of the gallery on Google here.
The city of Kaunas has also put together a pretty comprehensive map that shows you all of the street art around the city center.
8. Kaunas Town Hall (Kauno rotušė)
If you follow Vilniaus Gatvė all the way to its end you will eventually end up at the Kaunas Town Hall building. This is also the main square in the old town and where, in the summertime, you should without a doubt grab a seat at one of the outdoor bars and enjoy the evening’s events.
There is usually some restaurant with a band or DJ playing live music. The plaza fills with people on Fridays and Saturdays and it’s daylight until well into the night (usually after 10 pm all summer long!).
The Town Hall building was originally constructed in 1542. It was reconstructed several times over the years and had many different uses.
Originally it was a prison. It was then used as an Orthodox church, then a residence for Russian Czars, then a fireman office, a Russian theater, the archives office, a wedding hall, and then finally, a town hall again. It’s now also home to a ceramics museum.
9. House of Perkūnas (Perkūno namas)
This is one of my favorite buildings in Kaunas. House of Perkūnas is a 15th-century Gothic brick building that was originally a Hanseatic merchant’s home.
The reason it is called the House of Perkūnas is that, as the legend goes, during renovations, a sculpture of the pagan god of thunder, Perkūnas was discovered in the walls.
The building now belongs to the Jesuits and is used partly as a school. There is also an exhibit of Adomas Mickevičius’s life and works (a famous poet who is claimed by Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus).
You can take a tour of the home and learn more about the history of the building or simply explore on your own for a small fee. Learn more about entrance and booking a tour on the website here.
10. Kaunas Castle (Kauno Pilis) and Surrounding Park
This was the first castle I visited in Lithuania and it gave me all the European castle vibes that I was hoping for. If you really love castles though, be sure to visit Trakai Castle while you’re in Lithuania.
Kaunas Castle is a medieval castle that was originally built way back in the 14th century. Unfortunately, by the start of the 21st century, only about 1/3 of the castle was still standing.
Since it was first built the castle has been used as a fortress, an armory, a prison, and even as a residence. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the castle stood mostly unused and abandoned. In 2010 and 2011, the castle was reconstructed into what you see today and is now a museum and viewing tower that you can visit.
You can climb the stairs and take in the views around the city for free. The museum entrance is at the base of the castle and costs €5 to visit.
Just outside of the castle you’ll see a huge bronze statue of a Freedom Warrior. It’s eight meters tall and was built in Ukraine.
A Freedom Warrior is called a Vytis in Lithuania and is on the coat of arms that you’ll see around the country on a red flag. It is an armored knight holding a sword and shield and riding a horse. Lithuania’s coat of arms is one of the oldest in the world.
From the castle, you should follow the path into the park and walk to the edge where you can see two of Lithuania’s most important rivers, the Nemunis and the Neris, converge.
11. 9th Fort of the Kaunas Fortress (Kauno tvirtovės IX fortas)
The 9th Fort of the Kaunas Fortress is, as the name suggests, one of several forts that were built to fortify the city of Kaunas.
This is one of the best-preserved and has a deep and painful history worth learning about at the museum located here.
The Ninth Fort was completed on the eve of World War I and from 1924, the fort was used as the Kaunas City Prison.
When the Soviets arrived in 1940, the prison was used by the NKVD to house their political prisoners and as a way station before sending people off to camps in Siberia.
Things only got worse from then.
The Nazis then took over Lithuania from the Soviets and used this location to murder over 50,000 people, mostly Jews from Kaunas, but also France, Austria, and Germany.
It became a place where people were sent simply to be held in the prisons before being executed outside in the fields that sit beside the fort.
Now there is a monument to those that were murdered and the interior of the museum is packed with information, photographs, and things that were left behind by those that passed through these halls.
Getting to Kaunas 9th Fort: You can either take the bus from the city center (check the Trafi app for times!) or you can grab a Bolt. Bolts take about 15 minutes and cost €6-8. The bus costs under €1, but takes about 40 minutes.
12. Watch a Kaunas Žalgiris Basketball Game
Lithuania is a basketball-loving country and Kaunas is home to the best team in the league. A regular Lithuanian league game here will set you back a whopping €3 or if you want great seats you’ll pay about €9.
The real reason people crowd to a Žalgiris game, though, is that they are in the Euroleague. This is like the Champions League of basketball. The top teams from around Europe all play each other and these games are supposed to be the best atmosphere that you can get in Lithuania at any sporting event.
Fans travel from around the country to support Žalgiris against the top teams in Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, and all of the other countries that participate.
You can get tickets through the Žalgiris website here. It’s easier to book them online because you can switch the website into English, but its slightly harder on your phone (I just did a lot of copy and paste into Google Translate). You get a digital ticket that you can add to your “wallet” and then scan it at the stadium.
13. Pažaislis monastery and church (Pažaislio vienuolynas)
The Pažaislis monastery and church form the largest monastery complex in Lithuania. The buildings here are widely recognized as the best baroque architecture in the country and its located in one of the most stunning areas of the city along the Nemunas River.
The building of the church and hermitage began in 1662 and completed in the 18th century, the church was designed by Italian architects and the interior frescos were also painted by Italian artists.
When the Russians closed the monastery in 1832 and later turned it into a Russian Orthodox Church. When the Germans began arriving during World War I, the monks living here pillaged all of the valuable pieces of art and treasures that decorated the buildings and fled.
The Germans then turned the church into a hospital. When the Soviets took back over after World War II, it was converted into a psychiatric hospital and then an art gallery. Finally in 1990, it was returned to the Roman Catholic Church.
You can actually spend the night on the property in quite a luxurious hotel that has a wonderful restaurant and seriously good breakfast. Book a stay at the monastery hotel here.
14. Kaunas Christ’s Resurrection Basilica (Kauno Kristaus prisikėlimo bažnyčia)
The Kaunas Christ’s Resurrection Basilica is the largest basilica in all of the Baltics and offers one of the best panoramic views in the city.
The idea of this church was first born when Lithuania gained independence from the Russian Empire in 1918. They decided they would build it in Kaunas because at the time of building, Kaunas was the capital of Lithuania. From 1920 and 1939, Vilnius was actually part of Poland.
The first pieces of the church were brought from Jerusalem in 1934 and finally in 1936 architects arrived from Prague to begin building. The walls were completed by 1938 and by 1940, most of the church was complete.
All further construction stopped as the Nazis began to use the building as a storeroom. Once the Soviets took back over after WWII, they used the building as a radio factory.
After Lithuania regained independence, many years passed before money was able to be raised to complete the Basilica. In 2004, it was consecrated and in 2015, Pope Francis gave it the title of Basilica.
You can pay €1.50 to walk up the stairs to the roof of the church or €2.50 if you want to take the elevator. From the roof, you will get the best views of the surrounding area.
Getting to Kaunas Christ’s Resurrection Basilica: You can walk up the hill from the center of town, it only takes about 20 minutes and is not particularly steep. However, on either your way up or down, you may want to consider taking the Žaliakalnis Funicular Railway.
Built in 1931, this is not only the oldest funicular in Lithuania, it is one of the oldest of this type in the entire world that is still operational. For €2 you can take it up and back and avoid the hill up to the basilica.
15. Aleksotas Observation Deck (Aleksoto apžvalgos aikštelė)
If you love a viewpoint, this is arguably the second-best in Kaunas. It is also home to the second oldest funicular in Lithuania. Built in 1938, it was only a few years behind the funicular at the basilica and in my opinion, they did a better job with this one.
For €1.20 you can take the funicular up and walk back down the stairs. Or you can pay €2 for a round trip ticket. Check out the operating times of the funicular on this website here.
The steps really aren’t that steep and it is a short walk to the top. The main reason to take the funicular is just to enjoy the ride not really to avoid a super difficult hike.
The observation deck looks out over the old town and the Nemunis River. While the Basilica offers a more expansive view, the view from the Aleksotas Observation Deck is actually a prettier view with the old town directly in front of you.
While you’re up here, have a wander around this cute neighborhood. The first fort of the Kaunas fortress is a short walk from here.
16. Church of St. Gertrude (Kauno Šv. Gertrūdos bažnyčia)
The Church of St. Gertrude is well worth at least walking past. It is rarely open to the public, even on a Sunday, unless you time it with a church service.
This church is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in all of Lithuania and is one of the oldest still standing churches in the country. The exact date that it was built is unknown, but it is speculated that it must have been in the 15th century.
In 1503, the Grand Duke of Lithuania designated this church as the parish church of Kaunas. The bell tower was added at some point in the 16th century and while it was damaged severely in the 18th century, the majority of the structure remained intact. It was renovated to what you see today in 1992.
17. Historical Presidential Palace (Istorinė Lietuvos Respublikos Prezidentūra Kaune)
Did you know that at one point in the 20th century, Kaunas was the capital of Lithuania?
I mentioned briefly above, that From 1920-1939, the period which is referred to as the interwar period here in Lithuania, Vilnius was part of Poland.
The presidential palace was the home and office of the president during those years when Kaunas stood as the country’s capital. It is a neo-baroque building that you can now go inside and explore. It’s a small museum that has been set up to look as it did when it was the residence.
However, it wasn’t originally built to be the president’s house. It was actually built back in 1846 by a local wealthy resident of Kaunas. After a few years of living in this home and expanding the garden (aka turning it into a beautiful mansion), it was “acquired” by the Russian government and became the home of the local governor.
During World War I, Keiser Wilhelm II stayed here briefly. Finally, the war ended and the property ended up in the hands of the newly formed Lithuanian government. It wasn’t until 1918 that it began to be used as the presidential palace.
18. Sugihara House
Kaunas is packed with museums about art and history and the Sugihara House is no exception.
As I mentioned above, for a few years Kaunas was the capital of Lithuania. During that time, this house was home to the Japanese Consulate. It was also where vice-consul Chiune Sugihara lived during his time working in Lithuania.
The house which bears his name also tells his extraordinary story. Sugihara is famous around Lithuania for the work he did at the outbreak of World War II.
Seeing the treatment of Jews across Europe during this time period, Sugihara became known as the man to come to in order to get out of Europe. In the few years that he was vice-consul, all the way up until he got on the train to leave Kaunas in 1940, he processed visas (against the orders of his superiors) for nearly 6,000 Jews to receive refugee status in Japan.
See More Things to Do in Kaunas
I have created several videos about my experiences in Kaunas which you can watch below to get to know more of the awesome things to do in Kaunas. Subscribe to my YouTube channel here or watch all of my Lithuania videos here.