How much do you know about Lithuania?
This tiny country on the Baltic Sea rarely gets the publicity it deserves. From giant sand dunes to ancient castles, Lithuania has a lot to offer. We recently went on our first trip to this country and were astonished by its beauty.
If you have five days, you have just enough time to see the highlights of Lithuania. Fortunately, the country is small enough that you can quickly travel from Vilnius to the coast and back again. That means less time on the road and more time sightseeing!
Depending on how you like to travel, you can either use public transport or rent a car. We went by public transport and found it very easy to use, so we will include more information about this in our 1 week Lithuania itinerary below.
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Using the map of Lithuania, you can explore all the days and stops.
Start your trip in Lithuania's capital. Vilnius is famous for its many churches and its pretty Old Town, so go out and explore!
Today, you will get a first glimpse of the city and its many beautiful corners. We are excited to share our favourite places to visit in Vilnius with you. As the itinerary for the first day includes a lot of walking, make sure to take a break from time to time and try some traditional Lithuanian food.
Start your day at the Gates of Dawn. It might not look like much from the southern side, but this gate is one of the most famous monuments in Vilnius.
Like many European cities, Vilnius was once surrounded by city walls with only ten gates allowing entry into the centre. Out of those, the Gates of Dawn is the only one that survived over the centuries.
Once you cross through the gate, you will see its beauty. But the Gates of Dawn is not just famous for its stunning facade. Inside the building, you can find an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, which is so famous that it attracts many pilgrims every year.
You can find beautiful churches all over Vilnius, and while you walk through the Old Town, you should step into a few of them. From the Gates of Dawn, walk north, and you will eventually get to a church we particularly liked - the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit. With its green iconostasis, it looks very different from the churches we know from home.
In front of the iconostasis, you can find the reliquary. It is dedicated to the remains of the Saints John, Anthony and Eustathius, whose remains lie in the crypt.
Cross the river east of the Old Town, and you'll reach the Republic of Uzupis. Founded on April 1st, 1997, its independence might not get recognition from any country in the world. Yet, this tiny republic has everything a nation needs.
You can find the border post right after the bridge. Go inside to have your passport stamped before taking a break from sightseeing at Café Užupio Kavinė. While you're enjoying a drink, look around because you're sitting in the Uzupis Parliament Building.
Of course, Uzupis would not be a proper republic without its own constitution. Walk up the street, past the Angel of Uzupis, and then turn right. Here, you will find the constitution (and many translations) for everyone to read on a wall.
If you're getting tired, Uzupis is a great place to stop in a cafe and rest for a while.
Your next stop for the day is Vilnius Cathedral, which does not look like a cathedral at all. With its pillars and a tower separated from the rest of the building, this church resembles more a government building or maybe a library.
Inside the church, you can find the graves of many famous Lithuanian and Polish rulers, some of them dating back to the 15th century.
The cathedral itself is even older, although it is unclear when construction first started. Rumours are that the location was once a place of worship for Lithuanian pagan gods and that when the region converted to Christianity, the Lithuanian King ordered the construction of a cathedral.
Your (almost) last stop for today is Gediminas' Hill. The hike up here is short and steep, but worth it. From the top of the hill, you have a fantastic view of Vilnius.
If you want to get even higher, climb the Gediminas' Castle Tower. Back in the 15th century, you could find the upper castle on top of the hill, but today, this tower is all that remains.
Gediminas' Hill and its tower are especially lovely to visit in the evening when you can watch the sunset behind Vilnius.
Tonight, you should go out and enjoy traditional Lithuanian food. We ate at Etno Dvaras, a chain of restaurants that are perfect for trying Lithuanian dishes.
Yes, these restaurants are touristy. But they are also charming, and the food is delicious. Plus, the English menu explains most of the dishes, so you will know what you're ordering.
We recommend the fried breadsticks with cheese sauce and the Lithuanian cheese platter. Also, don't miss out on the cepelinai, potato dumplings that are often considered the national dish of Lithuania.
Today, you're going to leave Vilnius and visit Trakai. This cute town was once the capital of Lithuania and is a favourite amongst visitors.
Look up the schedule online and then catch a bus from the central bus station.
You can buy your ticket directly from the driver, and the trip is going to take you around 40 minutes. We recommend going by bus even if you have a rental car as it can be challenging to find suitable parking in Trakai.
If you don't have a car, stop by the train station either in the morning or after coming back from Trakai. You can find it just next to the bus terminal. Here, you should buy a train ticket to Siauliai for the next morning.
From the bus station, walk north along Main Street, and you will reach the Old Town of Trakai. Here, you can see many traditional wooden houses.
Trakai is home to the Crimean Karaites, a Turkic minority that has lived in Lithuania for centuries. You can find traces of their culture all over town, but the best place to learn more about them is in the Island Castle.
If the weather is good, we recommend that you leave the main street and walk down to the water. Lakes surround Trakai, and you can go for long walks along their shore, enjoying the peace and quiet out here.
Keep walking through the Old Town, and you will eventually find a bridge on your right. Cross it to get to the Trakai Island Castle, the main reason why visitors travel to Trakai.
Even though today, Trakai is only a small town, it was once the capital of Lithuania. The castle dates back to the 14th century and used to be the home of many Lithuanian Grand Dukes. Distinguished visitors, not just from Lithuania, but also from other countries as well, would stay here too.
Inside the castle, you can find an exhibition about the history of Trakai, the castle, and the Crimean Karaites (as mentioned above).
Take your time exploring the castle and then grab lunch before catching a bus back to Vilnius.
After returning to Vilnius, you should visit the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights. You can find it in a building that used to serve as headquarters to both the Gestapo and the KGB.
The museum focuses on the Soviet occupation and the repression of Lithuanians, but it also briefly touches on the Nazi occupation.
The exhibitions on the upper floors will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about the Soviet occupation, and you can easily spend a lot of time here.
The heart of this museum, though, is located in the basement. Here, you can visit the holding cells and see the horrors that the inmates had to go through. A particular disturbing compartment has padded walls, to not let any sounds escape.
Today is a travel day as you'll be going to Klaipeda. On your way, you should stop in Siauliai to see the Hill of Crosses. We loved this attraction as it was unlike anything we had ever seen before in our travels.
While Siauliai has a few museums worth visiting, we don't recommend stopping here for too long if you only have five days. Leave Vilnius early in the morning and then continue to Klaipeda after lunch.
If you don't have a car, you can find luggage storage at the train station. The station is also where you can flag down a taxi that will take you to the Hill of Crosses and back again.
Nobody knows how the Hill of Crosses started, but some people believe the tradition of leaving a cross goes as far back as the 1830s. The Soviet regime bulldozed the hill multiple times, but locals always came back and placed more.
Today, you can find more than 100,000 crosses on top of the hill, which makes it one of the most impressive sights in Lithuania. We spent ages walking among the crosses and taking pictures. You can't just discover crosses here, but also rosaries, tiny effigies and statues of the Virgin Mary.
You can find the Hill of Crosses about 12 kilometres north of Siauliai, which is why you either need to come with your own car or use a taxi. Negotiate with your driver for how long you're going to stay there before they take you back to town.
From Siauliai, take a train or your car to travel to Klaipeda.
As you will arrive in the late afternoon or early evening, it'll be too late to see any specific attractions. Instead, we recommend that you just go for a walk along the water and the Old Town. That way, you can get an overview of the city.
Down by the waterfront, you can find the Meridianas - a sailing ship that serves as a restaurant these days. We didn't go here ourselves as we wanted to try more traditional delicacies at the local Etno Dvaras restaurant. Still, the Meridianas is a good place if you're looking for a unique location to have dinner.
Today, you will explore Klaipeda, so put on good walking shoes. The Old Town might not be massive, but one of the best things to do in Klaipeda is to walk around and soak up the atmosphere.
You will also enter a few museums today to learn more about the history of this region. When you get hungry, take a break in one of the many restaurants you can find in the Old Town. You're on the coast, so we recommend trying some typical Baltic fish like herring.
Start your day at Theatre Square, in front of the Klaipeda Drama Theatre. In summer, festivals take place in this square, while in winter, you can find an ice skating rink.
Take a closer look at the facade of the theatre, and you will see the Klaipeda Coat of Arms there.
From here, turn around and walk down Turgaus Gatve to discover some old buildings and traditional architecture. From time to time, you will come across a building that looks more German than Lithuanian. Want to know why? Then follow us to our next stop.
The History Museum of Lithuania Minor is the perfect place if you want to learn more about the region. Did you know that Klaipeda once belonged to Germany and was called Memel? And that for a while, Klaipeda was bilingual with signs in both German and Lithuanian?
The museum covers an extensive period, starting with the first settlements. You will see objects from excavations, ancient maps and old photographs from the beginning of the 20th century. If you're interested in the culture, take a look at the various day-to-day items as well as the traditional clothing that people used to wear in this area.
After the History Museum, we recommend that you go to the Blacksmith Museum. You can find it only a few streets away in a building that used to belong to G. Katze. Katze was a blacksmith in Klaipeda, and he became so famous for his amazing crafts that he won multiple awards.
Besides traditional tools, you can also find crosses from the graveyard both inside the building and in the courtyard. This is all that remains of the old Klaipeda cemetery, which got bulldozed during Soviet times. G. Katze and his apprentices crafted almost all of the beautiful crosses.
It's time to go down to the waterfront. Back in the day, Klaipeda grew quickly because of its access to the sea. The Curonian Spit protects the port from storms, making it one of the safest harbours in the area.
Here, you can see fishing boats anchored along the pier, as well as some of the traditional storage buildings. Don't miss the statue of the Klaipeda Black Ghost, a hooded figure that climbs out of the water onto the safety of the pier.
While the Castle Museum is often listed as an attraction on its own, it belongs to the 39/45 Museum. So buy your ticket here and then go through the exhibition as explained to you by the museum guards.
The museum starts with a display about the war. Multiple rooms showcase exhibits from one of the most tragic times in the history of Klaipeda.
You have to leave the 39/45 Museum and enter through two separate doors to go down into the castle. Here, you can find more exhibitions, this time about the history of Klaipeda in general and also about Klaipeda Castle.
Today, you will visit the Curonian Spit. Here, you can find the most beautiful landscapes in the country. One day is just enough to see the highlights of this peninsula, so get up early to make the most of it.
Ask at the tourist information to get the most current ferry schedule. If you go by public transport, the passenger ferry leaves close to the Old Town. For cars, you need to take the car ferry, which leaves a bit further to the south.
Busses connect the ferry port on the Curonian Spit with Nida, so you will not have any trouble getting around. The tourist information can also provide you with the current bus schedule.
Start your day on the Curonian Spit by visiting Smiltyne. Close to the ferry pier, you can find a few traditional wooden houses that are worth a quick look. But the real attraction is the beach.
From Smiltyne, follow the path through the woods to cross over to the other side of the Spit. Here, you have access to an endless sandy beach that stretches out as far as the eye can see on both sides.
In summer, this is a great place to relax and enjoy the sun, and if you have more time, this beach is well worth a day-trip in itself.
From Smiltyne, take a bus or use your car to get to Nida. This town is the last Lithuanian settlement before arriving in Russia. Down here, you can admire the traditional blue wooden buildings.
We recommend you go for a walk through the town. Just follow the roads and take a look around. You can find a few small museums here, and if you're interested, you should go inside.
Thomas Mann, a famous German writer, used to own a house here in Nida. You can visit it and learn more about him, his writings and his frankly, quite weird family.
Or, you could stop in the Curonian Spit History Museum to learn more about Nida and the surroundings. Another exciting place is the Fisherman's Ethnographic Homestead, which is where you can experience the life of a traditional fisherman here on the Curonian Spit.
Parnidis Dune is the highlight of the Curonian Spit. This dune is 52 metres high and one of the few wandering dunes that remain on the Spit.
You won't be able to see it, but it moves east by about 1 metre every year. These moving sands are so powerful that over the past centuries, they have buried whole villages. Today, due to deforesting and an unbalanced eco-system, only a few dunes remain.
To get to the top of Parnidis Dune, make sure to follow the paths. The dune might look big, but it is more fragile than you can imagine. If too many visitors stray from the trail and shift the sands, the wandering dunes will one day disappear.
From the top, you have a fantastic view of the Curonian Spit. Standing here, you will only see sand, pine trees and the sea on both sides, with the landscape stretching out until the horizon. On a clear day, you can look as far as Russia.
If you decide to go down to the beach, make sure not to walk too far. From time to time, the Russian police picks up tourists that have accidentally crossed the border, and you don't want to be one of them.
Your last stop for today should be the Nida Cemetery. Here, you can see the wooden tombstones that are very typical for this area.
In Lithuanian, you would call these wooden grave markers krikštai, and they have Pagan origins. The shapes represent trees, plants and birds. Most of those tombstones have been destroyed, but in this cemetery, you can find a few remaining ones.
Lithuania might be a small country, but five days are just enough to see the highlights. We completely fell in love with this diverse and often underrated country.
If you have more time, you could explore the Baltic Coast and visit the famous sea resort town of Palanga. Or head to Kaunas, Lithuania's second-largest city and explore the museums there.
We hope you got inspired to travel to Lithuania and will use this five-day Lithuania travel guide for planning your trip to Lithuania.
This article was first published on Jun 22, 2020 14:57 UTC.
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