Kaunas is a thriving modern city with a healthy smattering of excellent museums, inspiring architecture and a bustling student population. Be sure not to miss a trick when exploring many Old Town boutiques, where the city’s famous amber jewellery can be bought at a great price compared to other Baltic countries. Local artisans are also a huge draw for treasure hunters, with lovingly hand crafted merchandise including bone china tea sets elaborating painted to an unbelievable standard.
Lithuania’s second largest city and former capital is awash with wonderful old baroque buildings and has few of the Communist blocks that blight Vilnius. What’s more, you don’t just get to look at them – you can stay in them as well. Hotel Metropolis (S. Daukanto g. 21) is one of the nicest and has individually decorated rooms, giving it a cosy boutique feel. A comfortable option is the Magnus Hotel (Vytauto pr. 25), conveniently located close to the central bus station and opposite the Akropolis shopping centre. For something a little cosier, try the Litinterp Guesthouse Kaunas (Gedimino g. 28-7), a family-run spot close to the quaint cafés of Laisves Aleja.
Kaunas is famous for its amber jewellery which costs less here than in other Baltic countries. The best is to be found on Vilnius Street in the Old Town, where you’ll also find boutiques selling the local earthenware pots and handwoven linen. Most of the international brands are to be found in the vast Kaunas Akropolis shopping centre (Karaliaus Mindaugo pr. 49) but give the annoyingly overpriced Zara and co a miss in favour of ImDeco, where you’ll find beautiful bone china dishes, cups and pots complete with elaborate hand-painted designs. Laisvės Alėja is the main spot for street sellers, in particular artisan food producers selling everything from flavoured vodka to delicious slices of Šakotis (Lithuanian pound cake).
While not every local dish is as delicious as Šakotis, there is more to eating Kauna-style than picking through an unappetising platter of skilandis (stuffed pig stomach). Along with ubiquitous Western chains such as McDonald’s, there is a host of local cafés serving good value fare, including Viva Blynai (Laisves al. 53), which specialises in tasty dumplings and pancakes. For something lighter, try Morkų šėlsmas (Laisves al. 78B), which offers a surprisingly good all-vegan menu complete with plentiful fresh fruit and a juice bar. Best of the bunch is Abato menė (Vilniaus g. 7), where you can tuck into Lithuanian classics (no skilandis in sight) in what used to be an abbey.
A huge folk arts and crafts fair, Kaziuko Mugė brings artists from all over Lithuania – as well as Russia and Poland – to Kaunas for the annual market that fills the streets of the Old Town.
Kauno Miesto Diena
Kaunas gained official city status in 1463 and Kauno Miesto Diena or ‘Days of Kaunas City’ celebrates the anniversary via a huge folk fair and numerous musical performances.
Bike Show Millennium
Despite the name, Kaunas annual petrol fest takes place each June and sees the city thronged with bikers from all over the world. Don’t miss the impressive ‘Fire Angel Show’ synchronised display.
Pažaislis Muzikos Festivalis
Lithuania’s version of the Proms, Pažaislis Muzikos Festivalis brings together classical musicians, church choirs and singers for a series of concerts over the summer months. Kicking off in July, proceedings come to a close at the end of September.
The perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit, Kaunas Cantat is a three-day event that pits choirs from all over Lithuania against each other in a festive sing-off.