Kaunas: Sightseeing, nightlife, and an old friendship

1. Introduction

A while ago I came across a survey referring to younger people’s lack of close friends these days, if you gauge this number against e.g. the Baby Boomer generation.

I don’t know how compelling such kind of statistics generally are and how thoroughly the authors had gathered their figures (though in my perception close friends are indeed rather the exception today), but if they are, I am fortunate to say that I don’t belong to a group without any friends at all.

This is even more valuable considering that a great percentage of my time is consumed by a full-time engineering job and my numerous other occupations and hobbies (including this blog-project), hence there is not an abundance of free time left over for a social life.

One of those friends I know since my student-days is Uwe, an adept and sometimes obstinate character which whom I share a lot of trivial and hilarious memories about the nightlife in Bucharest, hiking tours in Snowdonia or cycling around Nuremberg.

So I am glad to say that I’ve been able to maintain this friendship to date, and still able to add chapters to our list of adventures (which we usually lack in our jobs as engineers).

This time we were together in Kaunas, Lithuania for four days, for the knockdown price of twenty-four Euros Nuremberg-Kaunas and back.

2. Lithuania

Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuva, German: Litauen) is a comparatively small country (roughly three million inhabitants) in the Baltic region located at the Baltic Sea (Ostsee).

Klaipeda at the Baltic Sea
The city Klaipėda at the Baltic Sea, Curonian Lagoon (Kurisches Haff, photo taken from Smiltynė)

It is the southernmost of three Baltic states, which are denominated as Baltikum in German (the other two are Estonia and Latvia), and possesses the largest population of those three countries.

Lithuania belonged to the Soviet Union for decades but gained its independence in 1990. Since then, it underwent a rapid development with a noticeable economic process.

Dabintos sala (Kaunas Reservoir isle)
Near Kaunas, Dabintos sala (Kaunas Reservoir isle) on the right

Like in the other two Baltic states the currency is Euro, so we hadn’t to deal with cash machines offering funny conversion rates or to puzzle about prices in restaurants and supermarkets.

3. The Baltic languages

Despite having three big Slavic neighbors and sharing a common history with Poland, Lithuanian does not belong to the Slavic language group.

It represents a so-called Baltic language, with many similarities to the also Baltic Latvian.

But it is an Indo-European language like German, Polish or Russian, which in this regard differentiates it from Estonian or Finnish (or Hungarian).

Almost everyone does understand English in Kaunas of course, below you can find a few examples for Lithuanian words and phrases however:

yes – taip; no – ne; thanks – ačiū; good morning – labas rytas; hello – sveiki

4. Kaunas

Kaunas is the second largest city (some 300.000 inhabitants) in Lithuania after the capital Vilnius, which is situated around one hundred kilometers westwards of Kaunas near the border to Belarus.

Vytautas the Great War Museum (forecourt)
Vytautas the Great War Museum (forecourt)

Since Lithuania’s total area is not very large by comparison, Latvia, Poland and Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast) are close as well, so one can combine his stay in Lithuania respectively Kaunas with a short trip to one of those countries (though for the Kaliningrad Oblast one needs a special Visa).

In the following, I want to illustrate three selected sights in Kaunas which are an absolute must-see.

4.1 Sights

Kaunas Castle

At the western edge of the old town, immediately next to the confluence of the rivers Neris and Nemunas (Memel), the Kaunas Castle (Kauno pilis) is situated.

Kaunas Castle
Kaunas Castle (the flag on the left shows the Coat of arms of Lithuania)

A predecessor castle appeared for the first time presumably in the 14th century at this site.

Parts of the castle complex had been reconstructed in recent decades, but other parts remain in a more or less ruinous state.

Kaunas Castle complex, left St. George the Martyr Church
Kaunas Castle complex, left behind the moat the St. George the Martyr Church

Inside the tower, which is open to visitors, there is a museum with a small archaeological exhibition comprising artifacts excavated in the castle grounds.

Town Hall

The tall and eye-catching Town Hall (Kauno rotušė), which gives the square where it is erected upon its name, houses also a museum.

The exhibition includes ancient prison cells in the cellar of the building, and former offices of the majors of Kaunas.

Kaunas Town Hall
Town Hall on the Kauno Rotušės Aikštė (Town Hall Square)

The tower is accessible, but it is rather bleak inside and you can take pictures solely through a glass pane.

View from the Town Hall (river Memel in the background)
View from the Town Hall (river Memel in the background)
Garrison Church

The bulky edifice (Švento Arkangelo Mykolo Bažnyčia) was erected as an Orthodox church in the 19th century, but became a Catholic cathedral after the 1st World War.

St. Michael the Archangel's Church
St. Michael the Archangel’s Church (Garrison Church)

The church is situated at the eastern end of the “Freedom Avenue” (Laisvės alėja) and impossible to miss.

4.2 Nightlife

Bardakas bar in Laisvės alėja
Bardakas bar in Laisvės alėja

“Bardakas” is a popular bar in the city center (also in the “Freedom Avenue”) that we frequented a couple of times. Crowded is this place naturally on Fridays and Saturdays.

I got also a recommendation about the “Anna Mesha” club near the Garrison church, but I hadn’t been there so I can’t give you a first-hand rating (but I was in the Irish pub “Rebels” next to it which is not a bad place for a quick beer).

Souterrain restaurant (Salonas)
Souterrain restaurant (Salonas)

There are a lot of souterrain restaurants in Kaunas, and you’ll find many of them near the Town Hall. Here you can taste a great variety of different beers and some of the fine Lithuanian dishes (popular are cheese and honey).

5. Conclusion

If you have some days off and there is a cheap direct flight, then why not? Stay a few days in Kaunas and combine your stay with visits in Poland or Latvia.

Or visit the picturesque Curonian Spit and the former German city Klaipėda (Memel).

Dunes on the Curonian Spit (Kurische Nehrung)
Dunes on the Curonian Spit (Kurische Nehrung), Curonian Lagoon (Kurisches Haff) in the background

And since there exist big universities in Kaunas, I can recommend joining the nightlife as well – mingling with people is (not just for me) always the preferable alternative to taking pictures of buildings and buying T-shirts in the souvenir shops.


keltas.lt – ferry service from Klaipėda to Smiltynė

Featured images: Knight on horseback statue next to the Kaunas Castle (“Vytis“, center), Perkūnas-house (left), Malūnininko bokštas (right)