My first trip to Lithuania was one for the books! This Eastern European gem in the Baltics definitely has a lot to see. I only spent 4 days in the country, and it definitely wasn’t long enough! There is so much to do and see in this small country: beautiful architecture, sandy beaches, dense forests, fascinating history. Here are 7 places you need to visit in Lithuania:

1. Vilnius

As the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius is an obvious choice. But I was blown away by this city, and it should take up at least 2 days (preferably 3) on any itinerary in Lithuania! The Old Town is the best preserved in Northern Europe, with simply stunning Baroque architecture. There’s a handful of interesting museums, a seemingly limitless number of beautiful churches to visit, and small, winding streets that beg to be explored. Don’t miss this city!

Photo via Wikimedia

2. Trakai

Located about an hour outside of Vilnius, this is one of the capital’s most popular daytrips with good reason. While the village has a few museums, the main draw is Trakai Castle, aesthetically situated on an island in a lake. Trakai is also home to a small group of the Karaite people, a religious sect that originated in Baghdad and is defined by their strict adherence to the Torah. You can get to Trakai from Vilnius by bus or train in about 45 minutes.

3. Hill of Crosses

This is probably one of the coolest places I’ve visited on my travels, and definitely somewhere you need to visit in Lithuania. Crosses have been placed here since at least the early 19th century, and despite Soviet authorities bulldozing the site several times, people snuck back in the night (risking their freedom and their lives) to put more crosses back as a symbol of national identity and resistance. The Hill of Crosses is located 12km north of Siauliai. You can travel to Siauliai by train or bus from either Vilnius or Kaunas, and then take another bus and then walk the final 2km. More information coming in a full post!

Photo via Unesco WHC

Photo via Wikipedia

4. Curonian Spit

This tiny sliver of land on Lithuania’s western coast sticks out from the mainland on the edge of the Baltic Sea. It has the best of both worlds: dense, magical forests, and beautiful sand dunes on the coastline. It’s possible to bike this slice until the Russian border (where the Curonian Spit continues in Kaliningrad), and it looks simply amazing in summer! The Curonian Spit National Park is most easily reached from Klaipeda, Lithuania’s third-largest city.

Photo via Wikimedia

Photo via Wikimedia

5. Kaunas

Forever overshadowed by the capital of Vilnius, Kaunas is well worth a visit when in Lithuania. The city has a beautiful Old Town and several museums to draw visitors in, and a large student population to make sure the city stays lively. Don’t miss the Museum of the Ninth Fort just outside of the city, a memorial to the thousands of Lithuanians (mainly Jews) who were murdered here by the Nazis. Kaunas is well connected by bus and train to other major cities, and easily accessed from Vilnius.

6. Grutas Park

This open-air Soviet sculpture park was one of the main reasons I visited Lithuania in the first place! Besides having a whole host of statues from Lithuania’s Soviet/communist era, the park has fascinating exhibits, a zoo (with bears!), a café, and loudspeakers that blast Soviet anthems as you walk around. You can get to Grutas Park from Vilnius by taking a Druskininkai-bound bus to Grutas, and walking 1km from the highway to the park entrance. I’ll be writing a full blog post on this in the next few weeks!

Photo via Wikimedia

7. Paneriai

This important site, located just outside of Vilnius, was where 100,000 people were murdered in World War II by the Nazis and their Lithuanian accomplices. Nearly 70,000 of the victims were Jews. The Paneriai Museum gives a moving and graphic look at the murders (if visiting in winter between October-April, the museum is open only by appointment, so call in advance). It’s about 10 minutes on the train from Vilnius to Paneriai station, where you can walk the 1km into the forest.

Have you ever been to Lithuania? What places would you recommend visiting?