If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m fascinated by history. I studied Russian in college, and 20th-century Soviet history is one of my main specialties. So when I found out about this open-air museum housing old statues from Soviet times in Lithuania, I knew I had to visit.
Grutas Park (or Grutos parkas) was such an awesome place to visit. For anyone interested in Soviet (or Lithuanian) history, it’s one place you can’t miss. Having visited Memento Park in Budapest, I thought that that was the coolest museum of its kind across the old Soviet satellite states. Grutas Park was so much cooler, with so much more information! It was definitely one of my top places in Lithuania.
As you enter the park, there’s a replica of a rail carriage that would have transported prisoners to various gulags (Soviet labor camps). There’s also a huge wall of articles about the park from newspapers and journals around the world. Some think it’s offensive, some find it funny, some think it’s historically important.
The park is divided into two main walking routes. The first (turning right at the café) takes you past the makeshift zoo (with very depressed looking bears), that’s popular in summer.
On this route, you’ll see statues of big name Soviet leaders—Lenin, Stalin, Marx, you name it.
Throughout the park are buildings with museum exhibits inside. All of these buildings are staffed by a woman who will appear as if by magic when you walk in, turn on the lights for you, watch you walk around, and turn the lights off after you leave.
One of the best exhibits in these museum buildings is the replica of the Soviet polling station. It is very historically accurate to what a polling station would have been like in real life.
As you walk through the route, each statue will generally have 3 information boards in front (one each in Lithuanian, Russian, and English) with information about the person.
Statues of Stalin are rare these days, as so many were destroyed following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991—probably due to the fact that Stalin had millions of Soviet citizens killed. Grutas Park a big statue of Stalin, which I was very impressed with!
One of the most important statues is this big statue of Lenin, which stood on the main street in the heart of Vilnius. The information plaques even have photos of it being pulled down! And you can see that part of his foot is missing.
The walkway, watchtowers, barbed wire, and greenery are meant to imitate what gulags/labor camps/prisons were like in the Soviet Union. There are also speakers that play Soviet anthems on the first part of the walking route. I was lucky enough to hear one of my favorite songs, Katiosha, near the big statue of Lenin! It may seem a bit tacky, but I absolutely loved it.
I took lots of pictures with the statues.
The second part of the walking route focuses more on Lithuanian Soviet heroes and leaders. There is another great museum exhibit in a building on that side though, so don’t miss it.
You can even pretend to be a Pioneer (communist youth group) yourself!
There’s also a café on site, which serves traditional Lithuanian food and some classic Soviet dishes. The borscht was excellent. There’s a gift shop across from the café.
Grutas Park was created by Viliumas Malinauskas, whose father was deported to Siberia. The Lithuanian government ran a lottery for what to do with all of the old Soviet statues. Malinauskas was the only person whose proposal didn’t ask for federal funds, and—surprise!—his idea won.
He drained the swamp on his property, brought all the statues there, and opened up Grutas Park as a way of educating people about the Soviet regime (in Lithuania and in general). As I said before, some people found his idea offensive. However, as Malinauskas’s father was imprisoned in Siberia, I think he did believe in the seriousness of it all.
I visited Grutas Park as a daytrip from Vilnius. Getting to Grutas Park by public transportation is fairly straightforward from Vilinus, although it might be a bit more complicated if you’re not traveling from the capital.
Take a bus bound for Druskininkai, the spa town about two hours south of Vilnius, from the bus station—but make sure it’s not a direct bus, since you’ll get off at Grutas. Buy your ticket (you can buy it directly from the bus driver) for Grutas, the village closest to the park, and make sure that the driver knows you’re not going all the way to Druskininkai. It’s a little less than two hours to Grutas. My ticket from Vilnius to Grutas cost 8.98€.
There’s a little bus station shelter on the side of the highway at Grutas where the Vilnius-Druskininkai bus will drop you off. Cross the highway, double back and take the nearest right turn (if you walk past the lake on your left side you’ve gone too far). From there, just follow the signs to Grutas Park, which is about 1km from the highway. There are a few signs to make sure you go the right way.
For getting back to Vilnius, you can catch a bus from the highway bus stop (on the same side of the highway as Grutas Park, across from the lake). My bus back to Vilnius cost 7.90€.
For finding the bus times to/from Grutas, you can find the national Lithuanian bus website here. It looks like there’s a bus going straight to Grutas at 7:20 and 11:00 for the morning leg of the daytrip, and coming back to Vilnius at 16:44 and 19:14. Check the website for more updated details.
Grutas Park was such a cool place, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in Soviet history, Russian or Lithuanian history in general, or just random, quirky attractions. Don’t miss it on a trip to Lithuania!
You can check out my vlog from Lithuania on my YouTube channel here!
Have you ever visited a weird/quirky attraction on your travels?