At least one million tourists arrived to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, in 2016. The statistics states 80% of the visitors actually don’t experience anything more than Vilnius. Will 2017 see a change in the percentage?
Kaunas, the second city in Lithuania, is waiting for the big news in March – it’ll then be announced if the city will bear the title of the European Capital of Culture in 2022 (fingers crossed…). That and numerous other factors should benefit greatly to tourism in Kaunas – the numbers have already been growing in the past years.
We’ve put together 11 (out of hundreds, to be frank) reasons to visit Kaunas in 2017. Which will be the decisive in your holiday plans?
1. To fall for modern architecture
All year round
The outstanding heritage of the golden period of Kaunas that lasted from it becoming the provisional capital in 1919 until the Soviet occupation in 1940 was awarded the European Heritage Label by the European Commission in 2015 – we hope including it in the UNESCO heritage list is in the near future. Kaunas already bears the title of UNESCO City of Design, by the way! The best way to discover the architecture – both private houses and public buildings – is of course on foot. There’s a great guide to help you do that and it fits right into your smartphone. The app called “Kaunas of 1919-1940” introduces the history of 44 objects of Kaunas interwar modernism architecture and offers different routes in Kaunas, including the city centre, Žaliakalnis, Gričiupis, Aleksotas, and Šančiai. You can also find blogs, Instagram accounts, articles books and people of Kaunas, both professionals and enthusiasts, that are dedicated to modern architecture – the numbers keep growing.
Central Post Office by Feliksas Vizbaras. Photo by Rokas Tenys/kasvyksta.lt
2. To visit 3000 devils, meet the same number of clowns and try out a gas mask
All year round
The only devils’ museum in the world has been the top Kaunas attraction for years – and it’s well worth it. Did you know there’s also a pretty unique clown museum hidden in a charming wooden house in Šančiai neighbourhood, itself worth at least half a day of your time? We also recommend “Atomic bunker” boasting a vast collection of gas masks, aviation museum in a historic airport, the recently renewed National M. K. Čiurlionis museum of art and its departments, the "Stumbras" liqueur museum and a medicine museum that actually owns a vintage pharmacy. Kaunas is also full of memorial museums located in flats of famous residents – visiting them is a very interesting way to get to know our history.
3. To meet Chiune Sugihara and Jan Zwartendijk
All year round
The Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara saved the lives of a few thousand people in the wake of WW2 by issuing them transit visas. The latter were needed to be able to travel to Curacao, a Dutch colony – the route was proposed by a Dutch businessman-turned-consul Jan Zwartendijk. The people of Kaunas have been and always will be thankful for their deeds that have been recognized worldwide by the Righteous Among The Nations award. To find out more about the two men and their stories, we suggest you start at the Sugihara House in Žaliakalnis. The building of the former Japanese consulate is now a museum; its employees will help you to discover more – they’ll also give you a map of the Sugihara route.
4. To cheer at Youth Sports Games
The International Children's Games were founded in 1968 with the aim of promoting peace and friendship through sports to the world's youth. The 51st edition of the International Olympic Committee-sanctioned event will take place in Kaunas in July. The ambassador of the games is Rūta Meilutytė, the Kaunas-born London 2012 Gold Medal Winner in 100 m women’s breaststroke, who started her winning story in the 2010 International Children’s Games in Bahrain.
The most important scientific event for the international semiotic community, organized since 1974, will travel to Lithuania for the first time in Lithuania in 2017. The congress, themed „Cross-Inter-Multi-Trans”, and called “a celebration of interactions, contaminations and relations”, will take place in the premises of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities of Kaunas University of Technology. A section of the programme will be dedicated to Algirdas Julien Greimas, a French-Lithuanian literary scientist born in 1917.
6. To wear medieval armour during the Hanseatic days
May 19-21 th
One of the most significant cultural events in Kaunas is the city-wide birthday of Kaunas city. The medieval theme and intense program of the annual celebration distinguishes it from the rest of Lithuania. Yes, that’s true - Kaunas is the only Hanseatic city in the country. In 2011, the city birthday coincided with the Hanseatic Days of New Time, an international feast co-organized by the New Hanseatic League (that’s 162 cities and 15 countries!).
7. To indulge in the Baltic cuisine
All year round
“Despite fierce competition from heavyweights across the continent, Baltic cuisine is finally hitting the headlines”, starts a story about Uoksas, one of the best restaurants in Kaunas. The article was published in Wizz Magazine available for free in all Wizzair flights and its idea sprung from a fact that Uoksas, together with Monte Pacis, was included in prominent White Guide Nordic, the prominent Scandinavian gastronomic bible. The executive chef of Uoksas, Arturas Naidenko, says the listing will help in their efforts to rebrand Baltic cuisine. As the headline of the Uoksas entry in the guide says “Creative kitchen with top potential”, there’s no doubt about that!
A new mouthwatering guide has just been published by the creative team behind Lithuania’s most valued - and most beautiful - culinary magazine VMG (Kitchen Myth Busters). The English-language book ’99 Places of Taste in the Baltics’ focuses on restaurants in all of the three Baltic states. Dia, Uoksas, Monte Pacis, Ieti and Režisierius are representing Kaunas in the guide.
Moreover, a special gastronomic map of Kaunas will be published in time for the tourism exhibition “Adventur” that’s scheduled for Jan 20-22th in Vilnius.
The contemporary art biennial has developed from a textile-oriented event to one of the most important happenings of its kind in Europe. In autumn of 2017, The 11th Kaunas Biennial will seek to oppose monopolistically populist practice of removing-erecting and conservative traditionalism, prevalent in the memory discourse of public art in Lithuania, and to stimulate and legitimise radically new, contemporary, conceptual, relevant ideas and strategies for remembrance.
It’s possible and much advised to combine your trip to the biennial with attending at least a couple of shows of the AURA International dance festival scheduled for October. AURA is the only municipal theatre of contemporary dance in Lithuania; its history dates back to 1980. The international dance festival was for the first time organized in 1989 and is now an important tradition that encourages popularity of contemporary dance and enriches cultural life of Kaunas and beyond.
Some people don’t like basketball. Most of them change their minds after visiting a home game of Žalgiris, Lithuania’s oldest (est. 1940) and most awarded professional basketball team. The fans of the team have beaten several attendance records of Euroleague, the most prestigious basketball tournament in the old continent. That’s impressive considering the Žalgiris arena is the biggest in the Baltics. Do visit the Žalgiris shop conveniently located on Daukanto st. on the way to the arena and treat yourself with a green-white scarf before the game.
10. To invest and collaborate
All year round
Last, but by no means least, is “Kaunas IN”. The newly established institution is responsible for attracting foreign investments and tourists to Kaunas through international marketing. “Kaunas IN” will also take care of increasing the city’s flight destinations and promoting the city and its tourist services. The new institution is starting to work in close collaboration with “Investuok Lietuvoje“, various institutions of higher education and other partners.
OK, one more. Articles about new routes to and from Kaunas have been more and more frequent recently. It’s possible to fly here from London, Eindhoven, Bergen, Copenhagen, Naples, Dublin, Bristol etc. But the most interesting part of the section is what will happen in from 14 July till 18 August 2017. During that period the runway of Vilnius Airport will be under reconstruction and the majority of airlines will divert their flights to Kaunas Airport.
Connections to the major cities of Europe will remain great, and the number of flights going in certain directions may even increase, making this a perfect opportunity to plan a trip Kaunas for your summer holidays. Currently, there are 18 airlines having regular flights to Vilnius Airport, majority of which already confirmed their plans to divert flights to Kaunas and Palanga Airports. Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Finnair, Lufthansa, LOT Polish Airlines, SAS – these and other airlines will operate according to pre-approved schedules.
Contact the the Kaunas Tourism information office at Laisvės al. 36 or the Town Hall, follow @kaunastic and like It's Kaunastic on Facebook! Oh, and you can also subscribe our newsletter for good news from Kaunas every two weeks.
See you in 2017!