The historic city of Vilnius (founded in 1323) is the capital of Lithuania. The Vilnius’ Old Town is the biggest in Europe and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike Riga and Tallinn in the other Baltic Republics, Vilnius is not of Germanic origin, although like these other cities it has a large old quarter which is gradually being restored. Almost all major European architectural styles are represented, although ultimately it was the Baroque which came to dominate. Any itinerary of the city should include the historic University of Vilnius, which was granted its charter in 1579, the Golden Age in the city’s history. The university is among the oldest in Central Europe and has a distinctly Renaissance feel with its inner courtyards and arcades.
|The Vilnus´ Old Town - source|
Known as the ’city of museums’, it boasts, amongst others, the Devil Museum and a memorial to those who suffered during the Nazi occupation. The most famous museum is dedicated to the works of the Lithuanian painter Ciurlionis. Kaunas also has three theaters, some 11th-century castle ruins and the old City Hall among its attractions.
|State Musical Theatre - source|
Other places of interest in Lithuania include the small riverside spa resort of Druskininkai, situated 135km (84 miles) from Vilnius, and the small town of Rumsiskes, 80km (50 miles) from Vilnius and 20km (12.5 miles) from Kaunas, with its open-air museum of wooden architecture exhibiting farmhouses from all the various regions of the country. Five strange grassy mounds mark Lithuania’s ancient capital at Kernave, another UNESCO World Heritage site.
|Druskininkai - source|
Popular seaside resorts include Palanga and Kursiu Nerija (with the settlements of Nida and Juodkrante), which are famous for their clean white sand beaches, natural sand dunes and pine forests. Palanga also boasts the Amber Museum-Gallery (website: www.ambergallery.lt) and an interesting botanical park. Nida is the last village on the Lithuanian half of the spit surrounded by endless stretches of clean white sand. A lighthouse from 1874 can be visited here, as can the Thomas Mann Cultural Center, situated in the house where the German writer spent his holidays between 1930 and 1932. There is the award winning Park of Soviet Sculptures at Gruto Parkas, which reminds visitors of some of Lithuania’s grim past.