This Baltic nation is filled with reminders of its medieval and Soviet pasts, as well as a relaxing seaside where it’s easy to forget anything unpleasant happened.
After seven centuries of history as a wealthy trade nation, Lithuania spent the 20th century under Nazi and Soviet occupation. It reemerged respectably, becoming one of the first USSR nations to declare its independence and later join the European Union. However, its face was forever changed, with Soviet fortresses abutting its medieval Old Towns. Visit to see its blend of medieval and Soviet grandeur, forested countryside and busy Baltic resorts.
Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius contains an impressive display of historic structures. The extensive Old Town features cobbled streets and an array of impressive castles and churches. The Cathedral of Saint Stanislav and Saint Vladislav is a bright-white neoclassical church, while the 16th-century St. Anne’s Church is a well-preserved Gothic structure crowned by several red-brick towers. Take a funicular to the hilltop Gediminas Tower to look out over the medieval city center.
Explore Lithuania’s cities to find artifacts from the country’s twentieth century. One of the oddest memorials is Vilnius’ Grūtas Park, which is filled with gaudy Soviet sculptures. Stand next to larger-than-life versions of Lenin and Stalin as you tour the park. Head to the outskirts of Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city, to find the dark side of Lithuania’s recent history at the Ninth Fort. The complex’s exhibits are divided between its days as a Nazi death camp and as a transit point for prisoners of Stalin’s regime.
For lighter fare, head to Lithuania’s Baltic coast. From June to September, the resort town of Palanga fills with vacationers wishing to enjoy its lengthy beach. Head south to reach Klaipėda, the gateway to the 60-mile- (100-kilometer-) long Curonian Spit. In places, this slender landmass is less than 550 yards (500 meters) wide. It features a bike path running along its beaches and sand dunes.
Reach Lithuania by flying into the Vilnius International Airport. Otherwise, arrive by Baltic ferry from Sweden or Germany to start your stay with a glimpse of Lithuania’s beautiful seaside.