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Travelling the Baltics - Backpacking Lithuania by public transport

Author Carina Klein
Carina
· 13 min read · 1 comments

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TL;DR

Travel Lithuania by bus and train. This Lithuania 7 days itinerary highlights what to see and what to do in Lithuania beyond the capital Vilnius. Including our handy bucketlist2life map!

Lithuania might just be the best Baltic country to visit. It’s definitely the cheapest. The public transport by bus and train is amazing. The food is hearty and affordable. There’s a great variety of Lithuanian cities like Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipeda as well as beaches like on the Curonian Spit and Palanga.

This blogpost highlights the best places to visit in one week in Lithuania - whether you travel the Baltics as a whole or just Lithuania.

Lithuania public transport

Lithuania bus

Buses in Lithuania are cost-efficient and run frequently. It’s easy to go on day trips with local buses. You can easily purchase tickets for local and long-distance buses online.

Lithuania train

Trains are a great alternative to buses although the network is not as extensive as the bus network. It’s the best way to get from Vilnius to Kaunas. You can easily purchase train tickets online.

Picture of Vilnius train station
Vilnius train station

7 days Lithuania itinerary

  • 3 days in Vilnius
    • Old Town
    • Modern City
    • Day trip: Trakai
  • 2 days in Kaunas
    • Old Town and Kaunas Modernism
    • Day trip: Ninth Fort
  • 2 days in Klaipeda
    • Old Town
    • Day trip: Curonian Spit

What to do in Lithuania

Backpacking Vilnius, Lithuania

Is Vilnius worth visiting?

Yes! We probably shouldn’t pick favourites but it was our favourite capital of our tour of the Baltics. The combination of the historic city centre with the artsy Užupis area offers it all. The food in Vilnius was the cheapest of all Baltic capitals. If you look around, you can find a hearty local dinner for under 5€.

What to see in Vilnius?

As in every capital city, start your trip with a free walking tour to get an overview.

Our highlights in the city centre include:

  • The view from Gediminas’s tower
  • The stunning cathedral and Cathedral Square
  • Town Hall Square
  • Gothic St. Anne’s Church
  • Stroll Along Pilies Street and Gediminas Avenue
  • The open-air gallery at Literatai Street

Every last Sunday of the month, museums are free of charge. We visited the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the National Museum of Lithuania. To be honest, we wouldn’t pay for the Palace because the exhibition was super text-heavy and not very well presented.

Our highlights outside the city centre include:

  • Looking for street art. This works especially well in the free republic of Užupis but you can find art scattered around the city.
  • Enjoy street food at **Halės turgus market** where you can indulge in local foods like gherkins, traditional meats like Skilandis, and traditional cheeses like Dziugas.
  • Enjoy the view from the three crosses. If you have nice weather this is a great spot to bring a drink or a little picnic as well.
Picture of Vilnius, Three Crosses
Vilnius, Three Crosses

Don’t miss the modern part of town. In contrast to most content you find online, Vilnius is more than the old town.

  • A must-visit are the modern skyscrapers of Šnipiškės, which directly neighbour old wooden houses without paved roads and many of them without running water. Make sure to be respectful when you walk around this area as it’s where people actually live.
  • There is loads of old Soviet architecture, with the Palace of Concerts and Sports probably being the most notable.
  • Enjoy the view from the Swedbank tower across River Neris - it’s completely free!
  • Speaking of River Neris: There is a beautiful riverside walk.
  • Last but not least Lukiškės Prison is a must for Stranger Things fans. You can book guided tours in this old prison which is a cultural space as well as a filming location for shows like Stranger Things nowadays.
Picture of Vilnius, Šnipiškės
Vilnius, Šnipiškės

How many days in Vilnius?

You need at least 3 days in Vilnius:

  • 1 day for the city centre and old town
  • 1 day for the modern part of town
  • 1 day for a daytrip to Trakai

Best Hostel in Vilnius

We stayed at Mikalo House. The location was super central and the price was great. The staff was extremely friendly but the beds could have been sturdier and one shower is barely enough for the whole hostel.

Day trips from Vilnius

Trakai

The most notable and easiest day trip from Vilnius is Trakai.

Of course, the highlight is the Trakai Island Castle - and the castle alone is worth the visit. You can either just look around the outside or pay the entrance fee to enter the courtyards and exhibitions.

Don’t make the mistake to think that this is the only thing you can do in Trakai. You can also:

  • Walk along the lakeside. There are many benches and even swings! Don’t miss the observation deck.
  • Explore cute wooden houses.
  • Learn about Karaite Judaism and visit the Karaite Ethnographic Museum as well as the Trakai Kenesa Karaite House of Prayer.
  • Old Trakai Castle houses the Trakai History Museum.
  • For a more tacky attraction, you can visit the AJ Chocolate Museum, for a more low-key experience you can just have a little chocolate break here.

How to get from Vilnius to Trakai by public transport

The easiest way to get from Vilnius to Trakai is by bus. It runs approximately every 30 minutes throughout the day and costs 2,60€. It’s a bit of a walk to the castle but it’s beautiful and worthwhile. We recommend the bus over the train as it runs more frequently and the walk is a bit shorter.

Picture of Trakai
Trakai

Kernavė

Kernavė was the first capital of Lithuania. The Cultural Reserve of Kernavė belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage list. The archaeological site consists of 5 mounds which demonstrate 11,000 years of continuous human use.

How to get from Vilnius to Kernavė by public transport

Only 6 buses per day go from Vilnius to Kernavė so make sure to time your visit.

Paneriai Holocaust Memorial

The Paneriai massacre was the mass murder of up to 100,000 people, mostly Jews, Poles, and Russians by Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators during World War II. The murders took place between July 1941 and August 1944 near the railway station at Paneriai, a suburb of Vilnius.

How to get from Vilnius to Paneriai by public transport

The train from Vilnius to Paneriai runs super frequently (often more than once per hour), takes under 10 minutes and costs less than 1€ so there’s no reason to visit this bleak part of Lithuanian history.

Backpacking Kaunas, Lithuania

Is Kaunas worth visiting?

Yes! Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania and was its capital from 1920 to 1940. Kaunas Modernism architecture is super interesting. The city is very different from Vilnius and hence a great addition to your Lithuania itinerary.

What to see in Kaunas?

  • The cute old town is by no means the highlight of this city. Still, many of the must-see places of Kaunas are located in this part of the city: St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Town Hall, and the House of Perkūnas, the oldest house in Kaunas.
  • Stroll along **Vilniaus street** and **Laisves avenue**. With more than 2 km (1 mi) they form one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe with many restaurants, bars, and shops.
Picture of Kaunas
Laisves avenue, Kaunas
  • The remnants of the castle are worth a quick visit.
  • Kaunas lies at the confluence of the two most important rivers of Lithuania, Memel and Neris. Make sure to visit the spot where they meet and look for the Pagan shrine which is still in use.
  • Enjoy the view from Christ's Resurrection Church. While the inside is mostly plain and white the view from the terrace is truly spectacular. To reach the church you can either walk or take the funicular.
  • Kaunas does not only have one funicular but two. The second one leads to Aleksotas Observation Deck from where you’ll have a nice free view over the Memel River and Kaunas. Of course, you can also walk.
  • Eat doughnuts at Spurginė. Eat all of them - sweet and savoury - and wash them down with a chicken broth.
  • Hunt for Kaunas Modernist architecture. Noteworthy examples are the Kaunas Central Post Office, Vytautas Magnus War Museum and M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum (which are actually the same building), and the Bank of Lithuania.
  • Find the Lithuanian crosses next to the eternal flame. Did you know that they are part of the UNESCO World Heritage?
  • Eat incredible cheap and delicious food at A. Andriukaitienės Firmos Valgykla or canteen.
  • Visit the many museums. The Devil Museum is a quirky choice but there’s also the Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas Apartment-Museum (Vaižgantas is the most prominent writer and publicist of the early 20th century) and Museum of Lithuanian Medicine and Pharmacy as well as many more.
  • Look for street art. The not so hidden anymore Yard Gallery is the best address in town but there are murals all over the place if you keep your eyes open.
Picture of Yard Gallery, Kaunas
Yard Gallery, Kaunas

How many days in Kaunas?

You can easily spend two days in Kaunas. There is plenty to see in the city centre, loads of museums, and, of course, the day trip to the Ninth Fort.

How to get from Vilnius to Kaunas by public transport

A bus ticket costs around 9€. Buses run at least every 30 minutes during the day so you don’t really have to plan ahead. The ride takes under 2 hours.

At around 7€, the train is even cheaper. It runs around every hour, takes under 2 hours, and is super comfortable.

Best Hostel in Kaunas

We stayed at The Monk's Bunk Kaunas which was right on the main street, clean, and had a good vibe.

Day trips from Kaunas

Ninth Fort

The Ninth Fort is a part of the Kaunas Fortress, which was constructed in the late 19th century. During the occupation by the Soviet Union, the fort was used as a prison and way-station for prisoners being transported to labour camps. After the occupation of Lithuania by Nazi Germany, the fort was used as a place of execution for Jews and others.

How to get from Kaunas to the Ninth Fort by public transport

On weekdays, bus 57G runs several times from Kaunas city centre to the Ninth Fort. On weekends, the buses run less frequently.

Backpacking Klaipeda, Lithuania

Is Klaipeda worth visiting?

Yes, Klaipeda is worth visiting. It is very different from Vilnius and Kaunas with an abundance of German architecture. Klaipėda's Old Town is unique in Lithuania with its fachwerk architectural style and the planned street structure. Additionally, it’s the perfect jumping-off point for Lithuanian beaches.

What to see in Klaipeda?

  • Stroll through the old town. Do not miss Friedricho pasažas, the most picturesque street in town, and Theatre Square.
  • Walk around the harbour. The ferries to the Curonian Spit and Germany leave here but you can also see many bigger and smaller ships.
  • Walk along the Dane River.
  • Have a drink at VIVALAVITA rooftop bar. You can look over the Curonian spit and the prices are reasonable.
  • Have a beer at Svyturys brewery, Lithuania's second-oldest brewery.
  • Klaipeda Fort or Memelburg is not nearly as spectacular as Trakai. It features a nice museum though.
  • The Sculpture Park was unfortunately closed when we visited so we have to trust the internet when it says that it’s worth a visit.

How many days in Klaipeda?

Two days should be enough to see Klaipeda. You should budget one day to see the Curonian Spit and some additional time if you want to hit the beach at Palanga.

How to get from Kaunas to Klaipeda by public transport

No trains are running from Kaunas to Klaipeda so the bus is your best option. Buses run approximately once per hour during the day and cost around 20€.

Best Hostel in Klaipeda

We stayed at Klaipeda Hostel. You cannot beat the location right next to the bus station, the kitchen was well equipped and there was a decent amount of showers and toilets.

Picture of Klaipeda
Klaipeda

Day trips from Klaipeda

Curonian Spit, Lithuania

The Curonian Spit is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, It is a 98-kilometre (61 mi) long, thin, curved sand-dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Its southern portion lies within Russia and its northern within Lithuania. Nida on the southern end is not only a famous seaside resort but also known for the second largest sand dunes in Europe.

The sand dunes in Nidda are impressive but you should also visit some of the other sights like

  • The colourful fisherman’s houses.
  • Nida lighthouse (which is not open every day).
  • The beach which seems to be endless.
  • The old German cemetery with its unique wooden crosses.
  • If you have the time, hike the “Around Nida Trail”. It’s 9 km (5.5 mi) long and well-signposted. It will bring you to the major highlights in the Nida area and we loved it.

How to get from Klaipeda to the Curonian Spit by public transport

There are basically two options:

  1. You can take the foot passenger ferry from Klaipeda old town. It runs super often and costs 1,30€. Here, you can walk around on foot, explore the area by rental bike (although we must say that we did not really see a bike rental place), or hop on the bus to Nida. The bus runs around every two hours so plan your trip in advance.
  2. You can hop on the direct bus from Klaipeda bus station to Nida which takes the car ferry south of the centre. Two buses are going there and two buses going back so you have to plan your trip even more carefully.

We took option 1 there and option 2 back.

Palanga

The spa town Palanga is the centre of Lithuania's 100 km (62mi) long Baltic Sea coast.

How to get from Klaipeda to Palanga by public transport

Buses from Klaipeda to Palanga run every 30 to 60 minutes during the day. A one-way ticket costs 2-3€.

Picture of Curonian Spit
Curonian Spit

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Jan

25.11.2022, 14:39

I agree that the walking tour is the best way to get a glimpse of a city, as well as a step closer into a city's inner psyche. The best part - it's free! #flyingbaguette

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

25.11.2022, 20:45

You always find the most lyrical descriptions for the simplest things 🙂