Lovely, laidback Lithuania, with its beautiful baroque little capital Vilnius, must be Europe’s most underrated destination. Yet its rich history and folk culture, compact size, moderate weather and natural beauty make it an absolute delight to explore. Located on the Baltic Sea, its neighbours include Latvia to the north, Belarus in the east, Poland in the southwest, and Russian Kaliningrad to the west.
While the name Lithuania was first mentioned in 1009, it didn’t begin to develop until the 13th century, however, by the middle ages Lithuania stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea, becoming Europe’s largest state. It also became one of its most prosperous; Lithuania’s wealth built upon trade and crafts and boasted one of Europe’s first important learning institutions, Vilnius University, established in 1579. After uniting with Poland to form a commonwealth in 1569, by the 16th century Lithuania had created an enviable legislative system that would influence other European states. Adopted in 1791, the Constitution of Poland-Lithuania, along with the French Constitution, would become Europe’s first constitutions.