Lively Kaunas, 100 kilometres west of Vilnius, is Lithuania’s second largest city. Some people find it to be an industrial city with sprawling suburbs, while for others it’s an edgy urban centre with a vibrant youth culture thanks to its sizable student population. However you see it, it has some handsome architecture and poignant historic sights, including castle ruins.
While this waterside city, located at the confluence of the Neris and Nemunas Rivers, dates back to the 13th century, Kaunas didn’t really begin to flourish until the 15th and 16th centuries when it developed into a busy river trading centre, with German merchants establishing an important presence here. The town’s finest architecture, such as the baroque 17th century Pažaislis Monastery, which has a lavish marble interior and massive cupola, dates to this boom period. While Kaunas owed much of its success to its strategic riverside position, the location was also to blame for its suffering – the town was destroyed 14 times by enemies, the last time during World War II.