Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania and has historically been a leading centre of Lithuanian economic, academic, and cultural life. It became the only temporary capital city in Europe during the Interwar period. Now it is the capital of Kaunas County, the seat of the Kaunas city municipality and the Kaunas district municipality. It is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kaunas. Kaunas is located at the confluence of the two largest Lithuanian rivers, the Nemunas and the Neris, and near the Kaunas Reservoir, the largest body of water entirely in Lithuania.
An old legend claims that Kaunas was established by the Romans in ancient times. These Romans were supposedly led by a patrician named Palemon, who had three sons - Barcus, Kunas and Sperus. Palemon fled from Rome because he feared the mad Emperor Nero. Palemon, his sons and other relatives traveled all the way to Lithuania.
After Palemon's death, his sons divided his land. Kunas got the land where Kaunas now stands. He built a fortress near the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers, and the city that grew up there was named after him.
How is it now?
Kaunas is a large centre of industry, trade and services in Lithuania. The most developed industries in Kaunas are: food and beverage industry, textile and light industry, chemical industry, publishing and processing, pharmaceuticals, metal industry, wood processing and furniture industry. Recently information technology and electronics have become an important area of business activities in Kaunas.
Kaunas is notable for the diverse culture life. Kaunas Symphony Orchestra is the main venue for classical music concerts. There are professional theatres, lots of amateur theatres, ensembles, abundant groups of art and sports. There is an old circus tradition in Kaunas: the only professional circus organization in Lithuania (Baltic Circus) was founded in Kaunas in 1995. Kaunas is also often called a city of museums, because of the abundance and variety of them.
Kaunas International Airport (KUN) is one of the biggest airports in the Baltic states. It was the fastest growing airport in the Baltic states in 2009 and 2010. The smaller S. Darius and S. Girėnas Airport, established in 1915, is located about three kilometers south of the city centre. It is one the oldest still functioning airports in Europe used for tourism and air sports purposes and now hosts the Lithuanian Aviation Museum.
The city of Kaunas has a number of parks and public open spaces. It devotes 7.3% of its total land acreage to parkland. Ąžuolynas (literally, "Oak Grove") park is a main public park in the heart of Kaunas. It covers about 63 hectares and is the largest urban stand of mature oaks in Europe. By the initiative of a prominent Lithuanian zoologist Tadas Ivanauskas, the Kaunas Botanical Garden was founded in 1923. It serves not only as a recreational area for public, but also serves as a showcase for local plant life, and houses various research facilities.
What are the main points of interest?
the Kaunas Castle, a 14th century fortification;
the Vytautas' Church, one of the oldest churches in Lithuania and the oldest in Kaunas;
the Kaunas Cathedral Basilica, the largest Gothic building in Lithuania, with a late Baroque interior;
the Pažaislis abbey, an impressive complex in Baroque style;
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Eternal flame, and Statues of Lithuanian national renaissance figures, located in the Vienybės square in front of the War museum;
the Christ’s Resurrection Church with an unfolding panoramic view of the city;
Kaunas Zoo, the only state-operated zoo in Lithuania;
Kaunas Fortress, one of the largest defensive structures in Europe, occupying 65 km2 (25 sq mi), a 19-20th century military fortress, which includes a Holocaust site of the Ninth Fort;
Kaunas Town Hall and the square;
Two funiculars - Žaliakalnis Funicular Railway and the Aleksotas Funicular Railway;
the Lithuanian open-air Ethnographic Museum displaying the heritage of Lithuanian rural life in a vast collection of authentic resurrected buildings is situated east of Kaunas on the bank of Kaunas Reservoir in a town of Rumšiškės;
Did you know that Kaunas…
… is often referred to as a city of students, as there are about 50,000 students enrolled in its universities?
… has hosted the knockout stage of the European Basketball Championship of 2011?
…had its first railway connection constructed in 1859-1861 and opened in 1862?
… is one of the most Lithuanian cities in the country with almost 93 percent of its citizens being ethnic Lithuanians?
… has the highest aquarium in the Baltic States, also considered as one of the top ten highest aquariums in the world, standing in “Mega” shopping center?
… has were 34 bridges and viaducts built in the city, since Kaunas is located at the confluence of two rivers?
…is the birthplace or childhood home of many of the country's top basketball stars, such as Arvydas Sabonis, Šarūnas Marčiulionis, Linas Kleiza and Šarūnas Jasikevičius?
… holds more than 2,2 million volumes of literature in Kaunas County Public Library collection?