Kaunas, Lithuania With Kids
Kaunas is a hidden gem in Lithuania. It’s compact old city boasts charming accommodations and a thriving foodie scene. The easy parking (0.60 EUR/hour until 6pm, free on weekends) and proximity to attractions make Kaunas an excellent and reachable destination from Lithuania’s capital city of Vilnius. Kaunas is just an hour by train from Vilnius or an hour and fifteen minutes by car (no tolls, easy drive, plenty of driver services, lots of diversions along the way).
We only spent one night in Kaunas and that felt just about right. Those without kids can add the Ninth Fort to their itinerary and potentially stay two nights. We avoided the Ninth Fort because it was the site of Nazi executions. We also skipped the Seventh Fort because our kids had “fort fatigue.” In our third year in Europe, our kids also now also have “castle fatigue,” so we sprinkle in different activities for our kids. If your visit to Lithuania includes both Vilnius and the Baltic coastline, Kaunas makes a perfect stop between the two.
One great attraction in Kaunas is the Lithuanian Aviation Museum, the only aviation museum in Lithuania. It’s a 5 minute drive from the old city (south, over river) or a very uphill 35 minute walk.
The museum doesn’t seem to receive many visitors which explains why the staff kept popping in to ‘monitor’ us. That feels weird but otherwise the museum is very nice.
Our kids especially enjoyed the outdoor aircraft and the two rooms in which they could touch things in cockpits.
Jeff enjoyed seeing lots of Soviet era jets and helicopters. There are no close food options to the museum so eat beforehand and don’t bring hungry kids.
The museum has a fun little play area with a few ride on toys that our boys loved.
Plus a bunch of “stick your head in the hole” photo opportunities that we couldn’t pass up.
The boys loved the view of the runway. We even got a few little aircraft to tilt their wings at us.
We also always try to find items with the boys ages. This is a fun game for them and helps me remember everyone’s age when I’m flipping through photos. We found all three in the boneyard.
Back in town you’ll find plenty of space to stretch your legs. The Kaunas old city is built where the Neman and Neris rivers combine, so there is a vast floodplain on which you can walk just west of the city. It isn’t much but it has great views of the river and offers plenty of space.
Here you’ll find a playground, exercise equipment and some shade. It was more then enough to keep the boys entertained early in the morning before things opened.
You’ll also find lots of trash and broken glass so be careful.
Great food abounds in Kaunas. We dined at the Hop Doc Gastropub. The local brews and patient, English speaking staff were great. However, it’s a burger place and the evening we went, they didn’t have any burgers. That was a letdown, but the other menu items worked out great too. We also tried Piano Piano for lunch. The kids loved the food there and kept busy with the coloring sheets.
The Kaunas Castle should have been a quick visit. It’s small and you can only visit the round tower (3 floors plus basement). The displays are limited and not very polished. However, at the top of the round tower, there’s a sandbox with broken tiles for kids to find and put back together. My kids found this fascinating, so we spent an hour in the tower. Just across the street was the Ūkininkų turgelis (Farmers’ Market). It’s only open Saturdays 8-12 but we lucked out being there on a Saturday morning. The many vendors served up local cheeses, breads and vegetables. My kids loved tasting the new foods and we left with a few food souvenirs from our visit to Kaunas. It was a lot of fun going to a foreign market where nobody spoke English plus it reminded the kids that they’re lucky to have no language barriers living in the Netherlands.
In Kaunas, we stayed at the Daugirdas Hotel. It’s a well-priced four-star property with family rooms. We chose a triple (big double bed plus a single). Our room was on the fourth floor, immediately next to the rooftop bar. We thought this would be noisy but the hotel has done a nice job keeping the noise low. The buffet breakfast is served in the hotel’s historic basement and delighted our entire crew. There’s a very nice restaurant on site but it was not appropriate for young children. Our room had a view of what looked like an empty lot across the street. However, it’s an excavation site for medieval ruins and that fascinated our Big Little endlessly.
If you visit Lithuania, get out of Vilnius and take a day-trip to Kaunas. There are many delightful aspects to the city and the slow pace combined with the good food make it a great stopover.