True Lithuania

Lithuania for special needs

If you are interested not merely in sightseeing in Lithuania (or you have special needs), here are some ideas:

*Family Lithuania. 10 sights that will interest your kids without keeping you too bored.

*Shopper's Lithuania. 10 best places to shop in Lithuania (will suit every taste and wallet size).

*Fun and rest in Lithuania. 10 top ideas on what to do in Lithuania's resorts.

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10 Places for Fun and Rest in Lithuania

Lithuania may have a short summer season (May-September), but Lithuanians know how to use it to the fullest. The seaside resorts swell 10 or even 100 times during summer weekends. At the same time, new indoor developments allow swimming in winter and ski in summer. Here are top 10 ideas for resting and having fun in Lithuania's resorts:

1.Make the best of the Curonian Lagoon at Nida, where many boat owners offer summer activities ranging from angling to gazing at spectacular dunes from the lagoon.

2.Ski regardless of the season at Indoor Ski slope at Druskininkai. Among the world's largest, it even has a cable car approaching it from the town.

3.Chill at the Basanavičiaus street of Palanga, the prime 2 km of fun. The pedestrianized street has many restaurants, bars, and clubs, most of them offering outdoor concerts every summer weekend. There are also funfairs, shops, events and crowds of people. Out of season it is much calmer save for festival weekends.

4.Hike and bike in the Curonian Spit, basing yourself in one of its five villages. 50 km of that slim UNESCO-inscribed forested peninsula is within Lithuania, all of it spanned by a bicycle route that passes interesting locations (bird colony, dunes reserve). Entire western shore is a glorious beach, pretty much empty between villages.

5.Enjoy procedures and mineral waters at the Spas of Druskininkai. Lithuania's 19th-century wooden mineral springs resort has gone upscale, offering high-quality amenities, safeguarded nature and classy activities. It's the only Lithuanian resort to attract more foreigners than locals.

6.Thrill at Druskininkai Water park which has water rides and massive baths complex. For some outdoor fun, you can also visit a nearby Adventure park, offering canopy walkways, ziplining and other tracks.

7.Complete your seaside vacation by witnessing the Baltic Sea sunset. As the entire Lithuanian shoreline faces West you may see it at any place, but Palanga sea bridge is held to be the most romantic location for that view of the reddish sun "drowning" in the sea.

8.Experience how Lithuanians manage to have their seaside holidays their cool climate by sunbathing among the Seaside dunes of Palanga. The dunes cover all the wind and none of the sun. Even in the colder days it may get too hot - but then you can always take a shade under the trees or "get out of dunes" to the nearby sea to cool off.

9.Enjoy the "essence of Lithuania" at one of its countless Countryside tourism farmsteads. Routine activities of times gone-by there become recreation for city-dwellers. They include traditional Baltic bathhouses, lakeside fun (boating, swimming, angling), horse riding, animal contact and others, depending on the farmstead.

10.Sunbath at one of Lithuania's Gender-segregated naturist beaches. They pre-date Western naturism by far. Pre-WW2 Western diplomats used to be appalled that "uncivilized Lithuanians go to the beaches naked". Ironically, merely a few decades passed before naturism became a new fad in the West.

Map of the top 10 locations for recreation and resort entertainment in Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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For families: Top 10 Child-friendly places

Lithuania may lack a Disneyland-style theme park but a multitude of places can be well enjoyed by children and their parents alike.

1.Spend a day at Druskininkai Indoor Water Theme Park, where there are both twisting water slides and a wide array of calm saunas and pools.

2.Vilnius Indoor Water Theme Park is a somewhat smaller alternative to Druskininkai, but a more convenient one if you anchor your trip in the capital of Lithuania (Soviet boroughs). The next-door Ozas hypermarket offers a large non-wet zone of attractions, from to "rock climbing" to foosball.

3.Explore the Vilnius toy museum (in the Old Town) that is especially rich in Soviet toys and copies of Medieval toys. Children may enjoy the toys (playing allowed with some) while adults may either remember their childhood or be interested in learning what toys Lithuanians of their age played in their childhood years.

4.Explore the Museum of Military Vehicles in Vilnius (Antakalnis borough). Many vehicles there may be freely entered.

5.Seek for entertainment at the Basanavičiaus street at Palanga in summer. It hosts numerous seasonal rides, "4D"-to-"9D" cinemas and lotteries while adults may be more interested in live gigs and other events.

6.Cross the Curonian Lagoon to Klaipėda dolphinarium in Smiltynė. Dolphin shows there are aimed at children but may impress a grown-up as well. This is Lithuania where basketball is the second religion, so dolphins show their ability to perform slam dunks. For additional fauna-related family fun, Klaipėda suburbs also host a mini-zoo and a park of dinosaur sculptures.

7.Spectate a match of motoball in Kretinga, which is a kind of football played on motorcycles, practiced only in a few countries. The season is spring-to-autumn.

8.Chill at the HBH park near Palanga. It is large but the rides are "low-scale" without a single theme, such as overbloated replica beetles, a collection of old Soviet cars, a zorbing hill and a paintball field. Adults may also enjoy a multitude of Lithuanian cuisine restaurants.

9.If it is summer you may also visit the nearby family-friendly resort of Šventoji, where there are arguably more rides, rental boats, and other such entertainment. Moreover, the possibility of swinging a narrow pedestrian bridge (so-called "Monkey bridge") while others are walking on it mesmerizes kids.

10.Visit the Museum of Technology in Vilnius. Located in a former power plant (Žirmūnai borough) its old array of turbines has been joined by historic cars and "science games" where children may learn some physics through experimentation.

Map of the top 10 family-friendly sites in Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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Shopping in Lithuania: Top 10

Lithuania is full of diverse shopping experiences. Great shopping malls, equally massive dusty "Wild East" bazaars, high streets and fairs full of craftsmen stalls each have their appeal. Here are our top 10 ideas for buying something in Lithuania at the best price-to-quality (or price-to-experience) ratio - whether you need souvenirs to take home, food or imported goods.

1.Do what the locals do: spend an evening or a Saturday at Akropolis mall in Vilnius (Šeškinė borough). And it's not just the Lithuanians: Eastern European tourists have been flocking to Lithuania just to visit this single mall since it opened 2000. Other cities received their own Akropolis malls and copycats. Some of them are far cozier and better planned, yet both the size (100 000 sq. m) and popularity of the original Akropolis remains unmatched.

2.Akropolis may be the largest mall, but Gariūnai bazaar (Vilnius suburbs) is still the nation's largest trading zone. Full of small businesses (split among an old open-air zone and a tamer indoor area) it stocks mostly cheaper goods (haggling recommended). Back in the 1990s, Gariūnai was the place where Lithuanian businessmen first tried out their entrepreneurship and where consumers discovered Western and Asian goods - and some of that frontier feel still remains. By the way, if you need a used car a massive Gariūnai car market is nearby.

3.Arrange your Lithuanian visit during the annual Kaziukas Fair (the weekend nearest to March 4th). Taking place in Vilnius since 1636 it attracts thousands of salesmen from all over the country and beyond with an emphasis on ethnic art and crafts, making it a great place to bring back something Lithuanian. To locals Verbos of Vilnius are a must buy, but they are hard to transport.

4.Stroll at the Lithuania's top high street, Gedimino Avenue of Vilnius (Naujamiestis borough). The part of the street closer to the Cathedral has more upscale shopping opportunities and global trademarks. Moreover, during some festival weekends Gedimino Avenue is pedestrianized and becomes a fair where souvenirs are available. Other cities have their high streets too, but the smaller the city the more outcompeted by local malls they have become.

5.Take a detour from A1 highway to Rietavas bazaar, the Lithuania's largest weekly market. Every Sunday thousands of part-time salesmen arrive at this location in the middle of nowhere to sell their goods right out of cars or makeshift tents. The prices are especially low.

6.Learn the dates of upcoming town festivals. In addition to Catholic masses and Lithuanian musician concerts, they also transform the main streets into ad hoc shopping arcades, offering goods made by local craftsmen (among other things).

7.Buy international-style Lithuanian souvenirs at a supermarket. The souvenir stands at high streets tend to be limited and overpriced (unless you visit during fairs) but luckily the main urban supermarkets have their own souvenir sections for Lithuania-related t-shirts, magnets, and postcards.

8.Check the Amber market at Palanga if you fancy the Lithuanian "national mineral". Small in size it still has a competitive array of amber-clad goods and art items. Nearby stalls offer other types of souvenirs, such as paintings.

9.If you are into old things and antiquities, don't miss the Tauras hill in Vilnius New Town on Saturday mornings, when like-minded individuals meet up for some trading.

10.Stop by the makeshift roadside stalls during the berries and mushrooms season. Available at the major roads by the forests (especially in Dzūkija) they are erected by common people who sell what they have foraged in the forest (which is a popular Lithuanian hobby).

Map of the top 10 shopping sites in Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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