The southernmost of the Baltic states, Lithuania is home to some of Europe’s most captivating castles, with everything from medieval to modern fortresses dotted across the country.
Lithuania’s assortment of stone and brick castles date back to the 13th and 14th centuries, each serving as a reminder of the nation’s rich cultural past. Some are located close to its main urban centres, while others can be found in more distant corners of the country. If you’d like to visit any of these fairytale-esque edifices for yourself, then many are open to the public to take a look around. Here are 7 of the best castles that Lithuania has to offer.
Trakai Island Castle
All of Lithuania’s Grand Dukes lived in this fairly tale-like Trakai Island Castle during their various reigns – and it’s easy to see why they enjoyed the privilege. Built on an island on Lake Galve in the town of Trakai, southeastern Lithuania, the gothic castle is without question one of Europe’s most visually arresting fortresses. Accessible via a pedestrian bridge, the 14th-century stronghold originally served as a defensive fortification before later being converted into a residential building and then a prison. Today, the castle remains one of the country’s most important historical and architectural landmark and houses a fascinating museum, as well as playing host to regular cultural events and festivals.
Karaimų g. 43C, 21104 Trakai
The nation of Lithuania was barely out of nappies by the time Kaunas Castle was built during the mid-14th century. Situated in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city, at the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers, the country’s oldest stone castle was originally constructed to defend the motherland from invaders before later serving as a prison – the legacy of which, folklore has it, can be found in the former inmates who are said to stalk the castle with their ethereal presence long after their deaths. Two well-preserved rows of defensive walls, a large round tower and spire roof can all be explored on public walking tours and the castle also hosts numerous cultural events each year.
Pilies g. 17, 44275 Kaunas
Authentic cannons on display, a large moat and a collection of ancient artefacts help make Medininkai Castle a huge favourite with kids and, indeed, anyone with a fascination with medieval military history. Located on the outskirts of Lithuania’s vibrant capital, Vilnius, the vast castle complex dates back to the early 14th century and features robust walls and squared-shaped towers, the latter differing from the more typical round-spired towers of most fortresses of that era. The castle has also served as a residential complex and, more quirkily, during the late 17th and early 18th century as a farm and bakery.
Šv. Kazimiero g. 2, 13192 Medininkai
Perched atop a hill on the banks of the Nemunas River in the munipality of Jurbarkas and surrounded by five cascading pools, Panemune Castle combines picturesque scenery with an interesting backstory Built during the 17th century, unlike many of its counterparts the feudal-style castle, which features a mix of Baroque, Renaissance and Classic architecture, was not used as a defensive fort, but rather as the residence of the Hungarian nobles. To this day, the citadel’s domestic past can be seen in the old residential quarters and farm buildings that still remain here and can be explored by visitors who will also find museum-quality items and artefacts on display throughout the complex.
Panemunės, 74464 Pilis I
Constructed in the 16th century by an affluent Prussian merchant, this Renaissance-style castle still delivers a meal fit for a king. No, really. The castle offers one of the most unique dining experiences you’ll find anywhere, serving up Medieval-inspired dishes and the chance to learn about eating habits of that period, as well as the history of the castle itself, all narrated by a local ‘monk’. As for the castle itself, situated in the city of Salcininkai in the southeasternmost part of Lithuania, close to the Belarusian border, it has been lovingly restored over the years and retains almost all of its original architecture, including a gate tower and keep, and a courtyard at the centre. As well as the on-site restaurant, the castle also offers overnight lodgings.
Every medieval castle conceals a dark past, but this Renaissance-style bastion carries a particularly gruesome legacy. It was here that the Duchess of Siesikai Castle was imprisoned in a tower with the doors and windows bricked shut until she perished. As a result, the duchess is said to continue to roam the castle to this day. If that’s given you the shivers, then allow us to calm those nerves with some rather more gentle facts about the castle. Built on the southern shore of Lake Siesikai in east Lithuania at the beginning of the 16th century, the castle still retains the shooting openings that can be seen in the walls of the tower, while inside you’ll find the Baroque and Classicist architecture, most notably in the floor ornaments and ceilings. There are also a number of mid-17th century wall paintings that explore themes of ancient mythology.
Daugalių kaimas, 1, 20325
One of the more recent (relatively speaking) additions to Lithuania’s rich landscape of castles, this 17th-century castle has a notably British appearance, with distinctive crenelated tops to its round towers that lend the appearance of jagged teeth. Considered an important monument of Lithuanian Renaissance architecture, the main building of the castle, which is perched on the banks of the river Nevėžis in the eponymous town of Raudonvaris is a high towered complex complete with stables and an orangery. For most of the year, the castle is used as a schoolhouse, but is open for public visits out of term time.
Pilies tak. 1, 54127 Raudondvaris