One of the best things you should do when you happen to find yourself in Lithuania is to visit as many castles as you can. These castles have a rich history surrounding them, so getting to know Lithuania will always include several visits to these monuments of heritage.
In ancient times, Lithuanian castles were made out of wood and had surrounding fortresses. These were built for defensive purposes as well as the home of dukes during those times. These types of castles eventually became dilapidated and were replaced by ones made from stone and bricks which have survived from the 13th-century up to the present day. Here are eleven magnificent castles that you must take time out to visit in order to have a better sense of Lithuania’s rich past:
1 Kaunas Castle
This castle is considered to be the oldest one in all of Lithuania. Its location is also popular for being the point where the Neris and Nemunas rivers converge. It was built in the 13th Century in response to attacks made by the Teutonic Order. This double-walled structure was regarded as a bastion of defense, and in 1430 it was presented with Magdeburg rights. from there, the city began to flourish steadily into what people know as present-day Kaunas. The castle is now a feature of the Kaunas city museum where cultural events are also annually held.
2 The Presidential Palace
This is the official residence of the Lithuanian President. It was built in the 14th Century and has undergone a number of reconstructions throughout the centuries. Popular historical figures Alexander I (the Russian Czar) and Napoleon (Emperor of France) had both once dwelled in this Palace during the early 1800s. After World War II, it also served as a center for military officers and had also once housed a number of Lithuanian artists. It was in 1997 where it was officially appointed as the seat of the President. Surrounding it is the Courtyard – a beautiful, palatial garden that is often the site of international ceramics exhibitions.
3 Panemune Castle
Located in the Jurbarkas district, the Panemune castle was built sometime between 1604 and 1610 for residential purposes rather than as a defensive stronghold. The Hungarian Nobles lived here for a time, where it was styled in a feudal sense complete with farm buildings and a defensive tackle. The architectural style is an amalgamation of Renaissance, Baroque, and Classicism. Perched atop a beautiful hill, there are five cascading pools that surround it as well.
4 Raudone Castle
Before the castle was built, the area once served as a royal manor up until the 16th century. When the castle itself was built in the earlier part of the 16th Century by Crispin Kirsenstein, whose father immigrated to Lithuania from Prussia. His grandson later became the Lithuanian Duchy’s secretary and established his base in the castle; in that period, the city flourished and experienced prosperity. The castle had to be rebuilt after being burned during the war, but the original Renaissance architectural style is still present up to this day.
5 Medininkai Castle
This medieval castle was built sometime between the 13th and 14th centuries and also served as a defensive bastion. Unlike other castles, this one stood on plain land and had four towers and gates. Later on, the main tower became a residential complex before it was eventually converted into a bakery and also a farm.
6 Trakai Castle
This is also known as an island castle being the only insular castle across the entire European continent. It was also a defense fortress on Lake Galve island and became a residential building later. It then became a prison before eventually becoming deserted. These days, it is a historical museum where cultural festivals and other events take place.
7 Klaipeda Castle
This was the Teutonic Order’s very first castle. Built in 1252, it was attacked many times and had undergone numerous reconstructions throughout the centuries. A good part of it has been destroyed, with the northern part the only part left standing.
8 Birzai Castle
The Birzai Castle was built during the years 1586 to 1589. This is called an earth bastion type of castle. In the 17th Century, the second part of the Birzai Castle was completed and served as the Birzai and Dubingiai families’ residence. In the years that Lithuania was at war with Sweden, the Birzai castle became an important defense fortress. It is also a picturesque spot, given that it is next to the beautiful Lake Sirvena.
9 Norviliskes Castle
On the land where this beautiful castle was built was once an old manor. A Prussian merchant took over and built the castle in its place, with an unmistakable Renaissance style type of architecture. While it has undergone many restorations over time, the original architecture has been carefully maintained. It was also a defense system during medieval times, but now it serves as a venue for events, parties, and even conferences.
10 Raudonvaris Castle
This majestic manor castle is a shining example of Renaissance architecture. Built in the 17th-century, its main building has a complex with a high tower owned by the Kosakovskiai, Radvilai, and Vordlovskai nobles. There are stables, an ice house and an orangery that was carefully restored and now serves as a cultural tourism spot.
11 Siesikai Castle
Located near the Ukmerge district, this residential castle was built on Siesikai Lake by Gabrielius Siesickis during the 16th Century. Like many of the other castles in Lithuania, the style is unmistakably Renaissance. The owners for whom the castle is named also gave their family name to be used in the nearby town.
When writing up a list of things to do in Lithuania, it is important to visit several castles to have a really rich experience of what life was like during the medieval days of this nation. Hekla offers plenty of other experiences for you to try during your trip to Lithuania, so you’d best check it out as you make your itinerary!
~Written by Peter Hartmann
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