Druskininkai is a city located in the southern part of Lithuania on the bank of the Neman River, only 125 km away from Vilnius. It is the oldest and most popular resort in the country, rich in healing springs and mud. The area of the city is ideal for tourist and health recreation: pine forests, clean fresh air, green plains and hills, numerous lakes and a unique national park nearby. Spa hotels of the Druskininkai resort open to visitors all year round, where you can recover equally effectively in summer and winter. If you are just planning your vacation or are already going to Druskininkai, this article will save you the time to find useful and necessary information about the resort.
The history of the resort
Now Druskininkai is a unique and modern balneological resort of the European level, but this was not always the case. The first mention of a settlement on the Ratnichel river dates back to the 13th century. The name Druskininkai, originating from the word "druska", which translates from Lithuanian as "salt", dates back to the same time. Archaeological excavations have shown that on the territory of the city there were not only villages, but also an ancient defensive fortress. The first mentions of the Druskininkai healing springs date back to the 18th century, it was then that the construction of the homestead and estates began. And in 1789 year, at a council meeting, the last Lithuanian prince Stanislav Augustus Poniatowski officially made Druskininkai as a hospital. In 1837 year, when the city became part of the Russian Empire, by decree of Emperor Nicholas I, the first medical resort was opened here with a hydropathic institution equipped with mud baths and water from springs. Doctors began to come here, hospitals and shelters opened, noblemen and famous people began to come for treatment. After a dozen years, the Druskininkai resort has become a famous and popular place not only for healing, but also for entertainment. Concerts, exhibitions and creative conventions, photo sessions, performances and festivities were held here. Since then, the resort's infrastructure and medical facilities have been steadily developing. Now spa hotels are built here, they correspond to all the requirements of guests and sanitary standards in which qualified doctors practice.
Attractions in Druskininkai
Druskininkai is suitable not only for healing but for full cultural recreation as well. There are plenty of parks for hiking around the lake, lawns decorated with exquisite sculptures, on the alley you can see a light-musical fountain or come and take pictures with wood statues. Since famous musicians and artists used to relax here, musical squares with sculptures of instruments are scattered around the city, and art exhibitions of paintings are often held near the lake.
The Church of St. Mary
The Catholic Cathedral, built of neo-Gothic red brick at the beginning of the last century, stands on the foundation of an old church. For tourists, the church is of interest for its monumental architecture, rich interior with multi-colored stained-glass windows and impressive statues adorning the apse and tower niches. The church is active, it holds divine services in two languages. Once inside the temple, it is worth paying attention to the icons framed by gilding, they were donated by patrons and are historical values.
City museum of Druskininkai
All guests of Druskininkai should allocate time to visit the main city museum. The building itself is an architectural landmark. The snow-white neoclassical villa “Linksma”, previously owned by a local banker, was built at the beginning of the 20th century and is located on the banks of the picturesque Lake Drusconis. Inside, there are several interesting exhibits that tell, for example, about the first doctors of the resort, about the post-war years or about the amusements of vacationers in the 19th century. Here you can also see old photos, city maps, attend a history seminar or a chamber music concert.
Church of the Icon of the God Mother
A small but very beautiful Orthodox church of sky blue shade was built in 1865 year on donations from parishioners. The church is dedicated to the miraculous icon of the God Mother, which helped visitors to the resort to recover from various diseases. The doors of the temple are open to all visitors, services are still held here. The church looks especially beautiful in the evening, when its walls and domes are illuminated.
A real water complex, containing a huge pool and many slides with attractions for the whole family. In addition, a separate complex with different types of baths is attached to the aquapark. Here you can visit a dry or steam bath, enjoy aromatherapy and honey wrap. For those who wish, they offer various relaxing cosmetic procedures, for example, a face mask made of chocolate. After an active rest and visit to the bath, you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant with a fireplace and refined interiors. Tourists with young children will be able to leave their offspring in the children's area under the supervision of nannies. Here for children a whole playground is equipped, in which there is a cinema.
Ski complex "Snow Arena"
The ski arena, open to visitors all year round regardless of the outdoor temperature, covers an area of more than 25,000 m2! Vacationers in the resort of Druskininkai have a unique opportunity to go skiing or snowboarding along specially equipped tracks in the hot summer. The complex also has an ice rink for figure skating enthusiasts. And it’s not necessary to already be a master, everyone will learn to ride here.
Also, the open-air museum is called Grutas Park and the Museum of Soviet Sculptures. The museum is located in the neighborhood with a hiking trail leading to it. The park has an area of 20 hectares and consists of two sectors: in one of the exhibits you can view and even visit them for free, in the other part there are rarer sculptures and monuments, so you will have to pay for a ticket. A visit to the museum will be interesting to tourists who are interested in the Soviet era and want to see the monuments to military and political figures, see real Soviet posters and slogans, evaluate military equipment and go inside the Soviet steam locomotive. You can finish the walk in the museum in a small zoo for guests with children, as well as take a break for lunch by going to the cafe located here.
Outside the city, where the center can be easily reached both on foot and by bicycle, there is an unusual museum in the forest dedicated to Lithuanian fairy tales and folklore. In the depths of the pine forest, tourists are waiting for carved huts, inside of which wonderful exhibits are stored and woodwork is exhibited by the founder of this place - craftsman Valavicius. Paths guarded by wooden sculptures of personages from fairy tales lead to the huts. Walking through the woods, you should take a closer look, because even the usual at first glance driftwood may turn out to be a masterfully carved and decorated with ligature statue of the queen of snakes. Before you go for a walk in the forest museum, it is worth checking the working days in the hotel, as it is not open every day.
The village of Naujasodes attracts tourists with a nearby sculpture park made of wood and stone by the local artist Antanas Cesnulis, as well as his estate-museum. The estate itself impresses with a four-floor windmill at the entrance. Moreover, each floor is filled with unique sculptures created manually by the owner. In the park you can see the fabulous works of not only Chesnulis, but also other masters, composed along the paths in impressive compositions.
A visit to a small village is suitable for all lovers of mystical stories and legends, as well as those who wish to go for a bike ride around the Druskininkai resort. The village is located in a picturesque area surrounded by fields and forests, at the entrance - sculptures made of wood. It attracts guests with two legends: the first says that in the old days there was a city that once went underground with residents punished for their sins, and on the other - a huge boulder at the entrance, called the “Devil's Stone”, was missed by the devil when he carried it so that block the Neman river. By the way, there is still a belief that it’s the Devil's Stone that hides the entrance to the missing underground city, but it’s impossible to move it.
Dzukija National Park
The reserve, considered one of the largest in Lithuania, is a 20-minute bicycle ride from Druskininkai. The park covers an area of 56 thousand hectares, which grows over 140 unique species of flora listed in the Red Book. The park is dominated by pine forests, many rivers and springs flow, as well as tourists can admire the picturesque lakes and visit the colorful ethnic villages. In autumn, you can pick mushrooms and berries, in the summer you can go kayaking, and at any other time you can use bicycle trails laid through the most beautiful places.
Trakai Island castle
For tourists who want to spend a day outside Druskininkai and go on a short excursion, a great option is to visit one of the oldest and most beautiful castles in Lithuania. You can get from Druskininkai to Trakai Castle in a rented car in 1-1.5 hours. Excursion buses also run along this route.
The "first stone" of the Trakai castle was laid in the XIV century by order of the then-ruling Prince Keistuta, but the construction itself was completed only after 100 years under Prince Vitovt. For Lithuania, the 15th century was marked by the Battle of Grunwald, which is why Trakai Castle was primarily an important border fortification. It was captured, burned, but reconstructed again. So several stone towers and a reinforced wall appeared at the castle, a deep moat was excavated with a spacious extension for the garrison. In the XVI century, the castle began to act more as a place for meeting foreign ambassadors and hosting receptions. Here the prince hunted, rested and arranged feasts for foreign guests, so the interior was enriched with objects of art, tapestries and frescoes.
Now in a beautifully preserved fortress there is a historical museum. For tourists, it is of interest for its beautiful Gothic architecture: a princely palace with red tiled roofs, surrounded by a moat, strong walls with narrow loopholes and eleven towers! The interior decoration pleases with medieval frescoes, colorful mosaic stained glass windows, wooden galleries and secret passages in the walls between the rooms. It stands on a hilly island in the middle of a lake in a very picturesque place. At the exit of the castle visitors will find many interesting souvenir shops. So a visit to Trakai Castle is an ideal option for those who have already visited all the attractions of the resort or want to travel a bit around.
Festivals and events in Druskininkai
In winter, in Druskininkai, the favorite celebrations of tourists are held on the eve of the Catholic Christmas, New Year, and then Orthodox Christmas with the Old New Year. These days in the city are celebrated merrily, with festivities, traditional ceremonies, services, theatrical processions, concerts, creative evenings and fireworks.
See off the winter with the celebration of Shrovetide. In honor of the holiday, vacationers can try different types of pancakes and take part in master classes on self-cooking the most unusual recipes.
Druskininkai celebrates spring with Women's Day and Easter. These days, the streets are filled with flowers, and worship is held in temples. For Easter, festivities are held with traditional competitions with Easter egg.
At the end of April in Vijuneles Park, the time for daffodil bloom begins and the favorite flower festival of all tourists begins. It includes various theatrical events in the atmosphere of the XIX century, shows with live sculptures, master classes in folk crafts, music and poetry evenings.
At the end of May, Druskininkai is celebrating City Day on a large-scale, with the holiday lasting 3-4 days continuously. The program is different every year, but it always includes fun competitions, contests, sweepstakes, processions, shows and concerts with fireworks. Of course, the action is not complete without dance events, a picnic in the fresh air and the opportunity to taste a variety of dishes prepared by the best chefs of the city.
In early June, a service dog championship is held, in which dog handlers compete with their dogs, passing various tasks.
In mid-July, a theater festival takes place in the city, in which participants and modern theaters from different countries compete for prizes. The jury members are famous Lithuanian artists, and the audience can enjoy a colorful and exciting event, because the participants think through their costumes, decorations and a variety of repertoire.
At the end of July, the Jonines holiday is celebrated, it is also the day of Ivan Kupala. Vacationers gather on a lake or river for a picnic, make wreaths, augur and, of course, light a ritual bonfire that brings good luck.
In mid-August, a cheese festival is held in Druskininkai, to present their products at which cheese makers from all over Lithuania, as well as from other countries, come together. Within the framework of the festival, all visitors can observe the cheese production process, attend interesting master classes and be sure to taste the presented cheeses.
At the end of August, the resort hosts the international festival and music contest “Music without borders”.
All Saints Day is celebrated on the first day of November throughout Lithuania. The resort hosts theatrical processions, lights are lit and various entertainment shows for tourists are held.
What to bring from rest in Druskininkai?
Going home after a holiday in Druskininkai, every tourist wants to bring useful, unusual and characteristic souvenirs for this place. Good options would be:
- Silver jewelry. The resort has ancient jewelry workshops, so here you can find designer jewelry at an affordable cost.
- Amber products. Druskininkai is very fond of making amber jewelry, so connoisseurs of “sun stone” will be able to purchase, for example, a silver-framed necklace at an affordable price. In addition, from amber you can find decor elements, frames for photographs, chess and even ship models.
- Elegant ladies hats. In the souvenir shops of the resort you can find exquisite ladies' accessories and aristocratic hats.
- Cozy woolen things. Shawls, mittens, scarves and sweaters with traditional motifs made of high quality wool will be an excellent gift for relatives.
- Linen things. Lithuanian linen is considered the highest quality, so here you can buy durable and beautiful linen products, for example, bed linen.
- Products from ceramics. Items from burnt clay are produced according to ancient technologies, therefore, they have amazing durability. You can not be afraid to transport such souvenirs, and they will decorate your home interior just fine. Magical ceramic bells, statuettes of kittens and candlestick houses decorated with painting will add to any room of coziness. A traditional Lithuanian tea set or a bright piggy bank will be a great gift for friends.
Useful advices for tourists
If this is your first trip to Druskininkai, pay attention to the following points:
- By check-in into a hotel or spa hotel, it makes sense to immediately rent a bike for riding. The resort has many tourist bike paths, and the bike is considered the best means of transportation here. Buses and cars are used only for long trips out of town or in the neighborhood.
- Some shops and souvenir shops do not accept euros and dollars, so you should change the currency to local on arrival. This is easiest to do either at the hotel or at the nearest bank branch.
- In order to find out all the routes of tourist buses and go on an excursion yourself, just go to the electronic display at the nearest stop. On such displays not only all possible routes of flights are indicated, but also the time of departure, arrival and time in path.
- If the Internet in the hotel is not free, then you can go to the Internet cafe or to the post office, where there is Wi-Fi.
- Do not go past freeshop. In these shops you can find, for example, expensive alcohol, for which discounts of up to 40% are given here, as well as cosmetics from well-known European brands.
- For smoking in the wrong places, alcohol abuse or speeding is a fine of 20 euros and more.
- At the resort you can walk fearlessly even at night, but you should still beware of small thieves in crowded places. Therefore, it is not recommended to throw your things unattended and keep the wallet with the phone in sight.
- Upon arrival at the hotel, it is advisable to leave all valuables, money and documents in a secure safe of the building, so as not to lose them during outdoor activities.