Birstonas: A Historic Lithuanian Mineral Water Resort

When you travel to Lithuania, you may be looking for Lithuanian cities that are easy day trips from Vilnius. A visit to Birstonas, south of Kaunas, is one of those options. This tidy resort town with its spas and nature is attractive and charming—just as it has been for centuries.

Even the Lithuanian dukes of old found Birstonas a relaxing place for vacation with its forests, view of the curving Nemunas River and healing mineral waters. Visit Birstonas for its natural surroundings or take in a spa treatment to rival those you’ll find at Druskininkai. No matter how you spend your time there, you will leave relaxed and glowing.

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Birstonas sign in front of a flower garden
Birstonas is as pretty to look at as it is pleasant to visit. Photo credit: The Northern Vox

Spas

Many people visit Birstonas for its spas. The mineral water and beneficial mud here have drawn those seeking curative treatments, improved beauty, and relaxation since at least the Middle Ages.

You can choose from a variety of establishments, some with long history in the city and some with newer and/or updated facilities. The medical spas Tulpes, Egles, and Versme are large medical spa facilities with treatments centering around rehabilitation and treatment of medical issues.

If you are more interested in self-care spa treatments that are focused on relaxation and beauty, you may want to stay away from the sanitoria complexes and instead enjoy a day pass to one of the smaller spas, such as Vytautas Mineral Spa.

20th-century Birstonas building
Old-style medical mineral water centers can still be found in Birstonas. Photo credit: The Northern Vox

Mineral Water

Two types of mineral water are bottled and sold throughout Lithuania that originate in Birstonas.

The first is Vytautas Mineral Water, well-known (and good-naturedly mocked in ads) for its high concentration of minerals and salty taste. While many visitors to Lithuania are shocked by Vytautas water, it can easily become an acquired taste and is excellent at replacing electrolytes and helping you feel refreshed after a late night out or during a bout with the cold or flu.

Birute is the softer, less intense mineral water that comes from Birstonas, the original spring of which you can visit near the Kurhaus, which has been given its own little hut flanked by stairways. There’s something old-world and romantic about seeing the lion’s head spout fresh spring water that has contributed to Birstonas’s success as a wellness resort.

Unfortunately, some of the romance has been eliminated from the natural spring water collection process, which no longer is captured from springs but is siphoned up from “boreholes.”  Some descriptions of the water will proudly describe these boreholes, revealing that the methods for collecting the water are actually industrial and invasive and not a gently offered gift from nature.

Two sets of stairs flank the origin of the Birute mineral water spring
The source of Birute mineral water has been given fitting prominence in Birstonas. Photo credit: The Northern Vox

Experiencing Birstonas Mineral Water

However, visitors to Birstonas can experience and taste the mineral water in various ways because it has been integrated into the fabric of the city:

  • Taste mineral water from the bright orange buvette in front of the Baltoji Vila (White Villa) just like some of Lithuania’s most famous historical figures have over the course of decades.
  • Nearby is the Birutes Villa, a free-to-enter space for breathing in the healthy air that has been infused with the local mineral water.
  • Kniepp Garden predates Wim Hof, encouraging visitors to take advantage of the benefits of cold water.
  • The Druskupis Mineral Graduation Tower is a structure that bristles with branches and spouts mineral water, creating a damp, healthful outdoor “room”—inhale the air here to experience the benefits.
Orange buvette pavilion for tasting mineral water in Birstonas
This pavilion is for tasting mineral water. Photo credit: The Northern Vox

Things to Do and See in Birstonas

Birstonas is a naturally relaxing Lithuanian town besides its spa facilities—the entire city has been created to exude a sense of calm, maintain the natural environment within the urban limits, and encourage a slower pace of life.

Sculptures: You’ll see a lot of sculptures on your walk around Birstonas. Lithuania has a strong tradition of sculpture, and the works of artists working in metal or stone, in particular, can be seen decorating cityscapes across the country. Birstonas is no different!

Monuments: In a similar vein to sculptures, monuments to long-dead men have been deemed essential to give city squares and natural environs alike more apparent gravitas. From the bust of Basinavicius, an important signatory of Lithuania’s declaration of independence to the Vytautas the Great memorial on the hill that formerly boasted a hill-fort and hunting lodge, you can’t escape these sedentary symbols of history.

Museums: The Kurhaus is a pretty wooden building important to Birstonas’s history as an event venue for those who came from far and wide—an exhibition in the interior shows how it looked in the past. The Birstonas Museum is located in another pretty wooden building and familiarizes visitors with the story of the town and objects from the life of people who lived and worked in Birstonas. The Sacral Arts museum is dedicated to religious art.

Vytautats Hill: Named for the grand duke who had a hunting lodge here, this hill is one of the tallest in Lithuania among all the hillfort sites. Climb the stairs to see what Vytautas saw when he returned from hunting: the Nemunas River and the dense Lithuanian forests.

Riverbank Walk: Pavement along the Nemunas River takes you around Birstonas, and you can take a rest on a bench or a blanket on the grass at points along your stroll to look out over the water of the river and catch the breeze that blows in off of it.

An enclosure of botanical elements spritzes visitors with mineral water
The Druskupis Mineral Graduation tower allows visitors to breathe in and be misted by mineral water. Photo credit: The Northern Vox

Where to Eat in Birstonas

Birstonas won’t leave you hungry, whether you’re in the mood for a coffee or a quick snack or a more luxurious meal.

Kurhaus Restaurant: An elegant outdoor terrace with food to match. Expect to spend a bit more money at this restaurant, but also take your time—have a glass of wine, linger over appetizers, and savor dessert. You’ll have a lovely view of public garden from the patio.

Moon Restaurant: Vytautas Mineral Spa has put a lot of energy into its restaurant. It has won some awards and is also on the pricier side for what you get. It could be a bit to fancy to relax fully in, with its décor and tableware. It may be good for a special event.

House Restaurant: Located in the Birstonas Cultural Center, this restaurant serves up decent food at equally decent prices. Choose from Lithuanian specialties such as pink soup or cepilinai, regional favorites such as herring and beet dishes, or more conventional meals.

Old Town Grill: Known for its pork ribs, you can also choose lighter dishes such as pasta or mussels. This restaurant is also great for families.

Skveras: Located on Basinavicius Square in the middle of town, Sveras is a pizzeria with a wide menu of dishes from around the world.

Getting to Birstonas

Getting to Birstonas is easy, whether you go by car or by public transportation.

By car, take the A16 past Trakai. The drive is about 1.5 hours.

The bus service will take a bit longer, with non-stop service by the Kautra bus line. You can purchase bus tickets and check the schedule online or at the bus station.

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