They may also recommend Druskininkai. This city has long been renowned in Lithuania and the greater region as a resort and spa retreat. People go to get relief from medical ailments, soak away stress in a sauna, get pampered by spa treatments, and feel revived by the surrounding nature and beautiful environment.
If you’re planning a visit, learn about the sights to see and things to do in Druskininkai as well as about its wellness culture and mineral water.
Health and Wellness
Even in Tsarist times, Druskininkai was known for its healing mineral waters, and during the Soviet era, it became even more popular as a rest and relaxation resort full of what was known as “sanitoriums,” where health treatments were emphasized over the beauty and relaxation treatments that we think of when we picture Western-style day spas.
Though there are plenty of things to do in Druskininkai even if you aren’t visiting for wellness treatments, the town is primarily known as a place where people go to heal and relax.
Locals and people from the neighboring countries most often come to Druskininkia for its spa culture. Its waters, sourced from underground, are said to have curative effects due to their mineral content. Mud treatments, performed with the local peat mud, are also well-advertised by the spa centers in the town.
Before there were spas here, there were the mineral water springs that inspired their development. People have been using the mineral waters of Druskininkai for hundreds of years to ease joint pain and treat other ailments.
In fact, the name of the city is derived from druska, or “salt” in Lithuanian, with reference to the high mineral content of the water.
Healthy Natural Environment
Furthermore, the natural environment has been cultivated to calm and destress the inhabitants of the town, from the parks, fountains, and gardens within city center to the forests surrounding it; lack of industrial plants or other pollution sources means that the air here is said to be remarkably clean and healthful.
Architecture from Various Eras
The architecture may be what stands out most to a first-time visitor to Druskininkai just getting to know Lithuania: buildings with undulating facades that harmonize with the landscape, Soviet-era buildings with interesting decorative touches, charming wooden houses reminiscent of those found in the Vilnius district of Zverynas, and of course, the personality-less window-fronted high rises that are so prevalent in the former Soviet countries.
Visitors can also see evidence of when Druskininkai belonged variously to Belarus and Poland as a result of its location near the border of present-day Lithuania.
The surrounding area offers even more architectural treasures, including a Baroque monastery and small villages with houses built in the local style.
Things to Do in Druskininkai
Tourists can find various points of interest in Druskininkai and a number of things to do. The town center is lovely with the neo-Gothic red brick Church of St. Mary’s Scapular, musical fountain, and resort architecture, and while you’re there, you may stumble upon an outdoor market or festival. The well-developed network of bike paths will appeal to cyclists who like exploring on two wheels. Also consider:
- The M.K. Ciurlionis House Museum—dedicated to Lithuania’s most loved artist, the house preserves the memory of Ciurlionis, who lived and worked in this house for over a decade.
- The Druskininkai Town Museum—situated in a lovely building, this museum is located near the lake in the middle of town.
- The Museum of Armed Resistance & Exile—this small museum helps tell the story of Lithuanian resistance in WWII and the deportations to Siberia that occurred during this time. A good complement to Grutas Park.
- Cesnulis Sculpture Park—the park is full of the wooden sculptures so typical to Lithuania, all created by Antanas Cesnulis.
- Kameja—Kameja is a jewelry manufacturer based in Druskininkai, and while you can find this jewelry in smaller retail outlets in Vilnius, the shop in Druskininkai offers its marvels from Baltic amber, lapis lazuli, malachite, rose quarts, and other semi-precious stones, all set creatively in silver, in a large, browsing-friendly space.
- The Tree Cake Museum—this museum and bakery focuses on the Lithuanian sakotis, or tree cake, which is a pastry formed by dripping batter onto a turning spit. Learn about the history of this cake or try baking your own.
- Cable car—the cable car gives you a bird’s-eye view of Druskininkai and costs only one euro for a round-trip ride.
- Steamer ride to Liškiava Monastery—the steamer runs on the Nemunas River to the Baroque monastery and back.
- Upside-Down House—a yellow house in the center of the city has been turned on its head, and all its interior rooms are also upside down! Perfect for fun photo memories.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in Druskininkai is visit Grutas Park.
Grutas Park is Lithuania’s Soviet sculpture park. After Lithuanian independence, Soviet statues were removed from town centers and given a home in the forest.
Grutas Park is located 5km outside of Druskininkai and contains over 80 statues of Lenin, Stalin, and local Soviet leaders. Visitors can get a sense of what it was like to be watched over by these stone and metal sculptures, representative of an oppressive regime.
Events in Druskininkai
Druskininkai has an annual calendar of events that celebrate its history, important personages, and other aspects of the town. If you’re in the area when one of these events are taking place, you might include it in your list of things to do.
- Spring: April sees in the Daffodil Festival, which is one of the town’s most popular annual festivals.
- Summer: Various music festivals, a cake-decorating competition, and art and craft festivals mark the summer months in Druskininkai.
- Fall: Fall is especially busy with the Cheese Festival, the Dainava Folk Festival, and the Illuminated Pumpkin Park, which showcases fanciful pumpkin carving.
- Winter: During wintertime, be sure to visit for the Christmas trees and ice sculptures!
Getting to Druskininkai
Druskininkai is located in the southern part of Lithuania in the Dzukija region. By car, it’s about one and a half hours from Vilnius along the A4 highway.
Regular buses also run between Vilnius and Druskininkai, and the Druskininkai bus station stops near the center of town.
Once there, you can rent bikes (bike paths lead to some local points of interest), use the city bus service, take a local tour (check out the tourist train), or hail a taxi via phone app.
Druskinkai and Grutas Park Day Trip
For foreign travelers to Lithuania, Druskininkai is often combined with Grutas Park. You can plan to visit Grutas Park in the morning. Then, leave lunch time and the afternoon to explore Druskininkai and its fountains, parks, and architecture on foot.
Combining the town and Grutas park makes an educational, fun, and active day trip from Vilnius that not every traveler to Lithuania gets to experience.