Is Marijampole worth visiting on your travels around Lithuania? Absolutely! You can even make it a day trip from Vilnius if you choose. While most descriptions of Marijampole will talk about it being “industrial,” the town itself is charming with several points of interest that will make your stay there enjoyable. It’s a culturally rich city with an intriguing history and the architectural and other evidence to prove it!
Be sure to keep an eye out for the various murals and street art that give the center of this quintessentially Lithuanian city extra character.
A Short History of Marijampole
The name of Marijampole has religious origins. It was the Marian priests, named for the Virgin Mary, who built a church and monastery here and established the town—you can see the current examples of their efforts today. Of course, they chose a beautiful spot between two rivers—the Sesupe and Jevonis. However, due to changing regimes and changing borders, Marijampole has been known by many different names over the centuries, including Kapsukas in Soviet times and Starapole, Senpile, or Pašešupiai, which identified the earlier attempts to settle this spot prior to the Marians establishing a permanent foundation here.
Marijampole achieved town rights in the late 18th century, but political turbulence meant that, with the partition of Poland (which was joined with Lithuania at the time), the town of Marijampole fell under the jurisdiction of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Poland, and then became a part of the Russian Empire.
In 1918, Lithuania achieved its first independence. Marijampole was able to flourish, with many important structures—schools, hospitals, factories, and the hydroelectric power station, for example—being built. Unfortunately, WWII took a heavy toll on the town and then Soviet rule ensued, which saw religious establishments closed and industry built up in the region.
Today, Marijampole is a good mix of different eras with loads of personality, pride in its history, and an eye for making a city that is livable for residents but also attractive for visitors.
More complete history can be found at Marijampole.lt.
Things to Do in Marijampole
Whether you visit Marijampole for a few hours or stay on for longer, you won’t lack for things to do, both inside and outside the town.
- The Kvietiškis Manor Museum, located in an 18th-century manor house, has long connections with the development of Marijampole; the exhibition there will tell you its story.
- If you are into Lithuanian history, the Museum of Marijampolė Rygiškių Jono Gymansium may appeal to you—this gymnasium, or school, saw many famous historical figures pass through its doors as students in its 100-year history, including many signatories of the 1918 declaration of independence!
- The Antique Car and Motorcycle Museum has some wonderful examples of Soviet-era vehicles and other objects.
- The Marijampole Museum of Partisans and Deportees commemorates those who were deported from Lithuania by and those who fought against Soviet oppression after WWII.
- The Museum of the Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis is not only dedicated to preserving knowledge about the person for which it is named; it also provides information about the development of the town in relation to the Marion priests who helped found it.
- The Ethnographic and President Kazys Grinius Museum is a bit both town museum and ethnographic museum for the region of Lithuania Marijampole is a part of.
Given that Marijampole was founded by priests, it’s no wonder churches make up a significant part of its urban landscape. Take a peek at the following churches in Marijampole for an overview of the town’s church architecture.
- The Basilica of St. Basil the Archangel is where it all started and is in the central part of the town—you can’t miss its white façade.
- You may also want to check out the Evangelical Lutheran church, the wooden Church of John Paul II built in 2014, the Trinity Orthodox Church, and various churches in the outskirts of Marijampole.
Other Points of Interest
- The late 19th-century Choral Synagogue in the middle of town is one symbol of the area’s Jewish history, though it now houses a gallery for expat Lithuanian artists.
- The Marijampole Railway Station is an elegant brick early 20th-century structure that hearkens back to when rail was a major means of getting around.
- The Printing House and Library played a significant role in interwar Lithuania, issuing hundreds of publications and collecting thousands of Lithuanian-language books, both new and old. This building stands for the importance of the Lithuanian language during times of oppression.
- The Monument to the Lithuanian Language occupies Basinavicius Square; it’s a spiraling column capped by a horse and rider, which symbolize the nation riding into the future. Lithuanian, as one of the languages of the Baltic countries, has a long history that Lithuanians continue to celebrate today.
- The Courtyard of Cats combines a fountain waterfall and cats that you can wish upon; this courtyard is surrounded by murals of birds.
Getting to Marijampole from Vilnius
If you only want to breeze through Marijampole to check it out while you tick off the rest of the stops on your Lithuanian itinerary, that’s okay. You can easily combine Marijampole with, for example, Birstonas, by spending one half day in one city and the other half of the day in the other. But Marijampole may also be a good stop on your way to seeing the western part of Lithuania. Because it’s a bit farther away from other popular destinations in Lithuania from Vilnius, sometimes Marijampole gets passed over or overlooked, but those who visit end up being glad they did.
Buses run regularly from the Vilnius bus station to Marijampole—the ride is between two and three hours.
By car from Vilnius, take the A1 to Kaunas and go west on A5 to Marijampole.