When people visit Palanga and Sventoji on Lithuania’s Baltic Sea coast, they typically go for the beaches, sea air, and relaxed atmosphere. What they don’t know is that things to do in Palanga and its neighbor, Sventoji, extend beyond those of a typical beach vacation.
And while these Lithuanian cities–which can be enjoyed as a single destination–are certainly perfect for taking in everything the coast has to offer, it’s also worthwhile to discover Lithuanian history and culture through various attractions.
Discover top things to do Palanga and Sventoji when you want to take a break from the beach as well as why these two towns are great to include in a Lithuania itinerary.
Palanga may be known as a “party” town, but this characterization is a generalization. The main strip that leads to Palanga’s pier certainly feels a bit Floridian with its concentration on food and entertainment, but the quiet residential districts of Palanga are subdued with plenty of old shade trees, neatly kempt walkways, and both apartment buildings and wooden villas, some with spaces for rent.
Go to the northern Vanagupe area of Palanga, in between Palanga center and the village of Sventoji, and find somewhat fewer people if you prefer being away from restaurants and shops—the bus to the center takes about seven minutes.
Sventoji, named for the river it is built around, is officially a part of Palanga, but it has a slightly different feel. Its main drag is more carnivalesque, with attractions for children, sweet snacks, and games. However, some Lithuanians prefer it over the generally busier and more crowded Palanga and stay in tiny cottages there that keep them close to nature and the beach.
Sventoji was a port town in the 17th century and was also important for its access to the sea in the interwar period. However, Sventoji today is known for its resort status. Visitors can relax by the ocean, check out the lighthouse, or visit the pagan observatory, reconstructed with wooden sculptures symbolizing deities and marking the calendar holidays.
Things to Do in Palanga and Sventoji
The best things to do in Palanga take advantage of its seaside atmosphere, its history, and its picturesque views.
1. View the Sunset at Palanga’s Pier
Palanga’s pier is a symbol of the city, and people regularly walk down Basanavicius Street to gather at the pier to view the sunset–it’s definitely one of the most popular things to do in Palanga. Take a seat on one of the raised benches if going out to the end of the pier isn’t important to you.
From the pier, you can also take a boat out onto the Baltic Sea, with the sunset cruise being especially popular.
Near the pier, check out the Jurate and Kastytis monument by the fountain, which was created in honor of the legend of the sea goddess and the fisherman, a story that ended in tragedy but explains how Baltic amber washes up on the shores of Lithuania as a result.
2. Take in Views from the Top of the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
The late 19th-century neo-Gothic Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is, as many European churches are, lovely inside with stained glass and vaulted ceilings. However, it may be its 21-meter-high viewing platform, free to access, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, that appeals to those looking to catch a different view of Palanga. It’s one of the best free things to do in Palanga.
3. Learn About the “Gold of the North” in the Amber Museum
The Amber Museum is housed in a former palace built in the nineteenth century by the locally famous Count Tiskevicius. In addition to viewing the historic interior of the palace, learn about Baltic amber, amber trade throughout history, and the origins of this fascinating, sunlight-capturing substance that has attracted humans for its beauty and rarity since prehistory.
Even if you don’t enter the museum, visiting the grounds is one of the popular things to do in Palanga.
4. Explore Birute Park
Birute Park is a large, landscaped area in Palanga near the Amber Museum. Originally planted in the nineteenth century, it has been made into a botanical garden. It’s perfect for strolling on a hot day, and in summer evenings at the end of the week, live music plays here for visitors to Palanga.
Your steps may take you to Birute Hill, where legend has it that Birute, a pagan priestess from the fourteenth century, is buried. Birute was taken by force as the wife of a Lithuanian grand duke and bore a son, Vytautas, who continued the noble line.
However, it is said that after her husband’s death, she returned to Palanga, her homeland, where she died. Birute’s Hill is a forested sand dune said to be the highest in the area.
5. Discover History at the Palanga Resort Museum
If you’re interested in learning more about Palanga’s history and the Tiskevicius family, which was instrumental in its development and the establishment of its early aesthetic, visit the Palanga Resort Museum.
The multimedia exhibits trace Palanga’s evolution from prehistory and the Baltic tribes who lived here up to the twentieth century, the interwar period, and Palanga and Sventoji’s transfer from Latvia back to Lithuania in the post-war renegotiation of borders.
6. Take a Rest at the Pagan Sanctuary
Head on over to Sventoji, a village that attracts summertime vacationers in smaller numbers than Palanga. After strolling down its main drag, cross the Monkey Bridge to get to the Baltic Sea coast.
Find here a Baltic pagan sanctuary with carved wooden sculptures representing astrological bodies and deities that help mark the calendar holidays. The sanctuary has been recreated according to archeological evidence and transports the visitor back in time to when the local people worshiped the Baltic gods and goddesses and lived at one with nature.
Visiting the pagan sanctuary may be one of the most off-the-beaten-path things to do in Palanga, but some people who visit it swear they can feel a special energy here. It’s worth a visit to see if you do, too.
7. Instagram the Sventoji Lighthouse
The lighthouse in Sventoji dates from the 1950s and has been continuously in use since then, having been refurbished in the year 2000. Plans have been put into place to allow visitors to ascend the lighthouse tower, which is almost 40 meters, and install an exhibition about the lighthouse and its function and importance there.
8. Trace Jewish Heritage in Palanga
Throughout Lithuania, it is possible to trace the remnants of Jewish heritage, and the Palanga area is no different.
While none of Palanga’s synagogues have survived and other objects of Jewish heritage have disappeared, it’s possible to identify existing buildings that were amber workshops or other structures, visit Jewish cemeteries, and find monuments related to Jewish heritage and history here.
As an example of the brutal history of WWII, near Palanga, the sight of Jewish massacre and the grave of the victims is identified with marking points, and a memorial stands at the site.
9. View Historic Villas
The historic wooden villas of Palanga are charming to view and offer a glimpse of how the city looked in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Visitors can view the oldest pharmacy in Lithuania, which was the origins of the “Trejos dvynerios” liqueur, the house museum of an independence movement activist, a hunting lodge, and a bathhouse, among other notable villas.
These structures are protected as objects of cultural heritage and reflect the architectural style of the time, which incorporates delicate, lacy details, plentiful windows, welcoming verandas, and towers and spires. If you love architecture, taking a stroll around town may be one of your favorite things to do in Palanga.
10. Go to the Spa
Lithuania is well stocked with spas and rehabilitation centers where people go to recuperate after an injury, surgery, or high levels of stress. While Druskininkai and Birstonas are better known as spa towns, Palanga’s spa options are also worthy.
Visitors to Palanga can enjoy a wide range of spa treatments and wellness therapies. Many of the spas are located inside hotels and have modern facilities with steam rooms and saunas as well as offer massages, facials, scrubs, and wraps.
Tips for Visiting Palanga and Sventoji
Because Palanga is such a popular destination, it helps to follow some tips to get the most enjoyment out of your visit.
Book your accommodation early.
Many rooms, apartments, or houses are reserved annually by the same families, and others well in advance by those wanting to get a leg up on their summer vacations.
Consider your accommodation priorities.
You may prefer closer beach access, a more central location to restaurants and bars, or a peaceful stay in an out-of-the-way neighborhood. Palanga and Sventoji have all of these options. However, free-standing houses for rent may be rarer than apartments or even buildings that are more like dormitories with shared kitchen spaces.
Plan for cooler temperatures and rain.
Sun and warm weather are never guaranteed on the Lithuanian coast, no matter the month of the year. By all means, bring your swimsuit and light summer clothing, but be prepared for wind, gray skies, showers, and the chill that accompanies them. While going to the beach is one of the most popular things to do in Palanga, it helps to know what to expect.
Determine your food options.
If you go to Palanga and Sventoji during the high season, restaurants and bars will be open, but in the off season, you may have a more difficult time finding places to eat. Larger supermarkets occupy the center of Palanga, so you may want to choose accommodation with a kitchen to prepare food on your own.
However, doing so may require you to bring a few necessary kitchen implements because each will be stocked at varying levels of usefulness. The Barbora grocery delivery service recently began servicing the Palanga area, so having essential food items delivered is also a convenient option.
Watch for the beach patrol.
On days when the waves are too strong to swim, the beach will be marked with a red flag. Those caught swimming may be fined up to 900 EUR. The beach patrol officers regularly make rounds during this time to make sure that nobody breaks the rules and that everyone stays safe.
Choose the beach area that’s right for you.
While the demarcations aren’t always easily identifiable and the boundaries not strict, it’s possible to find the women’s beach or the men’s beach, with other locations being beaches for the general public.
The gender-segregated beaches offer privacy for those who want to sunbathe and swim with fewer body coverings, though people walking along the shore may not notice the signs or that they’ve wandered into these designated areas, so full privacy is not guaranteed.
Getting to and Getting Around Palanga and Sventoji
While many people take the train from Vilnius to Klaipeda, no such connection exists for Palanga and Sventoji. Allot between four to five hours by public or private bus to reach these towns from Vilnius. A small airport also services Palanga from cities in Lithuania and offers connections with international cities in Poland, Germany, Scandinavia, and Latvia.
Once there, bus lines connect Palanga and Sventoji—and even Klaipeda, to the south, for a slightly extra fee. If you’re staying with the Palanga/Sventoji region, the bus costs 1 EUR. Let the driver know where you’re getting off so that he knows what to charge you. Of course, like many places in Lithuania, distances are not long in Palanga, so walking is also an option, either by main road or along the coast.
Bolt, the local ride-sharing service, operates in Palanga and Sventoji, as well as taxi companies, which can either be ordered by phone or via the eTaksi app. It’s good to have taxi company contacts or taxi apps on your phone in the event you miss a bus or find yourself short of time. For those who don’t speak Lithuanian or even Russian, apps are a more convenient choice, both for you and the driver.
A Destination for All Travelers
English speakers will hear Palanga described as a “party town” or “great for kids.” It can be both of those things, but it isn’t relegated only to night owls or families with little ones.
All types of people can enjoy Palanga and Sventoji, finding elements of history, culture, architecture, or nature that appeals to them. It’s all about knowing what is available and what to seek out.
Use these top 10 things to do in Palanga and Sventoji as a starting point and branch out from there. As Lithuania becomes more attractive as a destination and its sea coast discovered by travelers, Palanga and Sventoji, along with other Lithuanian cities, continue to bring points of interest that were, perhaps, taken for granted by the local population and make them attractive for visitors, as well.
You may be surprised at how rich and interesting Palanga and Sventoji are if you’re seeking a vacation off the beaten path, are interested in Baltic history, or simply want to have alternatives to spending long hours at the beach.