Our Day Trip To Trakai!
The historic town of Trakai in Lithuania
and its famous medieval Island Castle is one of the most
remarkable Lithuanian landmarks.
It lies 28 km west of Vilnius in a very scenic lake resort area and
is a very popular spot for a weekend break.
To escape the bustle of Vilnius for a day we planned a trip to Trakai.
I was excited to see the castle, which is so much loved and talked about by the locals.
When Lija and I arrived we headed for the famous medieval island castle first.
One of the appeals of the castle is its stunning location.
It sits comfortably on a small island surrounded by the lake Galve and could only be reached by a footbridge.
Originally the castle was built as a defensive fortress against the threat of the German knights. Partly due to its strategic location, Trakai castle was never conquered in its history.
As I found out from Lija, remarkable Lithuanian poets and writers were inspired by the awe of the castle and glorified it in their works.
To fully appreciate its size and beauty we walked around the castle first.
With its thick red brick walls and towers, swans and boats sailing around, the castle looked like an ideal medieval fortress out of a fairytale picture.
I could easily imagine a troop of knights clattering over its drawbridge and armed guards watching from the towers.
Historically the castle was the residence of Vytautas the Great -the most famous ruler of Lithuania.
In the 15th century Trakai castle was the place where foreign ambassadors, merchants and other noble guests were hosted.
When we stepped inside, the castle looked even more impressive.
The unique medieval atmosphere surrounds you while exploring its galleries,
living quarters and halls.
As the Lithuanian chronicles have it, big treasures were stored in the castle.
There are several expositions in the castle’s museum with large displays of archaeological finds from the oldest times to the 20th century that were excavated in different areas of Trakai;16th-17th century furniture, porcelain articles, hunting trophies and coins are amongst them.
There is also a separate hall for ethnographic exhibitions of the
culture of Karaites, a small Judaist community brought to Trakai
from Crimea by Grand Duke Vytautas to serve as bodyguards.
In the spacious courtyard of the castle we came across an exhibit of medieval torture, which Lija couldn’t help trying out.
I also found out that in summer time concerts and atmospheric medieval feasts are taking place here which bring the castle’s medieval past to life.
You can watch theatrical knight tournaments, craft shows, medieval music and dances.
If you wish to visit the castle, the opening hours are, 10.00a.m.-19.00 p.m. Monday to Sunday in summer season and Tuesday to Sunday 10.00a.m. -17.00p.m. in winter.
(Note that if you wish to escape the crowds it is better to visit the castle early in the morning.)
The medieval castle is not the only attraction in Trakai.
You can also go on a romantic cruise around the
castle on a hired boat or go on a steam boat tour.
Lija and I enjoyed sailing around on the steam boat Skaistis.
On the way we saw picturesque views of the
castle and pretty islands, scattered around the lake.
The boat also passes a handsome neo-Renaissance palace on the lakeshore that belonged to the Count Tiskevicius.
The 1-hour boat tours are very pleasant and run at regular intervals.There are several piers where passengers are dropped and picked up.
As far as Trakai dining goes, you can choose from a few fine
restaurants along the bank of the lake.
On your way you will also see the souvenir stalls where folk artists sell their ware. While in Trakai you should also try traditional food of the Karaites called Kibinai .
It’s a delicious piping hot juicy pastry stuffed with chopped meat and onions. Senoji Kibininė is one of the best places for that.
Address: Senoji Kibininė
65 Karaimų Street
For our meal we chose The Round Table Club restaurant. It was very atmospheric with a romantic sunset view of the castle in the background.
The steaks and fish dishes that we had were beautifully done and we also enjoyed their extensive list of wines.
The average main course price is 50Lt (15 Eur).
For those who prefer less expensive food, but still good quality and lakeside dining, could try their pizzeria at the same location.
Address: The Round Table Club
Karaimų 53a, tel. +370 528 555 95,
Open hours: Daily:12:00-23:00
Trakai is also worth visiting for hiking, horse riding and water sports lovers.You can hire rowboats, yachts and even snow motor bikes in winter.
Trakai National Sport and Health Center
Address: Karaimų 73,
Yacht club Žalgiris Žemaitės 3, tel. + 370 528 52 824
Trakai is within an easy reach of Vilnius. Buses depart regularly from Vilnius to Trakai bus station.
The journey takes about 45 min. From the bus stop walk north to Karaimų Street and continue to the main attractions.
There are also trains that you can take but they are not as convenient as they stop further inland.
From the train station follow Vytauto Street north to the bus station and then continue north to Karaimų Street.
If you are travelling by car take the A4 out of Vilnius and follow the signs.
There are also other exhibitions outside the castle. You may wish to see Karaites Ethnographic Exhibition situated at 22 Karaimu St.
Or Exposition of Sacral Art, which displays unique items of church art. The address is: 4 Kęstučio Street. Both of them open Wednesdays to Sundays.
Tourist information centre:
(Here you will find the maps, places of interest and accommodation info).
Address: Vytauto 69, tel.+ 370 528 51 934/ 370 672 09 476
May - September:
Mon: 9.00 – 17.15 Tues – Fri: 9.00 – 18.00 Sat, Sun: 9.00 – 15.00
October - April :
Mon – Thurs: 8.00 – 17.00Fri: 8.00 – 15.45
Closed on Saturday and Sunday.
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