26 interesting facts about Lithuania

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From one of the world’s smallest republics to a hill with over 100,000 crosses, these are the most interesting facts about Lithuania.

An aerial shot of the old town in Vilnius
The baroque Old Town of Vilnius (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Lithuania
Population: 2.6 million
Area: 65,300 sq km
Capital city: Vilnius
Major languages: Lithuanian, Russian, Polish
Major religions: Christianity
Time zone: UTC+2 (Eastern European Time)
– Source: CIA World Factbook

Interesting facts about Lithuania

1. Lithuania is a small Baltic country in northeastern Europe bordering Belarus, Latvia, Poland and Russia.
– Source: Britannica

2. Lithuania is the largest and southernmost of the three Baltic countries which also include Estonia and Latvia.
– Source: BBC News

3. Lithuania used to be known as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania during the 15th century when it was the largest state in Europe.
– Source: R. Bideleux. (1998) A History of Eastern Europe: Crisis and Change. Routledge: Oxfordshire

A map of Lithuania
Lithuania is located in the Baltics (Shutterstock)

4. In 1990, Lithuania became the first republic to break away from the USSR when it proclaimed the restoration of its pre-war independence after it was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940.
– Source: The Guardian

5. Lithuania also borders the detached Russian oblast (region) of Kaliningrad to the southwest. Kaliningrad became an enclave when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 as it is completely separated from the rest of Russia.
– Source: Britannica

6. Lithuania shares the Curonian Spit with Russia. The UNESCO-listed Curonian Spit is a 98km (61mi) long, thin, curved sand dune that separates the Baltic Sea from the Curonian Lagoon. It is as narrow as 400m in places.
– Source: UNESCO

An aerial view of the Curonian Spit from Lithuania
The Curonian Spit (Shutterstock)

7. Lithuanian is the oldest surviving Indo-European language. It has preserved many archaic features from its ancestral Proto-Indo-European language and could be as much as 5,000 years old.
– Source: Britannica, Akorbi

8. Lithuania has its own “national perfume” which is a combination of bergamot, wildflowers, ginger, raspberry and grapefruit with base notes of amber, cedar, sandalwood, patchouli and “tree moss and tree smoke”.
– Source: The Guardian

9. Lithuania’s flag is made up of three horizontal stripes: yellow represents the country’s wheat fields; green its forests; and red the courage shown and blood spilt in the country’s defence.
– Source: Wanderlust (2021) Flags, Capitals and Countries of the World: The Complete Handbook. Wanderlust Press: London

Lithuania's flag flying against clouds and sky during sunset
Lithuania’s flag (Shutterstock)

10. Lithuania’s national dish is cepelinai (or zeppelin), an airship-shaped dumpling made from grated potatoes and stuffed with minced meat, cottage cheese or mushrooms and served with sour cream.
– Source: BBC Travel, Culture Trip

11. Lithuania’s second city, Kaunas, is home to the Museum of Devils packed with over 3,000 devil statuettes, carvings, masks and other images.
– Source: Lonely Planet

12. Europe’s largest baroque Old Town is in Vilnius. The UNESCO-listed Vilnius Historic Centre dates from the 13th to the end of the 18th century and is around 3.52 sq km in size.
– Source: UNESCO, DK Eyewitness (2023) Europe by Train. DK: London

A baroque church in Vilnius
A baroque church in Vilnius (Shutterstock)

13. Vilnius is also home to the world’s first memorial to musician Frank Zappa. The Frank Zappa Memorial was unveiled in 1995 after the singer died in 1993.
– Source: Lonely Planet, Atlas Obscura

14. The UNESCO-listed Struve Geodetic Arc passes through Lithuania. The Struve Arc is a chain of survey triangulations stretching 2,820km (1,752 miles) across 10 countries from Norway to the Black Sea. The survey, carried out between 1816 and 1855 by the astronomer Friedrich Struve, helped to establish the exact size and shape of the Earth.
– Source: UNESCO

15. In Vilnius there is the tiny breakaway republic. Užupis began as an April Fools’ Day joke between friends in 1997 but has since evolved into one of the world’s smallest republics with its own passport stamp, constitution and currency.
– Source: BBC Travel

A border sign of Užupis in Vilnius, Lithuania
The “border of Užupis (Shutterstock)

16. Vilnius is named after the Vilnia River, which flows into the Neris River at the site of the city. The river’s name derives from the Lithuanian word “vilnis” meaning “a surge”.
– Source: CIA World Factbook

17. Lithuania comes from the word Lietuva. It is unclear where the name originates but it’s likely to derive from the Latin litus for shore meaning “shoreland.”
– Source: Online Etymology Dictionary

18. Lithuania was the last pagan state in Europe and did not officially convert to Christianity until 1386.
– Source: BBC Travel

19. One of Lithuania’s most famous sites is the Hill of Crosses where over 100,000 crosses have been planted. The tradition began in the 1831 Uprising (or November Insurrection) but reached its peak in the 1960s when people would creep through the forest at night to lay crosses in defiance of anti-religious Soviet rule.
– Source: Lonely Planet

Lithuania's Hill of Crosses
Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses (Shutterstock)

20. Lithuania is one of the world’s lowest countries with an average elevation of just 110m. Its highest peak, Aukštojas Hill, is just 294m (965ft).
– Source: The Telegraph, Trakai and Vilnius Tourism Information Centre

21. Lithuania has two independence days: the Restoration of the State Day on February 16 and the Restoration of Independence Day on March 11. The first one recognises when modern Lithuania was born in 1918 when the Act of Independence was signed on 16 February after 120 years of Russian imperial rule. The second one represents the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania that was signed on 11 March 1990 at the end of Soviet control.
– Source: Lithuania Travel

22. Lithuanian women are the eighth-tallest in the world according to a 100-year global study published in 2016 by the World Health Organization.
– Source: Reuters

Lithuanian women celebrating independence day in 2016
Lithuanian women are some of the world’s tallest (Shutterstock)

23. Lithuania is the 20th happiest country in the world according to the 2023 World Happiness Report from the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
– Source: World Happiness Report

24. The UNESCO-listed Kernavė Archaeological Site in Lithuania has archaeological evidence of human settlements from over 10,000 years ago. The complex includes the remains of four old castle mounds and a medieval town.
– Source: UNESCO, Lonely Planet

25. Basketball is the most popular sport in Lithuania with several players playing in the American NBA.
– Source: Lithuania Travel

26. In 1989, around two million people joined hands to create a 600km long human chain through the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania known as The Baltic Way. It was part of a peaceful political demonstration against Soviet rule.
– Source: The Baltic Way

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Lithuania using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.