View towards Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral from the Hotel "Šiauliai", at night in winter.
Šiauliai is a fourth largest city in Lithuania. Its name derives from the word Saulė, which is a Lithuanian word for Sun. It is named after a Sun Battle that took place nearby. With time the name has changed and had several kinds of spelling.
Šiauliai Tourism Information Centre (Šiaulių turizmo informacijos centras), Vilniaus St 213 (Centre), ☎ +370 41 523-110 ([email protected]). M-F 09:00–18:00, lunch break 13:00-14:00. Provides all kinds of information, booking of accommodation and catering.
The settlement dates back to Neolithic Era, it became a town in ca XI century, but the official date of foundation is considered to be 1236 when the Sun Battle (Saulės mūšis) took place near the modern location of Šiauliai city. In 1568 Šiauliai was granted Magdeburg rights. Since the end of 16th century became a centre of the region, eventually in 18th century became a well-developed industrial city built in an orderly rectangular grid.
In 1795, Lithuania was incorporated into Russia. Šiauliai continue to develop as important industrial, educational and cultural center. During WWI Šiauliai was burned down and totally bombed. Became a Lithuanian city again in 1918, acknowledged to Lithuania by Soviet Russia in 1920. Restored during the interwar years, then bombed again during WWII in 1944 when the Red Army retook it at the war’s end. The city became an important industrial center of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic and the home for a Soviet Air Force base (10th Fighter Regiment of 7th Mixed Air Division of Baltic Special Military District, and the 18th Military Transport Aviation Division). With Lithuania’s independence in 1991 the Soviet troops had been withdrawn, however the old historical part of the city (with exception of very few buildings and churches) is lost.
Former Soviet airforce base in Zokniai suburb, 1996.
Šiauliai bus station and Saulės Miestas
You can get to Šiauliai by train from western or eastern ends of the country as the main railway connects the seaside with the capital, whilst Šiauliai is about at the middle. To get there from elsewhere, including neighbouring Latvia, take a bus. For the trains check the LitRail website, for buses take a look at Bus Tickets (Autobusų bilietai).
- Šiauliai Bus Station (Šiaulių autobusų stotis), Tilžės St 109 (Almost centre, closer to the railway, attached to the shopping centre Saulės Miestas), ☎ +370 41 525-058 ([email protected]). Bus station information desk M-Su 06:30–18:30, ticket office 04:00–19:00.
- Šiauliai Railway Station (Šiaulių geležinkelio stotis), Dubijos St 44 (South from the very centre, 10 min walk from the bus station), ☎ Short domestic number 8 700 55111 ([email protected]). M-Su 08:00-11:00, 12:00-20:00.
Šiauliai is not a big city, so you need no more than buses or just your own feet. Buses go all through Šiauliai. There are daily buses that go to places around the city.
City buses run from 5AM-11PM. You can by tickets in the kiosks, one ticket costs 1,80 LTL
The microbuses go from 6AM-11PM. You can buy tickets in the microbus. One ticket costs 2,00 LTL.
Timetables are available in Lithuanian for both city buses and microbuses, details on route of every line (list of all stops and detailed schedule) can be seen by clicking on line (bus/microbus) number. You have to know where you have to or want to go first, only then is possible to find out which number you have to take and where to get off. As everywhere in Lithuania, the public transport routes are defined by names of the endpoints, and the path of the route is defined by the set of bus stop names which are linked to the landmarks and street names.
Same applies to the suburban bus routes: suburban buses run within the district limits reaching the centres of neighbouring districts and then return back to Šiauliai. For the short trips, for example to the Hill of Crosses, you have to take the suburban bus. Tickets are obtained from the driver, you have to name your destination and number of tickets you want to buy; seat number is not indicated on the ticket, take any if available. As soon as the bus approaches your destination point you are supposed to prepare to get off and to leave the bus immediately. If you keep on sitting till the last second, the new passengers will quickly board the bus making significant inconveniences to you because you'll be an obstacle on their way.
It often is more reasonable to reach some destinations (like the centres of neighbouring districts or some places near the main roads) by intercity buses. If the place is by the road between the major settlements where the bus is not scheduled to stop, the driver may agree to drop you off at the desirable spot (usual practice), you simply pay for the ticket up to the closest settlement.
Restored Chaim Frenkel villa at Vilniaus St 74. View from the park.
Iron Fox sculpture in Šiauliai, Lithuania. Created by sculptor Vilius Puronas, coordinates 55°55'52" N, 23°19'44.23" E.
Although severely destroyed during the 20th century, the city retained its original urban layout and street network. The new and old buildings of the central part form a unified whole, still calm and cozy as if globalization and urbanization would not have affected its development. Central part with its pedestrian street named after Vilnius, the capital, is pleasant to walk and spend some time without focusing on anything. Cafes, restaurants and clubs are also here. One block north you find Šiauliai Cathedral and City Municipality. Further east you reach an outdoor recreation area by the Talša Lake.
One of the most significant buildings that miraculously survived is an Art Nouveau gem, Chaim Frenkel Villa, now a branch of "Aušra Museum", address Vilniaus St. 74 (Eastern end of the street), ☎ +370 41 524-389. Tu-F 10:00-18:00, Sa-Su 11:00-17:00; the Park is open for free M-Su 10:00–22:00. Residence Villa was built in 1908 by one the most famous Šiauliai manufacturer Chaim Frenkel, called "the King of Leather" at the time. 1920–1940 the villa operated as a private Jewish gymnasium. During WWII it was turned into the German war hospital, and after the war into the Soviet war hospital, linked to the Air Force base. Abandoned in 1992, given to "Aušra Museum" in 1994, restoration completed in 2005. Ticket 10 LTL, guided tour 40 LTL, audioguided tour in English 5 LTL, photography and shooting for personal event (for one person) 20 LTL.
Next to the Frenkel Villa there was a flourishing leather factory, now abandoned but still in tact, an authentic example of a vintage "brick style" industrial buildings of the end of 19th century. Complete restoration is planned in the near future.
- Apart Frenkel Villa, museum owns 7 separate objets, among them:
- Bicycle Museum Vilniaus St 139, ☎ +370 41 524-395. Tu-F 10:00–18:00, Sa 11:00-17:0. Ticket 6 LTL, guided tour 40 LTL, audioguided tour in English 5 LTL, photography and shooting for personal event (for one person) 20 LTL.
- Radio and Television Museum Vilniaus St 174, ☎ +370 41 524-399. Tu-F 10:00–18:00, Sa 11:00-17:0. Ticket 6 LTL, guided tour 40 LTL, audioguided tour in English 5 LTL, photography and shooting for personal event (for one person) 20 LTL.
- Cat Museum (Katinų muziejus), Žuvininkų St 18,, ☎ Mobile +370 683 69844 ([email protected]). Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00. Over 4,000 exhibits, tons of good mood and positive emotions. 5 LTL.
- Railway Museum (Outdoor exhibits), Dubijos St 44 and Dubijos St 26. M-F 08:00-- 11:00, 11:45-16:00, F 08:00-11:00, 11:45-14:45. Founded on 4 Sep 1971 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Šiauliai Railway Station. Free of charge.
- Sculptures. You can find small sculptures and fountains all over the city: Sculpture "Three Birds", Fountain Rude, Sculpture "Pelicans", Sculpture "Motherhood", Sculpture "Three Trolls", Sculpture "Dawn", Sculpture "A grandfather with his grandchildren", Sculpture "A reading man".
- Cathedral of the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul
- Monument to the Battle of the Sun in Salduve Park
- Stained Glass Window, commemorating the Battle of the Sun
- Churches, Siauliai has 4 churches.
- Cathedral of the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul.
- St. George's church, St. Ignatus' church
- Saints Peter and Paul's Church of the Othodox parish.
Hill of Crosses (Kryžių Kalnas)
Approaching Hill Of Crosses.
View from the Hill Of Crosses toward the main road
Hill of crosses (Kryžių Kalnas) north of Šiauliai, after a snow fall
The Hill of Crosses (Kryžių Kalnas), north of Šiauliai is a national centre of pilgrimage in Lithuania. Standing upon a small hill, a former hill-fort, are many hundreds of thousands of crosses that represent Christian devotion and a memorial to Lithuanian national identity. Over the centuries, the Hill has come to signify the peaceful endurance of Lithuanian Catholicism. After the 3rd partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire.
Poles and Lithuanians unsuccessfully rebelled against Russian authorities in 1831 and 1863. The two uprisings are thought to be connected with the contemporary use of the hill as a religious site. When families could not locate bodies of perished rebels during the uprisingslink title, they started putting up symbolic crosses in the location of a former hill fort.
After WWI, in 1918 Lithuania regained independence. In 1922 there were 50 crosses, the number before the WWII reached over 400. During that period the Hill of Crosses was a place for Masses and devotions.
After WWII Šiauliai region became a part of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. During the Soviet era, the pilgrimage to the Hill of Crosses became an expression of Lithuanian nationalism. The Soviets repeatedly removed the crosses placed on the hill by many nationalistic and Christian Lithuanians.
In 1961, 1973 and 1975 the Hill was cleared and the crosses were burned or turned into scrap metal with the area being covered with waste to discourage further similar activities at the site. On each occasion the local inhabitants and pilgrims from all over Lithuania replaced the crosses on the hill.
The hill is currently visited by many thousands of visitors and pilgrims from all over the world. The current number of crosses is unknown. Estimates put it at about 55,000 in 1990 and by 2006 the number had grown to an estimated 100,000. Diverse styles, designs and sizes are represented amongst the crosses. Some are carved out of wood, others sculpted from metal. The crosses range from 3m tall to countless tiny examples hanging upon and about the larger crosses.
On 7 September, 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, declaring it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice.
In 2000 a Franciscan hermitage was opened nearby. The interior decoration of this monastery draws upon La Verna, the mountain where St. Francis received his stigmata.
- By car, take the A12 road, toward Joniškis; Ryga. After the roadsign "KRYŽIŲ KALNAS - 2 km", turn right.
- By bus: From Siauliai bus station, Joniškis direction. Leave the bus at the DOMANTAI stop, walk about 2 km. To get back to Šiauliai walk back to the Domantai stop and wait for a bus. It is important that only suburban buses stop there, all intercity buses will pass you by.
- By taxi: From Šiauliai centre take a taxi, when at the spot tell the driver to wait (taxis usually wait up to 30 minutes), make sure you understood each other. Drivers may not speak English, but everybody understand and expect that you will be going to the Hill of Crosses. There also is a taxi service Šiauliai-Riga, expenses shared between passengers are worthwhile.
- 300 m away from the Hill is a Christian monastery. It has sixteen cells. This monastery serves as a novitiate of the Lithuanian Franciscan province of St. Casimir but is also open to the pilgrims who may look to it for silence and peace. This hermit of the Franciscan Brothers was consecrated on 7 July, 2000.
Kitesurfing in Rėkyva Lake south of Šiauliai. Coordinates 55°51'40.42" N, 23°19'51.35" E.
A red-letter day of Balts Unity, traditionally celebrated at Salduvė hill-fort in Šiauliai, Lithuania. Coordinates 55°55'41.39" N, 23°21'30.63" E.
In the city
- If weather is good rent a bicycle and explore the city. Trip to the Hill of Crosses by bicycle also is feasible.
- Water sports in Rėkyva Lake south of city, access from its SE shore, village Rėkyva.
- One of the country's red-letter days, Balts Unity Day, is directly associated with Šiauliai: 22 Sep 1236 is a day when the Sun Battle took place in vicinity, Samogitians and Semigallians defeated the Knights Of Sword. In 2000 parliaments of Lithuania and Latvia declared September 22 a Balts Unity Day. Symbolically, the sun reaches the autumnal equinox point on this day. This day also is a part of Latvia-Lithuania Cross-Border Cooperation Programme, which aims to develop border regions of Latvia and Lithuania. Annual celebration takes place in surroundings of Žuvininkai Hill-fort, also known as Salduvė Hill, located in the eastern part of the city municipality, between Talša Lake and Ginkūnai Reservoir, Lepšiai district.
In Šiauliai district
Šiauliai city is a centre of district municipality. Most of the district lies in Samogitia region, whilst only its eastern corner belong to Aukštaitija. Šiauliai itself always was at the periphery of both regions, although belongs to both, too. Lithuanian ethnographic regions are not associated with administrative division. If interested, distinctions of two regions can be acquainted by exploring Šiauliai district and its close vicinity.
Šiauliai District Tourism and Business Information Centre (Šiaulių rajono turizmo ir verslo informacijos centras) is located not far from the Hill of Crosses in Jurgaičiai village, Meškuičiai elderate (Near the A12 highway), ☎ +370 41 370-860 ([email protected]). 09:00-17:00. Provides free information about places of Šiauliai District, accommodation, catering services, events in Šiauliai region, sells souvenirs, maps.
- While the best known site near Šiauliai, the Hill of Crosses, is situated north of the city, the most attractive recreation area lies some 20 km south-west from Šiauliai centre. The area is commonly known as Kurtuvėnai Forest, which is a part of Kurtuvėnai Regional Park with the centre in Kurtuvėnai village. The management of Regional Park with the guest house is settled there. Horse riding centre locates in the stables of Kurtuvėnai Manor and operates since 1995. The three-star camping site "Kurtuvėnai" was established in the garden of the manor in 2008. The tavern "Kryžkelė" (“Crossroad”) was opened in the renewed peon's house. The building was built for the czarist army's warehouses when they dig Venta-Dubysa channel in the 19th century. Here you can try, of course, genuine Lithuanian beer, as well as some culinary heritage dishes which are made using old traditions. The Regional Park has numerous places, related to Lithuanian national movement of the junction of the 19th-20th centuries and to the events of both world wars. Kurtuvėnai has a rich, nice and diverse environment. Park area covers 17,252 ha, including 12,130 ha of the forests. Whole park’s territory is divided to several zones: conservation (nature reserves), ecological priority (preservation), recreation, economic (forestry, agriculture) and living zones. Sparsely populated, park territory has about 1,200 local dwellers. 30 small lakelets are swashing and 20 forest rivulets are running in the shelter of forests. Kurtuvėnai settlement is surrounded by nearly 100 fishery reservoirs. In the western part of the park there spurt well-known multiple springs of Svilė, which are considered to be the biggest in Lithuania. Predominant forests are coniferous. The landscape is characterized with high biodiversity of vegetation, some 981 plant species have been found there. There can be found many common species of birds and animals, even wolves are among them here, they permanently live in the western part of the forest. Some of the habitats are of European importance (Natura 2000). There are 2 cognitive paths (about 4.5 km each one) and 2 bicycle trails, 6 defensive hill-forts, 8 interesting landscape objects, 15 alone standing trees, each of which is a separate object of interest, related to one or other historical event or is just an expressive example of nature. The Shrovetide Feastival of Kurtuvenai is acknowledged as a one of the most viable traditional festivals all over Lithuania. Also, other feasts take place there, such as the Festival of barn-theaters, Fire-linkup on the Girnikai hill-fort, Midsummer Feast, and various events of the Christmas time.
- One of the best known attractions here is Kurtuvėnai Horse Riding Centre Parko street 2, Kurtuvėnai, LT-80223 Šiauliai district (From Šiauliai centre drive South-West down the A12 highway (Kelmė direction) about 15 km, then turn right after Bubiai village (road No 215) and drive about 5 km, then turn left to Kurtuvėnai), ☎ For reservation +370 41 370-333, Mobile +370 618 29964 ([email protected]). "Open. Price for 2 persons 270 LTL/€78, including two nights accommodation in ***camping.
- Excursion to Dargaičiai Ethnographic One-street Village. Offer: walk across the village, visiting some rural homesteads; tasting local culinary heritage dishes, summer ski walking, fishing, riding a horse carriage.
- Five excursion options available:
- 2 hr overview with some culinary tasting;
- 2.5 hr cognitive program which involve baking buns in a rustic oven, tea drinking;
- 2.5 hr cognitive program which involve puppet making following ancient ways, acquaintance with shadow art;
- 2.5 hr cognitive program which involve acquaintance with traditional ceramics;
- 5th option - 10 kg ham baked in a rustic oven and served with sauerkraut and potatoes. Shall be ordered with/without options 3 & 4 no later than 7 days in advance.
- Fortas (Fort), Tilžės St 109 (Within the shopping centre Saulės Miestas), ☎ Mobile +370 656 96689 ([email protected]).
- Grafaitės svetainė (Countess Parlour), Aušros St 1, Ginkūnai district (Northern district of Ginkūnai, within hotel Grafaitė), ☎ +370 41 589-120, mobile +370 686 19191 ([email protected]). Around 25 LTL, day lunch 10 LTL, business lunch 35 LTL.
- Senasis sodžius (The Old Grange), Stoties St 3 (In front of Saulės Miestas), ([email protected]). This is a good place in Šiauliai to try traditional Lithuanian food. Service is nice and fast. Prices are quite low and food quality is great. It is not a big place, but it is very popular, so better avoid comming in lunch hours. Even if you do come in lunch hour, do not be scared of long line there - service is so fast that this you won't need to wait long. Lunch around 5 dollars.
- Hotel Grafaitė (Grafaitės svetainė - Countess Parlour), Aušros St 1, Ginkūnai district (Not far from the road to Riga - turn east Pakruojis direction), ☎ Info 24/7 +370 41 589-120, mobile +370 686 19191 ([email protected], fax: +370 41 502-152). 130-250 LTL.
- Saulininkas (Sun Master), Lukauskio St 5 (Centre), ☎ Mobile +370 686 81187 ([email protected], fax: +370 41 421-848). Three star Hotel and a Guest House next to each other. Hotel €45-90 (breakfast included).
- Šiauliai Draugystė av. 25 (Centre, walk vertically away from the railway station up to the T-junction, turn left. From bus station walk NE up to the main pedestrian street Vilniaus, turn to the right and walk for several minutes up to the tall (14 floor) building by the left hand side), ☎ Info +370 41 437-333 ([email protected], fax: +370 41 438-339). Three star Hotel, 118 rooms, conference hall (80 seats), restaurant, bar "Martini Club", gym, billiard. 95-200 LTL, lux 300 LTL.
Šiauliai(both town and the district) phone code is 41 and the 6 digit local subscriber number.
Riga (Ryga) in nearby Latvia.
Klaipeda, Lithuania's third largest city is to the south west.
Kaunas, Lithuania's second city is to the south east.
Telšiai, the capital city of Samogitia region.