The year 1236 is the date when the name Šiauliai was mentioned in historical chronicles for the first time. Šiauliai is situated at the junction of two roads used by hunters, warriors and merchants in times much older than the city itself. These roads now connect Tallinn and Warsaw, and run west to the seaport of Klaipėda and east to Russia through Latvia.
Due to its perfect geographical location, Šiauliai became the trade and industrial center of Northern Lithuania from the very start. The fastest economic and cultural development began in the 19th century, when Šiauliai was given as a present to the Russian Count Zubov. Footwear and nail factories and higher schools were built. Since then Šiauliai has remained a hub of economic activity, producing items as varied as TV sets, bicycles, leather goods and footwear, knitwear, machine tools, metal items, furniture and food-stuff.
However, good geographic location has not always brought luck and success for Šiauliai: the town was twice burned to the ground, and during World War II 85% of the town was ruined. Despite this, its strategic importance ensured that the town was always rebuilt. It also meant that the biggest military airport in Eastern Europe was established there in the Soviet period.
Šiauliai, with its current population of 147,000, is the fourth biggest city in Lithuania and the economic, cultural and educational center of Northern Lithuania.
Since 1970's when the center of Šiauliai was reconstructed, we have a pedestrian boulevard decorated with unique sculptures, with shops, cafés and bars along it. Šiauliai is also famous for its artists and musicians, Drama Theatre and a number of various museums.
The one and only Hill of Crosses in the world, the Kurtuvenai and Venta Regional Parks and many other places of interest and recreation, organized commercial hunting expeditions and trips on horseback attract tourists to the Šiauliai Region as well as the city itself.
Places of interest
Sculpture "Three Birds"
There is a composition of sculptures entitled Three Birds on the lawn in front of Šiauliai Hotel. As you walk around the sculptures, one can see them from a different angle. The plastic lines change and create an impression of movement. The birds turn and flap their wings.
Its small brown-colored dome symbolizes the rivulet that used to flow here. As the time passed, the rivulet was covered and flowed under the ground along the street that bears its name. The fountain was equipped at the intersection of Vilnius St. and Rudes St. in 1986, when the city was getting ready for its 750th jubilee. It took quite a lot of effort to tame the rapid rivulet, but now we can see a fountain decorated with strange old-style carvings.
A fountain and a sculpture under the same name, Pelicans, were erected in 1978 and reconstructed in 2003. Most passers-by might wonder how such exotic birds as pelicans came to Šiauliai. The story is simple: once upon a time, a pair of pelicans failed to keep pace with the flock. They took a wrong direction and headed north instead of south. When flying over Šiauliai, they landed to quench their thirst with water from a pool. An evil sorceress turned them into stones.
The idea of the decorative sculpture Motherhood took quite a few years to mature. The sculpture stands in Vilnius St., in front of Kaštonų Alley. A mother with a baby in her lap is an intimate scene, hidden from the eyes of strangers. Motherhood embodies the everyday and eternal relation between the mother and her child.
Sculpture "Three Trolls"
When white candles of blossoms light on the chestnut trees standing along the alley named after them, the three trolls come to life and shine with pride. The bearded shorties look serious, but their seriousness radiates kindness, and they remind one of the kindly trolls from Scandinavian myths.
A new sculpture entitled Dawn by D. Matulaitė was erected quite recently. The idea that was born two decades ago and received quite opposing opinion became a reality in 2003. The sculpture symbolizes the Aušra (Dawn) Movement a political and literary group of Lithuanian intellectuals of the 1880s - 1890s. They used to publish a magazine called Aušra (1883-1886), and the organization was named after it.
Sculpture "A reading man"
The sculpture entitled A Reading Man was erected in 1983. The man of the old times, who is standing on a cobbled pavement, is not just an ordinary person - he can read. Elderly residents of Šiauliai may find his silhouette slightly familiar. A Reading Man has come from the old press of Šiauliai: the same hand raised his eyeglasses, the same irony. Now it reminds of the old times when Šiauliai was a major center of press, that it has a few printing shops.
Sts. Apostles Peter and Paul's Cathedral
The building was erected in the Renaissance style, with quite a few features typical of mediaeval architecture. In 1997, the church was granted the status of a cathedral.
There are a number of stories telling why the Cathedral was built at this place, and not somewhere else. A legend has it that upon a time a huge ox wandered to Šiauliai, lay down to rest, and passed away in its sleep. As the time passed, the wind covered the dead ox with dust and sand, and thus a small hill occurred. It is that hill Sts. & Apostles Peter and Paul's Cathedral stands on today.
St. George's church
The church is situated in the central part of the city, next to the railway station. The church was built in 1909 with money allotted by the authorities of Tsarist Russia. At first, it served as the church of the Russian Army; when the Russian retreated, the Germans turned it into a warehouse. Following the retreat of the German troops, Rev. Martynas Jonaitis, the chaplain of the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Lithuanian Army, saw to that the church be renovated and handed over to the regiment for its spiritual needs in June 1919. On 6 June 1999, the church was consecrated and given the title of St. George the Martyr.
St. Ignatus' church
In Vilniaus St., next to the pedestrian boulevard, there is St. Ignatius' Church. As far back as 1930, Jesuits bought a house, in which Father B. Andruška equipped premises for Jesuits' residence and a chapel.
In 1949 St. Ignatius' Church was closed, and Father Danyla and Father Andruška were arrested. The church was turned into a warehouse, then into a sports hall, and finally it housed the Small Theater of Šiauliai. At the end of 1990 the building was handed back to the Jesuits.
Sts. Peter and Paul's Church of the Othodox parish
The Orthodox church is situated in the central part of the city, next to the Orthodox sector of the old city cemetery.
Radio and Television museum
In 1982, the public Radio and Television Museum was established. In 1994, it was given to Šiauliai Aušros Museum. Today, the museum safeguards more than 3,700 exhibits, forming various collections: restored mechanical sound devices, radio receivers, measuring instruments, television apparatuses, television sets, adding machines, radio parts and more. The museum also holds personal inventories of the radio pioneers of Lithuania.
The Museum's exposition displays the items from its basic collection, including old but still operating gramophones, music boxes, phonographs, wireless radio receivers, television apparatuses, and television sets.
The Photography Department of the Šiauliai Aušros Museum was founded in 1976.
Nowadays, around 15 photo-exhibitions are being arranged in the halls of Photography Museum every year. The exhibitions acquaint the visitors with the works of the most prominent photographers of different periods and show the most progressive tendencies in photo-art; presentations and discussions of the exhibitions are being constantly organized. During the educational activities, held often in the permanent exposition and in the exhibitions halls, the visitors get deeper perception on the photography's nature, they are taught to see and to take photo-creation in.
In 1980, the public Bicycle Museum created at Šiauliai Bicycle and Motor Factory "Vairas". In 1985, this museum transferred to its present location, Vilniaus street 139. In the same year, the museum opened its exposition to the public. In 1993, the Bicycle Museum became a part of Šiauliai Aušros Museum. There are 259 exhibits in the museum's exposition, of these 73 are bicycles and 4 are three- and four-wheeled carts.
This museum is very popular. Especially between children. They are not just able to view all the exhibits here, but also have a unique opportunity to ride on the three- and four-wheeled carts.
Ch. Frenkelis villa
The Villa was built in 1908 by the large scale manufacturer Chaimas Frenkelis, who at the end of the 19th century established one of the largest and most modern in the tsarist Russia factory for leather tanning and processing in Šiauliai. Chaimas Frenkelis Villa - the cultural monument in the Art Noveau style - is the only one of its kind in Šiauliai and one of a few in Lithuania.
The house of Stanislava and Kazimieras Venclauskiai was built between 1925 and 1927.
In 1995, the S. and K. Venclauskiai exposition was opened at the house, illustrating the domestic and public lives of the noted lawyer and talented actress and stage manager. In 1993, in memory of the more than 100 foundlings and impoverished children who were raised in the family, a statue was unveiled on the terrace of the museum called "Motherhood". Now the building houses the administration of the Museum, History Department and Exhibitions and Visitors' Service Department, a library, and the halls for exhibitions.
Poet Jovaras house
The exposition "The World and Fates of Literature Creators" opened in 1986, signified the beginning of Šiauliai literary museum in Poet Jovaras House. Unique exhibits reflect the lives and creation of such Lithuanian writers as P. Visinskis, Žemaite, G. Petkevicaitė-Bitė, Šatrijos Ragana, M. Grigonis, J. Miliauskas-Miglovara, J. Janonis, K. Korsakas, F. Kirsa, and others. Exhibitions, traditional poetry springs and other events take place in the Poet Jovaras House.
Museum of Cats
The museum was founded on the 17th of May 1990 by Vanda Kavaliauskienė, which was collecting exhibits for the museum many years. The first exhibit - little black wooden cat came from Poland in 1962.
There are over 10 000 exhibits in the museums. Visitors are greeted by cats on stair handrail, on the lamps, etc.