Established during the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century, Jonava has a rich history. Much of this was built around a Jewish population, and it had a thriving market, beer brewery and timber workshops. Jonava was not spared the horrors of WWII, and its Jewish population suffered immensely when the Nazis invaded Lithuania in 1941. The Nazis murdered up to 90% of Lithuania's Jewish population.
For those interested in tracing Jewish history at Jonava, there are only two synagogues that were spared destruction: Beit Medrash Hagadol Synagogue and Jonava Synagogue of Merchants. Both are no longer in use but offer a picture of this once-thriving community. Other noted sites of Jewish history include the old houses of Kaunas Street and the Old Jewish Cemetery.
Other landmarks from Jonava's 18th century are the Jonava Church of St. Jacob the Apostle, a neoclassical-style building, and a memorial stone for Jonas Mykolas Kosakovski, an old manor house built by early town founders, the Kosakovski family. You can learn more about the city's history at the Jonava Regionas Museum, located in a former post station.
Jonava offers several excellent shopping opportunities, not to mention retail day trips to historic Kaunas. These include thrift store centres like Jone and the stationery centre Raštinės Reikmenys. As for dining, Jonava offers a wide variety of Lithuanian staples, from locally-foraged chanterelles and boletus mushrooms to grilled meats, burgers and pasta. A variety of restaurants and cafes are situated around Ramybės Skveras, Jonava's central park.
Jonava is known for its football team, FK Jonava, which plays in Lithuania's A Lyga. A second team, FK Jonava B, play in the third division. Matches are hosted at the Central Stadium of Jonava, the city's purpose-built stadium with a park, indoor arena and swimming pool. Other popular sports in the city include basketball, volleyball and autocross racing.
A car or van hire in Jonava is an excellent way to explore Kaunas County. You can visit Skaruliu Sv. Onos Baznycia, which is one of the oldest churches in the region. It dates from 1622, with a red belfry completed in 1898. You'll also have access to countryside walks in stunning nature reserves like Kulvos geomorfologinis draustinis, Labūnavos miško biosferos poligonas and Babtų-Varluvos miškų biosferos poligonas. A top day trip for visitors is the regional capital of Kaunas, home to Lithuania's oldest gallery, MK Čiurlionis. Its Ninth Fort details the horrors of Nazi and Soviet occupation, while Sugihara House remembers the actions of a Japanese diplomat who saved some 5,558 Lithuanian Jews.