Administrative centre – Alytus
Area – 40 km² (0.7 % of the county’s area)
Population – 68 304 (38.6 % of the county’s population)
The county centre – Alytus – the largest town in Southern Lithuania and sixth largest town in Lithuania – is the informal capital of Dzūkija region. Forests make up as much as 31.8 %, built-up area – 33.9 %, water bodies – 2.3 %, roads – 4.9 %, agricultural land – 11 %, other land – 16.2 % of the municipality. From southeast to northwest, Alytus is crossed by the Nemunas, the largest part of the town being situated on the left bank of the river.
Alytus is one of the oldest towns in Lithuania. It was for the first time mentioned in 1377 in the chronicles of Wigand of Marburg; however, Magdeburg rights and a coat of arms were obtained by the town as late as on 15 June 1581. Therefore, the day of the town is celebrated namely on June 15 of each year. The current coat of arms – a white rose on a red shield – was granted to the town in 1995.
Particularly beautiful environment and convenient location of the town conditioned the fact that in 1932 Alytus was granted the status of a resort. Alytus is a town in a park. Adorned with picturesque forests and green hills, it is encircled by a 16 km long Nemunas loop. There is a Vidzgiris Forest with the total area of 452 ha situated within the territory of Alytus town – a botanical reserve, an exquisite piece of nature with large-leaved, ditch and slope, hornbeam forests, oak woods, valuable rare plants, inhabited by many protected animal species. For people taking interest in nature and history, enjoying long walks, a special ecological path leading to the Radžiūnai castle mound (also called Pilaitė) was arranged.
In 1963 – in the Soviet era – it was decided to turn the quiet little resort town, situated in a strategically convenient place, into an industrial centre of Southern Lithuania. Over 25 years, 17 large industrial enterprises were constructed. New living quarters were built; the population was increasing, the infrastructure was developing. However, after the restoration of independence, such a concept of an industrial town caused a bunch of problems – increasing unemployment and decreasing employment, intensive emigration, growing crime rate, etc. With the start of economic reforms, most enterprises were privatised. With the emergence of an economic crisis and later speedup in economic globalisation processes, many large enterprises went bankrupt. Social problems (unemployment, emigration, especially that of the youth) became burning again. The town became dominated by enterprises engaging in light, wood processing, food industry. Medium and small business is one of the main factors of economic growth, substantially impacting on the town economy, creation of new jobs and social stability; therefore, its development is one of the priorities of the economic policy in Alytus town municipality for the year 2008.
The current vision of Alytus – development of a favourable industrial and business, as well as convenient and harmonious living environment, improvement of the infrastructure and environmental protection in order to make Alytus town a business, cultural and scientific centre of Southern Lithuania by the year 2015.
Recently, considerable attention has been paid to the image of the town: streets and parks have been landscaped (Town Garden (Miesto sodas), Resort (Kurorto), Youth (Jaunimo), Gulbynė, Likiškės parks, Drevinukas Sculpture Park), the infrastructure has been developed. The vision of the town, the long-term development strategy and initiative of active residents allow hoping for positive changes to come. Alytus by all means justifies the name of a county centre. The town hosts the only higher non-university educational institution in the county – Alytus college, 2 gymnasium schools, a professional theatre, actively pursuing not only artistic but also educational activities and functioning for already as many as 17 seasons, arts, music, crafts schools, the only circus in Lithuania – Dzūkija Circus (Dzūkijos cirkas), existing since 1982, tuberculosis hospital, central district hospital in the name of Stasys Kudirka, state child care home. The artists of Alytus town are particularly active: alongside traditional folk and amateur art, professional artwork is constantly exhibited in the museum of regional studies, galleries and public spaces. Intensive and multiform cultural activities – a deep-rooted tradition of the Alytus Jurgis Kunčinas Public Library – the White Crow (Baltos varnos) Salon hosted by the library constantly amazes townspeople and guests of the town with well-organised, creatively different and original cultural events.
Townspeople and guests of the town may visit the largest state museum in Southern Lithuania, taking care not only of preservation of heritage, exhibiting modern art but also engaging in ingenious educational activity – the museum of regional studies with branches – memorial museums of Antanas Jonynas and Anzelmas Matutis. Interesting and worth visiting are local museums – those of Fights for Freedom (Laisvės kovų), Alytus Law and Order (Alytaus teisėsaugos ir teisėtvarkos), Historical Museum of A. Ramanauskas-Vanagas Secondary School.
Alytus town municipality
Alytus tourism information centre
Alytus sports and recreation centre