Founded in 1252, Klaipeda began when the Teutonic Knights built a castle called Memelburg, near the junction of the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea. Over time, a town called Memel emerged around the castle . Klaipeda, in fact, was known as Memel from 1252-1923 and from 1939-1945. Since 1945, the city has been known by the Lithuanian name of Klaipeda.
Klaipeda was united with Lithuania only in 1923, and even then was closed to tourists during 50 years of Soviet rule following World War II. Today, as the only Lithuanian port, Klaipeda holds a position of great importance to Lithuania’s economics and its connection to the rest of the world.
Cruise ships coming to Klaipeda catch sight not only of the reconstructed port entrance but also of the Curonian Spit National park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Entering the port itself, passengers see the Lithuanian Maritime Museum, the only museum of the kind in the Baltic States.
The cruise terminal (built in 2003) is situated by a medieval city castle in the historic city center. A rotating bridge, built in 1855 with reverted iron trusses, cast iron columns and manual rotation mechanism, permits entry into Klaipeda.
Lithuania’s oldest city, Klaipeda is situated at the mouth of the river Dane, in the country’s western part, a region famous for its summer resorts, sandy beaches and pine forests, especially along the Curonian Spit. The inland countryside is heavily wooded and green.
Excursions include Nida, a resort town in Neringa that features Europe’s highest sand dunes; and Nerginga Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One fascinating excursion is to Juodkrante, a town featuring the Hill of Witches, a park of wooden sculptures depicting Lithuanian fairy-tales;
Palanga, home of the famous Amber Museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of rare amber inclusions, housed in the 19th century mansion of Count Tishkevichius.
Also interesting is Village Life Lapiai, a preserved collective farm.
Klaipeda At A Glance
- Markets: Klaipeda’s central market features fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers and fish, Lithuanian specialties and varieties of smoked ham and salami.
- Parks: Klaipeda’s Curonian Spit is a nature preserve on a narrow peninsula stretching from Klaipeda to the Russian border and featuring Europe’s highest sand dunes (earning it the nickname, the Lithuanian Sahara). The nature preserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Castles and Kings: Klaipeda’s Castle Museum opened in 2002 in renovated underground corridors of an old castle. The museum features authentic 16th and 17th century exhibits.
- The Old Town. Walk the streets, stopping at the Old Post Office to enjoy carillon music from the tower. Visit the Museum of Clocks and Watches as well as The Blacksmith‘s museum. And don’t miss the sculpture of Annchen von Tharau, the defiant girl posing in front of the Drama Theater.
- Events. The Sea Festival, celebrated every July since 1934.
Klaipeda is a member of Cruise Europe.
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