Lithuania’s third-largest city is a mix of old and new. This former Prussian capital (when it was named Memel) has retained a distinct German flavour in the architecture of its heavily cobbled Old Town and one remaining tower of its red-brick castle. It’s also Lithuania’s only port of call for Titanic-sized cruise ships, and a vital sea link for cargo and passenger ferries between Lithuania, Scandinavia and beyond.
Most people will only catch a glimpse of Klaipėda (klai-pey-da) as they rush headlong for the ferry to the Curonian Spit, but spend a few hours – or even better, a day – and you’ll be justly rewarded.
The Danė River flows westward across the city centre and enters the Curonian Lagoon 4km from the Baltic Sea. The river cuts the city into two distinct parts. South of the river is the more modern New Town, where you’ll find some hotels, the train and bus stations, and Klaipėda University. The main axis here is Manto gatvė, which runs north–south. North of the river is the gentrifying Old Town, which has the tourist information office as well as shops, bars, restaurants and a smattering of hotels. The main drag here is Tiltų gatvė and Taikos prospektas.
A third district, Smiltynė, lies across the Curonian Lagoon from the rest of the city on the northern tip of Curonian Spit. It has a handful of interesting sights and is reachable only by ferry.