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Getting To Know Klaipeda – Cruise Port Guide
Klaipėda is situated at the mouth of the Curonian Lagoon opening to the Baltic Sea. It is Lithuania’s largest and only harbour city, and an important one as it is the northernmost ice-free harbour in the Baltic Sea. It is also fast becoming a popular cruise port of call in the Baltic and our Klaipeda cruise port guide is going to be your helpful tool for making the most of your time ashore.
Lithuania can be described in two words: flat and fertile. It’s the largest of the Baltic states and is dotted with lush forests, thousands of lakes and has a wide lowland heart. Half of Lithuania’s short Baltic coastline lies along the Curonian Spit, which is the region’s most mesmerising and possibly most beautiful natural feature, with the ocean to one side and a freshwater lagoon behind it. It is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by Lithuania and Russia as it extends down into the Kaliningrad Oblast. It is a sand bar that stretches 98km long but is only 4km wide and is famous for its sand dunes, which reach up to 60metres high. It comprises the Kuršių Nerija National Park, one of five national parks in Lithuania, as well as the touristic town of Nida in the Neringa municipality, and plenty of stunning beaches. The sea port of Klaipėda is the gateway to all this lush natural beauty and as the ship approaches the city, you sail along the spit, so passing this amazing long stretch of fairly pristine sand.
The most immediately attractive area from the cruise ship port is undoubtedly around the Theatre Square. The focus of the old town is this square, on one side of which stands the classical style Klaipėda Theatre. Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop delivered an ultimatum to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister on March 20, 1939 for surrendering Klaipėda to German control, threatening that the town would be taken by other means if necessary. Adolf Hitler himself delivered an address to the city residents from the balcony of the theatre, signifying what would be the last territorial acquisition made by Germany prior to the Second World War. And this is the reason that this little theatre is quite famous.
The square itself is also famous for the statue of a girl that stands at its centre. This statue is called Ann from Tharau and is dedicated to the German poet Simon Dach who was born in the city. Ann was a girl who Simon fell in love with, but she was betrothed to another man, so he wrote a poem about her which is still very famous and popular in Germany. The original sculpture of Ann was made in 1912 but during the Second World War it disappeared, so a replica was cast in 1990 on behalf of the city residents.
If you are looking to spend some time at leisure just mooching around doing a little sightseeing and shopping, this is probably the best place to start, plus there are usually lots of local craft stalls here, the majority of them selling amber. There’s also a couple of very attractive bars, cafes and restaurants here where the beer and the food is good, so you might want to spend some time here watching people shop and enjoying the musical entertainment that is often taking place in the square.
The city itself was badly damaged during bombing in the Second World War and then heavily developed under Russian occupation, although the buildings in the centre date from the 13th to 18th Centuries. They are also notable for towns in Lithuania for being primarily of German and Scandinavian architectural style, and a planned street structure. These include plenty of streets with local shops including plenty that sell Baltic Gold, or Amber as you may know it best. If you want to learn more about this product that is so important to Lithuania as an export, then you can visit the Queen Amber Museum in the heart of Klaipėda and see some impressive ancient amber pieces, including amber from around the world.
One of the nicest and most charming features of Klaipėda are the number of statues and sculptures that you can find dotted around. In fact, they can offer you a chance to explore the city on foot and act as a sort of treasure hunt. Most of the statues have stories associated with them that make for fun exploration. These include:
- The Magical Mouse
- Situated in front of the Kurpiai Jazz Club, the 17cm tall bronze and stone mouse is magical according to its creators. Around the statue written in Lithuanian is the phrase ‘Convert your ideas into words – Words become magic’. So just whisper into the mouse’s ear and your wishes will come true.
- The Serpent
- The origins of this scary looking sculpture that is positioned on a wall in the Old Town, relate to the founding story of the city, which states that two brothers looking to found a new city took different routes, with one going through marshland and disappearing. The other brother who had taken the safer river route found nothing but a muddy footprints. This gave rise to the name Klaipėda from ‘Klampi peda’ meaning ‘marshy footprint’. The dragon or serpent, according to the artist behind its creation, symbolizes the connection between earth and sky, fire and water. It is over 145kg in weight and over 3 metres in length, and when it rains it channels the water through its body to flow out of its jaws.
- The Black Ghost
- Located near the castle remains by the swing bridge you can find this ghostly silhouetted figure rising up out of the water. 2.4 metres in height, it is said to represent a story of a ghostly figure that approached a guard at the castle in 1595 to forewarn of trouble for the city residents.
- The Chimney Sweep
- Located high up on a chimney in the Old Town, the chimney sweep was said to bring good luck to people if they touched their buttons. Its too difficult to touch the statue with it being on the roof, so the sculptor placed a button in the wall of the building for those who wish to see what fortune awaits them.
- The Cat with the face of a Gentleman
- Located in Kalviu street square, this wonderful sculpture has had an interesting history. First cast in 1980 it has twice been stolen and replaced, until finally a more permanent and firm iteration was installed in 2006. It is said that the old town cat had magical powers.
- Basket with Coins
- Located in Tiltu Street 1, it is positioned on a pedestal next to the building that was the first savings bank of the seaport open to the public in 1915-16. The coins are all different sizes and from different regions, representing Klaipėda’s position as an important centre of international trade and a seaport.
- Childhood Dreams
- Located at the cruise terminal since 2007, the purpose of this sculpture is quite clear. It is of a little boy waving his hat at passing ships with his trusty dog at his side. It is said it was built to ensure that all guests arriving by cruise ship to the city were welcomed and waved off, always having an escort to the city.
The currency of Lithuania is the Euro.
Klaipėda is easily manageable on foot and you can walk to the heart of the city from the port, only 800 metres or around 10 minutes at a gentle pace.
To the north of Klaipėda you will find the resort town of Palanga. This is the busiest resort in Lithuania, with 11 miles of beach that people come to enjoy during the summer months. The heart of Palanga is the Jonas Basanavičius Street, which is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare during the high season. Here you will find plenty of restaurants, bars, rides, and other forms of entertainment. Aside from the beach the other main attraction here is the Palanga Amber Museum and its attached botanical garden, which is housed in the restored 19th-century Tiškevičiai Palace.
The Curonian Spit is accessible from Klaipėda via the foot ferry to Smiltyne. Check the latest timetable the day you are here but there is usually one ferry every hour on the hour from 7AM-9PM, with the return services at every quarter past the hour. Tickets are only 80c per person.
Key highlights of Klaipeda
- Old Town
- Theatre Square
- Birzos Bridge
- Lithuanian Minor History Museum
- Castle Museum
- Queen Amber Museum
- Blacksmiths Museum
- Museum of Clocks
- Sailing Ship Meridianas
- The Arch
- Klaipėda Town Hall
- Central Post Office
- Sculpture Park
- Palanga Amber Museum
- Curonian Spit
- Lithuanian Sea Museum and Dolphinarium
Regular cruise line visitors
- Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
- P&O Cruises
- SAGA Cruises
- Princess Cruises
- Celebrity Cruises
- Viking Ocean
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