Klaipėda old town

Type: historical
Distance 4,5 km
Approximate duration 2h

We recommend to start a walking tour in the heart of the city – Theater square (1).
Back in 17th century the rocks and stones of the square were underwater – here lied the defence waters that surrounded the historical Memel (Klaipėda) castle. The east corner of the Theater sq. at the time was part of the Dangė old riverbed. The square as it is rose up only in 19th century, when part of the castle moats were covered and removed. Up to the middle of 20th century, the square was used as an active market place, and since 19th century one of the main features of the square was the Theater (Dramos teatras), which quickly gained importance in the city’s cultural life. Many famous artists performed here, for example, in 1837 Richard Wagner conducted the Köningsberg opera musicians.
In the middle of the Theater sq. stands the city icon – monument of a tender girl Ann from Tharau (Lithuanian – Taravos Anikė, German – Ännchen von Tharau), in 1912 dedicated to a famous Prussian poet Simon Dach (1605–1659), who was born in Klaipėda. Ann from Tharau was a central figure in a love poem, written by S. Dach. The poem later turned into a popular song, widely known in German–speaking countries.

Cross the Theater sq. (leaving the Ann from Tharau statue on your right). Cross the road behind the square (Pilies str.) and go straight until you reach a small bridge.
The swing bridge (2), called Chain Bridge, was built in 1855 and works until this day as a unique monument of technology. Every hour it is rotated manually by a couple of dockworkers, allowing sailing yachts and small fishing boats to leave or enter the Castle Marina. It is the only bridge with this kind of mechanism in Lithuania, and not many of them are found in the whole world.

Cross the bridge and go along the riverside until you reach the Cruise Ship Terminal (3).

The cruise and navy ship terminal was opened in 2003. Not only it is a terminal for majestic cruise ships, but it is also a common gathering place as well as a favorite city spot for many people. At the far-east end of the terminal, you can find a sculptural composition, called “The Childhood Dream”: a small boy and his dog, waving goodbye to the departing ships, and greeting the ones that are coming. The statue represents the remarkable dreamworld of a childhood (sculptor S. Jurkus).

Leave the Cruise Ship Terminal the other way – go back to the old town by passing through Castle Court. Leave the river on your left, with the Cruise Ship Terminal behind you, and go straight about 200 m until you reach a huge industrial shipyard (4) on your right.

The shipyard for building and renovating ships was built in between Curonian Lagoon and castle moats in 19th century. Initially owned by a German company from Hamburg, it later belonged to a ship engineer Paulius Lindenau. Various ships, from passenger vessels to tankers, iceboats, tows or steamboats were built in Klaipėda’s shipyard. Now the buildings and structures of Lindenau shipyard belong to industrial culture heritage. A huge metal rig (Didysis elingas) seen from afar worked as a ship lift with a slipway into the water, and is the most distinctive object which has survived until these days.

Leave the shipyard behind and turn to the right. Follow the road until you reach the Castle Court and Castle Museum (5). In the yard of the Castle you can find the Klaipėda Castle Museum, which offers the opportunity to learn the history of the fortress – from establishment to destruction. The castle was named after the old German city name – Memelburg.

After visiting the Castle Court and Castle Museum, follow the road to Pilies street and cross it to reach a cobblestone road, called Daržų street. Follow this street for around 200 m and then turn to the left (Aukštoji str.).

Here in Aukštoji street (6) you can find the oldest and tallest warehouse made in a specific fachwerk style, brought to Klaipėda from Germany (Aukštoji 3). The height of the warehouse is 16 m, it was used for storing and exporting linseed. Fachwerk, as architecture style, became very popular in 19th century. A big part of the Klaipėda old town was decorated in this style. Most of the buildings are now destroyed or redecorated. However, some of the old fachwerk constructions can be found in between Didžioji Vandens street and Market square.

From Aukštoji street turn to the right and come to Didžioji Vandens street (7). The name of the Didžioji Vandens street can be translated as Big Water street. The name reflects the historical changes in the development of the city – Didžioji Vandens street used to be the riverbed for the distributory branch of Danė river. The street as it is was established in 17th–18th century, when the city expanded and the decision to cover the riverbed was made.
Now in this street, in the old house of merchant from 1774, you can find the Museum of History of Lithuania Minor (Mažosios Lietuvos istorijos muziejus). The museum is known for vast archeological collections from various burial grounds, exhibits of historical documents, photographs or everyday items from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Leave the Museum of History of Lithuania Minor and turn to the right at the first intersection. Walk for around 50 m until you reach a small yard (8).
Here, surrounded by old and pretty fachwerk warehouses, lies the Culture Communication Centre, Ethnoculture Centre and Arts and Crafts Courtyard (“Meno kiemas”). During the summer here you can find art and craft workshops, as well as see the craftsmen and their work step by step in ceramics, textile, wood carving and others.

Cross the yard and turn to the left. Walk for around 50 m until you see the Blacksmith’s Museum (9) on your right (Šaltkalvų str. 2, 2a).
1974 marked the year of the beginning of the deliberate destruction of various cultural and historical monuments, including cemeteries in Klaipėda. Metal crosses, expensive and decorative fences as well as other items were taken down and demolished. A blacksmith named Dionyzas Varkalys at the time succeeded in saving some of these cemetery monuments – metal fences, gates, crosses. Later D. Varkalys also successfully discovered an old blacksmith store in the Old Town of Klaipėda – the one that previously belonged to a famous blacksmith from Klaipėda, Gustav Katzke. The shop still had a lot of authentic equipment and works of the old master. In 1992, the store turned into the Blacksmith’s Museum with an exhibition of beautiful cemetery crosses and fences, and the successful re-establishment of the blacksmith’s craft.

After leaving the Blacksmith’s Museum, continue to follow the road (Daržų str.) and turn to the left at the first intersection (Vežėjų str.). On your left you will see the Klaipėda’s Puppet Theatre eduactional space (10).
One of the most recent and creative puppet theatres in Lithuania can be found in a small fachwerk style house with a garden. In its small theater hall with only 70 seats, you will find new means of theatrical expression with a repertoire of contemporary and conventional art of puppetry for both children and adults.
Going down the road of Vežėjų str. until you reach Turgaus street. Here turn to the right and follow the road. Go straight through the intersection and walk for around 100 m to reach a small square (11) on your right. In 1706 the square at the end of Turgaus street was appointed to build St. John Evangelical Lutheran church. The church, which was thought to be the most beautiful in the whole region of East Prussia, was demolished after the WWII. Green hedge plant patterns in the square now show the original foundation of the church. In 2012, the new cornerstone was placed in a square and it is planned to rebuild the church in the near future.

Follow the road for around 100 m until you reach the hill on you right.

The artificial island next to the bastions (12) is a part of the cities historical fortification system. The fortification complex consists of three main sections: ramparts (defensive boundaries formed of banks), external ditches filled with water (moats) and ravelins (inner banks, intended for bastion protection from the sides).
The history of the hill fort starts in the beginning of 17th century when engineer Charles Rose started city’s fortification with the Dutch technology constructions. Ramparts as tall as 3.5 m and bastions with external ditches because of their size are now classified amongst the category of great royal fortresses.

Go left, until you reach riverside and the sailing vessel “Meridianas” (13).

One of the main symbols of the city, sailing vessel “Meridianas” was built in 1948 in Finland. For long years it was the property of the Lithuanian Maritime Academy and operated as a training ship for trainees, sea navigators and captains. Now permanently docked vessel was renovated in 2014, with a luxurious seafood restaurant set up inside.

The bridge behind a sailing vessel is called Biržos bridge (14). As the oldest and one of the main bridges in the city, Biržos bridge had a strategic significance until the end of 18th century and was surrounded by fortifications on the right bank.
The bridge also had a great economical value – each passing ship was charged with a bridge lift fee: a small entry space in a wooden bridge was opened for the masts of the sailing vessels. During the WWII bridge was destroyed, but rebuilt in 1948.

Cross the bridge and immediately turn to the left. Follow the road (Danės str.) for a couple of hundred meters. The first building you will see is the City Hall (15). Built in classicism style, for the long time City Hall was and still is one of the most elegant buildings in Klaipėda. It also has a deep connection with region’s historical royal families – King of Prussia Frederick William III and Tsar of Russian Empire Alexander I stayed here in 1802. Later, in 1807, when the capital of Prussia was shortly relocated from Berlin to Klaipėda, the royal family of Prussia – King Frederick and Queen Louisa – lived in this building, which became the Royal Residency. Now the city mayor has his offices in the City Hall.

Leave the City Hall behind you and cross the square at the back of the City Hall building (Atgimimo aikštė). At the far end of the square in the intersection turn to the right to Liepų street (16). The street started forming in the 16th–17th century together with the expansion of the city. The street got its name from a linden tree (Lithuanian – Liepa), which grew at the end of the street and formed a nice avenue. During the years street was given many different names – Goose str. (Žąsų g.), Alexander str. (Aleksandro g.), Linden str. (Liepų g.), Smetona Avenue (Smetonos alėja), Adolf Hitler str. (Adolfo Hitlerio g.), Maxim Gorky str. (Maksimo Gorkio g.). In 1988 the street was finally once again named after beautiful trees – Linden str. (Liepų g.). One of the most elegant streets in the city, it has buildings of various architectural styles and former villas from 19th century, most of which has now turned into a number of museums, banks, restaurants.
Go down the street for around 250 m until you reach a tall red brick building – the former old Post Office complex (17).

The Old Post Office building complex emerged in 1893. The complex can be characterized as a blend of three different architecture styles – various elements of classicism, neogothic, and Art Nouveau. The complex is composed of two-floor post building together with one-floor buildings from both sides, which used to be warehouses and stables. Every Saturday and Sunday the 42 m height Post Tower revives with music sounds from one of the biggest carillon in Lithuania, which is housed in the tower.

Go down the Linden str. (Liepų g.) for another 450 m until you see the park on your left. This is where we recommend finishing the old town walking route.

The park has a name of a Sculpture Park (18) and used to be an old cemetery. However, in 1977 the Soviet Government ordered the cemetery to be destroyed and converted into a park. Over the years the park has been filled with various sculptures, created mostly in small Smiltynė village during summers. Now the park has an area of over 10 hectares and is an exhibition ground for 116 artworks of 61 sculptors.