Duration: 2.5 hours
Klaipeda is the 3rd biggest city in Lithuania, an important port and Lithuania’s only gateway to the Baltic Sea. The city has a long history starting as a fishing village of ancient Balts and experiencing the arrival of German Crusaders in the 13th century. The Crusaders built their castle there in 1252 and formed the city, in former times known as Memel. During the city tour you will see the old Castle territory and the Old Town with the fascinating merchants warehouses in the typical German style with “fachwerk” (half timbered) decorations. The tour will take you to the Theatre Square with the Simon Dach fountain, which is named after the 17th century German poet, born in Klaipeda. The fountain portrays a statue of a girl named Annehen von Tharau, who is the subject of a famous German wedding and love song.
Prices starts from 10 Eur/person
During the excursion you will see these objects:
Klaipėda Old town
First mentioned in the Chronicles of Memelburg in 1252, Klaipėda is the oldest city in Lithuania. Until the 15th century, the city developed closer to the castle, which was situated on the islands formed from the Danė River tributaries. The castle was rebuilt several times and the city changed location accordingly. Until the late 15th century, the southern city border stretched to the present-day Theater Square. The castle underwent major repairs in 1529, and the territory inhabited by the citizens was used for the castle complex that was then under reconstruction. Residents of the Old Town were moved to the island of the Danė River waters, the location of the present-day Old Town area to Didžiojo Vandens Street.
In the early 16th century, the main axes of planned structures were benchmarked: perpendicularly crossing Turgaus and Tiltų Streets. The city’s territory was divided into small rectangular blocks. By the end of the 16th century, the network of streets and blocks was finally set, and changed only vaguely afterwards. At the principal crossroad, there was a gallows and near the bridge, there was a pillory – a stake where gossipmongers or debauchers were chained. From 1595 until the 19th century, the Old Town held market fairs that lasted for two weeks and were attended by tradesmen from the most remote localities.
Klaipėda old architecture
In Klaipėda’s Old Town, you will find the oldest buildings of the city, dating back to the middle of the 18th century. They are warehouses built in the fachwerk style. This construction, influenced by Germanic culture, has been used since the founding of the city. This method of construction was especially suitable for marshy soil, as frame constructions are lighter than stone. Unfortunately, many of these buildings were destroyed by fire.
The tiny downtown houses and fachwerk-style warehouses are being used by various art organizations – writers, artists and photographers. There you can find small art galleries, museums, souvenir shops and cozy cafes.
Klaipėda Theater Square is the heart of the city. There is a sculpture of Ann from Tharau in the middle of the fountain at the centre of the square. The monument is dedicated to Simon Dach, a German poet who was born in Klaipėda and studied at Konigsberg University. Ann was a girl whom the poet fell in love with at first sight. However, she was engaged to another man. Simon Dach dedicated a poem to her and called it "Ann from Tharau", which is still very popular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The fountain with the sculpture of the girl and the bas-relief of the poet were created in 1912 by a sculptor from Berlin – Alfred Kune. During World War II, the sculpture disappeared. It was reconstructed in 1990 on the initiative of the city inhabitants and emigrants.
The building behind the sculpture is the Drama Theatre. Since the 18th century, the theatre has played an important role in the cultural life of Klaipėda. This building was reconstructed in the 19th century in the neo-classic style. The Klaipėda coat of arms is on the facade of the building.
Sculpture "Ann from Tharau"
The main feature of the Theater Square is the sculpture called "Taravos Anikė" (Ann from Tharau).
The monument is dedicated to Simon Dach, a German poet who was born in Klaipėda and studied at Konigsberg University. Ann was a girl whom the poet fell in love with at first sight. However, she was engaged to another man. Simon Dach dedicated a poem to her and called it "Ann from Tharau", which is still very popular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The fountain with the sculpture of the girl and the bas-relief of the poet was created in 1912 by Berlin sculptor Alfred Kune. During World War II, the sculpture disappeared. It was reconstructed in 1990 on the initiative of the city inhabitants and emigrants.
Here is a brief overview of the crafts yard set up in 18th-century fachwerk warehouses, which also include warehouses with gambrel roofs that became popular in the second half of the 18th century. These unique buildings were usually two storeys high and were sometimes built within yards. They allowed for maximum storage and the upper parts of the buildings usually stuck out to allow horse carriages to pass through. You can find such a warehouse in this yard as well.
Nowadays, the “crafts yard” is the cradle of the cultural life of Klaipėda. There are various crafts workshops here that invite guests to touch, feel and learn about the spirit of past times by making local traditional goods themselves with the assistance of crafts artists.
The artist yard is popular among locals and is highly attractive to visitors because of the many events that take place here. Among the activities of the workshop, elementary demonstrations, during which the number of visitors is not limited, will be accompanied by seminars of registered groups and artisans as well as master classes, when true masters of their trade will divulge their secrets.
Arch, Monument to the United Lithuania
The granite monument Arka ("Arch") in the small public garden near the Biržos Bridge was introduced at the beginning of August, 2003.
The monument is dedicated to the commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the Tilžė Act and the 80th anniversary of the joining of the region of Klaipėda with Lithuania. The construction weighs 150 tons, 8.5 metres high and is one of the biggest granite monuments in Lithuania.
The smaller red granite column is the symbol of Lithuania Minor and its cultural background, whereas the larger grey column is the symbol of Lithuania Major. On the monument, there is a quote from I. Simonaitytė, "We are one nation, one land, one Lithuania." The upper, as if separated, part of the monument symbolizes the region of Kaliningrad, which now belongs to the Russian Federation. (Sculptor A. Sakalauskas)
Danės quay - Sailing vessel Meridianas
The educational vessel Meridian was built in 1948 in Finland in a Turkish shipyard as a contribution to the soviet union after the second world war, along with 48 other similar ships. Very few others remain. The ship that went to Estonia was perhaps the luckiest, as it is currently being displayed in Talin. Meridian, that went to the Klaipeda Navigation School, was the first vessel for many future postwar captains and helmsmen. Meridian as an educational vessel closed its doors in 1967 and opened up as a restaurant on the Dane river quay.
In Autumn 2012, the ship changed hands, and the new owners (Aidas Kaveckas and Aloyzas Kuzmarskis) had it repaired, restored and returned on November 9th, 2013.
The newly renovated Ship offers a marine exposition, in which you can learn about the history of Meridian, its journeys at sea, structure of the ship and various maritime gadgets.
The actual date that the theatre was built is unknown. However, in city plans dating back to the 18th century, near Dane, there is a square-shaped building named “Comedy House”, which was most likely used for war purposes. It stood on government property, who paid their taxes, which means that the owner of the building was a magistrate. Some scholars claim that the theatre in the Comedy House has been open since 1777, which was later home for the Berlin theatre group. The fate of the Comedy House is unknown. In place of the current Theatre square, centuries ago, there used to be the mouth of the Dane river.
The revival of theatre life in Klaipeda began in 1818, with the arrival of the German Ulbrich, who set up a 200-seat hall and opened a theatre after getting permission from a forest sales company to use the temporary wooden building. On the initiative of merchants Rupelis and Voitkovicius and their stock company, they acquired a plot of land and at the end of 1918, a new brick theatre was finished, in the current theatre is location. It was a two-storey Classicism-style building with an attic room. However, in a fire in 1854, the theatre burned down. The remnants were bought by the merchant Mason, who built a new building on the older foundation, of which at least three facades are still standing. At the beginning of World War l, the theatre was closed.
The actual opening of the drama theatre is considered to be in 1935, when the then-closed Šiauliai theatre troupe moved to the seaport. Called the Klaipeda National Theatre, it was open until the spring of 1939 (the annexation of Klaipeda). After the war, the image of the theatre was rebuilt from the ground up. On October 1st, 1945, the Klaipeda Musical Comedy Theatre was founded. In 1949, the theatre was renamed as the Klaipeda Musical Drama Theatre; from 1951 onwards – Klaipeda Drama Theatre.
Today, there are 40 actors in the theatre. Since 1990, after 8 years of capital reconstruction of the theater building, there are two - The Main (450 seats) and The Second (150 seats) halls. The stage of the Second Hall offers unique equipment with creative opportunities for film directors.
he Klaipeda Musical Theatre has one of the largest professional artist communities in Western Lithuania.
The Klaipėda Musical Theatre was founded in 1987, based on the Folk Opera, which was active from 1956 to 1986. The Klaipeda Musical Theatre was officially opened on the 29th of April in 1988 with opera "Mažvydas" by A. Žigaitytė (director G. Žilys, conductor G. Rinkevičius). A sort of balance of repertoire was quickly established with different genres suitable for all tastes and ages: opera, operetta, musicals, ballet and plays for children. Klaipėda Musical Theatre was the first to show the operas of G. Rossini, G. Donizetti, and G. C. Menotti, C. Orffs cantata "Carmina burana", as well as famous ballets by D. Shostakovich, M. de Falla. Notable childrens plays by J. Novakauskas, A. Remesa, B. Britten, and O. Gudauskienė were also shown.
Klaipėda is truly a magnet for festivals such as "Klaipėdos muzikos pavasaris" ("Klaipeda’s Spring of Music"), where works by Lithuanian as well as foreign composers are played. The new wave music festival "Kopa" ("The Dune") takes place every spring, and jazz lovers delight in the "Pilies Džiazo festivalis" ("Castle Jazz Festival") as it gathers the most famous jazz musicians from all over the world. Another famous festival is the folk "Parbėg laivelis" (loosely "Little ship is coming back") that takes place every two years and is due back in 2016.
Sculpture "Slibinas" ("The Serpent")
The steel sculpture "Serpent" was created to illustrate one of the legends retelling the origins of Klaipėda. One of the stories tells of two brothers who went out to find a new suitable place to found a city. One of the brothers chose the longer way down the river, the other chose a closer path and went through the marshes, but was caught in them and perished. Later, upon finding corpse of his brother and a giant footprint right next to it, he decided to immortalise the occurrence by establishing the city on the place of his kindreds death (Lithuanian klaiki, means horrid, scary; pėda - foot). The author of this sculpture, painter Vytautas Karčiauskas, upon presenting the sculpture to the city, encouraged its locals to start commemorating the birth name of the city. The dragon, according to the artist, symbolises the connection between earth and sky, fire and water.
The 145 kg in weight, over three-meter-long dragon hangs on the wall is not just for decoration, but fulfills the function of a rain pipe. During rain, one can see water splashing out of the jaws of the dragon. (Author Vytautas Karčiauskas)
Sculpture "Juodasis Vaiduoklis" ("The Black Ghost")
If you have not heard yet about the mystical ghost, which was mentioned in and old manuscript - you will now. If you have not seen the horrendous, grotesque figure yet - you will. But the best thing is to befriend the spectral creature, many riches and fortune awaits the daring.
Near the castle remains, just past the swing bridge, there is a bronze sculpture of a ghostly silhouette that looks like it is just stepping out of the water via the shore line. 2.4 metres in height, the sculpture holds its own secret - everyone who comes near the frightful sculpture will be greeted by it.
According to one legend, in 1595, one of Klaipėda Castle guards, Hans von Heidi, saw a ghost. The mystical visitor warned the guard that the city’s supplies of grain and timber may be running out, and with that, it vanished just as it had appeared.
(Sculptors S. Jurkus and S. Plotnikovas, architects V. Dapkevičius and V. Balsys)
Sculpture "Stebuklingas Peliukas" ("The Magical mouse")
In front of the Jazz club "Kurpiai", in the Old Town of Klaipėda, a sculpture of a little mouse was put up. It is not an ordinary mouse. The modest 17cm-tall bronze and stone creation is magic according to its creators. The writing on the bronze band around the tiny creature means: "Convert your ideas into words - words will become magic". One need only whisper into the ear of the mouse and your wishes will come true.
(Sculptors S. Plotnikovas and S. Jurkus).
Sculpture "Katinas džentelmeno veidu" ("The cat with the face of a gentleman")
The sculpture "Old Town Cat" or "The Cat with the face of a gentleman" started living in the Old Town of Klaipėda since 1979. The granite and bronze creature picked Blacksmiths street as its home, perhaps to stay close to its “owners”. It is just one of many magical inhabitants of the Old Town, as it also boasts its own wish-granting power. Rub its tail while making a wish and the cat will make sure it comes true.
(Sculptor Regimantas Midvikis).
Sculpture "Vaikystės svajonė" ("Childhoods dream")
The sculpture of the little boy waving his hat at the passing ships with his trusty hound at his side found its place at the terminal in the summer 2007.
The purpose of the sculpture is quite clear - to meet and see off the cruise ships coming into port – and to also, delight those walking around the quay. It was built with the intention not to have any visitors leave the terminal without escort.
(Sculpture authors - Svajūnas Jurkus and Vytautas Paulionis).
Sculpture "Senamiesčio paštas" ("Old town post")
If you wish to send a letter to the whole city, the bronze letter sculpture decorating the crossroad between Tiltų and Turgaus streets is meant for exactly that. In the Old Town Post, you can leave letters with comments, interesting ideas, suggestions or wishes. This post box is not "real" in the sense that it would not deliver letters meant for your loved ones, as the post goes only to the members of the businessmen union. Still, it is considered useful to get to know the mood of the citizens and to hear their suggestions for possible improvements. (Sculptor Klaudijus Pūdymas)
Sculpture "Senamiesčio sargas" ("Guard of the Old Town")
At the beginning of 2006, the entrance to the Old Town received its first guard – man’s best friend – the dog. This sculpture is called "The Guard of Old Town" and was gifted by one of the local enterprises. The sculpture stands in Turgaus Square, near Pilies Street. It is meant to stand as a symbol to the Chinese sign of 2006 – the year of the dog. The "owners" of the Doberman hope that this dog will become one of the few accents and centers of attraction in Klaipėda.
(Svajūnas Jurkus was the sculptor of the statue and Vytautas Paulionis was the architect).
Sculpture "Puodynė su pinigais" ("Basket with coins")
Klaipėda, continuing its passion for sculptures, has another rather unique specimen – the "basket of coins" located on a pedestal next to a building in Tiltų Street 1.
According to the author of sculpture, Ina Šuliak, in this particular house, which was built in 1915-1916, the first savings bank of the seaport was opened to the public.
A bronze basket was made according to exhibitions in Minor Lithuania History Museum.
The coins of the sculpture are all different – they vary in size, country of origin and period of use. There are also some with the symbol of Klaipeda. This variety represents the fact that Klaipeda is a seaport, where money comes from a trade with foreign countries. The sculpture was sponsored by "Memel credit union". (Author I. Šuliak)
Sculpture "Kaminkrėtys" ("The Old Town Chimney-sweep")
Chimneysweeps used to mean extraordinary luck to those who happened to catch a glimpse of them. The belief that touching even a button of a chimney Sweep will bring you the same amount of luck followed suit. Thus, the sculptor wanted to give life to the superstition by creating a sculpture of a chimneysweep for all to see all year round. However, as there is no way of touching the sculpture (it being on a roof), a button of the chimneysweep is embedded inside the wall of the building for those who wish to take luck into their own hands. (Author of the sculpture Klaudijus Pūdymas)
Sculpture "Keturi Vėjai" ("The Four Winds")
In 2007, during the international outdoor exhibition of blacksmiths, which took place in the Klaipėda Castle museum, an international team, consisting of professional blacksmiths from Canada, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania created this over 3-metre-tall sculpture, which consists of works created during this exhibition. The sculpture is based on the motto "everything can be created from iron: nails, sea and even wind". (Sculpture authors – all the blacksmiths of the blacksmith workshop)
Sculpture "Vėjas" ("Wind")
In 2010, during the annual outdoor exhibition of works by international blacksmiths, 30 blacksmiths from across the globe (namely, the Czech Republic, Russia, Latvia and Lithuania) created a weather vane. Just like the old vanes of the Curonians, it was decorated by signs and curses – every blacksmith gave the vane an individual touch. The vane retains every blacksmith’s symbol – the anvil, a symbol of a blacksmith’s power and their flaming creativity. The authors hope that their fourth present to the city will be loved by the locals just as much as their first. (Sculpture authors – all the blacksmiths of the blacksmith workshop).
Sculpture "Bokštas" ("Tower")
The bronze sculpture "Tower" rose up in the Old Town in 1990. In its place, there once stood a house that burned down during World War II. As the newly-opened square was virtually empty, it was decided to build an architectural accent to make use of the space. When the plans for a fountain were scrapped, the government held a contest for artist with their design to be used as the centrepiece as the prize. The contest winner, the bronze "Tower", took home the gold. The creation was cast from a non-patina bronze, so as time goes on, the sculpture will get more detailed. The sculpture is like a house in which various epochs of Klaipėda residents and their traditions "live". Former architectural styles are also reflected in it. In this Old Town house, the epochs intertwine, and the local traditions have also left left their mark. The city’s history that the Tower depicts is largely storytelling-based; time, for example, is pictured as a gnawing dragon.
The author of the sculpture also immortalized his beloved wife (holding a letter in her hands). On her lips, one can even decipher her name. On the door handle, one can still see the author’s self-portrait. The "Tower" holds even more secrets. the portrait of the poet Jurgis Baltrušaitis is also squeezed in along with his poetry, whose work is endearing to the sculptor. Likewise, the sculpture incorporates many names and dates significant to the sculptor’s life and work. (Sculpture author – Algirdas Bosas)
Sculpture "Laukinis vyras" ("The Wild Man")
According to Z. Genienė and J. Zembrickis, in 1707, the Friedrich suburb received the city title of Friedrich, flag and coat of arms, which depicted a half-naked man leaning against an anchor, whose head is decorated by a crown made of Oak leaves. The flag had two letters inscribed above a crown – FR (Friedrich Rex).
The symbols of a wild man and woman are archaic, and were used by Celts, Baltic tribes, Franks, Romans and even Greeks. The catherdral of Milan also holds such symbols. Klaipėda also has such a sculpture, which is reminiscent of the old times, when Klaipėda belonged to the Prussians. It is located near the entrance to Friedrich Passage. (Author S. Jurkus)
Monument to mark the Millennium of Lithuania
2009 was a very important year to every Lithuanian as it was the 1000th anniversary of the name - Lithuania. Klaipėda celebrated the anniversary by presenting a magnificent sculpture of Grand Duke Vytautas Didysis riding a horse on a sphere. The sculpture is made of granite and bronze; the 4-metre column holds the Duke, who is facing the Danė river, the horse is facing Biržos Bridge and the whole sculpture is parallel to Tiltų street. On the column, one can find an inscribed text in Lithuanian and Latin, which states the occasion on which the sculpture was built. It was funded by patriots of Klaipėda, and initiated by the chairman of the monument support fund for the unification of Klaipėda and Lithuania Valentinas Greičiūnas.
The Former Town Hall
It is a historical building in which, during the Napoleonic wars, the king of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III with his wife Louise, temporary moved their residence to (1807-1808).
The building itself was built at the end of XVIIIth, beginning of XIXth century. The original classicism-style building at first belonged to the Danish consul Lork, later – to his relative Consentiu. In 1864, the city magister bought this building and later on, it became known as Klaipėda Town hall.
Decorative bollards for Lithuanian maritime achievements
On the left bank of the Danė river, six monuments – knechts or bollards – stand to commemorate Lithuanian maritime achievements.
The monuments honour the three yachts ("Lietuva", "Dailė", "Audra"), which, during the latter part of 1980s, sailed through the Atlantic Ocean bearing the Lithuanian national flag. The voyage started in Klaipėda and ended in New York. This achievement, called "For the honour and unity of Lithuania", has become a symbol of Lithuanian strife for independence, and according to the former mayor of Klaipėda, Rimantas Taraškeviščius, the independence of Lithuania is as important nowadays as was the Baltic Way.
One crew replaced the other in New York: Osvaldas Kubiliūnas commanded the voyage to New York, and the trip back was commanded by captain of the yacht – S. Kudzeviščius.
In 1992-1993, for the first time in Lithuanian history, the yacht "Lietuva" sailed around the world, manned by some of the former seamen of the trip to New York, a couple of years earlier. The goal of the voyage was to circumnavigate the world and show that after fifty years of Soviet occupation, Lithuania was still alive.
One of the bronze decorated bollards honour Gintaras Paulionis, who in 1994, sailed across the Baltic Sea with a rowboat "Alfred Jensen".
All his life, Gintaras Paulionis (1945-1994) had the dream to cross the Baltic Sea. During preparations for the voyage, he meticulously studied old Newfoundland sailor drawings and built a rowing boat accordingly. On 28th of June, 1994, Gintaras Paulionis started his adventure towards the shores of Sweden. On the 14th of July, he reached them, then set himself the goal to reach Denmark, which he did on the 29th of September. Inspired by such fortune, he decided to make his way home. Unfortunately, on the same day, massive storms broke out in the Baltic Sea. The same storms that sank the passenger ferry "Estonia" did not spare the lone adventurer. On the 5th of October, the rowing boat "Alfred Jensen" was found on the beach near Nida and ten days later, the sea returned the corpse of Gintaras Paulionis as well.
The newest bollard was built in 2009; it celebrates the millennium of Lithuania and the yacht "Ambersail" trip around the world.
"One name – Lithuania" was the motto of the crew, who, on the 5th of October, 2008, started their epic voyage around the globe, spreading the news of the Lithuanian millennium, and visited Lithuanian communities in Australia, United States, Great Britain, Canada and other countries. The joint crew of the Lithuanian sailing boat union and the sailing boat club "Ambersail" successfully finished the trip and established another milestone in Lithuanian maritime history.
In 1889, the merchants of Biržos Bridge built a highly original information column – the meteorological column. The column was more than 5 metres in height, with a windvane on top and stone post columns reminiscent of the 18th century. The column had a mechanical clock, a barometer protected by a thick glass, a thermometer, a reference metre as well as information about length of day and night. The middle part of the column has a map of Klaipėda. There was also a device which regularly switched between advertisements, which attracted the most attention. The column was brought down in 1908, when Biržos Bridge was being reconstructed.
On the 750th anniversary of city information column, it was rebuilt, though far smaller than before, it still retained the same functions.
Jonas hill and the Cities Bastion Fortifications
Under the guidance of the engineer Charles Rose, the city was to be encircled in the manner of Holland-type fortifications, eastward from the former church of the St. John. Moulds and bastions measuring about 3.5 metres high were formed, and outer ditches (moats) were dug. Because of their size, the city fortifications are categorized as being amongst the great royal castles. The works were finished only in the late 17th century-early 18th century. Later, the moulds were reconstructed in the mid-18th century. The fortification system of Klaipėda at the time was complex. Because the city was surrounded by bastion fortifications in the East and South and secured by the Naujoji Danė River in the North, the only access was via three gates named after their main objects: Tiltas (Bridge), Kūlių (of Stones) and Malūnų (of the Mills). The latter two were built upon earthen ramparts.
During the wars in the 18th century, the maintenance of the fortress was neglected, the gateways were starting to be disassembled for their bricks, the ramparts were torn-up, the ditches were filled with soil; in the 20th century, only small fragments of the former complex fortification system remained.
Today, the former fortification system can be best observed at the end of Turgaus Street, from the bastions referred to in the historical records as the Geldern and Purmark. In front of the bastions, the water-area of the defensive ditch/moat, and the only surviving ravelin can be seen. The remains of these defensive fortifications were restored in 1994-1997 (author of project V. Šliogeris).