History of the City
Originally founded by Baltic tribes, the city and castle were built by the Teutonic Order in c. 1252. The German name Memel was adopted from Mēmele, a Scalovian name of that place, which, in turn, was named after Mēmele river, which in Lithuanian is called Nemunas. The word Mēmele means "calm", refering to the calm flow of this river. By that time, it was supposed that the channel between Curonian Spit and mainland is an actual mouth of Nemunas (Mēmele) river, and Curonian Lagoon was treated as a part of its delta. Currently these two are treated as separate subjects, Nemunas delta is about 47km south of Klaipėda.
Klaipėda, the name used by Samogitians and Lithuanians, refers to the same place, as seen from the inland, and refers to its relief, meaning "low and flat ground" in old Samogitian.
For most of its history, Memel was part of Prussia and large battles with Lithuanian lords took place here. Invasions came from Sweden and Russia and the city was part of the Prussian Kingdom and became a prosperous harbor town. It represented the northernmost city in Germany and Prussia until 1918. After Germany lost the First World War, Memelland was first given free city status and then subsequently annexed to the newly established Republic of Lithuania. It was briefly reabsorbed by Nazi Germany before WWII and then reverted back to Lithuania (the Soviet Union) in 1945. Since Lithuanian independence in 1990, Klaipėda has become one of Lithuania's most buoyant cities with a steadily growing tourist trade.
Getting to Klaipėda
By plane via Palanga (31 km), Kaliningrad (122 km), Kaunas (227 km), Riga (307 km), Vilnius (316 km), or Gdansk (317 km), then take a bus or a train to Klaipėda; taxi service from Palanga airport to Klaipėda would cost you €20,00;
By bus from Kaliningrad, Riga, Tallinn, and all Lithuanian cities and major towns;
By ferry from Kiel, Sassnitz, Karlshamn;
By train from Vilnius via Šiauliai and Kretinga.
Visit www.rome2rio.com to find the shortest and cheapest way to reach Klaipėda
Klaipėda's public transport is city buses, shuttle taxi (minibuses) and taxi. Bus ticket for 1 ride €0.64 purchased from kiosk, or €0.75 purchased from bus driver. Taxi trip per 1km c. €0.50.
Old Town district is small and can be easily explored by foot. To get to the beaches or some suburbs, bicycle may be a reasonable option, as it allows to explore both city and its surroundings in more detail and without losing significant amount of time.
Klaipeda is a safe place but like anywhere you have to use common sense. Try and walk with a confident air and never look lost.