True Lithuania

Seaside Klaipėda

While Klaipėda is a port city its downtown boroughs border the Curonian Lagoon rather than the Baltic Sea. Furthermore, even this body of water is sheltered from the urban life by rows of massive port warehouses and stevedoring enterprises.

But Klaipėda has its own beaches and a resort-like atmosphere outside the city center. If you want to sunbathe, swim or just take a walk in a forest you need to visit the suburbs of Smiltynė, Melnragė, Giruliai or Karklė.

Smiltynė: A secluded tip of the Curonian Spit

Smiltynė is the most unique among those and has the best beach. Standing on the northern tip of the 98 km long Curonian spit peninsula it can be reached only by a ferry. While administratively it is a part of Klaipėda only the new skyscrapers and port cranes on the opposite shore of the Lagoon reminds you of the city. Smiltynė is a glimpse of Neringa, a UNESCO-inscribed pristine landscape, without the need to pay ecological tax (which is mandatory if you drive south from Smiltynė) and possible to reach from Klaipėda center without boarding any vehicle except for the 10 minutes ferry ride. There are two ferry stations, with the northern (downtown) one reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.

A ferry loading passengers and cars in Smiltynė. It might be hard to believe that less than 1 km accross the lagoon from this wooded coast you may find the tallest residential building in the Baltic States and other modern developments. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The Smiltynė area is covered by a pine forest with nice paths for hiking and cycling. Its northern end is crowned by the Kopgalis fortress. Built in 1866 it defended Klaipėda from naval attacks. Since 1979 it houses the Lithuania Sea Museum, one of the city‘s most popular attractions. This museum covers both shipping and sea animals, doubling as their zoo. Dolphin shows presented in a purpose-built arena are especially loved by customers.

The Lagoon coast has a concrete embankment. A 1,5 km stroll to the Sea museum will take you past pre-war resort villas, a selection of dry-docked fishing vessels (some of which you may enter) and a reconstructed 19th century fisherman farmstead. You may still skip the walk and use carriage or electrict train.

The Baltic coast offers Klaipėda's prime beaches. Both coasts meet north of the Sea Museum with the Curonian spit ends, with port breakwater serving as its 1 km long artificial continuation. The footpath on the breakwater provides good contrasting views of the port, the beach, and the sea.

Smiltynė villa

A lagoon-side villa on the footpath between Senoji Ferry and the Sea Museum in Smiltynė. Such buildings are common in Seaside Klaipėda. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Melnragė, Giruliai and Karklė: Klaipėda's northern resorts

Melnragė, Giruliai, and Karklė are on the forested mainland shores north of the city-proper. There are actually two Melnragės, sometimes distinguished in maps by Roman numerals I and II. Melnragė I is immediately beyond the port zone. It is a kind of a suburb with resort facilities as well as a supermarket. Melnragė II, 2,5 km to the north, has fewer buildings and is centered around the beach.

The central part of Giruliai is some 400 meters away from the shore next to the northern boundary of Klaipėda city. However, some of the buildings are closer to the sea. Akin to many of the Lithuania's resorts Giruliai has both pre-war villas and Soviet "tourist bases" in its limits. The suburb has its own train station, but there are just a few daily passenger services, therefore, it might be better to use Klaipėda public buses or bicycle to come there (there are bicycle paths). Car parking in both Giruliai and Melnragė is payable.

Memel-Nord battery 1 km north of Giruliai is the best-surviving Nazi German military installation of Klaipėda's 1939 defensive ring which allowed the city to withstand 115 days of Soviet siege in 1944. The rather extensive bunkers may be freely entered; part of them are converted into a bowdlerized museum/experience with period images, dishes and weapons on display (some swastikas are replaced by pluses and actors/guides wear modern German uniforms rather than WW2 ones).

Memel-Nord battery aiming facility

The aiming facility of Memel-Nord is out in the beach. The bunkers where the actual firepower rested are better concealed and partly bombed. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Olando kepurė, 2 km further north, is the highest sea shore in Lithuania. 25 m tall ice-age cliff offers commandeering views from its top. The feature's name means "Dutch hat" and it previously helped the ships to navigate.

Karklė is the final stop of the seaside public bus. This former fishing village (now a small resort) is notable for Lithuania's sole seaside cemetery (used primarily for the drowned prior to the 20th century). Ironically it is now on the verge of being consumed by high tides with bones washed away regularly.

Olando kepurė uprooted tree

View from the top of Olando kepurė. An uprooted tree that lies in the beach once grew on the cliff. During storms the sea submerges entire beach and erodes the cliff. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Map of the Seaside Klaipėda is here.

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