The town was founded as Memelburg as a garrison fort in the 13th century by the crusading German Teutonic Knights. Prussia took control of the town and for the next centuries it formed the border with the powerful Grand Duchy of Lithuania. For the next centuries, the Prussian rule proved to be a blessing for the town as it kept on growing and prospering due to the excellent location of its port facilities. After WWI the freshly independent Lithuania acquired the region, which already had a large Lithuanian population. Memel was officially renamed into its Lithuanian name Klaipeda. After the German occupation during WWII the Soviet Union invaded the country and made it the Lithuanian Soviet Republic. With the collapse of the USSR, Lithuania finally gained back its independence in 1991 and is now a member of both EU and NATO.
A thing you may notice immediately when you visit Klaipeda is the lack of churches. The ones not destroyed during WWII were razed by the communists during the aftermath of the war. The few churches now are newer additions and not worth visiting. The town, however, is still full of German-style 17th and 18th century Fachwerk-houses (half-timbered) providing the face of the city. Examples of this architecture can be found anywhere in the old town, like in the unofficial centre of Klaipeda, Theatre Square. Here you will also find the 200 year old bright white building of the Klaipeda Drama Theatre. The building's balcony became infamous as the place from where Hitler announced the German annexation of the town in 1939. In front of it is a small statue in commemoration of one of the most famous Klaipedans, the Prussian German poet Simon Dach. In the small but pleasant streets behind the square are small statuettes of a mouse and a cat. See if you can spot them.
Other landmarks in the city include the "Meridianas" schooner ship on the Dane river and the 13th century ruined Memel Castle near the river's mouth. The Museum of Lithuania Minor (Didzioji Vandens Street) is a rather interesting museum of the history of the Klaipeda region. Just northeast of the city, about 1.5 km away from the centre, lies the interesting sculpture park with over 100 statues of Lithuanian artists.
There are many places to stay in Klaipeda. On the top end Europa Royal Hotel, located just next to Theatre Square, offers standard double rooms for around 100€. Just north of the Dane river, 1km away, is the excellent Vecekrug Hotel, offering better rooms for similar prices. Good middle class hotels (around 50€ per double room) are Hotel Aribe or the Pajuris Hotel, offering lots of spa facilities for an extra fee and located 6km north of the city but reachable by public bus. Near Vecekrug is the excellent Litinterp Guesthouse offering B&B-style accommodation and self-catering apartments for around 20€ per person.