A fans’ guide to Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad – a Russian enclave on the Baltic coast between Poland and Lithuania – is the most westerly of all this year’s World Cup host cities. Standing on the mouth of the Pregolya River, the area enjoys warm summers but, like the UK’s typical maritime climate, rain is possible at any time of year.
Having formed part of East Prussia until the end of the Second World War, the city has been under Teutonic, Polish, German, Prussian and Soviet rule over the years – a fact that’s reflected in its fascinating architecture and mixed population.
Source: Wiki Commons, Aleksander Kaasik
‘Lonely Planet’ tells us that ‘Kaliningrad is easy to navigate: public transport abounds, as do welcoming locals all too willing to lend visitors a hand’. Add in the obvious pride felt by its citizens at having been chosen as one of the host cities for football’s most prestigious event, and you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and memorable experience if you make Kaliningrad your destination of choice for the World Cup 2018!
Where to stay
The Kaliningrad region as a whole contains a number of major resorts which have been popular among Russian and European tourists for over 200 years. So there’s no shortage of hotels and guest houses to cater for all tastes and budgets.
If finding somewhere close to the stadium is your main concern, then don’t worry – Kaliningrad Stadium is a little less than 2 kilometres, or 20 minutes’ walk, from Königsberg Cathedral, one of the city’s major landmarks. Central Victory Square, a little further north, is just another 1.5 kilometres further away, which will take a little longer than half an hour to walk. Plus, of course, the public transport system is extensive and reliable. And the icing on the cake: your FAN ID allows you to travel free on selected routes.
The whole area was redeveloped recently, and there aren’t many hotels in the immediate vicinity. Among those closest to the stadium are the Kaiserhof Hotel and Skipper Hotel on the Pregolya riverbank near Königsberg Cathedral. Alternatively, the Kaliningrad Hotel and Ibis Kaliningrad Center, both at the southern end of Leninsky Prospekt, are also well worth considering if you’re looking for something central within easy walking distance from the stadium.
So don’t worry too much about finding somewhere right next to the stadium – it’s not as big an issue as in some of the other host cities. Instead, take a look at what’s on offer, and see what takes your fancy!
Whatever your accommodation needs, we can make all the arrangements for you. Call us today on 0207 985 1234 for friendly, helpful advice and the best deals to suit your needs.
Kaliningrad Stadium, also known as the Arena Baltika, is one of the newest venues to host this year’s World Cup. After the competition is over, the stadium will become the new home of FC Baltika.
Construction of this 35 000-seater stadium began in September 2015. Initial plans were for a capacity of 45 000 with a retractable roof, but these had to be scaled back.
During the competition, Kaliningrad Stadium will host four first-round group matches, kicking off with Croatia v Nigeria on 16 June, while Serbia take on Switzerland six days later.
Kaliningrad Stadium is located just west of central Kaliningrad on Oktyabrsky Island in the Pregolya River. Multiple buses run through central Kaliningrad connecting Victory Square with Königsberg Cathedral and the railway station, including trolleybus 1 and 5. To take in some of the best sights the city has to offer, get off at Königsberg Cathedral and enjoy the leisurely walk from there.
What to see
Come to Kaliningrad and the first thing you notice is its cultural and historical uniqueness, as evidenced by the city’s stunning architecture. Despite the fact that the old city of Königsberg was seriously damaged during the Second World War, Kaliningrad, which grew up out of the rubble, still has plenty of sights well worth seeing.
These include the city’s fortifications, and especially its iconic gates, Lutheran churches, Cathedral and other landmarks. Take a stroll down Kutuzova and Telmana streets to get a real taste for this fascinating ‘garden city’. Shopping lovers won’t be disappointed, as there are a lot of boutiques and shopping areas around Kaliningrad. And if you need a sit-down, you’ll find plenty of cafes and bars for a coffee or beer.
Kant Island is a great place to start your exploration of Kaliningrad. Walking around Kant Island today, it’s hard to believe it used to have 16 streets (the narrowest of them just 3 feet wide) and two squares.
The Church of the Holy Cross with its art-deco style of the 1920s and 1930s is impressive. Don’t miss its unique amber iconostasis! Or the Dohna Tower, which once served as a defensive fortification but today houses the Amber Museum. The exhibition covers a broad spectrum from the fourth century BC up to the nineteenth. One of its greatest exhibits is the huge Sun Stone, which weighs an incredible 4280 grams. Or maybe the nearby Bunker Museum is more your thing. Standing next to the main building of the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, the museum is a bombproof underground concrete bunker built at the beginning of 1945 by the Nazi-German garrison in Königsberg.
Then there’s Königsberg Cathedral on Kant Island. Unfortunately, during World War II, the cathedral's interior was almost burnt out, but has since been restored. On Saturdays (at 6.00 pm) the Cathedral is used for organ music recitals (the cathedral organ is the largest in Europe), while Sundays see piano and symphony concerts. Another must-see is the King's Gate, which houses the Grand Embassy Historical and Cultural Centre. The structure is decorated with restored bas-reliefs of the rulers who played a major role in Königsberg's life, and also houses a sculpture of the Prussian Cat, the keeper of the city keys, which is believed to bring good luck.
For family fun, there’s the Regional Drama Theatre, which offers an extensive repertoire for children, including plays based on Russian folk tales and school book classics, or the Puppet Theatre, which has entertained audiences for half a century with plays by Russian, German and English authors.
The Kaliningrad Zoo, with its bears, lions and eagles, is also home to the largest and one of the finest fountains in the city. The Zoo hosts themed weekends almost every week (Ice-Cream Day, Zebra Day, Earth Day) and there’s a summertime environmental project for schoolchildren. There’s also a Pony Park where toddlers can learn the basics of horse riding. Alternatively, try Faraway Kingdom, a game centre for children inside the Royal Residence complex, where the walls are painted with fanciful motifs featuring a jungle, submarine world, and a Princess’s Palace.
On sunny days, you can enjoy Yunost (Youth) Park, with its many different rides, a labyrinth of mirrors, an amazing Upside-Down House, go-cart centre and boating station. Or maybe the Botanical Gardens are more your thing, helping to spread knowledge of plants among schoolchildren, students and amateur gardeners. Alternatively, try the Park at Upper Pond, Kaliningrad’s favourite spot for romantic encounters, cycling and sports.
Bars and restaurants
Looking for something familiar? Then head for the Britannica, a chain British pub. Or perhaps cross the sea to Ireland and visit LiBEERty – an Irish pub offering hearty cuisine. For Czech cuisine, head for U Gasheka, or try the tequila at Pirat-House. But because it’s World Cup time, maybe your best bet is Kiberda, a sports bar where the locals gather. You can sit with a beer in the apple orchard at the entrance to the restaurant – could there be a better place to drink in the atmosphere of the world’s greatest football event?
For a full round-up of places to go, visit the official Russia 2018 website. Have fun!
Watch for free
All 11 World Cup host cities have their own Fan Fest site, where fans can gather and watch all the matches for free on the giant screen. Over 5 million people attended the 2014 Fan Fest events in Brazil. Not only are they a great way to follow your team and meet supporters from all around the world – they mean you can truly enjoy the unique culture and friendly hospitality on offer in each of the host cities and take home some amazing memories of Russia 2018.
Kaliningrad’s couldn’t be better located – it’s in the historic square right in the city centre, on the way from the city to the stadium. And with a capacity of 25 000 fans, it’s the next best thing to being in the stadium yourself, cheering on your team!