Kaliningrad Travel Guide
Kaliningrad Travel Guide
The former capital of East Prussia, Kaliningrad is a unique Russian enclave that is closer to Prague or Vilnius than to Moscow. It’s an unusual mixture of European and Russian culture and architecture, where a Catholic church may stand next to a Soviet building. The city’s history, visible though its numerous attractions, includes the heritage of Prussia, Poland, the German Empire, the USSR and modern Russia.
The history of Kaliningrad (its former name is Konigsberg) is connected with the Crusade of the Knights of the Teutonic Order against the tribes of the Prussians who inhabited the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. Preparations for the Crusade by the Teutonic Order began in 1230. By 1283, the conquest of the Prussian lands had reached its final stage. The German colonists settled here during that time. The Teutonic Order built castles to establish power and control over the surrounding lands, and Konigsberg became one of these numerous defensive castles. It was founded in 1255 by the Knights of the Teutonic Order on the site of the Prussian fortress of Twangste. Konigsberg means Royal Mountain in German.
The castle survived three sieges by the Prussian army in 1260, 1263 and 1273 but was never captured. Later, the castle became the geographical centre of the three towns that surrounded it on all sides. They were called Altstadt, Löbenicht and Kneiphof. Later, these towns were administratively united with Konigsberg.
The next important date is 1525, when Albrecht of Brandenburg, the great master of the Teutonic Order, accepted Protestantism and declared Prussia a secular duchy. The Duchy of Prussia, formed in 1525, became the first Protestant state in Europe. The coronation of the first King of Prussia, Frederick I, was held in January 1701. During the Seven Years War, in January 1758, the Russian army occupied Konigsberg. East Prussia remained part of the Russian Empire until 1762. The end of the 19th century is considered to be the peak of Konigsberg’s prosperity.
The expansionist spirit of the German Empire provoked the outbreak of the First World War. However, the war ended ignominiously for Germany: many territories were taken away from it, and its economy was burdened by huge indemnities. The 1918 revolution liquidated the monarchical system and turned Germany into a republic. However, East Prussia was isolated from the rest of the German lands. In addition, East Prussia suffered more than other provinces during the First World War, although there was no military action in Konigsberg. The British Air Force badly damaged the city in August 1944. When the Second World War ended, Konigsberg and the northern part of East Prussia were transferred to the Soviet Union in accordance with the Potsdam agreements. On 4 July 1946, Konigsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in honour of Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, the first Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. During Soviet times, Kaliningrad remained a closed territory for tourists due to the large number of military garrisons nearby.
Where to Stay
Kaliningrad is a rather small city, but most accommodation is located in the centre. First of all, we would recommend you stay on the embankment of the Pregolya River to enjoy the best views: Book Skipper Hotel, Ibis Kaliningrad Centre or Vityaz Guest Cabins near the Museum of the World Ocean. For tourists on a budget, Rauschen Court or Hostel V Biblioteke are affordable options. If you require a little luxury, choose Radisson Blu Hotel, RichStudio B&B or Kaiserhof Hotel. You can also book a spacious apartment in the city centre via Airbnb, Booking or Trivago.
Bars and Restaurants
Kaliningrad offers a mixture of European, Middle Eastern, Russian and Asian flavours, as well as dishes from Germany, Poland and Lithuania. German sausages, Bavarian rissoles, Prussian meatballs, Lithuanian zeppelins and Russian borshch made Kaliningrad a real culinary melting pot. To enjoy some culinary specialities, visit Britannica, Mushkino, Fish Club, Borshch I Salo and Parmesan. There are also lots of cafes where you can relax and enjoy a coffee: Port-o-coffee, Magia Coffee, Monte Cappuccino or Coffeelounge.
What to See
- The Museum of the World Ocean is a big museum and research centre featuring boats, seaplanes, a submarine and the former expedition vessel Vityaz. Here, you’ll find a wonderful world of underwater creatures, the equipment to observe them and maritime machinery.
- If you want to see a unique local natural phenomenon, don’t miss the Dancing Forest with its unusually twisted trees.
- The island of Kant, previously called the island of Kneiphof, is located in the middle of the Pregolya River. Here, there’s a park with numerous stone sculptures and the island’s only building, a huge Cathedral. The gothic-style Cathedral, built in 1333, seems more German or Polish than Russian. The Cathedral’s museum complex is one of the main sights of Kaliningrad. This is where most tourists head for. Here, you can listen to the organ concerts which are held daily.
- The Brandenburg Gate in Kaliningrad is the only gate in the city which continues to fulfil its main function. It’s sometimes called the Berlin Gate. The first Brandenburg Gate in Kaliningrad appeared in 1657.
- If you want to experience the true Soviet past, visit the Central Market located not far from the Upper Pond and Victory Square.
- The Amber Museum was opened in 1979 in the fortress tower located on the shore of the Upper Lake. The building is a historical and architectural treasure; its tower in Neo- Gothic style was built in 1853. It contains the impressive pieces of amber that are found in the Baltic Sea area. Don’t forget to purchase amber jewellery for your loved ones. Part of the exhibition consists of artworks by artists from France, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Russia and other countries.
- Fish Village is an ethnographic and craft centre, and the most popular and interesting place in Kaliningrad. Its construction began in 2006. The centre includes restaurants and cafes, souvenir shops and jewellery shops, the river station, and sports and entertainment centres. From the Mayak Tower, you can enjoy a panoramic view over the city.
- To see the German heritage of the city, visit Amalienau with its picturesque mansions and cosy narrow streets.
- The Neo-Gothic church of the Holy Family in Kaliningrad was built in 1907. It’s one of the main Catholic churches in Kaliningrad. In 1980, the church was rebuilt from very poor condition, and in the same year, the regional philharmonic society helped to open it. In 2007, the church of the Holy Family was recognised as an object of cultural heritage of regional importance.
Kaliningrad is one of Russia’s main transport hubs: it has sea and river ports, an international airport and a well-developed network of public transport. The headquarters of the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Navy are also located here. It can boast the only port in the Baltic Sea that never freezes. Most bus routes are duplicated by trams, trolleybuses or minibuses. Prices for the buses and minibuses are fixed. If you are going to visit other Russian or European cities, use the Southern Railway Station and the Central Bus Station.
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