Kaliningrad (Russian: Калинингра́д kuh-leen-een-GRAHD) , also known by its original German name, Königsberg, is the capital city of Kaliningrad Oblast in Russia. It has about 450,000 inhabitants. It is also called 'Karaliaucius' in Lithuanian, as Lithuanians (cousins to the 'Old Prussians') used to live there. So it is truly the 'City of the Four Ks': Kaliningrad, Königsberg, Krolewiec, and Karalaucius. Following the Second World War, it was briefly known as Kyonigsberg (Кёнигсберг), the Russified form of the original German name.
Kaliningrad's history dates back to the 13th century, when it was under the rule of the Teutonic knights, an order of German knights, priests and laymen who sought to expand Christianity through missions and conquests. Known by its German name of Königsberg then, the city was the capital of Prussia.
Kaliningrad was a hub for science and culture whizzes from Germany, Poland and Lithuania. The famous mathematical Königsberg bridge problem is based in the city. Kaliningrad was also home to renowned philosopher Immanuel Kant and prominent German writer Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann. Kant is said to have had such pride in his hometown that he barely left the place in his lifetime, declaring that he did not need to venture abroad because ships came and brought people to tell him stories.
Destroyed in World War II and annexed by the USSR in 1946, the region was stripped of its German identity after the German population had been expelled, and was named after Mikhail Kalinin, a Russian communist leader. The overwhelming majority of its residents are Russians and those from other Soviet republics who came to the area in the immediate aftermath of World War II. A highly militarised zone during the Soviet era, the area only opened to visitors about 20 years ago. Unsurprisingly, there is very little visible trace of its Prussian past, save for a small number of refurbished buildings such as the Cathedral.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The best time to visit is in summer between June and August, when the temperature is around 20 to 25 °C. Temperatures in the autumn range from 10 to 15 °C and the season lasts from September to November. The Kaliningrad winter, which is from December to February, is much milder winter than Russia, with temperatures from 5 °C to minus 11 °C.
Take along an umbrella, because the weather is unpredictable and windy. The weather is quite humid due to its proximity to the Baltic Sea. The Baltic sun is mild.
As Kaliningrad is an exclave of the Russian Federation, almost all visitors require a Russian visa to enter, except citizens of those countries that have signed bilateral agreements for visa-free entries, e.g. Israel, South Korea, South Africa, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Latin American countries. If you plan to travel overland between Kaliningrad and other parts of Russia, you will need at least a double-entry visa in order to exit and re-enter Russia. Travelling by air on domestic flights between Kaliningrad and Moscow, St. Petersburg or other Russian regional centres can be done even with a single-entry visa. For more information about Russian visas, see the visa section on the Russia page.
Starting 1 July 2019, nationals of 53 countries including almost all EU countries, Japan, China and a few other Asian countries can get eVisa free of charge for visits of up to 8 days. You can apply for eVisa at Russia's MFA website. You should print off the eVisa confirmation (which comes as a pdf) for sake of ease. Border guards might want to see your visa on exit, so it's best to keep a copy on you, though having the pdf on your phone is perfectly acceptable. Note that the eVisa is not valid at some of the smaller border crossings.
Canadian, UK & US nationals must still apply for a regular visa.
1 Khrabrovo Airport ((Аэропорт Храброво) KGD IATA) (16 km (9.9 mi) away from Kaliningrad). A regular bus (144) is going every hour from the terminal to various stops in the city centre for 33 руб. Taxi service is also available; If you know the exact address, ordering a taxi via mobile apps called Taxi Maxim or Rutaxi (that both have English language option and, by the way, work in a number of other Russian regional centres) can save you approx. 10% in comparison with prices of airport taxi services. The official airport taxi services that are represented in the arrival area with a couple of counters, charge a fixed price of 600-1000 руб to get from the airport to any point in the city; other taxi companies might charge even more.
Airlines and destinations include:
- Aeroflot (Moscow-Sheremetyevo)
- Air Baltic (Riga)
- Azimut (Kaluga, Rostov-on-Don)
- Pobeda (Moscow-Vnukovo, Saint Petersburg)
- Belavia (Brest, Gomel, Minsk)
- LOT (Warsaw)
- Rossiya (Saint Petersburg)
- RusLine (Belgorod, Lipetsk, Voronezh)
- S7 (Moscow-Domodedovo)
- Severstal (Cherepovets)
- Smartavia (Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, Moscow-Domodedovo, Sochi)
- Ural Airlines (Moscow-Domodedovo, Yekaterinburg, Saint Petersburg)
- UTair Aviation (Moscow-Vnukovo)
- UVT Aero (Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Perm, Volgograd)
- Uzbekistan Airways (Tashkent)
Eastbound (towards Vilnius in Lithuania) long-distance trains still run regularly. Departures are daily from Moscow (22 hr) via Minsk (11 hr) and every two days from Saint Petersburg (26 hr, also via Minsk). Some services are available from Chelyabinsk (69 hr) in the Urals and Homel (via Minsk). There's also trains from the Black Sea resorts, such as Sochi (61 hr), expect 1-2 trains a week during summer.
All cross-border services across the Polish border were cancelled in 2010, although there were approaches to restore the link and even some occasional rides. Also, a weekend connection to Klaipeda in Lithuania, with a change in Sovetsk, was cancelled.
Regional trains make it possible to arrive in the city from many towns in the oblast but, with the exception of coastal and suburban towns, the schedule is rather rare, often with one train per day. If you're after an adventure, you can try hitchhiking across the border at Mamonovo and taking a train from there to Kaliningrad (timetables can be found here).
2 Kaliningrad-Passazhirsky (Калининград-Пассажирский), sometimes called Kaliningrad South, is the main railway station and is located at ul. Zheleznodorozhnaya, 15.
The road system is extensive in the Kaliningrad region; however, they are not always well-maintained, and sometimes it is hard to get around because of the absence of sign indicating directions/destinations (especially in the city). Driving rules are generally the same as in most European countries, but many do not follow the rules, especially during rush hour in the city. Beware of the traffic police because they like to stop foreigners and often expect bribes.
There are two ways to get to Kaliningrad by car: from Poland and from Lithuania, but you should expect delays on the borders (sometimes it can take a couple of hours) The green card for insurance is valid.
Direct bus lines connect Kaliningrad with a number of cities in Belarus, Poland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine. Bus time tables for international and regional buses (in English), see: here or at the site of Kaliningrad's central bus station (ulitsa Zheleznodorozhnaya, 7 - next to the South train station), which, besides that, also serves a number of regional lines.
Bus to/from Warsaw - leaves Warszawa Zachodnia bus station at 08:00 Mon, Wed, Thu-Sat, tickets 1520 руб. This bus also stops in Olsztyn (700 руб). On Tu and Sa there is another bus that leaves Warszawa Zachodnia at 13:00, the ticket costs 1200 руб.
Bus to/from Vilnius - leaves Vilnius at 13:15.
During summer there is a boat service between Kaliningrad, and Frombork, Krynica Morska and Elblag, Poland. Further info at Zegluga Gdanska
It is possible to cross the borders by bicycle, though not on foot. As of May 2019, there are reports of bicyclists being able to skip the queue of cars and present passports at the booth of Morskoye crossing. Border guards tend to speak very little English so they'll be happy to let you through without too many questions.
The city has bus, minibus, trolleybus, tram and commuter railway networks. The best way to explore the city is by bus. The public transportation system is relatively good. Half of the population live in the city, hence it is very well-connected. Fares are kept low, at a flat rate of 24 руб on the bus (26 руб on marshrutka, a shared taxi or minibus) and the waiting time is short.
Journeys can be planned using Google Maps. Keep an eye out for the last departure. Some buses lines already stop running around 22:00-23:00.
Tickets on the buses are handed out by the conductors. Marshrutkas are paid to the driver when exiting the vehicle and can also be paid with contactless cards.
In July 2019 city authorities introduced the transport card called Volna Baltiki (Baltic Wave).
Taxis within the city may have meters, but most prefer to negotiate fares in advance. Minimum charge within the city is at least 100 руб, even for short distances.
- 1 The old cathedral of Königsberg, Kanta 1 (easily approachable by foot either from the direction of the Kaliningrad Hotel (take the left side of the Leninsky Prospekt auto bridge south, and descend the stairs when the cathedral appears on your left) or from the direction of the Fish Village), ☏ . 09:00 to 17:00. Founded in 1333, largely reconstructed after World War II, the cathedral on Kneiphof Island along the Pregolya River is a sight to see. The cathedral links Kaliningrad to its German past, as it is where the Prussian kings were once crowned. There are two rooms in the Cathedral Museum devoted to the life of Kant, whose tomb lies beside the cathedral walls. Up the stairs to the left of the main door is a three-storey museum dedicated to the life and work of Immanuel Kant (separate ticket needed). Kant's grave can be viewed outside the cathedral, on the northeast corner of the building. 270 руб.
- 2 The House of Soviets. Known to locals as 'The Monster' or 'The Robot's Head', this is sort of an anti-attraction, but useful for orientation in the city centre. It was constructed on the ruins of the Königsberg Castle, but was deemed structurally unsound and therefore never occupied. Rumour has it that a mysterious owner prevents it from being demolished. An archaeological dig is active on the grounds, which is not open to tourists, but specialists may be able to arrange for a visit of the remains of the castle.
- The old fortifications. From approx. 1860-70, they include 15 town gates: Sackheim, King's, Rossgarten, Attack, Railway, Brandenburg, Friedland, Friedrich Wilhelm III. One of the towers houses the Amber Museum.
- Fishing Village. Red-roofed buildings and colourful exteriors illustrate the charm of old Koenigsberg, what Kaliningrad used to be known as.
- 3 Victory Square. The central area where the administrative buildings, banks and shops are.
- 4 The New Kaliningrad Synagogue (The New Synagogue), Ulitsa Oktyabr'skaya, 1а. Re-built from scratch and opened to the public in 2018 on site of the former New Synagogue (opened in 1896) that was burnt down by the Nazis during the Kristallnacht in November 1938. Despite the fact that the building isn't an exact copy of the former one, it rather inherited the overall architectural style as well as its proportions.
- 5 Amber Museum, Marshal Vasilevsky Square 1 (In the Dohna Tower of the city wall), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00 to 19:00, daily except Monday. Houses a large number of amber ornaments and jewellery from Yantarny in the wider Kaliningrad region. 90 руб.
- 6 Bunker Museum, Universitetskaya 2 (Enter the first courtyard to the right behind the Kaliningrad Hotel). daily except Wednesday, 10:00 to 16:00. A bit hard to find (one must weave through three or four courtyards and children's playgrounds before finding it, which is barely marked except by two black upright triangular canopies over the bunker doors), it was the headquarters of the local German command during the 1945 battle. A museum of the city's German past (which lasted 689 years) and Soviet "liberation" of the city, including several interesting dioramas of events during the days of the battle. 50 руб.
- Immanuel Kant Museum (Kneiphof island).
- 7 Museum of the World Ocean, Nab. Petra Velikogo 1, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. W-Su 11:00 to 18:00. Includes two scientific research museum ships, a Cold War era submarine B-413, a floating lighthouse and a post-war fishing trawler. Starting from 300RUB.
- 8 Kaliningrad Regional Museum of History and Arts, Klinicheskaya 21. Tu-Su 10:00 – 18:00; closed Monday. The main building was once the Stadthalle, Königsberg's performing arts centre. Branches include Bunker Museum, Fort 5 «King Frederick Wilhelm III», open air «Koenigsberg Castle» and Park of Sculpture.
- 9 Kaliningrad Museum of Fine Arts, Leninskiy prospekt, 83, ☏ . Tu W Sa Su 10:00-19:00, Th F 10:00-21:00. Art museum specializing in the regional painting, sculpture and photography of 20th century, temporary exhibitions. Since 2018 it is located in the historical building of the former Konigsberg Exchange, built in 1875, designed by the famous German architect Heinrich Mueller. The building was seriously damaged during the Allied bombings in 1944 and was fully restored only by early 1970s. 150 руб.
- Walk the bridges (or mathematically fail to) - Historically, seven bridges of Königsberg linked the two islands and the banks of the Pregel River. A famous mathematical conundrum was whether you could walk across each bridge once and only once during a tour of the city. In 1735 Euler proved that you couldn't, and in doing so he invented graph theory. The Königsberg example was simple enough to be proved by exhaustion of all possible routes, but Euler's contribution was to create a body of theory applicable to more complex networks. This has huge applications in any study of interrelations - linguistics, crystal structure, evolution of living creatures, eco-systems, social hierarchies, and so on. During the Second World War the bridges were bombed, and not all were re-built, so only five remain. So now the problem is to cross five Kaliningrad bridges over the River Pregolya, and this is solvable - try it!
- Annual Jazz Festival 'Kaliningrad City Jazz'. Takes place in August
- Fish at the Baltic sea (see Curonian Spit sand dunes below). All year-round
- Trek in the forests (Two-hour drive from the city). Soak up nature in the untouched forests
- Kaliningrad's annual two-day City Day. Commemorates its founding since 1255. It is celebrated in September. The city comes out in full force to party under the dazzling fireworks, concerts, performances, sports, arts and car-related events.
- Watch football at Kaliningrad Stadium, built in 2018 to host group games of the FIFA World Cup. It's home to FC Baltika Kaliningrad, who play in the Russian National Football League (also called the First Division, ie the second tier of Russian football.) The stadium is two-tiered, with a design modelled on the Allianz Stadium in Munich. Its capacity for the World Cup was 35,000, but this is to be reduced to 25,000. It's sited 2 km east of city centre on Oktyabrsky Island, a long marshy island in the River Pregolya. So it's walkable from the centre, or take tram 5 or bus 40 or 72 and get off at Veteranov. The football team formerly played at Baltika Stadium north-east of the centre: this is a multipurpose stadium of capacity 14,600 but its future main use has not been announced.
- Europa shopping mall, Ploshad Pobedy, 2A Victory Square (Train to Severnyy vokzal), ☏ . 66,000 m2 of high-end boutiques, cinemas, food and beverage outlets ranging from fine-dining restaurants, cosy cafes to cheap food kiosks.
- Viktoriya Supermarket, Leninsky Prospekt 30 (Ground floor of the Plaza Center). A 24-hour supermarket, useful for self-caterers. Other locations throughout the city, incl. a shopping centre in front of South train station and bus station.
Amber jewellery and art and craft is the local speciality:
- [formerly dead link] Kaliningrad Amber Factory, Ul. Chernyakhovskovo 62 (also other locations in the city), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Factory store offering a wide variety of jewellery and objets d'art for almost any budget.
- Amber pavilion (a few blocks up Leninsky Prospekt from the Kaliningrad Hotel). opens at 10:00. Several stores grouped together with a variety of amber items at competitive prices.
- Yantarny, Information tourist centre «Gorod Vdohnoveniya», Masterov Square, Yantarny settlement (an hour's drive from the city), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Yantarny has the biggest amber mine in the world and accounts for more than 90 per cent of the world's output. This settlement has a wide variety of amber products.
- Amber Museum's gift shop, 1, Marshal Vasilevsky square, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. You can buy a piece of amber from 240 руб.
- Papasha Beppe Pizzeria, Leninsky Pr. 20/26 and Baltiiskaya Ul. 12. 11:00 to 23:00. Many locals consider this to be the best thin crust and thick crust pizza in town, also a wide variety of salads, pastas, risottos and desserts. 200-600 руб per pizza.
- Karamel, Leninsky Prospekt 30 (on the top floor of the Plaza Center; note the separate elevator to the right of the main entrance to the shopping mall.), ☏ . Some of the best views from the city from this cafe. Excellent food and fairly broad range of European cuisine, approximately 500 руб per entree.
- Razgulyai, Ploshad' Pobedy 1, ☏ . Cafeteria-style restaurant with rustic decor. Good for children.
- Solyanka Cafe, 24 Prospect Mira, ☏ . Try the solyanka, a thick, piquant soup that is either meat-based, fish-based or vegetable-based. It is cooked with preserved cucumbers, olives, capers and tomato puree that give a strong sour-salty taste. Solyanka is perhaps one of the most popular soups besides borscht (beetroot soup) in Russia, but remains unknown beyond the national boundaries. 500 руб.
- Zarya, Prospekt Mira 41/43 (Just up the street from the Moscow Hotel), ☏ . A trendy, upscale restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, wide selection on the menu, excellent desserts. In the same building as a movie theater.
- Steindamm 99, Zhitomirskaya ulitsa, 22, ☏ . M-Th 11:00-23:00, F-Su 12:00-23:00. Well-designed interior, good service, fairly priced lunch menu on weekdays. 600-800 руб.
"Showing up is 80% of life"
Woody Allen (b 1935) is named for this city. He was born in the New York Bronx as Allan Stewart Konigsberg; his Jewish grandparents had emigrated from Austria and from Panevėžys, nowadays in Lithuania. Woody coined the ultimate reason to go on living: "I would have killed myself, but I was in analysis with a strict Freudian and if you kill yourself they make you pay for the sessions you miss."
- Twelve Chairs (Dvenadstat' Stulyev). A very chic bohemian style cafe with a decent food menu.
- In the Shadows of the Castle (V Teni Zamka) (Ii the strip mall across from the Kaliningrad Hotel). opens at 11:00. One of Kaliningrad's longest-lasting cafes.
Local beer brands that are available in stores include Ostmark and Königsberg.
- Hmel Restaurant and Brewery, Pobedi Square, 10 ('Klover' Shopping Centre, 2nd Floor), ☏ . Live music starts at 21:00 every night. A gigantic brewery on the second floor brews home-made beer. 95 руб/glass.
- Kropotkin, Teatralnaya ulitsa 30 (next to the big McDonald's near Victory Square), ☏ . Self-made beer (100 руб 0.5 liters (0.11 imp gal; 0.13 U.S. gal)), probably the best in town. Try the unfiltered one. Acceptable food, cosy beerhall atmosphere and business lunch. 400 руб.
- Komnata Otdyha (Комната Отдыха), Inside the main train station (follow the Комната Отдыха signs). The station offers rooms and small dorms. You do not need to show a rail ticket to stay. A good budget option, especially if arriving late. 500-1500 руб.
- Ibis Kaliningrad Center, Moskovsky Prospekt 52, Kaliningrad, ☏ .
- 1 Kaliningrad Hotel, Leninsky Prospekt 81, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A landmark hotel in the centre, clean and well renovated, within walking distance to most sights. Breakfast buffet is 250 руб extra. 2100-2500 руб per night.
- 2 Moscow Hotel, Prospekt Mira 19, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Affiliated with the Kaliningrad Hotel, and quite similar although a little bit up the road, but still near the centre. 2100-2500 руб; Breakfast: 350 руб.
- 3 Radisson Blu Hotel, Pobedy Square 10, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. On the historic main square. 178 rooms and suites created by Swedish designer Christian Lundveld
- 4 Skipper Hotel, Oktyabrskaya Ulitsa 4A (In the Fish Village), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A boutique hotel. 2500-2800 руб; Breakfast: 300 руб.
- Armenia (Honourary Consulate), Kievskaya street, 23, ☏ , .
- Croatia (General Consulate), Dzherzhinskogo street, 244-A, ☏ , fax: .
- Denmark (Honourary Consulate), Proletarskaya street, 133, ☏ .
- Germany (General Consulate), Leningradskaya street, 4, ☏ (short-term visas), (admission), (national visas), fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-Th 09:00-17:00; F 09:00-14:00.
- Greece (Honourary Consulate), Ogareva street, 33, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Italy (Honourary Consulate), Chernyakhovskogo street, 6 office 108, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- Latvia (General Consulate), Engels street, 52-а, ☏ , , , , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 09:00-18:00.
- Lithuania (General Consulate), Proletarskaya street, 133, ☏ , , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 08:30 - 12:30.
- Netherlands (Representation at the General Consulate of Sweden), Kutuzova street, 29, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M Tu Th F 09:00 - 12:00.
- Norway (Honourary Consulate at the General Consulate of Poland), Kashtanovaya Alley, 51, ☏ , (visa issues), fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-Fr 08:30 - 13:00.
- Poland (General Consulate), Kashtanovaya Alley, 51, ☏ , (visa issues), fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 09:00 - 14:00.
- Estonia (Estonian visa service provided by the Consulate of Lithuania), Proletarskaya street, 133, ☏ , , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 08:30 - 12:30.
- Hungary and Slovenia (Hungarian and Slovenian visa service provided by the Consulate of Latvia), Engels street, 52-а, ☏ , , , , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 09:00-18:00.
- Sweden (Swedish visa service provided by the Consulate of Poland), Kashtanovaya Alley, 51, ☏ , (visa issues), fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 09:00 - 14:00.
- Curonian Spit A nearly 50-km-long spit stretching between Zelenogradsk and the Lithuanian border, separating the Baltic Sea from the Curonian Bay, it includes pine forest, hiking paths (beware of encephalitis-bearing ticks), and beaches. The average height of the sand dunes is 35 m, with some reaching 70 m. Entry fees are 30 руб per person, plus 200 руб per car. The entire spit, including the Lithuanian part, is a world heritage site.