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 'City of the Four K s: Kaliningrad / Königsberg / Krolewiec / 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 lay men 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. It was home to renowned philosopher Immanuel Kant and prominent German writer Ernst Theodor Amadeus (known by the abbreviated form ETA) Hoffmann. Kant 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 to the USSR in 1946, the region was stripped of its German identity and was named after Mikhail Kalinin, a Russian communist leader. A highly militarised zone during the Soviet era, the area only opened to visitors about 20 years ago.
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Average of Kaliningrad
The best time to visit is in summer between June and August, when the temperature is around 20 to 25 deg C. Temperatures in autumn range from 10 to 15 deg 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 deg C to minus 11 deg C.
Take along an umbrella, because the weather is unpredictable and windy. The weather is quite humid too, thanks 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. 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 or St. Petersburg can be done even with a single-entry visa. For more information about Russian visas, see the visa section on the Russia page.
Special Kaliningrad visa: If you are only visiting Kaliningrad oblast (and not the rest of Russia), you may be able to obtain a special Kaliningrad visa, provided that you fulfill all of the following requirements:
- your stay in Kaliningrad is a maximum of 3 days
- you are a citizen of a Schengen member state, the UK or Japan
- you enter and leave Russia at the border check points of Bagrationovsk, Mamonovo and/or Khrabrovo Airport
The visa costs €70 and it can not be issued for children (for them regular visa must be obtained from a Russian embassy). See more information on how to obtain the special Kaliningrad visa from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Khrabrovo Airport (IATA: KGD) is located 16 kilometers away from Kaliningrad. A regular bus (144) is going every hour from the terminal to various stops in the city centre for 33 roubles. Taxi service is also available; one company offers a fixed price of 300 roubles to get from the airport to any point in the city; other cab companies might charge substantially more.
Airlines and destinations include:
- Aeroflot (Moscow-Sheremetyevo, St. Petersburg)
- airBaltic (Copenhagen, Riga)
- Air Berlin (Berlin)
- Belavia (Minsk)
- Gomelavia (Grodno, Gomel, Minsk)
- Rossiya (St. Petersburg)
- Sky Express (Moscow-Vnukovo)
- UTair Aviation (Moscow-Vnukovo)
Long-distance trains leaving from Kaliningrad run on Moscow time, an hour ahead of the local time. Thus a train advertised as leaving at 6:30PM actually leaves at 5:30PM local time. Comedian Yakov Smirnoff might have said, "In Soviet Russia trains are on time, you are late" Clocks at stations use Moscow time. Just to confuse things, local trains run on local time. After witnessing this system, you will no doubt understand that the railways were one of the driving forces for standardized time-zones throughout Europe.
Connections with elsewhere in central Europe are scarce. The once regular over-night trains from Berlin and Warsaw have been drastically reduced. In summer (May–October), there may be overnight (17 hrs) connections to Berlin.
More irregular services are available from Kiev (26 h), Kharkiv (30 h), the northern city of Murmansk (61 h) and Chelyabinsk (69 h) in the Urals. There's also trains from Black Sea resorts such as Sochi (61 h) and Sevastopol (41 h), except 1-2 trains a week during summer.
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 absence of signage 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 has been valid since beginning of 2009.
Bus time tables for international and regional buses (in English), see: here
Bus from Tallinn via Riga, see: here
Bus to/from Vilnius - leaves Vilnius at 13:15
A night bus also runs from Kaliningrad to Warsaw. However, as of summer 2008 this bus departed not from the main bus station, but from a bus station east of the city centre. To get to this bus station, take Moskovski Prospekt east from the main Leninsky bridge over the river and walk for about a mile. The bus station is clearly visible on the right hand side of the road.
During summer there is a boat service between Kaliningrad, and Frombork, Krynica Morska and Elblag, Poland - more info at Zegluga Gdanska
City has bus, minibus, trolleybus, and tram networks. The best way to explore the city is by bus. The public transportation system is very good. Half of the population live in the city, hence it is very well-connected. Fares are kept low, at a flat rate of 15 rubles (US$0.50, GB £ 0.30) on the bus and the waiting time is short. Tickets on the buses are handed out by the conductors.
Taxis within the city may have meters, but most prefer to negotiate fares in advance. Minimum charge within the city is at least 100 Rubles, even for short distances.
- 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), ☎ +7 4012 63-17-05. 9AM to 5PM. 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, 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-story 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 rubles.
- The House of Soviets. Known to locals as 'The Monster,' this is sort of an anti-attraction, but useful for orientation in the city center. It was constructed on the ruins of the Königsberg Castle, but was deemed structurally unsound and therefore never occupied. Rumor 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 is home to the Amber Museum.
- Fishing Village. Red-roofed buildings and colourful exteriors illustrate the charm of old Koenigsberg, what Kaliningrad used to be known as.
- Victory Square. The central area where the administrative buildings, banks and shops are.
- Amber Museum, Marshal Vasilevsky Square 1 (In the Dohna Tower of the city wall), ☎ +7 4012 46 68 88, fax: +7 (4012) 46 65 50, e-mail: email@example.com. 10AM to 7PM, daily except Monday. Houses a large number of amber ornaments and jewellery from Yantarny in the wider Kaliningrad region. 90 Rubles.
- Bunker Museum, Universitetskaya 2 (Enter the first courtyard to the right behind the Kaliningrad Hotel). daily except Wednesday, 10AM to 4PM. 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 rubles.
- Immanuel Kant Museum (Kneiphof island).
- Museum of the World Ocean, Nab. Petra Velikovo 1, ☎ +7 4012 53 89 15, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 11AM to 6PM, Wed-Sun. Includes two museum ships and one submarine.
- Kaliningrad Regional Museum of History and Arts, Klinicheskaya 21. 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.
- Walk the bridges - The seven bridges of Königsberg linked the two islands and the banks of the Pregel River. Proving the impossibility of there being a route that crosses each bridge exactly once led Euler to important discoveries in mathematical graph theory. Königsberg became Kaliningrad, the Pregel became the Pregolya, two of the bridges were bombed in WWII, two were demolished and replaced with a highway called Lenin, and one was rebuilt in 1935. Now there are five bridges, the problem is solvable. Try it!
- Annual Jazz Festival 'Don Chento 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.
- Europa shopping mall, Ploshad Pobedy, 2A Victory Square (Train to Severnyy vokzal), ☎ +7 8 4012 21-08-23. 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, too.
Amber jewellery and art and craft is the local specialty:
- Kaliningrad Amber Factory, Ul. Chernyakhovskovo 62 (also other locations in the city), ☎ +7 8 4012 53 05 45, e-mail: email@example.com. Factory store offering a wide variety of jewelry and objets d'art for almost any budget.
- Amber pavilion (A few blocks up Leninsky Prospekt from the Kaliningrad Hotel). opens at 10AM. Several stores grouped together with a variety of amber items at competitive prices.
- Yantarny, Information tourist center «Gorod Vdohnoveniya», Masterov Square, Yantarny settlement (Located an hour's drive from the city), ☎ +7 8-911-462-79-59- 8-911-462-79-59, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, ☎ +7 8 4012 46 68 88, 46 65 50, e-mail: email@example.com. You can buy a piece of amber from 240 rubles.
- Papasha Beppe Pizzaria, Leninsky Pr. 20/26 and Baltiiskaya Ul. 12. 11AM to 11PM. 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 Rubles 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.), ☎ +7 4012 53-04-61. Some of the best views from the city from this cafe. Excellent food and fairly broad range of European cuisine, approximately 500 rubles per entree.
- Razgulyai, Ploshad' Pobedy 1, ☎ +7 4012 533-689. Cafeteria-style restaurant with rustic decor. Good for children.
- Solyanka Cafe, 24 Prospect Mira, ☎ +7 4012-936-203. 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 to the soup. Solyanka is perhaps one of the most popular soups besides borscht (beetroot soup) in Russia, but remains unknown beyond the national boundaries. 500 rubles.
- Zarya, Prospekt Mira 41/43 (Just up the street from the Moscow Hotel), ☎ +7 4012 21-39-29. A trendy, upscale restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, wide selection on the menu, excellent desserts. In the same building as a movie theater.
- Twelve Chairs (Dvenadstat' Stulyev). A very chic bohemian style cafe with a decent food menu.
- In the Shadows of the Castle (V Teni Zamka) (In the strip mall across from the Kaliningrad Hotel). opens at 11AM. 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), ☎ +7 4012-593-377. Live music starts at 9PM every night. A gigantic brewery on the second floor churns out home-made beer. 95 rubles/glass.
- Kropotkin, Teatralnaya ulitsa 30 (next to the big McDonald's near Victory Square), ☎ +7 401 266 8060. Self-made beer (100 RUB 0,5l), probably the best in town. Try the unfiltered one. Acceptable food, cosy beerhall atmosphere and business lunch. 400 RUB.
- Amigos Hostel, ul. Yablonevaya 34, ☎ +7 911 485 2157, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 12, check-out: 11.00. Small hostel in the centred. 1 kitchen with spacious dining room, 2 bathroom for all. Free private parking. English speaking staff, free WiFi. 500-600 RUB.
- 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 RUB.
- The Art Hotel «Pushkin Hall», Dostoevskogo st. 19, ☎ +7 4012 36-57-52. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. It is a family hotel. €40.
- Kaliningrad Hotel, Leninsky Prospekt 81, ☎ +7 4012 536021, e-mail: email@example.com. A landmark hotel in the centre, clean and well renovated, within walking distance to most sights. Breakfast buffet is 250 Rubles extra. 2100-2500 Rubles per night.
- Moscow Hotel, Prospekt Mira 19, ☎ +7 4012 352333, e-mail: 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 Rubles.
- Radisson Hotel Kaliningrad, 10 Pobedy Square, ☎ +7 401 259 3344, e-mail: email@example.com. On the historic main square. 178 rooms and suites created by Swedish designer Christian Lundveld
- Skipper Hotel, Oktyabrskaya Ulitsa 4A (In the Fish Village), ☎ +7 4012 592-000, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A boutique hotel. Breakfast buffet is 200 Rubles extra. 2500-2800 Rubles per night.
- Armenia (Honourary Consulate), Kievskaya street, 23, ☎ +7 4012 681-083, +7 4012 680-022.
- Croatia (General Consulate), Dzherzhinskogo street, 244-A, ☎ +7 4012 60-05-55, fax: +7 (4012) 60-05-56.
- Denmark (Honourary Consulate), Proletarskaya street, 133, ☎ +7 4012 95-76-88.
- Germany (General Consulate), Leningradskaya street, 4, ☎ +7 (4012) 920-218 (short-term visas), +7 (4012) 920-220 (admission), +7 (4012) 920-219 (national visas), fax: +7 (4012) 920-229, e-mail: email@example.com. Mon-Thu, 9AM-5PM; Fri 9AM-2PM.
- Greece (Honourary Consulate), Ogareva street, 33, ☎ +7 4012 93-60-27, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Italy (Honourary Consulate), Chernyakhovskogo street, 6 office 108, ☎ +7 4012 53-24-32, fax: +7 (4012) 53-24-32, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Latvia (General Consulate), Engels street, 52-а, ☎ +7 921 107-4224, +7 411 270-6755, +7 401 256-5502, 295-7441, fax: +7 (921) 232-9750, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mon-Fri, 9AM-6PM.
- Lithuania (General Consulate), Proletarskaya street, 133, ☎ +7 4012 95-7688, +7 4012 95-9486, fax: +7 (4012) 95-6838, e-mail: email@example.com. Mon-Fri, 8-30 - 12-30.
- Netherlands (Representation at the General Consulate of Sweden), Kutuzova street, 29, ☎ +7 4012 959-400, fax: +7 (4012) 959-433, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri, 9-00 - 12-00.
- Norway (Honourary Consulate at the General Consulate of Poland), Kashtanovaya Alley, 51, ☎ +7 (4012) 976-440, +7 (4012) 218-741 (visa issues), fax: +7 (4012) 976-443, e-mail: email@example.com. Mon-Fri, 8-30AM - 1-00PM.
- Poland (General Consulate), Kashtanovaya Alley, 51, ☎ +7 (4012) 976-440, +7 (4012) 218-741 (visa issues), fax: +7 (4012) 976-443, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mon-Fri, 9-00AM - 2-00PM.
- Estonia (Estonian visa service provided by the Consulate of Lithuania), Proletarskaya street, 133, ☎ +7 4012 95-7688, +7 4012 95-9486, fax: +7 (4012) 95-6838, e-mail: email@example.com. Mon-Fri, 8-30 - 12-30.
- Hungary and Slovenia (Hungarian and Slovenian visa service provided by the Consulate of Latvia), Engels street, 52-а, ☎ +7 921 107-4224, +7 411 270-6755, +7 401 256-5502, 295-7441, fax: +7 (921) 232-9750, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mon-Fri, 9AM-6PM.
- Sweden (Swedish visa service provided by the Consulate of Poland), Kashtanovaya Alley, 51, ☎ +7 (4012) 976-440, +7 (4012) 218-741 (visa issues), fax: +7 (4012) 976-443, e-mail: email@example.com. Mon-Fri, 9AM - 2PM.
- 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 35m, with some reaching to 70m high. Entry fees are 30 rubles per person, plus 200 rubles per car.