72 magical hours in Kaliningrad: Where to surf, eat and walk

TASS/Ruslan Shamukov
Three days may not be enough to see all there is to see in the Russian exclave but with our guide you’ll get a very good gist of Kaliningrad.

Kaliningrad (1263 km from Moscow) is the most western of all Russian cities. Though small in size, Kaliningrad and the region itself has a big and rich history. It used to be part of Prussia, Poland, Germany and was consequently absorbed by the USSR and Russia and you can see it in the architecture: as you walk around you will sometimes feel as though you’re in a medieval German town and the next second you’ll be transported to a Soviet-style market place. It is here that famous thinker Immanuel Kant  spent his life and wrote the Critique of Pure Reason.

1.  Head straight for the Koenigsberg Cathedral: This Brick Gothic-style cathedral on Kant Island (formerly Kneiphof) in the Pregel (Pregolya) River was dedicated to Virgin Mary and St Adalbert. Today, the cathedral has two chapels, one Lutheran, the other Russian Orthodox, as well as an interesting museum. This is also where Kant’s tomb is located so make sure to go and ponder the meaning of life by the great philosopher’s resting place.

Photo courtesy: Maria Stambler, RBTH

2.  A very short yet scenic walk away is the 'Fishing Village', a modern set of buildings and other constructions that takes you back to 17th century Germany. Although this is a modern construction, it is actually located on the site of a former German settlement of fishermen. If you happen to be here on a nice summer day it’s definitely worth taking a boat trip around the river. Before stopping for lunch in one of the nice – and very reasonably priced restaurants considering the prime tourist location – get a little calorie burn in by climbing to the top of the lighthouse lookout tower.

Photo credit: Ruslan Shamukov

3.  The city is also famous for its numerous beautiful city gates. To see all of them by foot would take a large part of your day so if you’re short on time we’d recommend renting a bike or seeing a few of the most impressive ones, i.e. the King’s, Friedrichsburg and Friedland (also a museum) Gate.

Photo credit: Alamy/Legion-Media

4.  Kaliningrad boasts several lovely parks so if the weather smiles down on you pay a visit to the Botanical Gardens founded in 1904 by German botanist Paul Keber, the Kaliningrad Zoo or the Central Park of Culture and Recreation which has lots of rides and attractions for kids, as well as cafes and sometimes musical events.

Photo credit: TASS/Ruslan Shamukov

5.  If it happens to be a rainy or cold day take refuge in one of the many museums. The region is best associated with amber so unsurprisingly the city’s Amber Museum is one of the most visited museums and Russia’s first and only amber museum. Apart from having all things amber, it is also housed in a fortress tower dating from the mid-nineteenth century (and the ideal place for getting souvenirs for friends and family back home). Other important museums include the B-413 Submarine Museum, Museum of the Ocean World and Kaliningrad State Art Gallery.

Photo credit: TASS/Ruslan Shamukov

6.  This is sure to work up an appetite so for some dining ideas check out our guide to eating like a Kaiser in Kaliningrad. 

Photo credit: Kruassan cafe

7. No trip to Kaliningrad is complete without exploring the 46km of Russia’s part of the majestic Curonian Spit with its sand dunes and unique ecosystem. How you do it is up to you. Some prefer sticking with one of the many tour operators that will take them to the most important sites accompanied by information, while others rent a car and stumble upon remote spots that tour groups skip.

8. If you opt for the car rental option, a perfect way to finish the day is driving about an hour westwards to see the sun set over Baltiysk, Russia’s westernmost city and major naval base of the Baltic Fleet, and wave hello to Poland!

Photo courtesy: Maria Stambler, RBTH

9. After two days of active exploring we highly recommend you get some beach and relaxation in, especially if it’s summer as the Northern sun can get unexpectedly strong. The region’s most popular resort towns are Zelenogradsk, Pionersky and Svetlogorsk – all about one hour commute out of Kaliningrad. Though the water never gets as warm as the Mediterranean, it offers a very refreshing relief during the summer heat. Even if you’re visiting during the cooler months, this still makes for a very pretty and relaxing day trip.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Legion-Media

10. Good surf schools, a developed infrastructure, sandy beaches and a decent pier make these places an excellent location for surfing

Photo credit: Alamy/Legion-Media

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