The region of Kaliningrad, is Russia's westmost region. It is a Russian exclave (it is geographically separted, but is politically attached to the Russian Federation) which is bordered by Lithuania and Poland along the Baltic Sea.
Originally named Königsberg in German, the town was founded in 1255 and was the capital of east Prussia, where Prussian kings were crowned. It was previously one of Europe's finest architectural gem, but most of the town was destroyed during World War II. It was then occupied by the Soviet Army in 1945, its German citizens forced out. It was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946 in honour of Mikhail Kalinin.
General Information of Kaliningrad
Recommended Websites for Tourism in Kaliningrad :
How long should I spend in Kaliningrad :
5 days would be enough to appreciate all that Kaliningrad has to offer.
I would recommend such an itienary :
Day 1 : Sightseeing in Kaliningrad.
Day 2 : Visit the beautiful seaside resord of Svetlogorsk and the world's largest amber mine in Yantarni.
Day 3 : Sightseeing in Baltyisk (Pillau). You will get to visit the Russian Navy base in the Baltic sea, and you will get to see some of the German architecture which survived the World War II.
Day 4 : The Russian Side of the Curonian Spit (Kurshkaya Kosa). Here you will get to see the amazing sand dunes, the beautiful forest reserve as well as world's first ornithological station.
Day 5 : Cherniakhovsk (Insterburg). These are the few ancient east Prussian cities which has the region's best preserved castles.
*I would also highly recommend a 10 day bicycle tour from Kaliningrad to Klapeida (Lithuania), with stays along the Curonian Spit. After Klapeida, take a bicycle tour up north to the Lithuanian - Latvian border. If you still have time, head down south to the Rusne islands and the Curonian Lagoon. I personally went on this tour and it was AMAZING.
The Lithuanian side of the Curonian spit is more tourist friendly, and offers more tourist services and sights, whereas the Russian side of the Curonian spit is more nature friendly, with forest reserves and bird watching stations.
Is a Prussian specialty of meatballs in white sauce. The meatballs are made of ground beef and veal. We tried it at a German Restaurant at Leninski Prospekt, Dom 3.
Getting a 72-hour Visa for short visit to Kaliningrad
It is possible to obtain a short-term 72 hour tourism visa for citizens of Schengen countries, Great Britain, Switzerland, Japan.
Applications should be made to tourism companies in Kaliningrad such as:
Arriving in Kaliningrad
By Plane (Khrabrovo Airport)
Kaliningrad's international airport Khrabrovo lies approximately 5 kilometers from the city, and takes around 15 minutes drive from the city.
Budget airlines which flies from Moscow are
- Aeroflot (with frequent special price promotions to Kaliningrad, cost approximately 3000 Roubles)
- Rossiya Airlines
- s7 Airlines
- Air Baltic (Baltic region's best budget airline, based in Riga, Latvia)
- Belavia (Belarus)
- Aerovisit (Ukrain)
- LOT Polish Airlines (Warsaw, Poland)
From the airport, take a taxi to the city. Just name your hotel (or write it down) to the taxi driver and he will bring you there. Taxi's to the city goes at a standard rate, and the rates are written on a big sign board in the airport. Prices below are of 2011.
The main train station is located next to the bus station, way south of the city. (see map below)
Address : Yuzhni Vokzal, Ulitsa Zheleznodorozhnaya.
It runs most suburban train routes to different cities of the Kaliningrad region, long distance trains to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, as well as international train routes to other countries of the region such as Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland etc.
Long distance train from Moscow is not advisable because
- It is oftentimes more expensive than the airticket
- It is a loooooonnngg ride
- It passes through Belarus, and requires a visa.
There are 2 main bus stations in Kaliningrad. One which belongs to the state known as the AVTOVOKZAL (meaning local bus station), the other which is a private company known as KENIG AVTO (not all locals know about it).
A) The Local State Run Bus station in Kaliningrad.
The state run bus station is located just a stones throw away from the Yuzhni train station.
Address : Dom 7, Avtovokzal, Ulitsa Zheleznodorozhnaya.
Bus connections provided by the Kaliningrad AVTOVOKZAL are available to & from various cities of the region such as
- Lithuania (including Nida, Klaipeda)
- Czech Republic (Prague)
*for more info, check out the international bus schedule of Kaliningrad here.
Other international bus companies which arrives and depart from the Avtovokzal are:
Has bus connections to & from many cities of Western Europe, Central Europe, and Lithuania.
B) The Privately Run International Bus station in Kaliningrad
The company KenigAvto, runs a hotel and bus station.
Website : kenigavto.ru (Check the official website for the latest timetable update)
Address : 184, Moskovskii Prospekt, Kaliningrad.
Has international bus connections to Germany, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania (Nida, Klaipeda included), Estonia, Belarus.
Other international bus companies which arrives and depart from the Avtovokzal are:
Has bus connections to & from cities of the Baltic Region, as well as Russia, and Poland.
Transport Kaliningrad to Nida / Klapeida on the Curonian Spit
There are only 3 ways of crossing the Kaliningrad - Nida border on the Curonian Spit.
1) With a bicycle to Nida/Klapeida
Certain tour companies offer bicycle tours along the Curonian Spit from Kaliningrad to Nida/Klapeida (Lithuania).
VERY USEFUL Information on travelling through the Kaliningrad Region by Oleg Alferov. Download the PDF
2) With a private Taxi / Minivan to Nida/Klapeida (best option)
Not all taxis offer border crossing services. Most of them would only drop you off at the last city before the border (Morskoe), which would end up as a very bad idea, as you will not be able to cross border by foot, and you will have to take your chances to hitch hike (Terrible option if it rains). It would be advisable to hire a private Eurotaxi / Minivan, which cost slightly more, around 70 Euros for a group of 4 (car), or 100 Euros for a minivan.
Border crossing taxis can be hired via any tourist company in Kaliningrad, price may be slightly higher.
A reliable friend of mine does border crossings from Kaliningrad to Nida, with a comfortable minivan. He also does airport transfers and transfers to various cities of Kaliningrad region. Very polite man and extremely punctual. His contact below:
Igor - +79062379015
3) With a bus
There are 2 different bus operators, from 2 different bus stations, which operates on different times.
Option 1 : From Kaliningrad's Avtovokzal, beside Yuzhni train station.
Departs at 16:30 Daily. Price to Nida is 300 Roubles, to Klapeida is 450 Roubles (as of 2011).
Option 2 : From International Avtovokzal, on Moskovski Prospekt, Dom 184 (see above)
Departs from Kaliningrad at 11:00 Daily, reaches Nida around 13:00 , Klapeida at 15:30.
Return from Klapeida at 16:25 Daily, reach Nida around 18:00 and Kaliningrad at 22:00.
*Additional bus on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) departs from Kaliningrad at 07:00, reaches Nida at 09:30, Klapeida around 11:30. Departs Klapeida at 15:20, reaches Kaliningrad at 19:00.
Operated by a company known as KENIGAVTO. Discount if tickets bought 3 days before departure.
Website : kenigavto.ru
*Tickets run out early, its advisable to book in advance.
Crossing the Kaliningrad - Nida border by foot is strictly prohibited.
Getting around in Kaliningrad
Getting around Kaliningrad is actually pretty simple. Kaliningrad is a small city, and the major tourists landmarks can be reached by foot.
Here is a free tourists map which I got from a taxi driver at the airport.
Tourists information centers in Kaliningrad
This is the main tourist information center located inside the Fish village, along Ulitsa Oktyabrskaya. It looks this from the outside. They have daily excursions to various parts of Kaliningrad city, as well as private excursions for groups. English guide could be arranged.
Website : kldtur.ru/
Telephone : +74012592100
Kaliningrad Tourist Information Center
Kaliningrad Fish Village
Public Transportation in Kaliningrad
There are many trolley bus, minivans and city buses which goes all around the city, especially along Leninskii Prospekt. Busses cost 10 Roubles per trip, and minivans cost 15 Roubles.
Private Taxis in Kaliningrad
Taxis are quite commonly found around the city, and they run by the meter. Here are a few contacts for taxis in Kaliningrad :
- Taxi-Kaliningrad (huge banner at airport, 450 roubles airport transfer to anywhere in the city)
Tel : 84012585858
Website : taxi-kaliningrad.ru
- Kaliningradskoye Taxi
Tel : 84012999997
Website : kaliningradskoetaxi.ru
Tourists Attractions in the city of Kaliningrad
Kant Cathedral and Museum
The UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE Kant Cathedral Museum Complex, also known as Königsberg Cathedral, lies on Kant's island, connected to the city by a highway on the west side, and the romantic honey bridge on it's east side. It was previously known as Kneiphof during German times.
Inside the cathedral Museum, there are floors dedicated to
- History of Kneiphof
- The history of the Cathedral, and it's revival from ruins
- The story of Immanuel Kant and his town, as well as Immanuel Kant's rose marble tomb.
Opening times :
09:00 to 17:00 Daily
World Ocean Museum
The museum complex consists of 4 museum objects
1) The Submarine B-413
It is the only afloat submarine museum in Russia. Here inside the submarine, you will see what its like for the 300 submariners to live there, and how difficult their service is. You will also learn about the history of the Russian navy fleet and its different types of submarines. You will aslo have the chance to view the city through a periscope.
2) The expedition vessel "Vityaz"
This expedition vessel Vityaz, is probably the highlight of this museum complex. Here you will learn about the contribution of the vessel ship "Vityaz" since the 18th century, its ocean explorations and the significance of its discoveries. You will also learn about how the marine archeologists explore the deepest floors of the ocean.
3) The vessel "Kosmonavt Viktor Patsaev"
This vessel museum is about the history of Russian space exploration, and international space programs. You will see some shots about the first flight of a human to space, visit the exhibition “Three Elements of the Star Flotilla”and learn about the fortune of the legendary space fleet of our country.
4) The main exhibition building
Within the main building, you will see interesting displays of exotic fishes and mysterious corals. There are halls with aquariums of various fishes in the ocean. There is also a hall which displays the 17 meter long skeleton of a sperm whale, known as the "Giant of The Ocean".
Opening Hours :
10:00 to 18:00, Ticketing Office till 17:00. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Ticket Price :
120 Roubles for a guided tour to each museum object. 80 Roubles for a non guided tour.
Half price for students.
250 Roubles for a package of 4 museum objects. (non guided)
Photography - 50 Roubles; Video - 100 Roubles
world-ocean.ru/en/ (Official website, english available)
Much information about amber , its history, origin, archeological information and various amber made artworks. The museum opened in 1979 and currently houses over 6,000 individual pieces of amber artwork. The museum occupies part of a reconstructed Teutonic castle, originally built during the Napoleonic wars.
Among the exhibits inside the amber museum are the world's second largest piece of amber and a 4 foot tall vase named "The Abundance". There is also history of the missing "Amber Room", which was a gift from the King of Prussia to Peter the great, raided by the German army from Catherine's Palace in Saint Petersburg.
The amber museum is located near the Rossgarten gates, which is one of the seven surviving city gates of Konigsberg. Inside this Rossgarten gates there is a nice cafe known as "Solnichnii Kamen".
ambermuseum.ru (English accessible)
Opening Hours :
10:00 - 18:00. Closed on Mondays.
Ticket Prices :
120 Roubles (Adults)
90 Roubles (Students)
300 Roubles for Excursion, 600 Roubles for Excursion in a foreign language.
150 Roubles for photography.
Day Tours From Kaliningrad City
The Curonian Spit (Russian Side, known as "Куршская коса")
The highlight of Kaliningrad, and probably the reason why you plan to visit Kaliningrad in the first place. The nearest city to reach the Curonian Spit is known as Zelenogradsk, which is a small serene town reachable by bus or train. From Zelenogradsk, the Curonian Spit stretches approximately 100 km north, separating the Curonian lagoon from the Baltic sea. The Russian side of the Curonian Spit is approximately 50 KM, and at the end of the Russian side you will cross over the Russian-Lithuanian border into Nida, Lithuania.
The Curonian Spit a UNESCO world heritage site, home to the great sand dunes. The average height of the sand dunes is about 35 meters, but some are around 60 meters. There is only 1 single road which traverses the Curonian Spit.
The Curonian Spit is much more well mantained and much more tourists friendly on the Lithuanian side, as there are special bicycle paths for tourists, and tourists are welcomed to walk along the sand dunes (which is forbidden on the Russian side).
Website : Park-kosa.ru
Along the Russian side of the Curonian Spit, there are some interesting points along the Spit worth visiting, such as :
The Bird Observatory Center
This was the world's first ornithological center, established by a famous German ornithologist known as Johanness Thienemann in the year of 1901. It was previously known as Vogelwarte Rossitten, and currently known as the "Biological Station of Rybachy". Between 10 and 20 million birds fly over the feature during spring and fall migrations, and many pause to rest or breed on the Curonian Spit. Over 2 million individuals of 186 species have been trapped, observed and released during the 41 years from 1957 to 1998. Excursions are provided by the workers of the station.
Website : zin.ru/rybachy/index.html
The Dancing Forest
One of the wierdest things I have ever seen. Some pretty amazing trees are located in this area, which is 40 Kilometers from Zelenograds. These trees curls and twists around in circles and spiral in a very unnatural way. In the ancient Prussian times, it was believed that these spirals are the gateways to the spirit world. The walking path takes around 30-45 minutes.
The Efa sand dunes
The Efa sand dunes was named after the forester Franz Efa who devoted his life to researching and stabilizing drift sands. The walking trail is approximately 2.8 km, in which you will reach the highest point of the Dunes, which is 60 meters above sea level. From there, you will be able to experience a magnificent view of the Curonian Spit, which comprises of the Dunes, the sea, the bay and the forest.
Accommodations in Kaliningrad
Serviced Apartments in Kaliningrad
One of the options for a cheap stay in Kaliningrad. Price per night for a studio apartment goes from 1000 Roubles to 1500 Roubles, and price per night for a 2 room apartment goes from 1300 - 2000 Roubles. Price depends alot on the location. During my trip, I stayed in an apartment near Europa Shopping mall, which was quite ideal as it was walking distance away from all the major tourist sights. Some tenants offer airport pick up for a small fee.
Apartment locations along Leninski Prospekt street are ideal.
Website : kalinin.kvartirka.su/ (Russian)
Hotels in Kaliningrad
For a nice and comfortable stay, I would recommend the following 3 hotels. Prices are around 2000 Roubles for a double bed per night.
Hotel Kaliningrad is located just 5 minutes walk to the famous UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE site the Kant's Cathedral.
For a luxurious stay, I would recommend the Radisson Hotel Kaliningrad. It is located near Europa shopping mall, and 15 minutes walk away from all major tourist sights.
Tour Operators in Kaliningrad
The main tourist information center in Kaliningrad offers daily tours to various parts of the city of Kaliningrad, as well as the Curonian Spit. They also do arrange private tours in English and German. The company is called UNONA.
For location, see above.
Website : kldtur.ru/
Working times is from Monday to Friday 9:30 to 19:00, Saturdays from 10:00 to 17:00.
The picture below shows the types of tours they offer, as well as the price and time.
A more expensive but very reliable tour company is Baltma Tours. Offers day trips to the Curonian Spit, Baltiysk (Pillau), Chernyakovsk (Innsburg), Yantarni, and many more. Has guides which speak German and English. Also able to arrange for private minivans to Klaipeda through the Curonian Spit.s