A port situated on the Gulf of Finland, Vyborg has seen many years of turbulent history passing from the hands of one country to another. The city is the ideal place to experience a city like no other in Russia – an eclectic mix of cultures that has also preserved its unique identity.
The first mentions of a settlement in Vyborg date back to the 13th century. After a war between the Russian republic of Novgorod and Sweden, it was decided that this land would belong to the latter. Due to its strategic location on the Gulf of Finland, Vyborg was a trading centre and remains a port to this day. The city was captured by the Russians in the 18th century during the rule of Peter the Great. Vyborg changed hands yet again once it became incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Finland, then also ruled by Russia. During the Russian Revolution, Finland declared independence and attempted to take Vyborg with it, yet unsuccessfully. In 1941, Vyborg was once again caught in the crossfire and captured by Finland, remaining in its hands until the end of the war. Since 1945, Vyborg has remained a part of Russia.
Visiting Vyborg probably shouldn’t be on your list of priorities if you have only a few days in St Petersburg. It is more of a destination for those who have been in St Petersburg for a while and want a change of scenery for the weekend. It would also be a wise stopover on the way to Finland, as the border is about 25 km away. While you’re there, enjoy the cobblestone alleys of the city centre, drinking mead and eating pretzels. You can learn more about the city’s history at the Vyborg Castle and see the only medieval tower in Russia – the Olaf Tower. Time permitting, a walk in the Mon Repos garden is a treat for nature lovers.
Vyborg is not particularly close to St Petersburg. Although there are bus and minivans that complete the route to Vyborg, it’s more convenient to travel by train. Trains to Vyborg are fairly frequent and leave every day from the Finlyandskiy railway station. Some trains do make a lot of stops along the way, so the best bet is to take the express train called Lastochka that takes one hour and a half. The ticket should cost 330 roubles (£4) each way. Alternatively, driving to Vyborg can be an option. The roads leading towards Finland have been recently renovated and should make for a smooth drive. Be aware that there will be commuter traffic coming into the city in the morning and going back in the evening. Weekends also tend to be quite busy going towards the Gulf, as it is a popular weekend destination – so plan accordingly.