Kaliningrad, or “Little Russia,” as the locals call it, has gone through more than its fair share of historical turmoil: founded by the Teutonic Knights, it then belonged to the Kingdom of Poland, then to Prussia and the German Empire, only for it to finally become a part of the USSR and then Russia. Discover the many things to do in Kaliningrad, from learning about its maritime history to enjoying beautiful music.
Listen to an organ concert in Königsberg Cathedral
The Königsberg Cathedral is the most important Prussian building in Kaliningrad. The church was first built as a Catholic place of worship, which later became Lutheran after the Reformation. It was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt only recently, in the 1990s. Now it is available for the public to visit. It also hosts daily organ concerts, the schedule of which can be found here (in Russian).
Baltic sperm whale in the Museum of the World Ocean
Kaliningrad is Russia’s only port in the Baltic that never freezes; it is therefore extensively used for both civil and military purposes. Russian scientific exploration of the seas is displayed in the Museum of the World Ocean. Pop by to discover the fascinating world of underwater creatures, and the no-less fascinating equipment used to observe them.
…and put yourself in the shoes of a Russian sailor.
The Museum of the World Ocean has a separate section devoted to vessels used for various purposes. If you ever wondered what it would feel like to be a sailor in a Russian submarine or a researcher on a sea expedition, or maybe an open-sea fisherman, look no further; all of those vessels, safely anchored in the Pregolya River, are available to the public in the Museum of the World Ocean.
Because of the city’s turbulent history, Kaliningrad’s architecture is fascinating. The old Prussian red-brick buildings are intermixed with Soviet blocks of flats, detached houses, brand-new Orthodox churches, and glass high-rises. Kaliningrad is undeniably a Russian city, but it is also completely different from any other place in the country.
Immanuel Kant, one of the most important thinkers in the history of philosophy, was born and spent his entire life in Königsberg, now Kaliningrad. He was buried in the Königsberg Cathedral, and what was initially a small tomb inside the building eventually became a modest mausoleum outside, in the north-east corner of the Cathedral. Kant and Kaliningrad are inseparably connected; the places where he lived and worked are most certainly worth seeing.
Baltic is famous for its amber: there is something hypnotizing about all the shades of gold it can take on, and about the creatures trapped in it for millions of years. In Kaliningrad’s Amber Museum, not only can you buy inexpensive amber jewelry, you can see the most impressive pieces of amber found in the Baltic out on display. The exhibition also includes some elaborate sculptures and a brief history of amber processing in the Soviet Union.
A few kilometers north of the city, there is a narrow strip of land separating the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. It’s the Curonian Spit, a sandy dune leading from Kaliningrad to Lithuania, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by both countries. If you have time, go there on a sunny day, enjoy the view of the massive sand dunes, and dance in the Dancing Forest, where the trees are crooked in the most bizarre ways for reasons yet unknown.