As locals say, the most interesting thing about Kaliningrad is its Prussian and Soviet heritage – so let’s follow their advice and discover this unusual mixture together!
If you are going to Kaliningrad for the World Cup, here’s an essential guide to help you decide where to eat, what to see and how to get to the match:
- Basic information about Kaliningrad;
- FIFA World Cup in Kaliningrad;
- Match schedule;
- Arriving in Kaliningrad;
- Transport system;
- Where to stay in Kaliningrad;
- What sights to see;
- Where & what to eat;
- Where to shop;
- What to visit near Kaliningrad;
- MeetnGreetMe services in Kaliningrad.
Introduction to Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad (also occasionally known by its prior German name of Königsberg) is a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. It is Russia‘s smallest state and has some of the best coastlines and nature escapes in the region.
Kaliningrad’s history dates back to the 13th century when it was the capital of Prussia and a hub for science and culture from Germany, Poland and Lithuania. It was a home to the philosopher Immanuel Kant and German writer Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann. Destroyed in World War II and annexed by the USSR in 1945, the region got rid of its German identity and was named after Mikhail Kalinin, a Russian communist leader. Moreover, it was a highly militarized zone during the Soviet era, so the area opened to visitors only 20 years ago.
Nowadays the city is growing rapidly due to the favored access to the EU for its inhabitants and goods.
FIFA World Cup in Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad Stadium, also called Arena Baltika, is going to host some of the games (4, to be precise) of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It will also host FC Baltika Kaliningrad of the Russian Football National League, replacing Baltika Stadium. It is a fully-equipped brand-new stadium (the first match was on 11 April 2018) with the capacity of 35,000 people.
Kaliningrad Stadium is located just west of central Kaliningrad on Oktyabrsky Island. It lies less than 2 kilometers (a 20 minute walk) from Konigsberg Cathedral – one of Kaliningrad’s major landmarks. Central Victory Square is located another 1.5 kilometers further away, which will take a little longer than half an hour to walk.
Multiple buses run through central Kaliningrad connecting Victory Square with Konigsberg Cathedral and the railway station, including trolleybus 1 and 5. Get off at Konigsberg Cathedral and walk to the stadium.
Address: ul. Solnechnyy bul (ул. Солнечный бул), Kaliningrad.
Match schedule in Kaliningrad
- 16 Jun 2018 – 21:00 – Group D – Croatia VS Nigeria – Kaliningrad Stadium
- 22 Jun 2018 – 20:00 – Group E – Serbia VS Switzerland – Kaliningrad Stadium
- 25 Jun 2018 – 20:00 – Group B – Spain VS Morocco – Kaliningrad Stadium
- 28 Jun 2018 – 20:00 – Group G – England VS Belgium – Kaliningrad Stadium
Ticket sales started on 18 April, hurry up to buy them as matches start very soon! Private individuals can buy tickets at the FIFA website. For companies and organizations, FIFA offers hospitality packages.
To buy tickets, first set up your account at the FIFA website. You can use your email address to do so or simply link your social media account to your login. After logging into your account, you just have to submit a ticket application and choose a payment method. Here you can find the tickets’ cost.
Arriving in Kaliningrad
As Kaliningrad is an exclave of Russia, the visitors require a Russian visa to enter. Please note that 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. Traveling by air on domestic flights between Kaliningrad and Moscow or St. Petersburg can be done if you hold a single-entry visa.
Probably, you will come to Kaliningrad by air and get right to Kaliningrad Hrabrovo Airport that is located 16km from Kaliningrad. It serves such airlines as Aeroflot (Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Moscow-Vnukovo, St. Petersburg), airBaltic (Copenhagen, Riga), Air Berlin (Berlin), Belavia (Minsk), LOT (Warsaw), Rusline (Berlin, Prague, St.Petersburg), S7 (Moscow-Domodedovo), Ural Airlines (Moscow-Domodedovo), UVT Aero (Kazan and Ufa).
A regular bus number 144 runs every hour from the terminal to various stops in the city center (the cost of the trip is 33 rubles). You can also take a minibus number 244-Э (check the timetable) – it costs RUB 80 plus RUB 20 as a baggage fee. In both cases, a trip duration is 45 minutes.
Taxi services are also available. Two airport-approved companies offer a fixed price depending on the exact place you need to go (check it here) which you pay at the desk on the first floor of the terminal building. This is a far better choice than any of the people who may approach you at the airport, especially those with a nametag saying ‘Official Taxi’ – they usually offer overpriced services and try to scam foreigners.
Another good solution, in this case, is to hire a reliable MeetnGreeter who can arrange you the most comfortable transfer, drive you to destinations or help you to rent a car.
If you come from Poland, Germany and other European countries by train, you will find yourself at the largest railway station on the Russian Kaliningrad Railway – Kaliningrad-Passazhirsky (Калининград-Пассажирский), also called Kaliningrad South (Калининград-Южный). Mind that 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 pm actually leaves at 5 pm local time. Just to confuse things, local trains run on local time. The Central Bus Station is found adjacent to the Southern Railway Station (international bus routes arrive here).
Keep in mind that you’ll more likely need the Northern Station (Калининград-Северный) if you’re planning on traveling by train to other parts of the Kaliningrad Oblast.
The city has minibus, trolleybus, and tram networks, but Kaliningrad’s public transport system consists largely of buses – it is the best way to explore the city. Fares are kept low – RUB 20 (around USD 0.35) on the bus, and the waiting time is short. The public transport system has no exact timetable, but on average buses run about 10 minutes apart on most routes. In addition, almost all bus routes are duplicated by several minibusses. On the most buses, you will find a female conductor who will take your fare, while you should pay the driver directly in the minibusses.
The best way to track public transport services on a map in real time, know exactly each vehicle’s time of arrival, plan your journey by public transport or on foot is to use a free Yandex.Transport App. The street names in the app are available both in Latin and Cyrillic.
A bonus: you can get full information on public transport from local people in Kaliningrad. And if you request ‘planning a trip’ service, you can not even think about it, as MeetnGreetMe assistants will carefully plan everything beforehand for you.
Where to stay in Kaliningrad
If you have checked our previous articles about the 2018 FIFA championship in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Sochi, and Rostov-on-Don, you probably know how difficult it may be to find a good accommodation.
Things are better in Kaliningrad (but we encourage you to book as soon as possible because best places will probably not be available much longer) – our local concierges managed to find some cozy and good options for you:
- Crazy Dog Hostel is a cute little hostel in the very city center with a beautiful garden, lounge and a 24-hour front desk with friendly staff.
Address: Telmana Street (ул. Тельмана), 25.
- Hotel Paraiso. Located in an old Prussian red-brick villa right next to the Botanic Garden (a little bit away from the city center), it is a perfect spot for a calm stay.
Address: Turgeneva Street (ул. Тургенева), 32а.
- Kaliningrad Hotel is a landmark hotel in the city center, clean and well renovated, within walking distance to most sights.
Address: Lenin’s Avenue (Ленинский проспект), 81.
- The Art Hotel ‘Pushkin Hall’. It is the only boutique hotel in Kaliningrad with an exclusive design of rooms and special hospitality. The hotel has only 6 rooms, so your stay here will be cozy and comfortable. This place is very suitable for families with kids.
Address: Dostoevskogo Street (ул. Достоевского), 19.
- Crystal House Suite Hotel & Spa is all about luxury: perfect service, best food, beautiful interior, indoor pool and relaxing environment. And a bonus – it is situated just 2.2 km from the Kaliningrad Stadium.
Address: Sergeeva Street (ул. Сергеева), 4
If you need more options customized to your tastes, just drop locals the request and enjoy a carefree journey!
What sights to see
In spite of the fact that the World War II resulted in the demolition of pretty much everything bright and beautiful, nowadays Kaliningrad offers some nice rebuilt museums and relicts, marvelous Soviet-era leftovers and maritime history. There are plenty of interesting things to see, and a curious tourist will most certainly not run short of attractions.
It is a city where you certainly need to step off the beaten paths, so mind choosing a guided excursion with a local who will show you the best of the city and reveal its secrets.
And here are some sights that you can see on your own:
- Königsberg Cathedral. Originally built in 1333-1380 and largely reconstructed after World War II, the cathedral on Kneiphof Island is a major sight to see. The cathedral links Kaliningrad to its German past, where the Prussian kings were once crowned. Moreover, there are two rooms in the Cathedral Museum devoted to the life of Kant, whose tomb lies beside the cathedral walls.
- Amber Museum. As you may know, the Baltic region is famous for its amber. In Amber Museum you can not only buy inexpensive amber jewelry but can also see the most impressive pieces of amber, including amber ornaments and jewelry. The exhibition also includes some elaborate sculptures and a brief history of amber processing in the Soviet Union.
- Victory Square and Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It is a place where history meets the modern world – for example, here the 20th-century German buildings face a brand new shopping center. The square is the heart of the city and serves as a meeting point for locals, as well as a public transport hub.
- Museum of the World Ocean. This restored museum has interesting displays on the sea-connected history of Kaliningrad, as well as the remains of a 19th-century wooden fishing boat. There is a pavilion with a whale skeleton and halls with small aquariums and general information about the ocean. Once you are here, join the guided tour (it is included in the admission price and starts every 45 minutes).
- Kaliningrad Zoo. This is one of the city’s most popular attractions for families. Founded in 1896, the zoo is one of the oldest zoological gardens in Russia, and one of the largest. Its collection comprises 302 species with a total of 2360 individual animals. Sights also include rare plants like a relict ginkgo tree which was coeval with the dinosaurs.
- One more interesting place to see is a Fishing Village situated on the banks of the River Pregel. It recreates a slice of the city’s pre-war fishing quarter with a series of cafes, restaurants, and hotels housed within old German-style architecture and a 31-meter high lighthouse. What is more, the lighthouse also gives a great view over the river and Kant Island, as well as access to a small but fascinating museum.
Where & what to eat
Together with Kaliningrad locals, we have put together a list of some of the city’s best places to eat:
For dinner – Fish Club (best seafood dishes); Madam Bushe (French restaurant located in a lighthouse); Pivovar (German dishes and beer brewed in-house).
Yes, a plenty of great options! Is it high time to order a ‘gastronomic tour’ service? Make up your mind, locals left all the coolest places for this purpose.
Where to shop
Unlike most Russian cities, you will find most of Kaliningrad’s large shopping centers right in the downtown. Probably the best but not the only shopping center is Europe (Европа). Come here for well-known brands, as well as for children’s entertainment center and several restaurants and cafes.
And what to bring back home as a souvenir? Of course, the treasure of the Baltic Shore – amber, small fragments of tree sap that have been preserved for millions of years in the water or under the ground. It can be polished into jewelry pieces or left untouched as a little keepsake.
If you are looking for something unique, MeetnGreeters can carry out each request and find a shop/item of every kind especially for you.
What to visit near Kaliningrad
The Curonian Spit (Kurshskaya Kosa National Park). It is a 98 km long, thin, curved sand-dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast. The Spit is a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by two countries – Russia and Lithuania.
Curonian Spit National Park covers the Russian-owned southern 41 km of the curved Curonian Spit. It is a very beautiful place to explore, where you can soak up Kaliningrad’s wild appeal and feel closer to nature. Because of the language barrier and bad infrastructure of the suburb, ensure that you are accompanied by a local person who will drive you there and show the best views.
While there, mind checking the Dancing forest, named after the twisted trunks found on the trees, as if frozen mid-dance. Planted in the 1960s to stabilize the sand dunes, the cause of the distorted trunks is unknown.
The second option is Chernyakhovsk. Destroyed by WWII, this small town was originally built by Teutonic Knights in the early 1300s. Once Kaliningrad’s second largest city, evident by the two derelict castle ruins that mark the once important city’s boundary. The Georgenburg Castle is a pretty three-kilometer stroll from the town center.
MeetnGreetMe services in Kaliningrad
As we would like your stay in Kaliningrad to be as memorable and exciting as possible, let us recommend you top 5 services that may be handy in this vibrant city during the World Cup:
- Meeting upon arrival – just to make sure everything goes smoothly and you arrive at your accommodation safe and sound (and feel welcome in the foreign country too).
- Driving to destination – after reading the guide you might understand that using a taxi is not a trustworthy option in this city. In case you need an English-speaking driver + guide, turn to our local concierges.
- Providing 24h information support – it is like an English-speaking guide in your pocket ready to explain and help you during the day.
- Booking accommodation – it implies that the MeetnGreeter is to find or book accommodation on your behalf taking into consideration all preferences and budget. Isn’t it convenient if you look for something special?
- Booking/buying tickets to events – yes, your probable visit to the theatre becomes even easier and pleasant.
Yep, that is all. Have a nice stay in Kaliningrad and don’t forget to share your experience with us!