Kaliningrad

Kaliningrad is the most western of all Russian cities. Though small in size, Kaliningrad and the region itself has a diverse history. It used to be part of Prussia, Poland, Germany and was consequently absorbed by the USSR after WW2 and eventually Russia. You can see all these influences in the architecture. As you walk around you will sometimes feel as though you’re in a medieval German town, then 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.

Head straight for the Koenigsberg Cathedral: this Brick Gothic-style cathedral on Kant Island (formerly Kneiphof) in the Pregel (Pregolya) River was dedicated to the 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 at the great philosopher’s resting place.

A very short, yet scenic walk away, is the 'Fishing Village', a modern set of buildings 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.

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.

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.

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 the Kaliningrad State Art Gallery.

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. this is a rather interesting part and yu can continue across the 'Spit Border' into Lithuania.

After a few days of active exploring you can try a change of direction and sample the local beaches , 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.

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