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  • Writer's pictureDamian Brzeski

Kaliningrad - a city of contrasts. How does Königsberg combine history and culture with modernity?

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Kaliningrad is a city that surprises and fascinates. Located on the edge of Europe, surrounded by Poland and Lithuania, it is the westernmost region of Russia. His story is turbulent and full of twists and turns.


It used to be Königsberg - the capital of East Prussia and the cradle of many famous people, such as Immanuel Kant or Hoffmann. Even earlier, in the times when these areas belonged to the Polish crown, the city was called Królewiec.


After World War II, the city was annexed to the USSR and changed its name to Kaliningrad, in honor of the Soviet politician Mikhail Kalinin. During the communist era, the city was closed to foreigners and served as an important military base.


After the collapse of the USSR, the city opened up to the world and began to develop dynamically. Today, Kaliningrad is a city of contrasts, where history and culture combine with modernity.


In this article, we will tell you how to discover its charm and feel its atmosphere, what to see and do in this extraordinary city and why it is worth visiting.

The painting shows the reconstructed old buildings of Kaliningrad with the House of Soviets contrasting in its background

Kaliningrad or Königsberg or maybe Königsberg? - a few words about the history of this city


Kaliningrad is a city with a rich and intricate history that dates back to the 13th century. Its name changed along with the political and cultural fate of the region. What are the stages of this fascinating transformation?


The beginnings of the city date back to 1255, when a stronghold of the Teutonic Order was built on the site of the old Prussian settlement of Tuwangste. It was named Königsberg (Królewiec) in honor of the Czech king Přemysl Otakar II, who supported the Order in its conquests in Prussian lands.


Soon, a trade and craft town developed around the castle, which joined the Hanseatic League in 1340. In 1457, Königsberg became the seat of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, and in 1525 - the capital of the newly created Duchy of Prussia under the rule of the Hohenzollerns. In 1618, Prussia was joined with Brandenburg, and in 1701 Königsberg was the place of the coronation of the first king of Prussia - Frederick I.


The city was an important cultural and scientific center, known e.g. from the activities of the philosopher Immanuel Kant.

In the 19th century, Königsberg developed as the main commercial and military port of East Prussia and Germany. The city suffered during the Napoleonic Wars and World War I, but retained its character and importance. In the years 1920-1939 it was the capital of the East Prussia Border March, which was separated from the rest of Germany by the territory of the Free City of Danzig and Poland.


During World War II, Königsberg was heavily bombed by the Allies, especially the Red Army, and captured in April 1945. After the Potsdam Conference, the northern part of East Prussia was annexed to the USSR and the German population was displaced or killed.


The city was given a new name - Kaliningrad - in honor of the Soviet politician Mikhail Kalinin. In the years 1945-1991, Kaliningrad was a closed military city, inaccessible to foreigners and most citizens of the USSR.


After the collapse of the USSR, Kaliningrad became a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, surrounded by Lithuania and Poland. The city began to open up to the world and modernize its infrastructure and economy. At the same time, the revival of the city's historical and cultural identity began, which is a testimony to its centuries-old belonging to various countries and nations.


Kaliningrad is a city with many faces and names. It is a city of contrasts that combines tradition and modernity, west and east, German and Russian.


Former defensive walls in Kaliningrad

How about Königsberg?


On May 9, 2023, a decision was published by the Commission for Standardization of Geographical Names Outside the Republic of Poland, which in April of the same year recommended using the name "Królewiec" in Polish for a city located in the Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Federation. The Commission advised against using the name "Kaliningrad", which had been common in Polish publications until now.


Poles call Kaliningrad Königsberg because it is a traditional Polish name that reflects the city's historical ties with Poland.


Królewiec was the capital of Ducal Prussia, which was a Polish fief in the years 1525-1657 and 1466-1772. The name Kaliningrad was given to the city in 1946 by the Soviet authorities in honor of Mikhail Kalinin, one of the communist leaders who was co-responsible for the Katyn massacre. The use of the name Königsberg is therefore to express respect for the victims of the communist regime and Polish cultural heritage.

Old new town in Kaliningrad

Kaliningrad - a city of many faces. What is worth seeing in the capital of the Kaliningrad Oblast?


Kaliningrad is a city that has a lot to offer tourists. Whether you are interested in history, culture, science or nature, you will find something for yourself here. Kaliningrad is also a city of contrasts, where traces of Königsberg's former glory intertwine with symbols of the Soviet past and examples of contemporary architecture.


In this chapter, I will present you the most important tourist attractions of today's Kaliningrad, which are worth seeing while traveling around this extraordinary city.

  • Cathedral of Our Lady - is the oldest and most famous monument in Kaliningrad . It was built in the Gothic style by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century and was the seat of the bishops of Prussia. The cathedral houses the tomb of the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant, as well as a museum of the history and culture of the region. The cathedral is open to the public and offers beautiful views of the city from the tower.

  • The Amber Museum - is one of the most popular museums in the Kaliningrad Oblast, dedicated to the richness and variety of this natural stone. The museum is located in the former Teutonic forts and presents over 14,000 amber exhibits, including jewelry, sculptures, mosaics and unique specimens with inclusions. The museum also organizes amber processing workshops and shows.

  • Oceanographic Museum - this is another interesting museum in Kaliningrad, dedicated to life marine and oceanographic research. The museum consists of several parts: an aquarium with over 300 species of fish and other aquatic animals, an exhibition devoted to the history of the Russian and Polish fleets in the Baltic Sea, an exhibition dedicated to polar explorers and sea travelers, and a research station on Kotlin Island.

  • Victory Square - is the central square in Kaliningrad, where the Monument to the Sailors of the Baltic Fleet. The monument depicts two sailors holding an anchor and the flag of the USSR against the background of waves. The monument was unveiled in 1975 for the 30th anniversary of the victory over fascism and is the site of state and military ceremonies. On the square there is also a fountain with sculptures of marine animals and the Sailors' Palace of Culture.

  • House of the Soviets - this is a building that was supposed to be a symbol of Soviet power and modernity in Kaliningrad. It was designed in the 1960s on the site of a demolished Teutonic castle, but was never completed due to technical and financial problems. Currently, it is a concrete skeleton that is deteriorating and scary with its appearance

  • The Cathedral of Christ the Savior - is the largest Orthodox church in Kaliningrad, built in the years 1999-2006 following the example of the Moscow Council. The church has five domes covered with gold and can accommodate up to 3,000 worshipers.

  • Fishing Village - this is a charming corner of Kaliningrad where you can feel the atmosphere of an old fishing village. The village consists of wooden houses in the Dutch style, which serve as a hotel, restaurant and commercial. There is also a lighthouse in the village, from which you can admire the view of the Vistula Lagoon and the Cathedral of Our Lady. It is located on Kant Island.

  • Jurassic Park - this is a place that will delight both children and and adults. Jurassic Park is an amusement and education park where you can see over 40 realistic life-scale models of dinosaurs. The park also offers many attractions such as a mini zoo, playground, maze, 5D cinema and paleontological museum.

These are just some of the tourist attractions of today's Kaliningrad. The city has much more to offer, and there is something for everyone here.


Kaliningrad is a city of contrasts that combines history and culture with modernity and innovation. I invite you to discover this extraordinary city and learn its secrets.


It is also worth visiting seaside towns in the summer; Baltiysk, Zelenogradsk or Svetlogorsk.


Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Kaliningrad

Königsberg - the city of flavors and aromas


Kaliningrad is not only a city of tourist attractions, but also a city of flavors and aromas. Kaliningrad cuisine is a combination of Prussian, German, Polish and Russian traditions.


In Kaliningrad you can try many dishes that are characteristic of this region or have their roots here. In this chapter, I will show you some examples of such dishes, and also recommend you the best restaurants in Kaliningrad where you can eat them.


Pyszne jedzonko

  • Königsberg meatballs - is one of the most famous Kaliningrad dishes. These are large meatballs made of minced meat, cooked in a sauce of sour cream and capers. They are served with potatoes or buckwheat. Königsberg meatballs are a heritage of German cuisine and got their name from the old Königsberg. You can try Königsberg meatballs at Kaiser Wurst (Koenigsberg cuisine), which specializes in dishes related to the history of the region.

  • Amber beer - is a specialty of the Zotler Bier brewery, which is the largest and the oldest brewery in Kaliningrad. Amber beer is a light lager type beer with a mild flavor and aroma. The name of the beer refers to the richness of amber, which is the symbol of Kaliningrad. The Zotler Bier brewery also offers other types of beers as well as delicious German and local dishes.

  • Skewers - is a popular Caucasian dish that consists of pieces of meat impaled on metal skewers and grilled. Skewers can be made of different types of meat, e.g. pork, beef, mutton or chicken. They are served with Georgian sauce or adjika, a salad of fresh vegetables and lavash bread. Skewers are perfect for summer days and can be enjoyed at the Kavkaz restaurant, which serves authentic Armenian and Georgian cuisine.

  • Pierogi - is a dish of Polish and Eastern European cuisine, consisting of made of small dumplings made of pancake dough stuffed with various stuffings. Dumplings can be salty or sweet, boiled or fried. The most popular fillings are meat, cabbage with mushrooms, white cheese or fruit. Dumplings are simple and filling, and you can try them at the Pro Pech restaurant, which specializes in Russian and Belarusian dishes.

  • Tiramisu - is an Italian dessert that consists of layers sponge cakes soaked in coffee and amaretto liqueur, layered with mascarpone cream and sprinkled with cocoa. Tiramisu is a sweet and delicate dessert that melts in your mouth. You can try tiramisu at the Villa Toscana restaurant, which serves delicious Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.

These are just some of the foods you can eat and drink when you come to Kaliningrad. The city has much more to offer in terms of food, and everyone will find something for their palate.


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Summary


In this text I told you about a place that has a lot to offer tourists. Kaliningrad is a city of tourist attractions, flavors and aromas, contrasts and surprises. Kaliningrad is a city that combines history and culture with modernity and innovation. Kaliningrad is a city with a soul, where people with different roots and traditions live.


Kaliningrad Oblast is a place waiting for you. I invite you to travel to this fascinating circuit and learn its secrets. I'm sure you won't regret it and will want to come back here again. Kaliningrad is a city that is second to none.




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