This summer, the World Cup comes to Russia and for football fans it’s a great excuse to explore beyond the country’s big cities. Let’s kick off with Kaliningrad, Russia’s smallest state located between Lithuania, Poland and the Baltic Sea.
The waterfront Kaliningrad Fishing Village
Over the years, Germans and Russians have made their home in Kaliningrad, and both have left their mark on the city’s architecture. Start your sightseeing tour at the distinctive red-roofed Fishing Village in the historical centre, then take a trip to austere Victory Square and wander around grandiose Königsberg Cathedral. Prussian monarchs were once crowned in this impressive building and today it holds the tomb of the philosopher Immanuel Kant. If you’re travelling with a big group, the stylish KoikaGO Hostel has large rooms and a central location.
Submarine B-413 is exhibited at the Museum of the World Ocean
Kaliningrad has many excellent museums, most of which will be open all night until 6am on World Cup match days. When your team isn’t playing, be sure to check out the Bunker Museum (the city’s German HQ during World War Two), the Submarine Museum and the Museum of the World Ocean, where you can even book a cabin and stay the night. If your team gets knocked out early or you simply fancy taking in some artistic skills off the pitch, head to the Kaliningrad Museum of Fine Arts.
The Dancing Forest at Curonian Spit
The lush forests surrounding Kaliningrad provide the perfect place to unwind after a tense match. The nearby Curonian Spit is covered with pine trees that have twisted at the base of their trunks to create a unique, dancing effect, earning it the name of, you guessed it, the Dancing Forest. The Spit also offers miles of coastline to explore and easy access to the Kurshskaya Kosa National Park. The Crystal House Suite Hotel comes highly recommended for its hiking opportunities and inhouse fitness centre.
One of the many beaches along the Curonian Spit
No visit to Kaliningrad is complete without spending a few hours – or a few days if you have the time between matches – on the beach. The high amber content of the Kaliningrad beaches gives the sand a brilliant yellow and orange glow, especially around the Curonian Spit. A short drive from the city you’ll find Yantarny, one of the region’s most beautiful beaches and a popular swimming spot during the summer months. Make the most of your beach time with a stay at the Buen Retiro, a highly rated, super-surreal coastal guesthouse.
Football fans and films in Kaliningrad
During the World Cup two open-air cinemas will screen films from the teams playing in the tournament. For fans who’ve had their football fix, there’s also the In Short International Film Festival which promises to feature at least slightly less football. Street-art inspired boutique Hostel Suffix is less than a 10-minute walk from all the major cinemas.
** The data scientists at Booking.com looked at the activities most endorsed in Kaliningrad by international travellers.