Take a walk around Kant Island and back and you will breathe the atmosphere of the Middle Ages with old castles and catacombs making your trip truly unforgettable.
Kant Island (Kneiphof)
Two arms of the same river – the Old and New Pregolya – flow through the city from east to west, into the Baltic sea. The literal meaning of Königsberg is "the King's mountain." The fortress was built in 1255, slightly north of the point where the arms of the Pregolya River come together. The crusade against Prussian pagan tribes was conducted by the grandson of legendary emperor Frederick Barbarossa (Frederick I), the Iron and Golden King, Otakar II of Bohemia, along with Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Poppo von Osterna. The bas-relief of Otakar II is the left-most on the King's Gate. Two decades later more towns started developing in the area: Altstadt (Old town) adjoined to the castle from the south, Löbenicht – east of the castle, and finally Kneiphof, which was mostly situated on Kant Island.
Each town had its own charter, church, market rights, coat of arms, city seal, fortifications and other key features of autonomy. In the early 14th century all three towns mentioned above gained independent status. Altstadt also became member of the Hanseatic League – a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns. In the beginning of the 18th century all three towns and the Castle finally consolidated into a single city named Königsberg.
Kneiphof was for the most part a town of merchants. It was the last to get independent status from the Teutonic Order, which it received in April 1327. Walking around Kant Island today it is hard to believe that the Medieval Kneiphof had 16 streets (the narrowest of them just 64 centimetres (3 feet) wide) and two squares. Connecting the island to the shore and the other districts were no less than seven bridges. The Merchant's Bridge served as a marketplace. The Green Bridge earned its name from Kneiphof's coat of arms. In the 17th century the locals gathered there to collect their post. So as not to waste time waiting, they decided to build a commodity market on the site. In time, these two bridges were replaced by the High Bridge. The Entrails Bridge was the place for slaughterhouses. You can easily guess who worked and lived near Blacksmith's Bridge. The highest at that time – the Wooden Bridge – led from Altstadt to the town's wood warehouses on Lomse Island. It is still in use today. You can also still find the so-called Honey Bridge, which name, supposedly, comes from the barrels of honey they paid for the bridge's construction. There was an interesting mathematical challenge of the Königsberg's bridges: how to walk through the city crossing each bridge only once. Swiss mathematician Leonard Euler proved the task had no solution and through these efforts laid out the foundations of graph theory.
- Ulitsa Myasnikov
- Rybnaya Derevnya
The Monument for Duke Albrecht
It is a replica of a monument dating from 1891 which was destroyed by bombs.
Kaliningrad sculptors placed the new figure of the Duke on the base that survived the bombing.
After converting from Catholicism to the Lutheran faith, Albrecht of Brandenburg gave up his title of Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and secularised Prussia. In doing so, he made it an autonomic state, while remaining a vassal of the Polish crown. The Duke of Prussia had his own library and helped to develop the study of typography. Born and raised as a noble Teutonic knight, Albrecht had gone down in history as one of the outstanding figures of the Renaissance.
Kreuzkirche (Krestovozdvizhensky Cathedral)
The cathedral is located on the huge Oktyabrsky Island (formerly Lomse), which was once home to numerous wood warehouses and carpentry workshops. In the middle of the 18th century there were even plans to develop silk manufacturing and grow hundreds of mulberry trees on the island, although those plans were not fulfilled.
- Ulitsa Generala Pavlova, 2
- free admission
- 7 (4012) 51 65 41
- Rybnaya Derevnya
Litovsky Val Street
The neo-Gothic Kronprinz building with the battlements atop its solid-looking tower was built in the middle of the 19th century and named after the future Kaiser Karl Wilhelm I. At different times it has been used by the Königsberg police, the armed forces, and even as the Wehrmacht treasury. In the spring of 1945, the city was witness to some fierce fighting. These days, the Kronprinz Barracks contain offices, warehouses, cafés, and the Kaliningrad maritime school, nicknamed Kamyshi (reeds).
- Ulitsa Litovsky Val
Dohna Tower and Amber Museum
Since 1972 the tower, named after Prussian general Friedrich Karl Dohn (who served in the Russian army during the Napoleonic Wars) has accommodated the Amber Museum. This is the perfect place to find out more about amber, its extraction, processing, treatment, applications and identification. All existing kinds of amber along with various items of interest are represented in the museum. The exhibition covers a broad spectrum of time periods from the fourth century BC up to the nineteenth century. One of the museum's greatest exhibits is the huge Sun Stone that weights 4,280 grams. There are several items here from the Moscow Kremlin Armoury collection. Amulets and combs, vases and wall panels, raw amber stones and thousands of amber figures, along with model ships, pipes, clocks and caskets – the museum has them all, as well as a great deal of books and souvenirs for sale.
- Ploschad Marshala Vasilevskogo, 1
- from 90 rub.
- 7 (4012) 46 68 88
- Ploschad Marshala Vasilevskogo
- Disabled access:
The Bunker Museum can be found next to the main entrance of the University. This is a bombproof underground concrete bunker built at the beginning of 1945 in two months, when the Nazi-German garrison in Königsberg was taken over by General Otto Lasch (1893-1971). The shelter is 7 metres (23 feet) deep, 42 metres (138 feet) long, 15 metres (49 feet) wide, and consists of 21 rooms. Besides the German commanders there were operators, medics and staff in the bunker. It had everything needed for survival, including water supply, electricity and sewer system. On April 9, just one month after taking charge of the garrison, Otto Lasch signed an Act of Capitulation. The command centre served him only one month.
- Gostinitsa Kaliningrad
There is an archaeological site of the west side of the castle in Tsentralnaya Ploschad. In the summer you can take a tour through some of the castle's catacombs. Legend has it that you can still find old treasures here. Some say that this is where the Amber Room that disappeared from the Catherine Palace during World War II is hidden. The Amber Room was indeed in the castle from 1942 to 1945, but since then no one has yet been able to trace it.
Since it was established in 1255 and until the beginning of World War II, the castle had been reconstructed a number of times, serving as a fortress, royal residence and a museum. A huge variety of architectural styles including gothic, baroque, rococo, classical and romantic have been reflected in the exterior and interior design of this magnificent building, which is 100 metres (328 feet) long and 67 metres (220 feet) wide. The castle's tower rose 84.5 metres (277 feet) above the city. One of the castle's ceremonial halls was named the Muscovite Hall, after the ambassadors of the Russian Tsar Vasily III met here with Duke Albrecht to discuss their joint military campaign against Poland. The Muscovite Hall was the biggest in Prussia at 1,500 square metres (16,146 square feet). It hosted the coronation of Prussian king and warrior Frederick I in 1701. Kaiser Wilhelm I chose the castle's church for his coronation. At the beginning of World War II, Königsberg Castle accommodated the city and East Prussia administration, the state archives, ceremonial halls and museums.
The castle was severely damaged by the British bombing in 1944 and urban warfare in April 1945. In 1967 the ruins were deconstructed entirely. Today there are plans to reconstruct the castle and restore the pre-war downtown as part of the "Heart of the City" project.
- Ploschad Tsentralnaya
- Gostinitsa Kaliningrad
House of the Soviets
However, the Soviet Union fell into oblivion and the newly-built Dom Sovetov turned out to be a waste of effort. Today it is merely a monument to Soviet architecture. For the city anniversary the facade of the building was renovated, but it still stands empty.
- Ulitsa Shevchenko, 2, building 5
- Gostinitsa Kaliningrad
Museum of the World Ocean
A massive research vessel, Vityaz, which was in action for 30 years and, notably, completed the measurements of the Marianas Trench (~10,100 metres (~32,808 feet)). Inside the vessel you will find an exposition featuring maritime history and geographical discoveries, along with a large assortment of amber items.
Next to the Vityaz is another floating museum, which was originally launched in 1968. After 10 years serving as a lumber vessel under the name Semyon Kosinov, it was re-equipped for research purposes and passed on to the Russian Space Agency under the name Kosmonaut Viktor Patsayev. The vessel provided radio communication links between the Mission Control Centre and spacecrafts.
The medium-sized fishing trawler SRT-129 has a wide spectrum of exhibits on display illustrating the history of the fishing industry in Russia.
The diesel-electric submarine B-413 served for the Northern Fleet. It completed missions in the Mediterranean and Cuba and achieved the best result in the mine-laying training. Today it serves as an illustrious example of what life on a submarine is like.
Inside the main building of the museum you will find a sperm whale skeleton and real Atlantic sharks in an aquarium. Check out the collection of model ships, and the beacon, shellfish and corals. In the museum you can also study the emblems of great Russian maritime dynasties, soviet fleet admiral Konstantin Makarov's personal effects, anchors, coins, and whaling equipment. Yes, it is going to be a long visit! But it is really worth sparing at least an hour for it.
- Naberezhnaya Petra Velikogo, 1 (Main Building of the Museum of the World Ocean)
- from 100 rub.
- 7 (4012) 53 89 15, 7 (4012) 53 88 04
- Sportivny Kompleks Yunost
- Has e-ticket:
The initial construction plan envisaged the new cathedral as a fortress – although Grand Master Luther von Braunschweig had his say in the matter, claiming that it made no sense to build a new fortress an arrow's flight away from the existing castle. So the base was lightened and the walls were made thinner. Over the years the towers have suffered from subsidence; in particular, the North Tower has around a 45 centimetre (1.5 foot) lean, which has earned it the nickname of Baltic Tower of Pisa. The construction of the castle took about 50 years. Nevertheless, even after it was officially completed, the fine-tuning process continued for a few more decades.
The Königsberg Cathedral represents the tradition of Hanseatic (red-brick) Gothic style architecture originating in Germany and Poland and rarely seen in Russia. Churches and castles in this style have no sculptural decoration. Their facades are beautiful but rigid: red-bricks and the art of stonemasonry.
The Cathedral was dedicated to the sacred body of Jesus Christ, to his Blessed Mother, all the saints and Saint Adalbert. Knights prayed in the single-nave section of the church, while the rest of the congregation used the three-nave section.
The last Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Albrecht of Brandenburg was fond of the ideas of Martin Luther and the Reformation, which explains how Prussia became the first protestant-dominated state in Europe. In 1523, the first ever Lutheran sermon in German was given in the Königsberg Cathedral.
In 1544 the Duke founded Albertina University, and the cathedral became the university church. Its South Tower held a library named after its founder Martin von Wallenrod. The library contained not only books, but maps, globes and manuscripts. During World War II the library disappeared; some of the books were burnt, and the rest scattered across the world. There are still 291 volumes from the Wallenrod collection kept at Kaliningrad State University.
At the end of the 16th century, Albertina University bought a spot near the north wall of the main nave to establish a place for its professors to be buried. One of those tombs eventually saved the Cathedral in 1945.
It was the second half of the 18th century when one of the founders of German philosophy, Immanuel Kant, gave lectures at the Königsberg University. He taught logic, ethics, metaphysics, mathematics, mechanics, natural science and geography. At the same time, Kant wrote several works and essays on his theory of knowledge, ethics, anthropology, religion and political philosophy. Besides his enlightened mind, Kant is also known for his discipline and pedantry: he was literally the man to synchronize your watch with. And he never left his home town of Königsberg. Vladimir Lenin considered Kant a forerunner of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. One of Kant's major works – his Critique of Pure Reason – was compulsory reading in the USSR's higher education system. It was the philosopher's tomb that saved the cathedral from removal by the Soviets.
During World War II, the cathedral's interior was almost burnt out. From the 1990s to 2005, restorer Igor Odintsov took charge of renovating the cathedral and became its director. There are no services held in the Cathedral now, but you can find a Russian Orthodox and a Lutheran chapel there. The Kant Museum is also housed here with its pre-war model of the city and medieval armour and weapons on show. On Saturdays (at 6 p.m.) the Cathedral is used for organ music recitals. On Sundays, piano and symphony concerts are held here. The Cathedral organ is the largest in Europe.
- Ulitsa Kanta, 1
- Museum: from 100 rub.; Concert Hall: 100 rub.; concerts: from 150 rub.
- 7 (4012) 63 17 05
- Rybnaya Derevnya
- Disabled access:
- Has e-ticket:
The King's Gate that houses the Grand Embassy Historical and Cultural Centre was the key symbol of the city's 750th anniversary marked in 2005. By that date, the building had been restored and handed over to the Museum of the World Ocean. Now the museum offers an exposition dedicated to Peter the Great's Grand Embassy. Apart from that, the museum organises exhibitions and other events here. The King's Gate is decorated with restored bas-reliefs of the rulers who played a major role in Königsberg's life: Ottokar II, Duke of Prussia Albrecht and Friedrich I. Do not miss the sculpture of the Prussian Cat, the keeper of the city keys, which is believed to bring good luck.
- Ulitsa Frunze, 112 (Grand Embassy Historical and Cultural Centre at the Koenig Gate) (closed for reconstruction)
- from 60 rub.
- 7 (4012) 58 12 72, 7 (4012) 34 02 44
- Litovsky Val
- Ulitsa Dzerzhinskogo, 30 (Friedland Gate Museum)
- from 30 rub.
- 7 (4012) 64 40 20
- Torgovy Tsentr Kalininsky