The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Host City located furthest to the west, Kaliningrad is set to host four group-stage matches at the upcoming tournament. Known as Konigsberg until 1946, the old administrative centre of East Prussia will surprise fans from all over the world with its rich history, beautiful sea views and reserves of precious local amber. FIFA.com reveals what Kaliningrad will have to offer during Russia 2018.
*Enjoy the city at night
*If you arrive in Kaliningrad during the evening, the best way to quickly take in all the main attractions of this 13th-century city would be to take a night-bus sightseeing tour. Kaliningrad lit up at night creates an unforgettable atmosphere in which you can enjoy the best parts of the city as they appear around you: Victory Square, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Kaliningrad Amber Museum, Rossgarten Gate, Litovsky Rampart, King's Gate and Sackheim Gate, Kant Island and Konigsberg Cathedral.
Alternatively, taking a ride on the Pregolya River opens up a different view of the city from the water's edge. However, if it's just relaxation football fans are after, Kaliningrad is not short of options.
"If I'm out with my sister or parents, the amusement parks, like on the Upper Lake, are perfect for having fun as a family," said Vitaly Kalenkovich, supporter of local club FC Baltika Kaliningrad. "If I want to spend time with my girlfriend, then we'll definitely head to the Fishing Village, an ethnographic centre with a whole host of restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy tasty food, great views and fresh air all at the same time in the centre of the city."
*Delve into history
*Kaliningrad's history is strongly linked with Prussia and you can immerse yourself in the city's past, thanks to the virtual tour of old Konigsberg's streets at the Friedland Gate Museum. The museum features a unique holographic exhibition that silently unveils the history of Kaliningrad and Elblag in Poland. It is also possible to step down into a historic air-raid shelter and take a trip around the city on a retro-style tram. The 1963 "Dyuvag Tram" explores the old part of Kaliningrad where you can still see Konigsberg's legacy in the form of German houses, cobbled streets and centuries-old trees.
Konigsberg's ancient defence system has also been preserved and it is the only monument to military architecture of its kind in Russia. It includes 15 large and small forts on the roads out of the city, the Kronprinz Barracks in the city itself, eight city gates and various ramparts.
The city was also where the famous German philosopher Immanuel Kant was born and there is an island named in his honour right in the heart of Kaliningrad. Kant Island is also home to Konigsberg Cathedral, the spire of which is visible pretty much from every corner of the city centre. The cathedral was built in the 14th century and is one of the oldest buildings in modern Kaliningrad.
Nowadays it is surrounded by a picturesque wooded park where you will also come across Kant's Grave and a museum dedicated to the great thinker, as well as hearing a daily organ recital from the cathedral which has one of the biggest organs in the country.
*"I was born in Belarus, but when I started playing for Baltika I realised that this was my city and my way of life," revealed FC Baltika goalkeeper Mikhail Baranovsky. "It's a beautiful region with fascinating history, wonderful nature and the Baltic sea nearby. Places like the Curonian Spit, Efa Dune and Lake Vistytis have left a permanent imprint on my mind. Only those who have seen this beauty, even if it's just the once, will understand my emotions."
On the days when World Cup matches are not going ahead, supporters are strongly urged to experience what nature has to offer in Kaliningrad and the surrounding area. Kaliningrad Oblast is located on the coast of the Baltic sea, which is perhaps not the warmest but is nonetheless particularly beautiful.
80 kilometres away from the city is the Curonian Spit – a unique spot for rest and relaxation. This narrow, long and sabre-shaped sand spit divides the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Stretching 98 kilometres, this work of art created by nature itself has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The spit is home to an amazing landscape with huge sand dunes and unique flora and fauna in the tundra forest.
If you do not fancy a trip far out of town, you can submerge yourself in all things sea-related at Kaliningrad's World Ocean Museum. The exhibitions include hundreds of shells from molluscs and corals, more than 160 model ships, thousands of images from seas and oceans and a fantastic aquarium where you can see real-life sharks.
*Stock up on amber
*Perhaps Kaliningrad's greatest gift to the world is its amber reserves. Around 90 per cent of the planet's store of this fossilised resin, which is mainly used for making decorations and jewellery, is located in Kaliningrad Oblast. A beautiful adornment from the Amber Region will make for the perfect souvenir, while you can discover how this mineral is manufactured in the Amber Museum, which is set up in a 19th-century fortress tower right in the centre of Kaliningrad.