The city of Vyborg is situated on the western edge of Russia, close to the Finnish border. The city, though Russian, has the unique atmosphere of the old European towns. Russians visit Vyborg to explore the secrets of medieval castles and towers. The Finns travel to Vyborg for cheaper food and fuel prices (and undoubtedly because of some nostalgia).
Nowadays Vyborg is a particular place where Finland and Sweden’s cultures meet Russia.
Indeed, as soon as you make your first steps in Vyborg, you’ll realize that the city is a blend of Europe and Russia. As an illustration, humble Soviet-style buildings coexist with elegantly decorated houses. Huge Russian-style monument to Vladimir Lenin stands not far from the minimalistic Scandinavian Alvar Aalto Library.
I remember that about 10 years ago Vyborg was in a rather sad condition. In other words, medieval monuments and historical sights needed restoration and maintenance.
So this time I was glad to see that the city is no more neglected. Yes, I noticed some spider’s web on the statue to Torgils Knutsson, the founder of Vyborg. However, I admit that local authorities are putting the city in order.
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Now come over and discover why you can’t miss touring Vyborg!
Best Things To Do In Vyborg
Discover amazing buildings
Walking through the city, I found myself thinking that Vyborg is extremely photogenic. I wanted to examine almost every house because they are truly worth attention.
For instance, the buildings of the Old town attract by their shabby pomposity: bay window, arches, balconies, stucco decorations. Not far from there we find pure shapes of functionalism: like Alvar Alto Library, beautiful in its simplicity. Or classical Church of St. Peter and Paul. Surprisingly, this mix of architectural styles looks very harmonious.
Go for a stroll in the park Monrepos
By the way, translated from French, “Mon Repos” means “My Rest”. And indeed, it’s a wonderful place for a good relaxing walk. Monrepos is recognized as one of the most beautiful European parks. Rocks, pines, elegant pavilions, the shore of the bay look picturesque in summer as in winter.
Monrepos occupies about 180 hectares of land so consider to spend there at least 3-4 hours for seeing the most popular sights.
Peek at the magnificent medieval monuments
The foundation of Vyborg dates back to the XII century. City’s main historical attraction is the Vyborg Castle with the Tower of St. Olaf. Fortunately, we can visit this robust medieval fortress. It stands on an island, and all the views are breathtaking: views on the castle and views from the castle too.
IMPORTANT! Vyborg has many cobblestone streets. Thus, think of comfortable shoes for walking there. No heels, for your own sake!
Taste Vyborg’s pretzel (Viipurinrinkeli)
Vyborg’s pretzel is the appetizing symbol of the city. Legends say that the recipe of the pretzel dates back to the XV century and was invented by the Franciscans. You’ll find pretzels in local cafes and bakeries. I prefer salty pretzels with cumin but you can opt for a sweet one — with poppy seeds or cinnamon.
I found the best pretzels in the gourmet shop “Wiborg” on Krepostnaya Street. The shop offers food made in Vyborg: famous pretzels, homemade cheese, cider, honey, meat specialities and other extremely tasty treats.
Besides, as the pretzels are rather dry, they are a great souvenir to bring from Vyborg to your friends.
TOP 5 Sights
1. Vyborg Castle, the symbol of the city
As I mentioned before, the Castle is the heart of the city. The castle is more than 700-year-old fortress which amazes with its massive St. Olaf’s Tower and stone buildings. There’s a historical museum inside the fortress. Besides, if you‘re looking for scenic views, climb to the top of the Tower.
2. Clock Tower and the ruins of the Old Cathedral
The Clock Tower was recently restored. Now we can finally admire the simple beauty of this medieval building. The clock is very accurate. The Tower was supposed to be the bell tower of a large cathedral.
Unfortunately, the cathedral doesn’t exist anymore. Going around the Clock Tower, I’ve seen the red brick ruins — this is all that remains from the Old Cathedral.
3. Market Square and the Round Tower
Market Square still houses a market. From early morning, sellers offer tourists local souvenirs: copper tableware, linen bags with the prints of local sights, magnets, postcards, etc. Head to the roofed Market Hall if you need to buy some food.
The Round Tower (built in 1550) is a historical monument as it used to be a part of an ancient fortress. Nowadays the Tower houses a restaurant.
4. Old Town
From the 1st sight, this historical part of Vyborg is not so large. However, I spent half of the day there (and could easily spend much more). I’d advise to roam aimlessly along those cobblestone streets and to discover green yards, medieval buildings, old mansions, and quiet embankments.
Though Vyborg is a big city, I can’t say at all that it’s crowded. On the contrary, compared to St. Petersburg, Vyborg is so calm and peaceful!
No doubt, you’ll take pleasure to examine classical Church of St. Peters and Paul, the monument to Mikael Agricola, gothic St. Hyacinth’s Church, stone XVIth-century noble’s house… And you’ll certainly fall in love with this yellow old-style tram (which is now a coffee shop).
5. Park Monrepos
Once again: this a must-see place in Vyborg. Don’t miss it!
There are no coffee shops or restaurants in the park (except one tiny kiosque with ice cream and mineral water). So before going to the park, think of buying some treats for going on a picnic on the shore of the bay of Monrepos.
You can get to Monrepos by car or by bus. I went on foot because the weather was excellent. It took me about 20 minutes to get to the park from Vyborg Castle. Furthermore, along the way, I discovered some more pretty spots. For example, I passed through Annenkrone, an early 18th-century fortification in Vyborg, and admired railroad tracks paved among the rocks.
Check the park’s website to know more about Monrepos.
Where to Eat
- Take a coffee in the small picturesque coffeeshop Krendel in the historical centre of Vyborg.
Address: 3, Severny Val Street
- Try Russian food in Taverna: meatballs with juniper, Karelian pies, hearty soup served in a loaf of bread, bliny (pancakes) with all kinds of sweet jams.
Address: 3, Krepostnaya Street
- Head to Creep Pub for a cheerful mood, good steaks, extraordinary soups and a wide variety of beer.
Address: 9, Moskovsky Prospect
Where to Stay
Though we can see the main Vyborg’s sights in 1 day, you may want to extend your stay in the city. Exploring more includes visiting the Hermitage-Vyborg Exhibition Center, strolling along endless embankments or going for a cruise on the Saimaa Canal.
If you decide to stay in Vyborg, here are some great hotels:
- Apartments Ullberg. Perfect location in the center of the city. That is to say, that must-see places, railway stations, shops, restaurants — everything is located nearby.
- Apartment Usadba Byurgera. Spacious apartment in the Old town. There is a big terrace with a wonderful view of the city. Clean, quiet and cozy.
- Hotel Druzhba. Close to all the sights, this hotel is located on the coast of Vyborg Bay. Hotel guests usually appreciate reasonable prices, nice breakfasts and pretty view on the picturesque Vyborg’s landscapes.
How to Get to Vyborg
By bus. Buses depart daily from 2 St. Petersburg’s bus stations:
— Bus station Parnas (metro station Parnas)
— Bus station at 46, Obvodny Canal Embankment.
The ride takes 2-2.5 hours. Price: 8USD.
By suburban train. The trains depart from Finland railway station in St. Petersburg every hour.
The ride takes 2 hours. Price: 7USD.
By express train Lastochka. The trains depart daily from Finland railway station in St. Petersburg.
The ride takes 1 hour. Price: 8USD.
Take the morning express train from Finland railway station which leaves at 8 a.m. If you realize that you’ll have no chance to visit Vyborg once again, stay for 2 days. We, St. Petersburg’s inhabitants, usually come to Vyborg for 1 day and then go back home by the last suburban train.
Make sure your camera and phone batteries are fully charged — I don’t doubt that you’ll take gigabytes of photographs.
I can’t say Vyborg is expensive. For example, admission tickets to local museums will cost you 3-8 USD, a Vyborg’s pretzel — 2USD, a room in a hotel can be found for 50USD, round trip tickets from St. Petersburg and back — 16 USD.
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Here are some other posts about travels to Russia:
1. The Best Time To Visit Russia
2. Discover Places to Visit in Russia
3. How to Enter St. Petersburg, Russia With No Russian Visa
After all, many say that the most European Russian city is St. Petersburg. As to me, if judging on appearance, Vyborg has the most European look. That’s not surprising because for centuries Vyborg belonged to Finland and Sweden. That is to say, if you like old-style European landscapes, Vyborg is a great place to visit in Russia.
Best wishes from Russia,
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