Judging by its name, some might guess that Vyborg is a town in Sweden or Denmark, some even carelessly assume that it isn’t even a town, but rather some kind of android developed by a high-tech company (I did). Yet, those assumptions are incorrect. Even though the first one was not a bad guess.
Back to the year 1293, Vyborg was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden until Peter the Great seized the town. Vyborg castle or Viipurin Linna in Finnish and Viborg Slott in Swedish that still stands elegantly on a small island in the town has witnessed how the story went during periods of war. For example, why did the Swedish come and based their army there, and conversely how did Peter the Great and his army take it back and so forth. Not only the castle, but some of the statues and buildings in this town somehow arouse a strong feeling that you might be in Russia, but you are not exactly in Russia.
Being situated close to the border, Vyborg is considered as a short getaway for both Russians who lives in St.Petersburg or Finnish people who live close to the border, while at the same time carrying out its function as a checkpoint whenever you go to/from St.Petersburg to/from Finland by rail.
How to get there and how long should we stay there?
Trains are available every day from Finsky Vokzal. Why Finskiy? Yep, because the rail is the same as the one we will use to Finland. In other words, it travels directly to Helsinki but we will stop right before the border. Not exactly in the border, though, but around 10 minutes before it.
Tickets can be purchased from any ticket vending machines or ticket office at the station, but I suggest you buy it from a machine, especially if you can’t speak russian well enough. It only costs around 400 rubles if you take Lastochka (fast train).
The ideal time to spend here is 1 or 2 days. You can walk around the town with Yandex Map in hand. But first, you need to decide where to go or what to see.
Interesting Places in Vyborg
Vyborg Castle and St.Olaf’s Tower
The most obvious place to see in Vyborg is the castle itself, which is visible even from the train. It stands proudly on a small island, marking itself as a must visit landmark in town. During the summer, the castle workers normally perform some middle age battle reconstructions complete with costumes and traditions. Unfortunately, we visited Vyborg in September, on a gloomy rainy day, so they barely performed.
The good thing was we had an excuse to spend more time in the Knight’s Chamber. Different from any other castles you might visit, in Vyborg you pay only for the room which you want to visit. Every room has its own entrance fee. So, be wise when you choose it.
The Knight’s Chamber is a two floor s building full of collections from the middle ages, such as costumes, armours, weapons and a simple recreation of the Knight’s dining room. To kill time, we decided to try whichever we could try and pretended to be a princess and a knight in the middle ages. Just so you know, it’s free, so you can stay there as long as you want and play there as much as you wish while waiting for the rain to stop.
The City Town Hall
Right across the castle there is a square that used to serve as a city town hall. The appearance is quite simple but you might think that the buildings around it were brought from Sweden somehow.
Hermitage is not only in St.Petersburg. It exists in Vyborg in a far more modest size. Although it is less known compared to its big sister, Hermitage Vyborg still displays some pieces of art worth seeing. Moreover, due to its strategic location on the top of the hill with only a hop, skip and jump, you can get a perfect bird’s eye view of the Gulf of Finland.
The Church of Saint Peter and Paul
This cathedral was built in the 18th century. Despite its simple facade, it’s still a worthwhile visit, especially if you love to hear a classic organ play and are a history aficionado.
To be honest, there was more to explore if only it didn’t rain all day. Some of the other sites include Monrepo Park, Mannerheim Line, Annenskiye Fortification, Batareynaya Mountain Park and so on. For more information, feel free to check the official site of Vyborg: http://en.vyborg-info.ru/. It is available in English and Suomi.