World Cup aside, there is a heap of reasons to visit this vast and spectacular country this summer. Here’s our list of places to visit to help make for a memorable stay!
A mere 1755 km hop from Moscow, the 4th largest city in Russia is tucked away at the foot of the Ural Mountains on the doorstep of Asia. Don’t be fooled by its grim facade; behind those somewhat drab walls you can find an edgy cultural and dining scene.
- The Loft (Дом Печати) at 49 Lenin Ave. is the ‘go-to’ place to grab a meal and catch the best music, film festivals and live performances. Try to catch Sage Project, the duet’s live shows resemble ceremonies with shamanic music and dances combined with vocals in a traditional old-Russian style. And, of course, all World Cup matches will be streaming live!
- Created by artist Anatoly Vyatkin, the Keyboard Monument on the Iset River embankment consists of around 100 stone blocks, each weighing up to 80 kg (176 pounds) each, positioned to look like an oversized QWERTY keyboard. Local lore has it that if you want to reboot your life, step on Ctrl, Alt, Del.
- Find the latest trendy fashion from Russian designers at good prices at Sunday Up Market at RIO Shopping Mall on Leninsky Avenue.
- If you’re after an authentic Russian dining experience, head for Pelmeni Club for sweet and savoury pelmeni,vareniki and draniki. Vegetarians are well catered for as well. Don’t miss the dessert of vareniki loaded with berries and sweet cheeses, a great way to finish a meal. There are two locations, 2 Krasnoarmeyskaya and 82 Lunacharsk.
Kaliningrad is the capital of the Russian province of the same name, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania along the Baltic Coast.
- Feeling peckish? Head for Bakery Konigsbacker, a chain of bakeriesoperating in the entire Kaliningrad region. They serve traditional Russian sweet and savoury pies, croissants, soups and sandwiches. If you want a snack on the go, it won’t break your budget.
- Due to its unique location on the shore of Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad is known as the amber capital of the country, as most of these semi-precious stones come from that city. What could make a prettier souvenir?
Kazan, a city over a hundred years older than Moscow, is a mixture of both Tatar and Slavic cultures, which makes the capital of the Tatarstan Republic, a treasure to explore.
- Bauman Street is the main pedestrian thoroughfare and is buzzing with activity day and night. Enjoy souvenir shops, cafés, shops and museums, along with street performers and buskers out to entertain. At night try the restaurants, clubs, and bars that the strip has to offer.
- Kazan’s central market is a vibrant reminder of life in bygone times. A cornucopia of smells, tastes and sights, the central market is the place to soak up local atmosphere, buy souvenirs, or indulge in a tasty lunch.
Moscow is the city of golden domes, impressive architecture and some of the best museums in Europe. There are some ‘must visit’ sights, including the historic and beautifully maintained Metro.
- Cobblestoned Red Square is surrounded by beautiful architecture, and is now a key location in the city, surrounded by unforgettable sites such as the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum and other celebrated attractions.
- For a cup of what might be the best artisan coffee in Moscow to kick-start your day, pop into no-frills centrally located cafe, Chernyi Cooperative.
- For those on a more limited budget, ditch window shopping at the exclusive GUM and pass by Izmailovsky, Russia’s best flea market. Hunt for bargains, check out the artisan crafts, admire the local handiwork, matryoshkadolls, fascinating Soviet memorabilia, and glittering hand-crafted jewellery.
- Seafood fans! This is your chance to try Kamchatka crab, a delicacy well worth making a trip to Russia for. It is known to be pricey, but one place where you can feast on crab and shrimp without maxing your credit card is Boston Seafood & Bar, at 2/1 Letnikovskaya.
History-packed Nizhny Novgorod, situated on the Volga river in western Russia was founded in 1221, making it one of the oldest cities in the country.
- Get some thrills with a cable car ride over the river from Nizhny Novgorod to Bor, a town on the other side of the Volga River. It is often used by the inhabitants as a means of public transport and the views from it are breathtaking.
- Dine like a 19th-century Nizhny Novgorod merchant, at Pyatkin restaurant on Rozhdestvenskaya Street. The interiors from the epoch match the mouth-watering traditional Russian menu. It offers an antique chic environment crammed with authentic pieces that make dining a unique experience.
Rostov-On-Don lies to the southeast of the East European Plain, on the Don River around 1,070 kilometres south of Moscow.
- Step back into history at Onegin Dacha, a typical Russian venue named after Eugene Onegin, the main character of Pushkin’s novel. The restaurant’s chef de cuisine Anton Kochura creates impeccable culinary dishes with French and Russian accents alongside many traditional Russian dishes. It is located at 45 B
- When you get a craving for a good old-fashioned burger, track down one of the mini-chain Burger & Smoke outlets in the heart of Rostov-On-Don for an affordable lunch or dinner. They offer a large selection of classic American burgers, a good cocktail menu, and tasty desserts. All of the ingredients are delivered daily from local farms near Rostov-On-Don, so you know you are getting high-quality meat and vegetables.
Industrial Samara is the gateway to the Volga region and a bustling hive of activity, a far cry from its early days as a military outpost. The spectacular Volga River is a life-force for the locals in terms of trade, business and leisure.
- Take a trip out to Shiryaevo Village, tucked away in the beauty of the Zhiguli Mountains, yet easily accessible by boat. Here, you can soak up the village life atmosphere, or check out the Repin Museum with its Volga-inspired art. There are also naturally formed limestone caves for exploring.
- Alternatively, take a boat tour around the Samara Bend, where, according to local legend, Volga River pirates used to hide out in the nooks and crannies of the mountains.
In between Moscow and St. Petersburg, Saransk, although small, has some hidden gems to offer its visitors. It is crammed with statues commemorating great events and figures, but if that is not your thing there is plenty else on offer.
- Actor Gerard Depardieu chose Saransk to be his city of residence when he took Russian citizenship. He renovated a cinema here and established a cultural center named after himself. Watch a film in Gerard Depardieu’s own cinema.
A seaside city in the Russian Southern Federal District, Sochi came to fame with Winter Olympics. Blessed with amazing scenery, and an enjoyable summer climate, it has a lot to offer.
- Breathtaking Ritsa Lake is surrounded by green hills and beautiful plants. You can pass through small waterfalls and walk along the banks to enjoy the scenic views. The lake is located around 950 metres above sea level and is an unbeatable spot for memorable Instagram shots.
- Matsesta (meaning: ‘fire and water’) is a micro-district in Sochi located on the Black Sea coast, surrounded by hot springs. The water from the hot springs used at the spas contains more than 27 types of minerals. Your perfect place for spa relaxation and treatments.
- Serving affordable dishes made from local ingredients that are delivered daily from local farms, popular Che? Harcho! resto-bar and terrace also has regular live music and sport events on the huge wide screen.
Stylish, historic and a visual delight, this fashion-loving city is also the birthplace of Putin. Just saying…
- Attention fashionistas! Gate31has six different stores in St. Petersburg and keeps growing. It is known for a unique collection of brands and designers both from Asia and Russia, as well as convenient separation of clothes by color in the store.
- Voyage! Voyage! at 17 Kamennoostrovsky Avenueis another stylish outlet. The designer dresses you can find here combine country-style floral patterns with leather belts and heavy boots, an effective combo. Keep an eye out for Chereshnya dresses. Yes, on the pricey side, but most of them are one-of-a-kind and a worthy investment for any fashion junkie.
- Vegan alert! Ukrop at 14 Malaya Konyushennaya Street has become a favorite even for those who usually eat meat. The trick is in the fresh ingredients used in every meal, with alternatives for almost every dietary requirement. Their desserts are also great alternatives to guilty pleasures. They have new outlets popping up around town, keep a look out.
Volgograd, located in the heart of Russia, is brimming with grand statues, and its downtown boasts a garden promenade along the Volga River and a lot of lovely parks.
- Miles restaurant and bar, at 2A Elshanskaya Street is considered to be one of the best places in the city to view the Volga with its huge terrace. Its menu line-up consists of contemporary Russian cuisine with European influences. Locals say that Miles is the best option for anyone in the mood for a romantic evening.
· Need sustenance but funds running low? Head for Blin Club on Sovetskaya Street. Named for the typical Russian pancake, it is an ideal coffee spot with a combination of tasty local food, a cosy atmosphere and impeccable service, and it absolutely won’t put a dent in your wallet.
For all the practical info needed for a trip to World Cup 2018 go to: welcome2018.com