Best Cities in Russia
It’s the world’s largest country with more than 1,100 cities and diverse landscapes including forests, mountainous regions, subtropical beaches and semi-arid deserts. It's no surprise then that some of the best cities in Russia have been chosen to host this year’s FIFA World Cup matches. If you're heading to Russia to watch the matches, or simply as a traveller, we’ve outlined what not miss at four of Russia’s 11 host cities.
Moscow: History by Day, Bar-Hopping by Night
Russia’s cosmopolitan capital city is abundant with history; from Red Square and the Kremlin, to the kaleidoscope domes of St Basil’s Cathedral. While very “touristy”, you can’t visit Moscow without taking in the historic and awe-inspiring sights and buildings that showcase the Moscow of time gone by.
Couple this with Moscow’s happening nightlife - which involves visits to hidden bars, dancing on tables and craft beer tours by locals - gives travellers the opportunity to experience the juxtaposition of two Moscow’s in one day.
- Dance on tables, window sills or any surface you can find until all hours at the Rock n Roll Bar.
- Take a tour of Russia’s historic treasures including the Kremlin, Red Square, Lenin's Mausoleum, St Basil’s Cathedral and the Novodevichy Convent.
- Visit Bunker 42, a once-secret military bunker built during World War II.
- Wander through the artists’ studios, cafes, bookstores and school of design housed in the Artplay Design Centre.
Sochi: A Coastal Gem
Sochi is a perfect example of the diverse landscapes that form Russia. From beach resort town to popular ski spot, Sochi is to Russia what the French Riviera is to France. Despite the varied landscapes and different seasonal activities, summer is still the best time to visit; with tepid waters (up to 24 degrees Celsius), pumping nightlife and a vibrant boardwalk that goes all night; those visiting for FIFA matches are in luck.
With six world cup matches being played in Sochi, travellers will have loads of time to explore the secluded beaches, neoclassical architecture and everything else Russia’s “summer capital” has to offer.
- Explore the Agura Valley and hike amongst waterfalls.
- Enjoy freshly-cooked trout from the Adler District’s Trout Farm - Russia's largest fish farm which gets its water from surrounding mountains.
- Wander along the seaside boardwalk (also known as Naberezhnaya). Pop into one of the nightclubs or bars and party until dawn!
- Hop on a train to Matsesta, Khosta or Izvestiya to visit one of the more secluded beaches.
- Explore the limestone caverns filled with stalactites, stalagmites, springs and pools that make up Vorontsovka Caves.
Samara: The Beer capital of Russia
Formerly known as Kuybyshev, Samara used to be a “closed city” which meant travel into and out of the city by both residents and tourists required proper authorisation. Luckily for travellers of today, it no longer is. Sitting on the banks of the Volga River, Samara’s top products include vodka, chocolate and beer; in fact, this city is home to Russia’s favourite beer - Zhigulevskoe.
Considering this city is the birth place of many professional Russian soccer players including Dmitri Osipov and Aleksandr Tsygankov; it’s only fitting that Samara host some of the world cup soccer matches.
- Descend 16 floors to Stalin’s hidden bunker - only discovered in 1991.
- Stroll, or bike along the Samara Embankment while taking in the sights of the Volga, and the sounds of local musicians.
- Get out of the city centre for the day to explore the hiking trails, limestone caves and majestic scenery of Samarskaya Luka National Park.
- Watch the sun set over Samara beach.
- Taste Russia’s famous Zhigulevskoye beer at one of Samara’s best breweries – Zhiguli. Better yet, get them to fill a takeaway plastic bottle full of beer so you can stroll along the riverfront beer in hand!
Saint Petersburg: Where Picasso Meets Street Art
Russia’s cultural hub, those visiting St Petersburg will struggle to see everything this port city has to offer in just a few days. Travellers are spoilt for choice with a museum built in the 1700’s housing Rembrandts and Picasso’s, to an old boiler house showcasing street art from top artists around the globe. The Mariinsky Theatre on Theatre Square is an iconic structure in not only Russian ballet, but ballet around the world. It is here that Marius Petipa choreographed his most famous works, including The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
With so much history and culture to take in - from the various churches and museums, to fortresses and palaces - walking is a great way to experience this city and take in the signature sights by foot.
- Admire the Neoclassical architecture of the gold-domed Saint Isaac's Cathedral – the largest orthodox basilica in the world.
- View artworks by some of the greats including Rembrandt and Matisse at the Hermitage Museum.
- Discover the Street Art Museum, a collection of street art housed on an 11-hectare industrial site (they do tours on the weekend!)
- Take a trip out of the city to Tsarskoye Selo, a town 24kms from the city centre, which houses the spectacular Catherine Palace – the former summer residence of the Russian tsars.
- If going in June, experience White Nights, a festival held all month long.