Russia is hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, featuring the globe’s best soccer players, all representing their nations and going head-to-head against each other to be crowned champions.
The World Cup provides a great opportunity for soccer fans and non-fans alike to experience the best of what that year’s host country can offer. Stadiums aside, here are the must-visit attractions from each Russian host city.
Moscow’s Red Square is the richest historical destination in Russia. It boasts multiple cathedrals, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and many other beautiful architectures. However, the most intriguing aspect of Red Square is its history. Red Square was a place of execution and war for a long time (before it was called Red Square), but is most famously known for military parades in World War II. Enjoy the shops and learning about the history of Russia in Red Square.
The most culturally rich city in Russia, Saint Petersburg, has so many attractions that one might forget to get to a World Cup match on time! The downtown area is full of museums, art galleries, and unique restaurants that keep tourists gasping with awe. The city has created a map of routes for tourists to experience as much as possible. One museum of note is the State Russian Museum, which houses the largest collection of national art in the country.
in 2016, Kaliningrad was recognized as one of the top destinations on the rise in Europe. Among the coolest attractions in Kaliningrad is the B-413 Submarine Museum. For anyone who visits, this is no ordinary sub; there are only a few of its kind in the world. Visitors can tour the 1960’s era submarine which features precise mechanical technology and a fascinating history for anyone with an inquisitive and curious mind.
Kazan City, like other Russian cities, has its share of wonderful museums. One distinguishing feature of this city is a beautiful historical citadel called the Kazan Kremlin; a stunning group of historical buildings dating as far back as the 10th century. It made UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites, and was once seen as a symbol of the prominence of Christian orthodoxy. Today, the stunning structures are one of the top tourist attractions in Russia.
For travelers looking for a more “eerie” flavor, Stalin’s Bunker in Samara provides a fascinating relic of World War II. As the name suggests, this bunker would have been used to house and hide Joseph Stalin in the event that Germany captured Moscow. Any further details would spoil the surprise; but yes, there are guided tours.
Saransk is a smaller city located southeast of Moscow. The statue of Fyodor Ushakov and nearby Cathedral of St. Theodore Ushakov are beautiful structures, A fascinating museum in Saransk is the Mordovian Republican Fine Arts Museum.
Rostov-na-Donu offers historical merchant mansions, the Don River, and lots of architectural relics. The Liventsovka Fortress is quickly becoming an archaeological hot spot for burial sites. Luckily, this city offers a city-wide bus tour, giving tourists a streamlined experience of the entire city and its history.
Sochi is arguably the most beautiful city in Russia. It offers a wonderful assortment of parks and recreation options, to the point that Joseph Stalin built his go-to vacation home there. But the most unique aspect of Sochi is its tea plantation. It is the only tea plantation in the country and the northernmost in the world. The plantation will offer excursions during the FIFA World Cup, ending with sampling teas and other locally produced food.
Ekaterinburg is a large city with deep history. It happens to be the site of the assassinations of Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, and his family on 17th July 1918. Today, the Church on the Blood, a beautiful church built in the early 2000’s, pays homage to the event, with the basement still intact, where the executions took place. Visitors can tour this beautiful new church and historic basement.
For those who want to get some exercise in while experiencing a main city attraction, the Chkalov Stairs in Nizhny Novgorod offers plenty of cardio. The city joke is that you can’t count all of the stairs as you climb, both because there are so many (over 1,500 steps!), and because the beautiful view is distracting. The unique architecture of the stairs, along with a monument honoring the Battle of Stalingrad, makes this a must-see.
Mamai Hill is perhaps the most moving and hallowed place to visit in all of Russia. This place is a memorial to Russian soldiers who have lost their lives, particularly in World War II. The Hall of War Glory and the Motherhood Calls statue are the most special and sacred places in Mamai Hill. The Motherhood Calls statue weighs over 8,000 tons, and is an absolutely awe-inspiring work of art. Russia made a historically and often globally-underplayed sacrifice in the second world war, and Mamai Hill is a tribute that is worthy of a day trip to pay respects for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
From Moscow’s Red Square to Volgograd’s Mamai Hill to one of many museums and historical cathedrals scattered throughout Russia, there is so much to enjoy about Russia that goes beyond sporting events. But what better time to enjoy the best that Russia has to offer than during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.