What was some of the biggest news for sports fans in 2018?
The 2018 FIFA World Cup would take place in—drum roll, please—Russia!
Whether you’re a soccer fanatic or don’t know a defender from a fullback, we can all agree on one thing. Russia’s hosting the World Cup signified its value as a tourist destination. Yep, people all over the world are flocking to Russia.
So we’re here to tell you some of the best things to do in Russia.
Planning a trip to Russia can be overwhelming. After all, it’s the largest country in the world geographically! The World Cup was spread out over 11 cities. How do you narrow down what to do in this huge nation?
If you want to see the highlights, we have the top activities in the top five Russian cities.
Things to Do in Russia: The Top 5 Cities for Travelers
Moscow: One of the Richest Cities in the World
Moscow is one of the richest cities you’ll ever visit.
Wealth is a good indicator for the city, but Muscovites have plenty more to be proud of. They’re mostly fond of their heritage, winning World War II and a clean metro system. In fact, several stations are official architectural landmarks.
You can expect to hear at least one local on your trip proudly declare, “я коренной москвич!” (“I was born and raised in Moscow!”)
Things to do in Moscow
- Tour Lomonosov Moscow State University. This campus is a must-see for intellectuals and those who love academia. Here you’ll find the tallest academic building in the world. Writers such as Anton Chekhov and Ivan Turgenev studied here, and the college is regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
- Enjoy the outdoors. Moscow is home to gorgeous botanical gardens. You can also walk through природный заказник Воробьевы горы (Sparrow Hills Natural Reserve), Нескучный сад (Non-Boring Garden) and Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure. Swimming is not allowed in these public places! If you see somebody doing it, remember it’s in Russian mentality to challenge anything that’s prohibited. But no one said you can’t get board a steamboat to enjoy a panoramic view from the river.
- Visit Serebryany Bor. This artificial island is a nature reserve in a forest park. There are picnic spots, two beaches where you thankfully are allowed to swim, restaurants and cafes. There are no shops nearby, so purchase food in advance.
- Attend sports events. The World Cup taking place in Russia is evidence the country is a great place to watch some games. Check out Spartak, also called the Otkritie Arena. This stadium is situated in the northwest part of the city. While most people watch sports here, it’s also a popular locale for concerts.
Moscow travel tips
- Buy tickets for a guided metro tour to see one of the most famous metro systems in the world.
- Buy tickets for a guided river cruise in English. There are multiple routes to choose from!
- Brush up on your Russian so you can make the most of your time here! Try FluentU for free for 15 days to learn with music videos, fun audio clips and flashcards. You’ll be impressing those Muscovites in no time.
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St. Petersburg: A Cultural Capital of Russia
While Moscow is one of the richest cities in the world. St. Petersburg is one of the most intelligent. The people are referred to as “Russian intelligentsia.”
During the communist era, the number of Russian higher education institutions vastly increased. In the 1930s, over 25% of USSR students studied in this region, and the city is still renowned for its educational standards. There is plenty of culture to go around in St. Petersburg.
Things to do in St. Petersburg
- Walk around the Winter Palace. The Russian monarchs lived in the Winter Palace from 1732 to 1917. Now it’s a museum for the beloved country. Come here to see art displays, chambers and the famous Hermitage Museum.
- Visit the Hermitage. Calling all culture fanatics! This is the second-largest art museum in the world. Displays include jewelry and decorative art, Russian art and classical antiquities, among others.
- See bridges. St. Petersburg has over 400 bridges, making it a perfect walking city. Walk bridges to take in the canals and gorgeous skyline.
Travel tips for St. Petersburg
- Buy a Saint Petersburg Guest Card to save money on tickets for the metro, trolleybuses, trams, and boat and bus tours.
- Take exclusive walking routes through the bridges and check the schedule of when each bridge rises.
Sochi: Perfect Year-round Travel Conditions
Sochi is known for The Four S’s: Sun, sea, sand and snow.
Since the weather is nearly always amazing, you have countless options for how to spend your days in Sochi.
Things to do in Sochi
- Be adventurous! The unique adventure company SkyPark AJ Hackett is for bungee jumpers, rock climbers and hikers. This program opens new possibilities for adventure tourism, no matter what season you’re in Sochi.
- Visit Olympic Park. The 2014 Winter Olympics took place in Sochi. Sports fans love to pay tribute to the Olympics by visiting this park. But it isn’t only for sports fanatics! Here you can go to Sochi Park, where you’ll find a water park, fairy tale park and dolphinarium, among other things.
- Take the kids to Sirius. This park is the perfect stop for children. Or for any adults who love science! Sirius is a park and educational center for gifted children.
Travel tips for Sochi
Many tourists get caught up in the paraphernalia they can buy to pay tribute to the 2014 Olympics and 2018 World Cup. Remember that it’s cheaper to buy online than in Sochi! Save your money for cultural experiences.
Kazan: A City of History
Kazan is the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan Republic.
Tatarstan has a long history, so history lovers will never be bored in this city. But don’t worry, there’s plenty for children and active tourists to do, too!
Things to do in Kazan
- Spend a day at an amusement park. You could probably find a different amusement park to enjoy every day you’re in Kazan. Check out Kyrlai Amusement Park, which is mostly known for its extreme rides. Or go to Riviera Water Park and Hotel, which seems to have it all. Visit the hotel to ride the ferris wheel, pet animals at the zoo or enjoy a Russian movie.
- Visit the monastery of Saint Kirill. After a day of fun at a theme park or two, spend the next day touring a sacred site. History lovers and religious tourists will love strolling around the numerous churches at the monastery.
- See the Kazan Kremlin. Touring this UNESCO World Heritage site will take an entire day. The Kazan Kremlin is a gorgeous fortress built by Ivan the Terrible. There are tombs, houses and towers you can spend your day exploring.
Travel tips for Kazan
Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi airports already have tax-free shopping for travelers.
There are rumors that the Kazan airport will start providing this service, too. If you’re traveling by plane, check the latest news before you spend time in this airport!
Ekaterinburg: The Border Between Europe and Asia
It’s a question we’ve all heard before: “Is Russia in Europe or Asia?”
While the simple answer is “Europe,” the Ural Mountains in the Ekaterinburg area are what divide these two continents. Twenty symbols of the separation, obelisks, are installed near Ekaterinburg.
Keep in mind, this city can also be spelled “Yekaterinburg,” so if you see this word on signs, don’t be thrown off!
Things to do in Ekaterinburg
- Walk around Sverdlovsk Regional Lore Museum. This museum is one of the oldest in Russia. It includes several buildings, plus a planetarium! Learn about the history of the Ural region and people.
- Visit the Ekaterinburg Zoo. This is a great attraction if you’re burned out on all of Russia’s historical and cultural attractions. The Ekaterinburg zoo is small but of high quality. Dedicate an afternoon to seeing a wide range of animals.
- Follow the Ekaterinburg Red Line. This is the ultimate pedestrian path for tourists. It starts in the center of the city. Follow the red-striped road to see 35 monuments around Ekaterinburg,
Travel tips for Ekaterinburg
- Buy an Ekaterinburg City Pass card online to get the tourist guidebook, five to 20% discounts in restaurants and souvenir shops, access to bicycle rentals and 24-hour unlimited access to museums. Beware, this site is in Russian!
- Look at this in-depth map of the Ekaterinburg Red Line to prepare for your walking tour. This map can also show you where to start if you don’t want to see all 35 monuments.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup may have put Russia on countless travelers’ radars. But the country obviously isn’t just for sports fans.
Spend a year, semester abroad, month or even just a week in Russia, and you’ll return home a more cultured traveler.
Spartak Nasirov is a Russian writer raised in Uzbekistan. He has learned and worked in Russia, UAE and Tunisia. He is a professional marketer in tourism and happily married.
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