Football Fever has taken over! Is your full attention grasped for 90 minutes on a Russian football pitch? The FIFA World Cup 2018 is being held in Russia from June 14 to July 15, 2018 and it is a treat to behold. The tournament comes around once every four years, but captures the hearts, mind and sleep of millions worldwide like no other event. Let’s visit the 11 Russian Host Cities of the FIFA World Cup 2018.
St Basil’s Cathedral
Moscow has often been called a white-walled and gold-domed city and boasts the world’s second busiest underground system. Moscow is home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Kremlin – the biggest active fortress in Europe, the Red Square – once a market square where traders would sell their goods, and the colourful St Basil’s Cathedral – the onion-shaped domes which were designed to make the building look like the shape of a flame on a bonfire. Don’t miss the 200 ton Tsar Bell which was never rung and the bronze Tsar Cannon from which no shot was ever made. Lenin’s Mausoleum houses a glass sarcophagus with the embalmed body of the legendary Russian revolutionary. At the Moscow Cats Theatre, invented and led by renowned animal handler Yuri Kuklachev, cats fly in spaceships, sing in chorus, wear old-timey starched dresses, play musical instruments, and do a lot of other incredible things.
Mariinsky Palace. (Pic Credits: flickr.com)
This city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Don’t miss a trip to the city’s legendary drawbridges over the grand Neva River. In the centre of the Senate Square is one of St. Petersburg’s main symbols – the monument to the city founder Peter the Great, christened The Bronze Horseman by poet Alexander Pushkin. The Alexander Garden decorated with fountains and busts of Russia’s classical authors has a monument to the geographer Nikolay Przhevalsky who is pictured with a packed camel resting at his feet. A 6-metre high monument to Emperor Nicholas I at St. Isaac’s Square where he is portrayed on a horse and is the world’s only mounted monument with just two points of bearing. The Mariinsky Palace originally constructed by Emperor Nicholas I as a gift for his daughter’s wedding, and today hosts the city’s Legislative Assembly.
Qol Sharif Mosque (Pic Credits: flickr.com)
The Kazan Kremlin, the residence of the president of Tatarstan, was built in the 16th century on the fresh ruins of Tatar khan’s fortress. The Qol Sharif mosque with an occupancy of 8,000 people is one of Europe’s largest mosques. Among the numerous editions of the Quran on display is an interactive ‘self-flipping’ Quran. Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, built in 1726, was nicknamed by people the Hanging Gardens of Kazan because of the large amount of stone-like plasterwork adorning its walls. Riding the train into Kazan, one can see a collection of domes topped with crosses, crescents, and curious symbols. It is the Temple of all religions/the Universal temple and is the primary occupation of artist Ildar Khanov who tried to create ‘an architectural symbol of unified souls spiritually coming closer to the Creator’. The Church of Our Lady of Kazan is a single-domed cathedral without a bell tower.
Observation Tower (Pic Credits: commons wikimedia)
Sochi is also known as Russia’s seaside playground. It is located on the Black Sea coast and is Russia’s only subtropical resort city. The city offers countless opportunities for leisure and sports. The famous mountain resort, Krasnaya Polyana was the venue of the Winter Olympic Games 2014. The Observation Tower on the Akhun Mountain can be seen from any location in Sochi. And from the tower, in clear weather one can even see the Turkish shore. Many a newlywed husband carries his beloved in his arms to the tower top following a local tradition. Sloping down the mountain to the sea is the Arboretum park. It has developed into one of the lushest arboretums in the world and evokes the sensation of a magic forest. It consists of two parts with a rope-way running between them. The Lower Park has a rose garden with 140 varieties of rose.
Nizhny Novgorod beautifully situated on the hills overlooking the Volga River. Also called ‘Gorky’ during 1932 to 1990, it has more recently become Russia’s key commerce centre and often referred to as the country’s third capital. Its Kremlin, a ‘Stone City’ has a 2km brick fortress wall and 13 watchtowers, wherein no two towers are architecturally alike. The Chkalov Staircase is a winding 8-shaped stairway with 560 plus stairs. There is an annual upstairs running race held here. Fedorovsky Embankment offers a most spellbinding view. There’s a lot of kite launching here in summer. Newlyweds come for their wedding photo shoots and put little ‘happiness locks’ on the pedestrian hang-bridge across the nearby ravine. St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, bright-yellow in colour and with five tent-shaped domes is the fifth tallest church in Russia. Besides housing a large library, it also runs an icon-painting studio, a carpentry shop, and a school of bell chiming. Its pupils stage bell chiming concerts at Easter when anyone is allowed to ring the church bells for the asking. The Russian Central Bank hosts an open house a few times a year for visitors to appreciate the surviving historical interiors. There is a clock-tower to the right of the bank’s front door and employees of the bank wind the clock up manually.
Space Museum (Pic Credits: commons wikimedia)
Samara is the capital of the Samara Region and is home to 1.1 million people. It is one of the most prominent Volga region cities and is famous as Russia’s aerospace centre. During World War II, Samara became a ‘second capital’ of Russia as all government departments and diplomatic corps were evacuated there from Moscow. Places of interest for visitors include the massive 37-metre deep Stalin’s bunker and the beautiful nature preserve, Zhigulevskie Hills, on the Volga River. Samara is an ideal city to enjoy the magnificent Volga River, the largest in Europe. The river is almost 2 kilometres wide here and has been a source of inspiration for poets and artists for centuries. An iconic landmark of Samara is a 68-metre, 20-ton monument of the Soyuz carrier rocket, built to commemorate Gagarin’s space flight. Samara is a major transport hub thanks to its international airport, major railway station and busy river port.
Entrance to the Central Market (Pic Credits: commons wikimedia)
A modern city of one million inhabitants overlooking the beautiful Don river, Rostov-on-Don is home to the freedom-loving Cossacks. Their flamboyant culture is still prevalent there. Today it is converted into a museum city. The streets are romantically named Harmonious, Creative and Lucky streets. Here one can find the most unusual monuments; to a water pipe or to a newspaper reader. River Don provides the city with unique cuisine, featuring fish and crayfish dishes. On both sides of Pushkinskaya Street, one sees impressive mansions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Local legend states that House #79 was imported in pieces from Italy. The Gunpowder Cellar Museum is the only remaining military engineering monument of the 18th century in the south of Russia, with artillery cannons that date back to Peter the Great. One of the most famous landmarks is a combat torpedo boat on a pedestal. It is the monument to the Azov flotilla sailors who fought during the 17th century Civil War against the White Guard and German connections. The Rostov Zoo is one of the biggest zoos in Russia and one of its main attraction is the Far Eastern leopard (of which there are only about 80 of them left in the world). The Upside Down House is a local version of a topsy-turvy world where everything in the house is upside down. The house even has a 10 tilt degree as you step into it. Kidburg is a city inside a city, where kids can try their hand at many different trades. It’s like real life in here with money and career opportunities.
Church on Blood
Uniquely located on the geographical borderline of Europe and Asia, and at the foot of the Ural Mountains, Ekaterinburg is the fourth largest city in Russia in terms of population. The city was founded by a decree of Peter I the Great. During the 18th century, the city was known as Russia’s iron-making centre. However, now-a-days it is a modern city with world-class infrastructure. The city is also one of Russia’s most well-known centres for the arts and sports. Church on Blood (Church of All Saints) is one of Russia’s largest churches. It stands on the spot where the members of the Russian Imperial family and several of their attendants were shot by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts was established in 1936. The key masterpiece is the Kasli cast-iron pavilion, which was made for the International Exhibition in Paris in 1900, and which is on the UNESCO list of history and culture monuments. Ploschad 1905 Goda (1905 Goda Square) is the oldest and most important square in the city. To reach it, one can take a tram from the Town of KGB Servicemen. The Museum of Stone-Cutting and Jewelry Art History is located in the building of a former drugstore of the mining authority. It presents stone-cutting works of different times. Among the oldest objects (from the 18th century) is the only one in the Urals 5-foot high vase cut of Kalkan jasper. The museum also presents a unique collection of stone seals and the Faberge jewelry.
Formerly known as Königsberg, Kaliningrad is the capital of East Prussia. Founded in the 13th century by knights of the Teutonic Order, it is an important Russian Baltic seaport and gateway to Europe. This ancient European city was home to a myriad of thinkers, writers, artists and composers. The reconstructed Königsberg Cathedral of the 14th century is the pride of the city. With its two chapels, Orthodox and Protestant, it is a symbol of peace and reconciliation. This region has pristine beaches and pine sand dunes. It features a nature reserve of Kurshskaya Spit, which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. In the main building of the Museum of the World Ocean, one can visit any of the 14 sea/freshwater aquariums. It contains over 300 creatures and 133 species from different parts of the world’s oceans and even houses Russia’s biggest sperm-whale skeleton found. Yunost (Youth) Park is a great place for family outings with its scattered cafés offering a variety of street food options. The park offers many rides, a labyrinth of mirrors, an amazing Upside Down House, a go-cart centre, a boating station and even a Ferris wheel. The Puppet Theatre has entertained its audiences for a half of a century with plays by Russian, German and English authors. Its current repertoire lists over 40 plays. Visit the Kaliningrad Zoo with its animal “assets,” numbering some 2,500 animals and 300 species. The fountain in the middle of the zoo is the largest and one of the finest in town.
Motherland Calling statue (Pic Credits: flickr.com)
Formerly known as Stalingrad, Volgograd extends alongside the Volga River from which the city draws its energy and spirit. It is now an important manufacturing centre, with industries including shipbuilding, oil refining and steel and aluminium production. Volgograd is a centre for ecotourism as well as a sporting city with famous local sports personalities. The 85-metre ‘Motherland calling’ statue is Volgograd’s landmark and can be seen from any point of the city. At the Mamayev Kurgan station is the biggest monument that has ever been built in memory of WWII soldiers. There are 200 steps up to the top. During the 1970s, the builders entombed a capsule in one of the monument’s support walls, with a message to future generations that cannot be opened until 9 May 2045. Volgodonskaya Ulitsa is a little island where all of the streets in this suburb were given beautiful female names. Children’s Khorovod Fountain ‘Barmaley’, is in the centre of the pocket park located at Privokzalnaya Square. This installation is modelled after the legendary fountain that stood on this square before World War II. On the raised platform stands a granite bowl, in the centre of which are the figures of children, dancing around a crocodile, and across from them are eight frogs that feed the water. The St. Nicetas Church is the oldest Orthodox temple in Volgograd, built in 1795. Its dome rests on an octagonal drum above the apse, considered an engineering solution that rarely occurs in Russian church architecture. John the Evangelist Spring, a healing water spring in the flood-lands of the river Tsaritsa is accessible any time of the year and never freezes over in winter.
Forever with Russia (Pic Credits: commons wikimedia)
Saransk is the capital of the Republic of Mordovia. Located in Central Russia, it is one of the most pleasant cities. The unique languages and cultures of the Moksha and Erzya ethnic groups, who inhabited the area for centuries is carefully protected by modern Mordovians. This relatively small city is actively promoting sports and Mordovia’s athletes take part in more than 100 world, European and national competitions each year. Saransk is also a frequent venue for ethnographic and folklore festivals aimed at preserving national identity, culture and customs. The Cathedral of St. Theodore Ushakov has four bell towers and 12 bells, the largest of which weighs six tons. At the Millennium Square is the Star of Mordovia fountain, 60 metres in diameter and with an eight-point star at its centre. There is also a 30 tons bronze sculptural composition resembling a giant oak tree. Entitled Tree of Life, it has the map of Mordovia etched into its base. The Forever with Russia monument and fountain symbolizes fertility of the Mordovian soil. Two women are depicted in national Mordovian dresses, holding an ear of wheat in their hands.
It’s worth getting to know all about Russia and its Host cities of the FIFA World Cup 2018. Experience the best of this vibrant and colourful nation, while enjoying world-class games at the diverse destinations. Plan your travels with Travco Holidays so you can have the trip of a lifetime!