The White Nights and Gorodetsky Pryanik (Gingerbread from Gorodets)

A Guide to the Cities of 2018 FIFA World Cup

2018 FIFA World Cup will be hosted by 11 cities and 12 stadiums all around Russia. Considering the scale, it is easy to get lost in abundance of beautiful places. So this is a brief guide to the cities and stadiums of the Russian mundial.

In the North…

It seems like those fans who will get a chance to visit Saint Petersburg are the most lucky among those who will attend 2018 FIFA World Cup. The Krestovsky Stadium has a capacity of 80,000 and it will host the group stage, round of last 16, last four, and the play off for third place. The city on the shores of the Neva, the former capital of the Russian Empire, impresses by its splendor and beauty of its architecture. It hosts many museums, theaters and places of entertainment. Visiting the State Hermitage Museum, walking about Nevsky Prospect and exploring the well-shape courtyards are the of must-dos. During the summer season some of the bridges in Saint Petersburg are raised in the night hours and millions of tourists are attracted by this spectacular event. The football fans will have a chance to enjoy the famous white nights as the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14 to July 15, i.e. in the midst of the white nights season.

The football fans visiting Saint Petersburg will have a chance to enjoy the famous white nights as the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held in the midst of the white nights season

… and in the South

In Sochi, the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches will be hosted by Fisht Olympic Stadium, well known to the sport lovers since the Winter Olympic Games of 2014. The city offers many kinds of entertainment to its guests. Nature lovers will be delighted visiting the Sochi Arboretum and the Mixed Yew and Box-Trees Grove or ascending Mt. Roza Peak (2,320/7,610 ft) near Krasnaya Polyana and enjoy the splendid sights of the Caucasus Mountains.

It is for more than a decade that Sochi Discovery World Aquarium, the largest oceanarium on the Black Sea coast, welcomes its young and adult visitors. Inside, you will see the aquariums with sharks, moray eels, tropical fish, and turtles, walk through a 40-meter (131 ft) long transparent underwater tunnel and even feed carp fish. Sochi Park is a must-see for the adventure-seekers. This first-class theme park for all ages is within just a few minutes walking distance from the Fisht Olympic Stadium. Are you brave enough? Take a ride on the Quantum Leap roller coaster.

Rostov-on-Don is another city in the south of Russia to host the events of 2018 FIFA World Cup. Its Rostov Arena stadium has a capacity of 45,000 and four matches of the group stage and one match of round of last 16 will be held there. The must-see places of the city are the architectural sites of Bolshaya Sadovaya Street (some call it the Rostov’s Nevsky Prospect) and the Don River embankment.

Along the embankment you will find a row of coffee bars and gift shops, funny statues and a dancing fountain. In Rostov-on-Don there are two interesting museums. These are the Railway Museum that exhibits the old-style steam train locomotives and the Space Museum where you can see and touch the original space suits and even take a virtual journey to the stars.

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In the Urals

Ekaterinburg Arena Stadium with a capacity of 35,000 will host the 2018 FIFA World Cup events in Yekaterinburg. A must-see place in the city is, of course, the Plotinka, a dam on the Iset River, located in the very heart of the city. It is a favorite place for the public festivities and celebrations. Just a bit to the North, there stands the beautiful green, white and red palace, also known as Dom Sevastyanova, and the Church of All Saints.

This church is a reminder of one of the most tragic events in the Russian history, the execution of the Imperial Romanov family in 1918. One more landmark of Yekaterinburg is its subway. The walls of stations are coated with thick stone, so it is pretty cold inside.

The city has lots of dining places that offer good meals. In the central part there are many coffee bars, restaurants and pubs. Visiting, for example, Britannia Pub (Vaynera St) you will taste the best fish’n’chips in Russia.

By the Volga River

Cosmos Arena in Samara is going to host four matches of the group stage of 2018 FIFA World Cup, as well as the round of last 16 and the last 8. This stadium was constructed especially for the mundial and it is remarkable for its futuristic architecture style. Its facade is designed as a transparent dome that makes the arena look like a futuristic space station. This design is very emblematic for Samara, as the city has contributed a lot to the history of space exploration. This is here that the legendary R-7 launch vehicles were manufactured that boosted both Soviet and Russian spacemen into orbit.

Another place of interest of the Samara region is called the Shiryaevo Galleries. This is a system of artificial caves consisting of seven non-intersecting labyrinths. Going there without a guide and a lantern is not a good idea.

Cosmos Arena in Samara was constructed especially for 2018 FIFA World Cup and is notable for its unusual architecture: a transparent dome makes it look like a futuristic space station.

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Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, has already hosted the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017. In 2018, Kazan Arena stadium is going to host four matches of the group stage, one match of round of last 16 and one match of round of last 8. For those planning to visit Kazan, the Kazan Kremlin is a must-see. This is an unmatched architectural ensemble combining both Russian and Tatar cultural traditions. This is a matchless place where orthodox churches are standing side by side with the majestic Qolşärif (Kul Sharif) Mosque and the Tatarstan presidential residence.

Another must-see place in Kazan is the Memorial Chapel built on the shores of the Kazanka River in honor of the dead soldiers. As a matter of fact, this is a bed-of-honor of all the warriors who died during the numerous sieges of Kazan. If you are lucky enough to come by noon on Sunday when the warden is there, you may have a chance to visit the underground chapel hosting an altar and a coffinette with skulls of the dead warriors. Kazan is also famous for its national cuisine. Öçpoçmaqs (echpochmaks) and çäkçäk (chak-chak) are definitely a must-taste.

Kazan is also famous for its national cuisine. Öçpoçmaqs (echpochmaks) and çäkçäk (chak-chak) are definitely a must-taste

In Volgograd the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches will be hosted by Volgograd Arena having a capacity of 45,000. Formerly known as Stalingrad, the city is famous for a ferocious battle with fascists during the World War II. Today, the Battle of Stalingrad is commemorated by the big memorial complex located at the Mamayev Kurgan hosting a memorial architectural ensemble To the Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad, The Motherland Calls statue and the burial place of the city defenders.

The Motherland Calls statue including its plinth is 87 meters (285 ft) high. This is one of the tallest statues in the world. The places of natural interest in the Volgograd Region include the Lotus Lake and the village of Tsarev, a locality of a major meteorite rain that took place in 1922.

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The Nizhny Novgorod Stadium is going to host four matches of the group stage, one match of round of last 16 and one match of round of last 8. Nizhny Novgorod is famous not only for its splendid cathedrals and architectural sites, but also for its arts and crafts. Visit the Gorodetsky Pryanik (Gingerbread from Gorodets) Museum and the Samovar Museum and take a cableway to travel to the other bank of the Volga River. You will be delighted to see Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin, the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary with its multicolor domes and the State Bank of Russia building at Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Street which was constructed to mark the Romanov Tercentenary.

In Saransk, the capital of the Republic of Mordovia, the football matches will be hosted by Mordovia Arena. Taking advantage of your stay in Saransk, you might like to visit its Sobornaya ploshchad (Cathedral Square also known as Sovetskaya Square) and see the magnificent Saint Feodor Ushakov Cathedral and the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Holy Mother, especially after sunset as these churches are beautifully lighted by night. Those who are fond of history and national traditions will be delighted to visit the Museum of Mordovian Folk Culture. Here you will see the traditional folk clothing and learn about the local legends and tales.

Visiting Russia’s West-Most City

Kaliningrad Stadium (also called Arena Baltika) located in the Russian exclave will host four matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup group stage. It would not be an exaggeration to name the Curonian Spit nature reserve as the most attractive sight of Kaliningrad and the nearby region. This is where the softwood neighbors the sand dunes. Another remarkable thing about the Curonian Spit is its amazing dancing forest.

By the way, remember to visit the Amber Museum. Kaliningrad Region avails of the greatest deposit of amber in the world.

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Finals to be Seen in the Capital

Moscow, the capital of Russia, is going to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals at its two stadiums, i.e. Luzhniki Stadium and Spartak Stadium (also called Otkritie Arena). Luzhniki Stadium is going to host the opening match, play off for third place and the gold-medal match. Moscow offers its visitors lots of entertainments that will suit any taste and budget: from monumental architecture to luxury restaurants and night clubs. Visit the Red Square and the Kremlin, do shopping in GUM, luxury shopping mall (this is an architectural site, a good example of Russian-Byzantine style; and those who are keen for the Soviet era exotics will find there a huge Soviet-style grocery store and a Soviet canteen) and take a walk along the Moskva River embankment reaching the Gorky Park.

Moscow by night is remarkable for its beautiful and various lighting. It is useful to know that many coffee bars and shops are open until late. By the way, do not forget to buy yourself a matryoshka doll and an ushanka ear flap hat!

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