With the exciting happenings of the World Cup in Russia, we thought that you might have some free time to travel around with games being played in 12 venues throughout 11 host cities! I mean, also with that visa-free (if you have tickets to the game), how can you not leverage that opportunity to visit Russia’s best cities for travel? If you haven’t read it yet, might be worth it to have a look at our guide on how to stay safe and everything you need to know before travelling to Russian for the FIFA World Cup.
What cities to visit during the FIFA World Cup?
Good question! We have looked into that and here are our top suggestions! Don’t forget, Russia is beautiful, you should totally come back and visit these cities if you can’t do it all at once during your football trip. We have plans of doing the famous Trans-Siberian, you will know all about it when we go! Anyways, let’s start this guide of key spots to visit between football matches, in order of our favourite destinations!
Russia World Cup Host Cities
- Saint Petersburg
- Nizhny Novgorod
When you think of a Russian city, Moscow is usually the first one popping up your mind right? It is the most known city of the country, only 700 km south-east of the 2nd most popular city, St-Petersburg. Moscow has top culinary addresses, great shopping and world-class art galleries. The must see spot is the spectacular Red Square, then following it is the metro (it’s beautiful!) and the Old Arbat. In the Red Square, you have plenty to see such as the Kremlin, Lenin’s tomb, St Basil’s Cathedral and if you like architecture, it might be worth a while to pass by GUM. The Armoury is also beautiful, where you can see royal treasures, costume, Faberge eggs, etc! Culturally, there is tons to do in Moscow, take your time there! If you love live shows, don’t miss the Bolshoi Theater’s world-class performances!
St Petersburg is known as the imperial capital and is Russia’s most romantic city. Ever dreamed to go to Venice? You could simply go to St. Petersberg and to on the Moyka River! It’s beautiful canals, palaces and townhouses makes this place simple magical! Probably a cute place to propose to your sweet other half as well ;-). Visit the palaces and the Peterhof and Tsarkoe Selo are the ones you must see! If you have the time, the Vasilevskiy Island is worth a visit. If you are into churches, you are in the right city with many beautiful ones like Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood and St Isaac’s Cathedral. Even if you don’t like visiting churches, these ones are pretty much considered as major landmarks to visit in town! For a complete experience of St. Petersberg, have a long walk on Nevsky Prospekt.
Kizhi what? Yup you heard it right! You probably never heard about this place, but it is absolutely worth a visit! This island is right in the middle of Lake Onega. You will find wonderful open-air museums and many historical and culture wooden structures dating as old as the 14th century. Some of them are actually part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. You will find there the oldest wooden church in Russia, the Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus. It is the most popular thing to see, followed by the Kizhi Pogost site.
Known for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi is a nature lover’s paradise. The Caucasus Mountains are a gem you have to visit. You will find forests, waterfalls, caves, canyons and the water is pristine! Pack your hiking shoes, you will want to discover the trails in the mountains. You can do this on your own or get a guide but to be honest it’s better be safe and go with a local! You don’t want to be lost in the middle of Russia’s wild wild spots. Mount Fisht is also worth a visit if you have the time. It’s also good to know that now the setting of the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic games is actually Russia’s largest resort and a huge tourist destination for both seasons of summer and winter. There are many things to do in Sochi, worth a visit!
Kazan is also officially the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. I knew Kazan because my favourite hockey player, Alexei Kovalev (an ex-Montreal Canadiens ice hockey player in the NHL in North America), use to play for this city’s Russian Hockey Club. It’s an amazing time to visit now since it has gone through a tons of makeovers in anticipation of hosting many world-class events, like the current 2018 FIFA World Cup. You will find a lot of nice architecture since it is a multi-ethnic city with a blend of Muslims and Christians. Don’t miss to visit the Kul Sharif Mosque and the UNESCO site of Kazan Kremlin. You will find many watchtowers, museums, churches, etc. Make sure to have a long walk on Bauman Street.
Irkutsk and Lake Baikal
Irkutsk is a cute little city with historic churches, museums and beautiful wooden houses, but the reason why you have to get to Irkutsk is for the Lake Baikal, the oldest, biggest and deepest freshwater lake in the world! It is a scenic one hour drive from town and, of course, it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cover picture is in Lake Baikal, Ogoy Island in winter, how beautiful!
The Volga is Europe’s longest river, going right through Central Russia and goes all the way to the Caspian Sea. It is known as the Golden Ring. It is home to a set of medieval towns. You will find so many of those wooden houses, coloured churches and tons of monasteries! To see all of this can be tricky and since we haven’t done it yet, we prefer not to give you advice we did not verify ourselves yet. We recommend you to make some research if doing this town hopping is in your interest!