• A fans’ guide to Samara

    Samara is the sixth largest city in Russia. It’s located in the south-eastern part of European Russia, at the confluence of the Volga and Samara Rivers, not far from the border with Kazakhstan. To the west lie the Zhiguli Mountains, to the north, the Sokolyi Hills, while steppes lie to the south and east.

    самара

    Source: Wiki Commons, ShinePhantom

    The city was totally off-limits to foreigners right up until the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s. Today, Samara is a merchant town and an important aerospace centre that’s athletic, musical and youthful, making it a great host city for this year’s World Cup.

    From Stalin’s Bunker to Yuri Gagarin Park of Culture and Leisure, Samara Embankment to Kuybyshev Square which claims to be the largest in Europe, Samara is hardly short of things to see and do in between matches. And there are plenty of bars to soak up the atmosphere and restaurants to dine like the locals do!

    Where to stay

    Having been a closed city until fairly recently, Samara’s tourist infrastructure isn’t as well developed as some of the other host cities for this year’s World Cup, but the choice is growing all the time, with Holiday Inn and Ibis among the major international chains to have a presence in the city. But there are plenty of home-grown hotels on offer, and generally at reasonable rates, so you should be able to find something that fits the bill … with a little help from RNTO, of course!

    Being some distance to the north of the city, the stadium isn’t particularly well served by hotels and other accommodation options. There are a few places nearby, but the area isn’t particularly well served by other amenities, so maybe it’s better to stay in the centre and travel out to the matches.

    Needless to say, everyone’s requirements are different, so the best thing to do is give us a ring on 0207 985 1234 to discuss what suits you best. Our friendly, helpful advisers can discuss the various options with you and find the solution that best meets your needs.

    The stadium

    The Cosmos Arena, also known as Samara Stadium, is a brand-new venue built specially to host the World Cup. After the tournament is over, this 45 000-seater stadium will become home to local team Krylia Sovetov.

    Космос_Арена_26_1_1_2017_00001001_DCIM

    Source: Wiki Commons, Muffi

    The most outstanding aspect of the Cosmos Arena is its 65.5-metre-high dome roof, which is made out of 32 panels. With seating arranged over two tiers, this really is a spectacular arena – hardly surprising when the whole project is believed to have cost in the region of $370m.

    The Cosmos Arena is located just north of the city of Samara, roughly 15 kilometres from the city centre. It’s a similar distance from the railway station, which lies on the eastern edge of the centre.

    The options for getting to the Cosmos Arena by public transport are currently limited due to its location outside the city. Marshrutka 50 passes just west of the stadium on Demokraticheskaya Street. You can catch the bus from Samara railway station or Samarskaya Street in the city centre. Alternatively, marshrutka 1k runs east of the stadium along Moskovskoye Street, but it’s still a bit of a trek to stadium. (A marshrutka is a shared taxi cab.)

    Extra public transport may be laid on specially for the competition that we’re not aware of at the moment, so it’s probably worth keeping an eye on the various official websites that support the competition. And remember: your FAN ID allows you to travel free on selected routes, saving you money and helping make your World Cup experience even more special.

    During the competition, the Cosmos Arena is scheduled to host four first-round group matches, one round-of-16 match, and one quarter-final. The action gets underway on Sunday 17 June when Costa Rica take on Serbia, followed four days later when Denmark clash with Australia.

    What to see

    The Samara Embankment in the city centre is a great place to start your discovery of this fascinating city. This large bike and pedestrian zone, more than 5 kilometres in length, offers impressive views of the Volga river with plenty of different types of entertainment on offer.

    With its connections with space exploration over the years, Samara is a great place to visit if you’re interested in what lies beyond our own planet. The Soyuz space rocket and Samara Cosmos space museum tell the history of Kuibyshev (as Samara was known during the ‘space race’) as one of Russia’s pioneering aerospace industry centres.

    Then there’s Kuibyshev Square, which claims to be the largest square in Europe – even bigger than Red Square in Moscow. Alternatively, Samara Square and Glory Square offer great views of the Volga.

    Samara Circus is another good place to enjoy the cityscape, especially if you’re travelling with youngsters, while Pushkin Garden also offers great views.

    During the Second World War, when the Nazi invasion was getting too close to Moscow for comfort, some of the country’s government moved to Samara. Today, you can visit Stalin’s Bunker as part of an organised tour, to see where the Soviet leader conducted part of his campaign against the invaders. The Samara Tourist Information Centre runs a three-hour guided tour (in Russian) every Saturday afternoon, departing at 1.00pm from Samara railway station, which includes a visit to Stalin’s Bunker (it’s not open to individual visitors).

    Walking around Samara old town and Leningradskaya pedestrian street is a great way to spend a sunny day. Alternatively, take a tour on the Volga River to see Samara from a different angle.

    The city boasts a number of parks and gardens to enjoy on sunny days, including the Botanical Garden and Nikolay Shchors Children’s Park. Or you may prefer to visit the city’s cat cafe and make a few feline friends.

    Samara isn’t short of museums, either. As well as its fascinating space museum, there are museums of trams and trolleybuses, local history, regional art, literature and – great news for all World Cup fans – football! And don’t miss the Vladimir Lenin Memorial Home. The Ulyanov family (Lenin’s real surname was Ulyanov) rented a flat on the second floor of a boarding house in Samara from May 1890 to August 1893. The estate has survived almost intact. The house itself, the utility buildings in the back yard and the garden perimeter are still there. The building became a Vladimir Lenin Memorial Home in 1940. The original furnishings and atmosphere of the flat the Ulyanovs rented were reconstructed in 1970, to mark the 100th anniversary of the founder of the Soviet State. A display of documents covering the Samara years of the life of Vladimir Lenin was set up on the ground floor. Part of the shop once run on the premises has been reconstructed from historical evidence. There is also an exhibition room and a lecture auditorium in the museum.

    For family fun, try the Samara Puppet Theatre, Zoological Museum, Frog Museum or Children’s Gallery, created specifically for children as both museum-goers and artists. Samara also has a state circus and a zoo, although a really popular option is the city’s petting zoo, where children can pet and feed hedgehogs, turtles, chickens, raccoons, squirrels, mini-pigs, meerkats, ferrets and lambs, among others.

     

    Bars and restaurants

    Nightlife in Samara is pretty lively. There are numerous dance clubs, restaurants and bars to choose from. The pricing for clubbing is comparable to that in Europe and America, though not as high as in Moscow.

    Despite having been a closed city for so long, there are plenty of international bars and restaurants in Samara. Whether it’s pizza or Chinese, traditional Russian or cuisine inspired by Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver (that’s what’s on offer at the Cambridge Café), Samara caters for all tastes.

    Beer lovers really must try Samara’s famous Zhigulevskoye beer, which was originally produced right here at the Zhigulevskoye brewery, founded in 1881. The best place to try it is called ‘Dno’, where it’s available on draught directly from the brewery. And if you’re running short of roubles, the neighbouring building closer to the river has a booth with a tap where you can get as much Zhigulevskoye as you can carry for the lowest price in the city!

    For more suggestions, see the official website.

     

    Watch for free

    Experiencing all the glamour and excitement of the World Cup in one of the 12 stadia hosting the competition is an unforgettable experience. But what if you can’t get a ticket – what’s the next best thing?

    If you’ve watched the World Cup in previous years, then you will have seen the ‘Fan Fest’ areas – giant screens set up in huge open areas where fans can watch all the action live. And the best thing about it is that it’s free!

    Samara’s is on Kuibyshev Square, the largest square in Russia, located in the heart of the city, in front of the opera and ballet theatre. The venue’s capacity is almost as big as that of the stadium itself – 35 000 people. So join the party, and enjoy all the action with fans from around the world at Samara’s fantastic Fan Fest site! And for more information, see the official FIFA website. See you there!

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  • A fans’ guide to Saransk

    We’ve all heard of Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi, but what about Saransk – is that a name you’re familiar with?

    Saransk is the capital city of the Republic of Mordovia. The city stands in the Volga basin at the confluence of the Saranka and Insar Rivers, about 390 miles east of Moscow. It was founded in 1641 as a fortress. These days, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Russia and world-famous for its sporting achievements, as it’s the home town of many Olympic and World champions.

    Saransk_from_Ferris_wheel

    Source: Wiki Commons, WildBoar

    The city’s modern and European-looking streets attract thousands of tourists from all over the country. It combines historical buildings, Soviet-era apartment blocks, fascinating sports venues, crowded malls and cosy parks. It really is a friendly, exciting place to visit.

    Pushkin’s Park is a great place to relax and watch the world go by, while there’s no shortage of churches and cathedrals, museums and memorials. The Cathedral of St Theodore Ushakov with its gleaming golden domes is particularly impressive, and well worth a visit.

    Being quite a small city, there’s only one kind of public transport – the bus. However, they’re available everywhere from early morning to late at night. Alternatively, you can take a taxi. The prices are cheap, and the drivers friendly and outgoing. But maybe the best way to get around and see the sights is on foot. That way, you can go wherever you like and stop when you want – a great way to discover this fascinating place and its many wonders.

    Where to stay

    There aren’t as many hotels in Saransk as there are in the other World Cup 2018 host cities (the population is only about 300 000), and none directly near the Mordovia Arena, but there are various apartment rentals to choose from. In the centre, Saransk Hotel and Meridian are both within easy walking distance of the stadium, with a number of other hotels further away.

    Of course, there are also apartment rentals, hostels, and a range of other options available for travelling fans, including a tent city, we believe! But for Saransk more than any other host city, you need expert, friendly advice on where to stay and finding the best deals. That’s why you need to partner with RNTO. Just give us a call on 0207 985 1234, and we’ll make sure you get the best-value accommodation available.

    The stadium

    The Mordovia Arena is part of a large new development just across the bridge over the River Insar from Saransk’s city centre. It forms part of a new area consisting of residential units, parks and shopping malls. The arena, also known as Saransk Stadium, will be the new home of Mordovia Saransk once the 2018 World Cup is over.

    Its capacity for the tournament is 45 000 seats, which will be reduced to 28 000 after the World Cup by removing the upper tier. During the World Cup, the Mordovia Arena will host four first-round group matches.

    The stadium is located on the eastern edge of Saransk, less than a kilometre (10-minute walk) from the city’s main Sovetskaya Square. Saransk’s main railway station lies a little further north, but still just a little over 2 kilometres away. At the moment, there aren’t many options to eat and drink around the stadium, but with the city centre nearby, that’s hardly a problem.

    While most central parts of Saransk are all within walking distance of the stadium, you can take bus 44 if you’re in a hurry, though the route from the railway station is rather circuitous. It’s a quick connection from the bus terminal though. Alternatively, there are multiple marshrutkas (shared taxis) which run along Volgogradskaya Street next to the stadium. And remember: your FAN ID  allows you to travel free on selected public transport routes.

    The tournament gets underway on 16 June at 7.00 pm, when Peru clash with Denmark. Three days later, Colombia take on Japan.

    What to see

    There are more than 40 churches and chapels in Saransk and its surrounding area which tell the history of the Mordva people. There’s a route that’s about 3 miles long that takes in the best of them.

    Start at the Ioanno-Bogoslovsky (St John the Evangelist) Temple on Demokraticheskaya Ulitsa. The Church of St John the Evangelist is one of the few architectural landmarks in the Mordovian capital that dates back to the seventeenth century. There’s also a smaller Church of the Epiphany within the premises of the main church, but this is a modern building. The first written evidence of the adoption of Christianity by the local people dates from the sixteenth century. The first to adopt the Orthodox faith were the local elite, and by the mid-eighteenth century, the conversion of the Mordva people was more or less complete.

    After leaving the church, walk towards Kommunisticheskaya Ulitsa and take a ten-minute stroll to the Mordovian Erzia Museum of Visual Arts. You’ll need at least an hour to look through the museum’s collection, which contains more than 1500 items, including works by contemporary Mordovian artists, Orthodox icons and nineteenth-century drawings, etchings and paintings by well-known Russian artists.

    Leaving the museum, walk another 500 yards through the garden square towards Sovetskaya Ulitsa to find the imposing golden-domed Cathedral of St Theodore Ushakov. Next to the cathedral is a monument to Fedor Ushakov – a Russian admiral who commanded the Black Sea Fleet in 1790–1792, and considered by many the town’s patron saint.

    Next to the cathedral is the Alexander Nevsky Chapel with its octagonal dome, built in 2000 in memory of Mordovia residents who died as a result of wars and natural disasters. A hundred yards away is a monument to Patriarch Nikon (1605–1681), a venerated reformer of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Then head down to Krasnoarmeyskaya Ulitsa, to find the Church of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin – actually, two separate churches built in 1734 and 1802. In 1882, a new bell tower was built between the two churches, uniting them as one.

    Leaving the Assumption Church, go around the corner and you’ll find yourself in Pushkin Park. You can walk through the park, past a small town zoo, to come out on Moskovskaya Ulitsa. Turn right and walk a little further until you reach the Mordovia Local History Museum, whose most ancient exhibits go all the way back to the Mesolithic period. This is one of the few places where you can learn about the customs and traditions of the Mokshi and Erzia ethnic groups that make up the Mordva people, including the history of their gradual conversion to Christianity.

    Next, walk down Moskovskaya Ulitsa towards Sovetskaya Ulitsa, back through Pushkin Park. After 15 minutes, you’ll come to the Mineralogy Museum with its collection made up of all the principal minerals, rocks and mineral resources of Russia and beyond.

    Opposite the museum is the Mordovian Drama Theatre. The republic’s national theatre tradition dates back to the 1930s, although this particular building was constructed in 2007 on a spot previously occupied by a two-storey pre-revolutionary building, home to Saransk’s first movie theatre.

    Saransk isn’t short of impressive squares, either. Soviet (Sovetskaya) Square is Saransk’s historic centre. The area used to have its very own kremlin, but it was burnt down in the 1800s. In the 1960s-1970s, the square went through a major overhaul. Historic buildings were removed, the square expanded and administrative buildings were added. Today, the square is home to the Mordovian capital administration and the House of the Republic – a monumental building that’s the residence of the head of Mordovia.

    Then there’s Victory Square, which also forms part of the city’s historic centre, with its focal point – the monument to Mordovia’s soldiers who perished in the Second World War. Or Millennium (Tysyacheletia) Square, opened as recently as 2012 and dedicated to the unification of Mordovia with the peoples of the Russian state. The dominant element of this new pedestrian area is the Zvezda Mordovii (Star of Mordovia) fountain, 60 metres in diameter with LED lighting.

    Other fountains worth seeing are the Forever with Russia complex with its monument depicting two women in national Mordovian dress holding an ear of wheat in their hands to symbolise the fertility of the Mordovian soil. It’s especially spectacular at night, when the lights are turned on. Or visit the ‘fountain descent’ on Moskovskaya Street, with its monument to Pushkin. The descent leads towards the city’s Pushkin Park, a great place to relax on a sunny day.

    Bars and restaurants

    Saransk may not have the widest choice of places to eat and drink of all the 2018 World Cup host cities, but you won’t have any problems finding somewhere suitable. There’s more than enough choice, including a number of sports bars which are sure to be popular throughout the tournament.

    Whether it’s live music, great food, meeting other fans or just watching the World Cup unfold, there are plenty of options to enjoy the competition with a beer or two.

    As always, the official Russia 2018 website has some useful recommendations.

    Watch for free

    Experiencing the glamour and excitement of the World Cup in one of the 12 stadia hosting the event is an unforgettable experience. But what if you can’t get a ticket – what’s the next best thing?

    The ‘Fan Fest’ areas have giant screens set up in huge open areas where fans can watch all the action live. And the best thing about it is that they’re free!

    Over 5 million people attended the 2014 Fan Fest events in Brazil. Not only are they a great way to follow your team and meet supporters from all around the world – they mean you can truly enjoy the unique culture and friendly hospitality on offer in each of the host cities and take home some amazing memories of Russia 2018.

    In Saransk, head for Sovetskaya Square, right in the city centre. With room for 25 000 fans, it’s a great way to enjoy all the action from Russia 2018. And for more information, see the official FIFA website. See you there!

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  • A fans’ guide to Yekaterinburg

    Yekaterinburg is the fourth largest city in Russia and the capital of the Ural region. The city was founded by the first Russian Emperor, and marks the place where the last Russian Emperor and his family were assassinated.

    екб

    Source: Pixabay, 2048492

    UNESCO has named Yekaterinburg one of the world’s twelve ideal cities. As the capital of the Urals, a territory full of natural treasures such as oil, gas, gold mines and Europe’s largest emerald deposit, the city stands on the Iset River, on the border between Europe and Asia.

    Yekaterinburg was named after Russian emperor Peter the Great’s wife, Yekaterina, who later became Catherine I after Peter’s death. Today, some of the tallest skyscrapers in Russia can be found here. But most tourists head for the old centre with its impressive historic buildings, including the Church on Blood, one of Russia’s largest churches. It stands on the spot where members of the Russian Imperial family were shot by the Bolsheviks in July 1918. And believe it or not, there’s also a monument to the Beatles nearby!

    In Soviet times, the city became a major industrial and administrative centre. Its Uralmash (Ural Heavy Machine Building Plant) played a crucial role during World War II.

    Yekaterinburg is a fascinating mix of East and West, modern and historic, so travelling fans are sure to find plenty to see and do here between matches. Enjoy the competition!

    Where to stay

    Yekaterinburg is a popular tourist destination for Russians and foreigners alike. It’s location on the border between Europe and Asia, historical connections and fascinating cultural and ethnic mix make this a truly fascinating place to visit. So unsurprisingly, the city’s tourist infrastructure is well developed.

    From budget hostels to expensive luxury hotels such as Hyatt and Park Inn, there’s plenty of choice, so you should have no trouble finding the option that’s right for you. And because the stadium is close to the city centre, and easily walkable from the main square, location isn’t as crucial as it is in some of the other host cities.

    But it’s always a good idea to get expert, friendly advice on where to stay and finding the best deals. That’s why you need to partner with RNTO. Just give us a call on 0207 985 1234, and we’ll make sure you get the best-value accommodation available.

    The stadium

    Unlike so many other stadia hosting this year’s World Cup, the Yekaterinburg Arena hasn’t been built from scratch specifically to host Russia 2018. Constructed between 1953 and 1957, Central Stadium (as it was then called) was initially a multi-sports arena, also hosting athletics and ice skating events.

    екб арена

    Source: Wiki Commons, Falshivomonetchik

    In the mid-2000s, plans were made to extensively redevelop the stadium, which is home to FC Ural. Work began in 2007 and, after multiple delays, was completed in 2011, giving the stadium an extensive make-over, but keeping the athletics track and sticking with a similar capacity as before (27 000).

    But then, Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup, and soon after, Yekaterinburg was shortlisted as one of the host cities for the tournament. Unfortunately, the recent renovations didn’t meet FIFA standards, so new redevelopment plans had to be made. The entire interior was rebuilt, boosting capacity to 45 000 seats.

    During this year’s World Cup, the Yekaterinburg Arena will host four first-round group games. After the World Cup, capacity will be reduced to 35 000 by removing the temporary seating behind both goals.

    The Arena is located in central Yekaterinburg, just east of the city centre. The walk from the main 1905 Square takes about 20 minutes. Yekaterinburg’s main train station, located a little north of the city centre, is further away from the Arena, just under 4 kilometres or a 45-minute walk. Tram 3, 5, 7, 21, 23, 27 and 32 all connect the station with Kommunarov Square, from where it’s a short walk to the stadium. And remember: your FAN ID allows you to travel free on selected routes, saving you money and helping make your World Cup experience even more special.

    The action kicks off on Friday 15 June with Egypt v Uruguay. Six days later, France take on Peru. Don’t miss it!

    What to see

    A great place to start your exploration of this fascinating city is the ‘Red Line’, a tourist pedestrian route that takes you through the historic centre of the city. Along the way, you’ll see the Residence of the Governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast, Sevastyanov House (the most beautiful building in Yekaterinburg), the Water Tower and Metal Shop Exhibition (one of the city’s landmarks), the Monument to Tatishchev and De Gennin (the founders of the city), the self-explanatory Slanted House, City Administration building, Kharitonov Garden and even a monument to the Beatles.

    Some of the city’s main tourist attractions are connected with the murder of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family on the night of 17 July 1918.

    Ganina Yama was once a pit in the woods where the bodies of the executed Romanov family and three of their dedicated servants were disposed of. Today, it’s home to a series of wooden chapels dedicated to the memory of the Romanovs. As well as the chapels, there’s a garden of lilies in honour of the family.

    The Church on the Blood (near the Dinamo Metro station) was built in 2003 on the site where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed (the infamous Ipatiev House).

    Yekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts, on the west bank of the river, contains many fine works by Russian 18th and 19th-century artists, some lovely small sculptures and lots of jewellery. Or for something completely different, head for Shirokorechenskoye Kladbishche Cemetery, the infamous ‘Mafia cemetery’ with its dozens of graves with life-size images in stone of former Mafia members.

    For great panoramas of the city, visit the Vysotsky Skyscraper: the tallest building outside Moscow, and the northernmost skyscraper in the world. Its observation deck is located on the 52nd floor where, from a height of 186 metres, you can view the centre of Yekaterinburg and beyond.

    Or maybe the city’s zoo is more your cup of tea. Here, you can relax with the whole family, see exotic animals and learn more about the amazing life of the zoo’s inhabitants. Today, it contains more than 380 species.

    1905 Square is the city’s main square. Its name is down to the revolutionary events that occurred there in November 1905. For more recent historical connections, visit the Yeltsin Centre, next to the Hyatt Regency. Opened in 2015, the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre serves as a social, cultural and educational venue. One of its main features is Boris Yeltsin’s Museum, a vast exposition dedicated to the contemporary political history of Russia and its first president, who was born in Yekaterinburg.

    Bars and restaurants

    There are plenty of great places to eat and drink in Yekaterinburg. Unsurprisingly, due to its location, there’s a huge range of different types of bars and restaurants on offer, such as the self-explanatory BeerBar and Hookah Project, or something a little more Russian (and difficult to pronounce) like the Tri Tolstyaka and Hmel.

    Needless to say, the main tourist areas are well provided for, but wherever you go in Yekaterinburg, you’re never far from a great place to eat or drink.

    The city is well served with cocktail bars and nightclubs, too, so the party can continue well into the early hours and beyond. Some of the venues are a little hidden away, but you can always ask a local, taxi driver or the front desk of your hotel for advice and recommendations.

    As always, the official Russia 2018 website has some useful recommendations.

    Watch for free

    The World Cup Fan Fest sites are official public viewing events offering an authentic experience for local and visiting fans free of charge. Big screens and wide-open spaces mean supporters from around the world can come together and watch all the games for free – great atmosphere guaranteed!

    Every host city has one, occupying such iconic locations as Sparrow Hills on the right bank of the Moskva River in Moscow, or the famous beach promenade in Sochi.

    Yekaterinburg’s Fan Fest can be found at the Mayakovsky Central Park of Entertainment and Culture. Located just outside the city centre in a well-known amusement park, this great venue offers fans all the excitement of every game, with a total capacity of around 17 000. Where better to catch all the action from across the tournament and share the best World Cup experience ever with thousands of other supporters from around the world.

    For more information, see the official FIFA website. Have a great Russia 2018!

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  • A fans’ guide to Rostov-on-Don

    If Volgograd is on the Volga, then it makes sense that Rostov-on-Don is … on the Don.

    Twenty miles to the east of the Sea of Azov, which in turn forms a northern offshoot of the Black Sea, Rostov-on-Don is one of the more southerly cities to host this year’s World Cup. With a population of just over a million people, it’s a major administrative, cultural, scientific, educational and industrial centre and a major transportation hub of southern Russia, often known as the ‘Gateway to the Caucasus’.

    rostovSource: Wiki Commons, Moreorless

    With its Don Cossacks, delectable fish and all the traditions of a large trading port, Rostov-on-Don treats visitors to the flavours of the Russian south. The city itself only came into being just over 200 years ago, but since then, it’s developed into a major trade centre and communications hub, thanks to its important strategic location and river transport network.

    Where to stay

    Mercure, Ramada, Radisson – you’ll find them all in Rostov, as well as plenty more hotels big and small. Maybe you’d prefer something a little more local-sounding, like the Nikolaevsky or Berezovy Dvor? Whatever you’re looking for, there’s plenty of choice in this bustling city.

    Generally speaking, it’s probably best to go for something central. Although Rostov is a large city, its centre is fairly compact, and the stadium isn’t far away. There are a few hotels on the south bank of the river, close to the stadium (Golubaya Volna, Vysokii Bereg Park Hotel), but it’s not the most appealing part of the city. Of course, it depends what your priorities are, but staying near the centre and travelling out probably makes most sense.

    Rostov doesn’t have a Metro system, but its bus network is extensive, efficient and very cheap. Buses can get a little overcrowded at peak periods, but plan your journey in advance and you shouldn’t have any problems. And remember: your FAN ID allows you to travel free on selected routes, so if you do need to use public transport, it shouldn’t be a problem. Route maps are posted on many bus stops, and the locals should be able to help if you get lost, or alternatively book a taxi. Again, they shouldn’t cost that much, and you don’t have to worry about finding your way.

    Here at RNTO, our friendly, helpful advisers can provide all the assistance you need, finding and booking the accommodation that’s right for you. Just give us a call on 0207 985 1234, and let us do the rest!

    The stadium

    The Rostov Arena is yet another new stadium that’s been built specially for this year’s World Cup.

    stadium rostov

    Source: kremlin.ru

    The arena will have a capacity of 45 000 seats for the tournament, although this will subsequently be scaled down after the competition to just 25 000, providing a new home for FC Rostov. Its design is inspired by the ancient mounds of earth (Kurgans) that can be found in the region.

    The Rostov Arena is located on the south bank of the river, not far from the city centre. It’s about 15 minutes’ walk to the stadium from the bridge over the Don, near Rostov’s centre.

    Rostov’s main railway station is located on the western edge of the city centre, roughly 4 kilometres from the stadium. Trams 1 and 4 run right through Rostov’s centre from the railway station. Get off at the Voroshilovsky Prospekt stop and walk across the bridge to the stadium. Bus 39 provides a direct connection from the station to the stadium, but doesn’t run through the centre.

    The first match of the tournament will be a big one – Brazil v Switzerland on 17 June. Following close on their heels are Uruguay and Saudi Arabia, just three days later.

    What to see

    Heading for the river is a great way to get your bearings in a city, and the Don is hard to miss! The Don River Lookout (Beregovaya Ulitsa), often referred to as ‘the Embankment’, is where visitors and locals alike can stroll along the riverside and take in some of the city’s best views. The Embankment is lined with restaurants, statues, fountains and a few shops. Importantly, it’s the centre of nightlife in Rostov. You’ll find a number of steamboats docked along the bank offering hour-long excursions – a relaxing way to get acquainted with this port city.

    Fancy a Stella? Then head for the Obelisk on Teatralnaya Square. Affectionally known as ‘Stella’ by the locals, the obelisk, which looks like a winged tower, bears inscriptions on its base, while the golden lady (Stella) hovers between the wings on the south side.

    Pushkin Street is a great place for a stroll. This highly ornate, landscaped boulevard is lined with trees, restaurants, food kiosks, flowers, benches, statues and memorials. A favourite place to gather near the eastern end of the boulevard is the wrought-iron globes depicting scenes from Pushkin’s most popular works. Pushkin Street leads into both the City Park (Park Gorkovo) and October Revolution Park with their meticulously cultivated garden beds, amusement parks and souvenir kiosks.

    Fancy something a little more reminiscent of the Soviet era? Then you need to head underground! The underground pedestrian crossings dotted around the centre contain dozens of tile mosaics depicting scenes of Soviet life. For the most impressive ones, head for the intersection of Bolshaya Sadovaya and Buddyonovsky Prospect.

    For a taste of the Cossack life, head east up the river to Starocherkassk, a town which cherishes its Cossack traditions. Visiting the Starocherkassk Historical and Archaeological Open-Air Museum is like stepping back in time. The architecture is fantastic, and the various displays really give a taste of what Cossack life is all about.

    Or head south to Azov, today a cosy green town, but once the site of battles between the Russian and Turkish troops at the end of the 17th century, when Peter the Great and his army fought here for Russia’s sea access. All the major attractions are located near each other, and include the town’s History, Archaeology and Palaeontology Museum-Reserve, the self-explanatory Gunpowder Cellar, the town’s ramparts and Alekseevskie gates, a handful of churches and chapels, and a very impressive memorial to Peter the Great himself.

    Tennis, trampolining, golf, river rafting and a monkey park where the kids can burn off some energy are all available in and around the city. So whatever you’re looking for, Rostov has it in bucketloads!

    Bars and restaurants

    Being located on the Don and not far upstream from the Sea of Azov, Rostov is justifiably proud of its fish and seafood restaurants. But like any major city, it’s full of choice when it comes to places to eat and drink. Whether you’re heading down by the river or into the city centre, you’re never far from somewhere to sit down and relax, enjoying the great tastes of Cossack country.

    There are a few Western-themed or owned venues if that’s what you’re after, but Rostov is famous for its wide range of authentic local hostelries offering a warm welcome and quality wines and beers. The ship restaurants moored down by the river offer something a little different and some great views for you to enjoy.

    So whatever your taste, just take a wander around the city and see what you find. Alternatively, if you’d rather plan your route in advance, check out the official Russia 2018 website.

    Watch for free

    A great tradition that’s grown up around the World Cup in recent years is the ‘Fan Fest’ areas – giant screens set up in huge open areas where fans can watch all the action live. And the best thing about it is that it’s free!

    Russia 2018 continues this great tradition, with Fan Fest sites in all 11 World Cup host cities. They’re a great way to follow your team and meet supporters from all around the world, where you can enjoy the unique culture and friendly hospitality on offer, and take home some amazing memories of Russia 2018.

    Rostov’s Fan Fest is located in Teatralnaya Square, a large square close to the city centre. With a capacity of 25 000, it holds more than half as many fans as can fit into the arena itself. So if you don’t have a ticket, or if you want to watch the matches being held in other cities across Russia, head for Teatralnaya Square and join the crowds, all cheering on their team to victory!

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  • A fans’ guide to Kaliningrad

    Kaliningrad – a Russian enclave on the Baltic coast between Poland and Lithuania – is the most westerly of all this year’s World Cup host cities. Standing on the mouth of the Pregolya River, the area enjoys warm summers but, like the UK’s typical maritime climate, rain is possible at any time of year.

    Having formed part of East Prussia until the end of the Second World War, the city has been under Teutonic, Polish, German, Prussian and Soviet rule over the years – a fact that’s reflected in its fascinating architecture and mixed population.

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    Source: Wiki Commons, Aleksander Kaasik

    ‘Lonely Planet’ tells us that ‘Kaliningrad is easy to navigate: public transport abounds, as do welcoming locals all too willing to lend visitors a hand’. Add in the obvious pride felt by its citizens at having been chosen as one of the host cities for football’s most prestigious event, and you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and memorable experience if you make Kaliningrad your destination of choice for the World Cup 2018!

    Where to stay

    The Kaliningrad region as a whole contains a number of major resorts which have been popular among Russian and European tourists for over 200 years. So there’s no shortage of hotels and guest houses to cater for all tastes and budgets.

    If finding somewhere close to the stadium is your main concern, then don’t worry – Kaliningrad Stadium is a little less than 2 kilometres, or 20 minutes’ walk, from Königsberg Cathedral, one of the city’s major landmarks. Central Victory Square, a little further north, is just another 1.5 kilometres further away, which will take a little longer than half an hour to walk. Plus, of course, the public transport system is extensive and reliable. And the icing on the cake: your FAN ID allows you to travel free on selected routes.

    The whole area was redeveloped recently, and there aren’t many hotels in the immediate vicinity. Among those closest to the stadium are the Kaiserhof Hotel and Skipper Hotel on the Pregolya riverbank near Königsberg Cathedral. Alternatively, the Kaliningrad Hotel and Ibis Kaliningrad Center, both at the southern end of Leninsky Prospekt, are also well worth considering if you’re looking for something central within easy walking distance from the stadium.

    So don’t worry too much about finding somewhere right next to the stadium – it’s not as big an issue as in some of the other host cities. Instead, take a look at what’s on offer, and see what takes your fancy!

    Whatever your accommodation needs, we can make all the arrangements for you. Call us today on 0207 985 1234 for friendly, helpful advice and the best deals to suit your needs.

    The stadium

    Kaliningrad Stadium, also known as the Arena Baltika, is one of the newest venues to host this year’s World Cup. After the competition is over, the stadium will become the new home of FC Baltika.

    Construction of this 35 000-seater stadium began in September 2015. Initial plans were for a capacity of 45 000 with a retractable roof, but these had to be scaled back.

    During the competition, Kaliningrad Stadium will host four first-round group matches, kicking off with Croatia v Nigeria on 16 June, while Serbia take on Switzerland six days later.

    Kaliningrad Stadium is located just west of central Kaliningrad on Oktyabrsky Island in the Pregolya River. Multiple buses run through central Kaliningrad connecting Victory Square with Königsberg Cathedral and the railway station, including trolleybus 1 and 5. To take in some of the best sights the city has to offer, get off at Königsberg Cathedral and enjoy the leisurely walk from there.

    What to see

    Come to Kaliningrad and the first thing you notice is its cultural and historical uniqueness, as evidenced by the city’s stunning architecture. Despite the fact that the old city of Königsberg was seriously damaged during the Second World War, Kaliningrad, which grew up out of the rubble, still has plenty of sights well worth seeing.

    These include the city’s fortifications, and especially its iconic gates, Lutheran churches, Cathedral and other landmarks. Take a stroll down Kutuzova and Telmana streets to get a real taste for this fascinating ‘garden city’. Shopping lovers won’t be disappointed, as there are a lot of boutiques and shopping areas around Kaliningrad. And if you need a sit-down, you’ll find plenty of cafes and bars for a coffee or beer.

    Kant Island is a great place to start your exploration of Kaliningrad. Walking around Kant Island today, it’s hard to believe it used to have 16 streets (the narrowest of them just 3 feet wide) and two squares.

    The Church of the Holy Cross with its art-deco style of the 1920s and 1930s is impressive. Don’t miss its unique amber iconostasis! Or the Dohna Tower, which once served as a defensive fortification but today houses the Amber Museum. The exhibition covers a broad spectrum from the fourth century BC up to the nineteenth. One of its greatest exhibits is the huge Sun Stone, which weighs an incredible 4280 grams. Or maybe the nearby Bunker Museum is more your thing. Standing next to the main building of the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, the museum is a bombproof underground concrete bunker built at the beginning of 1945 by the Nazi-German garrison in Königsberg.

    Then there’s Königsberg Cathedral on Kant Island. Unfortunately, during World War II, the cathedral’s interior was almost burnt out, but has since been restored. On Saturdays (at 6.00 pm) the Cathedral is used for organ music recitals (the cathedral organ is the largest in Europe), while Sundays see piano and symphony concerts. Another must-see is the King’s Gate, which houses the Grand Embassy Historical and Cultural Centre. The structure is decorated with restored bas-reliefs of the rulers who played a major role in Königsberg’s life, and also houses a sculpture of the Prussian Cat, the keeper of the city keys, which is believed to bring good luck.

    For family fun, there’s the Regional Drama Theatre, which offers an extensive repertoire for children, including plays based on Russian folk tales and school book classics, or the Puppet Theatre, which has entertained audiences for half a century with plays by Russian, German and English authors.

    The Kaliningrad Zoo, with its bears, lions and eagles, is also home to the largest and one of the finest fountains in the city. The Zoo hosts themed weekends almost every week (Ice-Cream Day, Zebra Day, Earth Day) and there’s a summertime environmental project for schoolchildren. There’s also a Pony Park where toddlers can learn the basics of horse riding. Alternatively, try Faraway Kingdom, a game centre for children inside the Royal Residence complex, where the walls are painted with fanciful motifs featuring a jungle, submarine world, and a Princess’s Palace.

    On sunny days, you can enjoy Yunost (Youth) Park, with its many different rides, a labyrinth of mirrors, an amazing Upside-Down House, go-cart centre and boating station. Or maybe the Botanical Gardens are more your thing, helping to spread knowledge of plants among schoolchildren, students and amateur gardeners. Alternatively, try the Park at Upper Pond, Kaliningrad’s favourite spot for romantic encounters, cycling and sports.

    Bars and restaurants

    Looking for something familiar? Then head for the Britannica, a chain British pub. Or perhaps cross the sea to Ireland and visit LiBEERty – an Irish pub offering hearty cuisine. For Czech cuisine, head for U Gasheka, or try the tequila at Pirat-House. But because it’s World Cup time, maybe your best bet is Kiberda, a sports bar where the locals gather. You can sit with a beer in the apple orchard at the entrance to the restaurant – could there be a better place to drink in the atmosphere of the world’s greatest football event?

    For a full round-up of places to go, visit the official Russia 2018 website. Have fun!

    Watch for free

    All 11 World Cup host cities have their own Fan Fest site, where fans can gather and watch all the matches for free on the giant screen. Over 5 million people attended the 2014 Fan Fest events in Brazil. Not only are they a great way to follow your team and meet supporters from all around the world – they mean you can truly enjoy the unique culture and friendly hospitality on offer in each of the host cities and take home some amazing memories of Russia 2018.

    Kaliningrad’s couldn’t be better located – it’s in the historic square right in the city centre, on the way from the city to the stadium. And with a capacity of 25 000 fans, it’s the next best thing to being in the stadium yourself, cheering on your team!

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  • A fans’ guide to Volgograd

    You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Volgograd stands on the mighty Volga River. Formerly called Stalingrad – the fortress that played a pivotal role in World War II – you might have seen its story featured in the gripping film ‘Enemy at the Gates’ starring Jude Law and Rachel Weisz.

    Sandwiched between Ukraine and Kazakhstan, midway between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, and a long way south of Moscow, it’s one of the southernmost venues to host football’s most prestigious competition in 2018.

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    Source: volganet.ru

    With temperatures averaging 21°C in June, it’s a great place to enjoy all the action. And with a direct rail link to Moscow and public transport in the form of buses, trams and trolleybuses, plus its own special metrotram service, getting around the city is easy.

    If you’re heading for Volgograd for this year’s World Cup, you won’t be disappointed, as it’s a sunny and hospitable city whose residents love football. While you’re there, take a stroll down Lenin Street or visit the Church of St Sergius of Radonezh, one of the most revered saints in Russia. But above all, make a date in your diary – 18 June, when England take on Tunisia at the Volgograd Arena!

    Where to stay

    Volgograd may not be Russia’s most tourist-oriented city, but it’s hardly short of places to stay and things to do, either.

    Needless to say, it’s going to be of particular interest to England fans, as that’s where their team takes on Tunisia in its opening game of the competition. So travel and accommodation are going to be at the top of many people’s lists, of course … not to mention making sure they have tickets for this important game.

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    Source: A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons

    If finding somewhere close to the stadium is your main concern, then don’t worry – the Volgograd Arena is less than 4 kilometres from the city’s main square and railway station. With a great public transport system, the venue is easy to reach from virtually anywhere in the city. And don’t forget: your FAN ID means you can travel free on selected routes.

    There are plenty of major hotels available throughout the city, along with cheaper options if you want to keep a check on your budget so as to have more left over to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the best that Volgograd has to offer. Not many international chains have a presence in the city, but you’re sure to find what you’re looking for … with a little help from RNTO!

    Whatever your accommodation needs, we can make all the arrangements for you. Call us today on 0207 985 1234 for friendly, helpful advice and the best deals to suit your needs.

    The stadium

    The Volgograd Arena is another venue that’s been built specially for this year’s World Cup.

    The stadium stands on the site of the former Central Stadium, which used to be Volgograd’s main stadium. The Volgograd Arena has a capacity of 45 000 seats divided over two tiers. Its main features are a cabled roof and meshed exterior. After the World Cup, the stadium’s capacity will be reduced to 35 000 seats and provide the new home for FC Rotor Volgograd.

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    Source: Alexxx Malev on flickr

    The Volgograd Arena is located on the banks of the Volga River, just north of central Volgograd and roughly 4 kilometres from the city’s main square (the Square of Fallen Fighters) and the main railway station. It borders Volgograd’s main park (Friendship Park), and lies a short distance from the city’s main attraction: the Motherland Calls statue.

    During the World Cup, the Volgograd Arena will host four first-round group games, kicking off with England against Tunisia on 18 June, followed by Nigeria v Iceland four days later.

    What to see

    Russia is full of stunning sights and amazing things to do. But the most impressive of them all has to be the Mamaev Kurgan (Motherland Calls) statue which dominates Mamai Hill.

    Mamai Hill is the highest point in Volgograd. During the Second World War, it was called ‘Height 102’, with the whole city visible from its top. The Battle of Stalingrad lasted for 200 days, during 135 of which the Soviet troops fought for ‘Height 102’. After the Battle, Mamai Hill became the final resting place of over 34 000 people who died defending the city and its population. The memorial complex ‘To the heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad’ opened here in October 1967. Two hundred steps lead up to the very top of the hill, signifying the number of days the Battle of Stalingrad lasted. At its top stands ‘the Motherland Calls’, a statue of a woman with a sword in her hand who calls her sons to defend their Motherland. The total height of this sculpture is 85 m, its weight 8000 tons. It is considered to be one of the seven wonders of Russia.

    To see most of Volgograd’s main attractions in one go, take a stroll down Prospekt Lenina (Lenin Avenue), the city’s main street and one of the longest roads in Russia at about 9 miles. Along the way, you’ll see the Monument Commemorating the 400th Anniversary of Tsaritsyn, Stalingrad and Volgograd (the three names the city has had during its history).

    The Government of Volgograd Oblast headquarters also stands on Prospekt Lenina and is one of the most unusual buildings in Volgograd. What looks like a single building is actually two 19th-century houses merged together. If you stand facing the main entrance, the right-hand part used to be a secondary school pre-1917, while the left used to be the First Men’s Grammar School.

    Predmostnaya Square occupies the site of the former Tsaritsyn Fortress and took its present form in the years right after World War II, when the new Astrakhansky Bridge was built. The monument in honour of the members of the Young Communist League Organisation (Komsomol) who fought at Stalingrad stands at the cross-section of Prospekt Lenina and Komsomolskaya Ulitsa, and marks the 30th anniversary of the Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad. The first-ever stone synagogue to be built in Tsaritsyn is located a little off Prospekt Lenina, on Ulitsa Port-Saida, while the equestrian statue of Grigory Zasekin, the founder of Tsaritsyn, stands in Vasily Simbirtsev Park.

    Ploschad Lenina (Lenin Square) is well worth a visit for anyone interested in the Soviet era, with its monument to the leader of the world’s proletariat, erected in 1960 to mark Lenin’s 90th birthday. The bronze statue shows Lenin standing on a granite pedestal symbolising the turret of an armoured combat vehicle, re-creating the historical scene when Lenin delivered a key speech from the top of an armoured combat vehicle in front of Finland Station in Petrograd in April 1917.

    Like all Russian cities, Volgograd is hardly short of churches and other religious buildings. The Church of St Sergius of Radonezh is the most famous. Sergius of Radonezh is one of the most revered saints in Russia, who blessed Prince Dmitry Donskoy for the 1380 Battle of Kulikovo Polye, which freed Russia from Tatar-Mongolian rule. Decorated with elegant plasterwork and mosaic icons, the church is home to many sacraments and significant religious relics.

    Also worth a look are St Nicetas Church (the oldest Orthodox temple in Volgograd), the Church of the Holy Martyr Parasceve Friday, built by local merchant and factory owner Vasily Lapshin in memory of his late wife, and the beautiful Church of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin – the first Catholic church in Tsaritsin, opened in 1899.

    With plenty of galleries and restaurants, theatres and concert halls, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Volgograd. But then again, maybe you’re more interested in the city’s bars and restaurants…

    Bars and restaurants

    Poneslos describes itself as a ‘bar for fans of meat, beer, football and live music’. It’s a good place to start if you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy a few beers with your World Cup!

    Harat’s Irish Pub is, obviously, Irish, while Draft Craft gets and ‘excellent’ rating on Trip Advisor for its craft beer and European menu.

    There’s plenty of choice, as you’d expect for a major city the size of Volgograd. Just make sure you try out some of the local hostelries for a proper taste of southern Russian hospitality.

    For a more extensive round-up of what’s on offer, visit the official Russia 2018 website. Enjoy the atmosphere!

    Watch for free

    Following your team at the world’s greatest football competition isn’t cheap. With travel, accommodation and the all-important beer money, the World Cup experience is likely to make a dent in your finances. So it’s good to know that there’s a great alternative to attending the matches in person … and it’s free!

    Each host city has its own Fan Fest area – a giant screen set up in a huge open space where you can watch all the action live. In Volgograd, you need to head for 62 Armii Embankment, an iconic location in the city centre, along the Volga river and served by the main pedestrian routes. So if you haven’t got a ticket to watch England beat Tunisia (!), or to watch any of the other matches live, join 30 000 like-minded football fans at Volgograd’s Fan Fest, and enjoy the greatest football show on earth!

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  • A fans’ guide to Nizhny Novgorod

    If the World Cup had been held in Russia just 28 years ago, none of the games would have been held in Nizhny Novgorod for two important reasons:

    • Nizhny Novgorod didn’t exist then – the city was actually called Gorky;
    • As the Soviet Union’s largest closed city, it was strictly off-limits to foreigners.

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    Source: Wiki Commons, Maria Krivosheina 

    But today, all that’s changed, and the people of this fascinating place that dominates Russia’s Volga Federal District are looking forward to welcoming football fans from around the world.

    This major industrial city was founded in the 13th century. Located about 270 miles east of Moscow, ‘Nizhny’ stands on the banks of the mighty Volga River, where it meets the slightly less mighty Oka River. Although the population is predominantly Russian, around 100 different nationalities live within the city. The climate is temperate continental, with warm summer days to enjoy all that the city has to offer … and the football, of course.

    The city’s proximity to Moscow is a definite bonus in terms of getting around as the tournament progresses. So why not choose Nizhny as your base for this year’s World Cup? And with RNTO as your Russia 2018 partner, you’re guaranteed a competition you’ll never forget!

    Where to stay

    With a population of around 1.3 million, Nizhny Novgorod is a good-sized city by anyone’s standards. And as you’d expect, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to finding somewhere to stay during the competition.

    Things have changed a lot since Nizhny lost its ‘closed city’ status back in 1990. The city’s infrastructure has been updated in terms of transport and accommodation, and while it may not offer quite the same degree of choice as its larger neighbour Moscow, you’re sure to find somewhere that fits the bill within your available budget. But to be on the safe side, it’s certainly worth booking as soon as possible to secure the best deal in the location you want.

    If that means staying near the stadium, the choice is somewhat limited, admittedly. There are a few hotels to choose from near the stadium, though, and many more apartment rentals. The Nikitin, Titul and Shinel hotels are all a short walk from the stadium. A little further away, the massive Marins Park Hotel is another good option, while there are a few more hotels around Moskovsky train station.

    But unlike some host cities, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium is fairly centrally located, and within walking distance of many of the central attractions. And remember: your FAN ID  allows you to travel free on selected routes, so if you do need to use public transport, it shouldn’t be a problem.

    Whatever your accommodation needs, we can make all the arrangements for you. Call us today on 0207 985 1234 for friendly, helpful advice and the best deals to suit your needs.

    The stadium

    Nizhny Novgorod Stadium is one of the venues that’s been built specifically to host the World Cup.

    The stadium’s design was inspired by the nature of the Volga region, and consists of a semi-transparent facade that can be lit up at night. The seats are divided over two tiers. This 45 000-capacity venue will become the new home of FC Olimpiyets once the World Cup’s over.

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    During the competition, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium will host four first-round group matches, one round-of-16 match, and one quarter-final.

    Standing on the west bank of the river Volga where the Oka and Volga meet, it’s less than 3 kilometres from Nizhny’s historical heart and the Kremlin on the other side of the Oka river, and less than 2 kilometres from Nizhny’s main railway station (Moskovsky), so you can walk there from most central locations. The city also has three Metro lines, making getting around simple.

    Right next door, there’s a large shopping centre with various places to get something to eat, while just south of the stadium, along the Oka River, lies the Strelka area, which includes the Nizhny Novgorod Fair and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which is worth a look and has a few places to eat or drink.

    The action kicks off on 18 June when Sweden take on the Korean Republic, followed three days later by Argentina v Croatia.

    What to see

    There are more than six hundred historic, architectural and cultural monuments in the city. Among them there are eight theatres, five concert halls, 17 movie theatres (including five for children), eight museums and seven parks.

    Nizhny Novgorod has an extraordinary art gallery with more than 12 000 exhibits, an enormous collection of works by Russian artists and a vast accumulation of Western European and East Asian artworks.

    In terms of religious buildings, the Pechersky Ascension Monastery features an austere five-domed cathedral dating back to 1632 and two rare churches with tent roofs, dating from the 1640s. The city’s most original and delightful churches were built by the Stroganovs in the early Baroque style. Don’t miss the Virgin’s Nativity Church in the city centre.

    Other notable churches include the huge domed Transfiguration Cathedral, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (the third tallest in Russia) and the Church of the Nativity, one of the most beautiful in the city, not forgetting the recently reconstructed Church of the Nativity of John the Precursor, which stands just below the Kremlin walls and was used during the Soviet period as an apartment house.

    There’s also a mosque in Sennaya Square, where Muslim worshippers go for Friday prayers, and the centrally located Nizhny Novgorod Synagogue, built in the 1880s.

    But the dominating feature of the city’s skyline is the grand Kremlin, located on the hill near the confluence of the Volga and Oka rivers. Built between 1500 and 1511, it’s guarded by 13 red-brick towers. Unfortunately, the Bolsheviks destroyed most of its buildings, and today, the only ancient edifice left within the Kremlin walls is the Archangel Cathedral. The 18th-century buildings inside the Kremlin currently house the Legislative Assembly, Philharmonic and the Arbitration Court.

    The Kremlin is also home to the Military Technology Museum. All the equipment on display was manufactured in Nizhny Novgorod, and is in good working order. Most impressive is the T-34 tank which stands next to the Eternal Flame and the sculptural memorial commemorating the soldiers of the Great Patriotic War.

    A staircase connects the Kremlin with the Volga River, offering a panoramic view of its surroundings. The staircase itself was constructed in the late 1940s by German prisoners of war who were forced to work around Gorky.

    You’ll also find great views of the city and beyond from the Strelka (or ‘Spit’), where the River Oka flows into the Volga. On a clear day, you can distinctly see that the water of the two rivers is a different colour (the Volga’s is darker and thicker). This is where you’ll find Nizhny’s stadium (nearest Metro station is, not unexpectedly, called ‘Strelka’).

    Also worth a look are the apartment museums of famous Russian writer Maxim Gorky, and of Andrey Sakharov, known primarily as the father of the hydrogen bomb, who both lived in the city.

    There’s no end of things to see and do in Nizhny, but no visit can be complete without a stroll down the city’s pedestrian main street, Bolshaya Pokrovskaya, or Pokrovka. It’s the liveliest street in town, connecting the two main squares: Ploshchad Minina i Pozharskogo and Ploshchad Gorkogo. Pokrovka is always crowded, with tourists milling about in the gift shops, checking out Semyonovo nesting dolls and Gorodets gingerbreads.

    Bars and restaurants

    The most popular places to eat and drink in the city centre are either around Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Street, or closer to the river around Rozhdestvenskaya Street.

    Shustry Shmel on Ulitsa Alekseyevskaya is worth a visit just for its unusual name. But there’s more on offer – in particular, its many Russian craft beers. The more familiar-sounding Franky on Ulitsa Zvezdinka is a worthy option if you fancy a taste of 1950s America. Or try the ‘English Embassy’ further down the road for something a little more genteel, and a great kids’ menu.

    There’s plenty of choice to suit every taste in Nizhny. And needless to say, most will be showing the matches live. For a more extensive round-up, visit the official Russia 2018 website. Na zdorovye (cheers)!

    Watch for free

    If you’ve watched the World Cup in previous years (and let’s be honest, who hasn’t?), then you will have seen the ‘Fan Fest’ areas – giant screens set up in huge open areas where fans can watch all the action live. And the best thing about it is that it’s free!

    Russia 2018 continues this great tradition, with Fan Fest sites in all 11 World Cup host cities. They’re a great way to follow your team and meet supporters from all around the world, where you can enjoy the unique culture and friendly hospitality on offer and take home some amazing memories of Russia 2018.

    You’ll find Nizhny’s on Minina i Pozharskogo Square, next to the Kremlin and a busy pedestrian street. This unique location in the heart of the city is the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere of the world’s greatest football event. With a capacity of 15 000 people, where better to support your team and enjoy the moment!

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  • A fans’ guide to Saint Petersburg

    Saint Petersburg is one of Russia’s most picturesque cities. Home to the country’s iconic FC Zenit football team, it’s a city full of history and wonder.

    Known at different times as both Petrograd and Leningrad, St Petersburg is just over 300 years old, yet it’s crammed full of incredible sights and amazing stories of achievement, hope and, at times, suffering. As the place where Russia’s most famous revolution took place, it’s effectively the birthplace of communism. And while today, traces of the city’s Soviet past still remain to fascinate foreign visitors, St Petersburg is one of Russia’s most Westernised and progressive cities.

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    Source: https://pixabay.com/en/saint-petersburg-peter-st-petersburg-2612675/

    Also known as the ‘Venice of the North’ (because of its dozens of canals and waterways) and an open-air museum, you’ll never tire of exploring this wonderful place. And because it’s not that far from the Arctic Circle, football fans will have the added benefit of enjoying the city’s ‘White Nights’ – that time of year around the summer solstice when the sun’s rays never fully leave the sky. Being so far north, the sun only just dips below the horizon for a short time each night, meaning you can party from dusk till dawn with the locals, who also traditionally make the most of this special time of year.

    Where to stay

    As one of Eastern Europe’s most visited cities, St Petersburg is hardly short of places to stay. From simple backpackers’ hostels to some of the world’s top hotels and everything in between, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in this dazzling tourist destination.

    You’ll find many of the world’s top hotel chains in the city, but there are also plenty of independents which may prove more to your liking, offering more in the way of individuality and tradition.

    Of course, location is also an issue. St Petersburg Stadium is in the north-west of the city, so finding somewhere to stay nearby may be your priority. But with the city’s extensive public transport facilities, and in particular its cheap and efficient metro system, getting around should be pretty straightforward. And remember: your FAN ID allows you to travel free on selected routes.

    Whatever your accommodation needs, we can make all the arrangements for you. Check out the website or call us on 0207 985 1234.

    The stadium

    St Petersburg Stadium – which is the new home of the city’s FC Zenit – will have a capacity of around 68 000 for its World Cup matches, and occupies the site of the former Kirov Stadium. Completed in April of last year at an overall cost of over $1 billion, it’s one of the most expensive stadia ever built.

    The first official match it hosted took place on 22 April of last year, when Zenit beat Ural 2-0 in a league match.

    RUS-2016-Aerial-SPB-Krestovsky_Stadium_01

    Source: Wiki Commons, Andrew Shiva

    The stadium looks like a spaceship, its roof held up by four masts. It will host four first-round group matches, a quarter-final, a semi-final, and the match for third place. It also hosted four matches during the 2017 Confederations Cup, including the final.

    Its towering stands are spectacular, the views out to the Gulf of Finland from behind the seats are wonderful, and its ‘spaceship’ design is unmistakable. And for a few thrills before the football kicks off, the vast park on the approach to the ground contains a number of white-knuckle rollercoaster rides.

    Located on the western tip of Krestovsky Island in the north-west of St Petersburg, the stadium lies about 7.5 kilometres from Palace Square in the city centre. The nearest metro station is Krestovsky Ostrov on the purple line 5, which runs right through central St Petersburg. You then have a pleasant 25-minute walk from the station to the stadium through Maritime Victory Park.

    Alternatively, buses 10 and 25 stop a little closer to the stadium, just a 15-minute walk away. Bus 10 runs through central St Petersburg, while bus 25 runs through the northern parts of the city.

    What to see

    St Petersburg is the artistic and cultural capital of Russia, drawing people from all over the world to marvel at its stunning architecture and drink in the history of the place. Admittedly, any fan’s priority in travelling to the World Cup is to watch their team hopefully progress through the competition and share the atmosphere of this amazing sporting occasion. But it would be a shame to travel to St Petersburg and not experience some of the unique attractions on offer.

    The city’s State Hermitage is the biggest museum in Russia, housing over three million precious paintings, sculptures, items of glasswork, porcelain, ancient artefacts… Partly housed in the former Winter Palace, it’s a true gem of Russian and world history, attracting thousands of visitors every day.

    Travel a short distance from St Petersburg and you’ll find Peterhof. Home to seven imperial palaces and gardens and 23 museums, this ‘Russian Versailles’ is one of the country’s most visited tourist attractions. Created on the orders of Peter the Great, its most popular highlight is its fountain system. Every day at 11.00 am, thousands of tourists gather in the lower garden to watch them burst into action. Why not join them – you’ll be glad you made the journey!

    Nevsky Prospect is the main thoroughfare through St Petersburg. You can spend a day simply walking from one end to the other, enjoying the many fascinating sights and places to eat and drink along the route. It stretches for over 2 miles, and as well as its countless restaurants and cafes lining the pavements, it’s also the best place for shopping in St Petersburg. Where better to pick up some souvenirs of Russia 2018?

    The colourful Church on the Spilled Blood with its onion-shaped domes stands in the historic heart of St Petersburg, not far from Nevsky Prospect. It commemorates the memory of Alexander II, one of Russia’s tsars, who was fatally wounded by a terrorist on this very spot.

    One famous monument you may have seen on TV (especially if you’re a fan of ‘Top Gear’ and saw them race through the city) is the Peter and Paul Fortress, with its huge golden spire reaching up to the heavens. St Petersburg’s official citadel, it marks the spot where Peter the Great founded his new city back in 1703. Inside its Peter and Paul Cathedral is where you’ll find the tombs and graves of most of Russia’s tsars.

    If you have the time, travel just 16 miles from St Petersburg to visit the Catherine Palace with its unique Amber Room. This stunning palace was created by the daughter of Peter I, Russian empress Elizabeth, in honour of her mother, Catherine I. The highlight of any visit is the spectacular Amber Room, but the whole ensemble and its grounds are well worth seeing.

    Like Moscow, St Petersburg’s subway is a tourist attraction in its own right. It’s so deep that locals spend about 50 hours a year on the escalators alone. The subway itself is like a museum, its vestibules and platforms decorated with great artworks, precious stones, mosaics, and gilded crystal chandeliers. And the good news for travelling fans is that all stations have signs both in Russian and in English. For the most stunning stations on the network, take the red line, and keep a special eye out for the Narvskaya, Kirovsky Zavod and Avtovo stations.

    A great way to take in some of the best views the city has to offer is from the water. A boat ride along St Petersburg’s rivers and canals is a great way to see how the city developed as one of Russia’s main sea and river ports. In total, St Petersburg has 93 natural rivers and channels, and 20 man-made canals, the main one being the River Neva. Most of its tourist attractions are built on their banks, so what better way to see some of the best of what St Petersburg has to offer than by relaxing on the deck of a tourist boat?

    St Isaac’s Cathedral is the biggest in St Petersburg and one of the city’s tallest structures (its golden dome can be clearly seen from all across the city). The giant dome is made of cast iron covered with about 100 kilos of pure gold. The interior decoration is equally striking with its abundance of gold, marble, paintings and mosaics. Today, the cathedral operates as a museum, but still welcomes worshippers early in the morning.

    For a taste of the city’s more recent history, the legendary cruiser Aurora is well worth a visit. Russian tsar Nicholas II and his family attended its launch ceremony in 1900. Anchored at Petrovskaya embankment, the ship is a museum and monument to the Great October Revolution, having fired a blank shot on 25 October, which symbolised the start of the Revolution.

    There are countless other sights across the city, all well worth a look. You could start with Senate Square with its famous statue of the Bronze Horseman – a monument to the city’s founder, Peter the Great, which opens out onto the River Neva. Not far away is the Admiralty building, which personifies the idea of Russia as a maritime power. The Admiralty’s tower, with its weather-vane in the shape of a small sailing ship, is one of the city’s most easily recognisable symbols.

    Then there’s the Alexander Garden, one of St Petersburg’s finest outdoor places, teeming with locals at any time of the year. The garden is decorated with fountains and busts of Russia’s classical authors such as Gogol, Zhukovsky and Lermontov, as well as the composer Glinka. Or head for Palace Square with its Alexander Column, topped by a figure of an angel which was made to resemble Emperor Alexander.

    Alternatively, the Mikhailovsky Palace is the venue that hosts the Russian Museum with its excellent icon collection. Or maybe you’d simply prefer a little jogging or cycling through St Petersburg’s many parks, gardens and squares. Or check out the city’s skate parks, go-cart track, horseriding facilities…

    Bars and restaurants

    Like Moscow, St Petersburg is awash with great places to eat and drink … and watch the matches, if you haven’t got a ticket. Wherever you are, you’re never far from a bar or eatery to suit your taste and budget. There are plenty of suggestions on the official Russia 2018 website.

    Watch for free

    All 11 World Cup host cities have their own Fan Fest site, where fans can gather and watch all the matches for free on the giant screen. St Petersburg’s is located on Konyushennaya Square, in the heart of the historical city centre, right next to one of the city’s main sights – the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. With a capacity of around 15 000 fans, it’s the next best thing to being in the stadium and cheering on your favourite team in person!

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  • A fans’ guide to Sochi

    Some of the cities hosting this year’s World Cup may be unfamiliar to you. But who hasn’t heard of Sochi?

    Sochi has always been considered Russia’s principal resort, but hosting the Winter Olympics back in 2014 really brought it to world attention. And the good news is that, in preparation for the Olympics, the city received a huge makeover in terms of infrastructure. A massive amount of money was spent improving Sochi’s hotels, transport systems and tourist facilities, meaning that it’s perfectly equipped to host a number of this year’s World Cup matches. So if you’re heading for this Black Sea resort, you’re guaranteed all the modern amenities you could wish for.

    RIAN_archive_166989_Sochi

    Source: Wiki Commons, RIA Novosti archive, image #166989 / Andrey Babushkin / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    Being the furthest-south of all Russia’s World Cup host cities means Sochi is probably the best place to head for if you like a little sun with your football. Nearly 1000 miles from Moscow, its humid subtropical climate means you can look forward to hot days and warm nights, with water temperatures pleasant enough for a quick swim between matches, if you fancy.

    Visiting Sochi is the nearest you’ll get to combining a beach atmosphere with a great World Cup Russia 2018 experience. So what are you waiting for? Make Sochi your World Cup destination, and enjoy all the action with RNTO!

    Where to stay

    Sochi has long been Russia’s premier resort-by-the-sea. And having hosted the last Winter Olympics, the range of places to stay is as modern as you’ll find in this amazing and diverse country.

    Thanks to the upgraded transport system and all kinds of tourist facilities, getting around and finding things to do is hardly a problem, either. So whatever your requirements and however big or small your budget, Sochi has the right package for you.

    One consideration you might like to bear in mind is the location of Sochi’s Fisht Stadium. Greater Sochi stretches for around 90 miles along the Black Sea coast. The stadium forms part of the Olympic Park, in the Adler region of the city, and some way from central Sochi. Getting from the centre to the stadium is easy, thanks to Sochi’s great public transport system, but if you really do want to stay near the stadium, then the Adler district is the one to go for.

    But remember: your FAN ID allows you to travel free on selected routes around Sochi, so don’t miss out on the fantastic amenities on offer in the centre just to be close to the stadium.

    Whatever your accommodation needs, we can make all the arrangements for you. For friendly, helpful advice to help make sure you get the most from your World Cup Sochi experience, call us today on 0207 985 1234.

    The stadium

    If you saw the Winter Olympics four years ago, you’ll have already had a taste of what’s in store for fans attending any of the matches to be held here during the World Cup. As the location for the Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, this 48 000-capacity stadium is a truly impressive venue for any sporting event.

    1280px-Fisht_Olympic_Stadium_2017

    Source: Wiki Commons, soccer.ru

    Located in the Adler district to the south-east of central Sochi and right on the shore of the Black Sea, the stadium was unveiled in 2014 ahead of the Winter Olympics. Originally built as an enclosed facility, it was re-opened in 2016 as an open-air football stadium. The first football match, a friendly between Russia and Belgium, took place in March 2017. It later hosted several of last year’s Confederations Cup matches, including the semi-final, which saw Germany beat Mexico 4–1.

    Sochi’s six matches for this summer’s tournament include four group games, a round-of-16 tie and a quarter-final.

    Fisht Stadium was named after a mountain whose name translates as ‘white head’ (the arena’s roof is covered with a special polymer that creates the effect of a snow-capped mountaintop). You may also be interested to hear that unique grass seeds were brought over from the Netherlands to grow the best turf possible for the World Cup.

    Adler is home to Sochi’s international airport and has a major train station. The stadium lies roughly 12 kilometres from the airport and 11 kilometres from the rail station. Bus 57k connects the airport with the stadium, while bus 57 runs from Adler train station to the stadium.

    The daily trains that connect the Sochi area with the rest of the country also stop at Imeretinsky Kurort (Olympic Park) station, which lies within walking distance of Fisht Olympic Stadium.

    What to see

    Sochi is a wonderful destination, with no end of things to see and do. And with its fantastic climate, it’s no wonder that about half the country’s population has visited this excellent resort at some time in their life.

    Much of Sochi’s attraction lies in the fact it stands on the shores of the Black Sea. A simple stroll along the seemingly endless promenade can occupy a full day, stopping off along the way to take in the views, enjoy a meal, do a little shopping … the possibilities are many and varied.

    Sochi’s port is a great place to start. The former Marina – now a shopping and amusement centre – is well worth a visit. Sochi’s passenger port is the largest in the Black Sea region, welcoming in supersize ships all year round. International cruise expos and regattas take place here on a regular basis.

    Then there’s the snow-white Cathedral of St Michael the Archangel, completed in 1890 and built using stones taken from the walls of Alexandria Fort – the first edifice built in what was to become the town of Sochi.

    The Upper Embankment stretches from Festivalny Concert Hall to the plaza in front of the Winter Theatre. This is an excellent place for a walk, or you can sit on one of the numerous benches, overlooking the sea and port. Of architectural interest are the Primorskaya Hotel with its sand-coloured façade and white balconies, and the Alexander Pushkin Library, tucked away in the shade of the trees close by, which looks like a miniature castle.

    The plaza in front of the Winter Theatre is where town festivals usually happen. All festive processions and Victory Day and May Day parades begin here, and the square is particularly popular during the international Cinetaur Film Festival, when Russian and international film stars walk the red carpet. The square is surrounded by a park – a great place to relax and soak up the sun.

    Bars and restaurants

    Sochi is awash with great places to eat and drink … and watch the matches, if you haven’t got a ticket. Wherever you are, you’re never far from a bar or eatery to suit your taste and budget. And with its great climate, there’s no better place to watch the games than outside one of the countless bars that line the promenade. For some fantastic suggestions, see the official Russia 2018 website.

    Watch for free

    All 11 World Cup host cities have their own Fan Fest site, where fans can gather and watch all the matches for free on the giant screen. You’ll find Sochi’s at the South Mall of the Seaport, the most iconic location in the heart of the city, at the famous beach promenade. With a capacity of around 10 000 fans, it’s the next best thing to being in the stadium and cheering on your favourite team in person!

     

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  • A fans’ guide to Moscow

    If you’re travelling to Moscow to watch the World Cup, perhaps your biggest problem is knowing where to start your exploration of this fascinating city with its bewildering mix of attractions both ancient and modern, from walks in the sun along the Moskva River to the city’s buzzing nightlife. With plenty of world-famous landmarks to see and countless opportunities to take in a little Russian culture, it’s well worth planning in advance what you want to do during the limited time you’ll have to spend in this wonderful city.

    Moscow-City_(36211143494)

    Source: Wiki Commons, Deensel

    Where to stay

    As you’d expect from any major capital city, Moscow is hardly short of places to stay. From simple backpackers’ hostels to some of the world’s top hotels and everything in between, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in mighty Moscow.

    You’ll find most of the world’s top hotel chains in the city, but there are also plenty of independents which may prove more to your liking, offering more in the way of individuality and tradition.

    Of course, location is also an issue. There are two stadia in Moscow hosting World Cup matches, so proximity to one or other of these may be your priority. But with Moscow’s extensive public transport facilities, and in particular its spectacular metro, getting around the city is pretty straightforward. And remember: your FAN ID allows you to travel free on selected routes.

    Whatever your accommodation needs, we can make all the arrangements for you. Check out the website or call us on 0207 985 1234.

    The stadium

    Luzhniki Stadium (originally called the Central Lenin Stadium) was built between 1955 and 1956, and then extensively renovated in 1996.

    The stadium served as the main venue for the 1980 Olympics, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies, athletics events, football finals and equestrian programme. It also hosted the UEFA Cup final in 1999 between Parma and Marseille (3-0), and the Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea (1-1) in 2008, which Manchester won on penalties.

    Luzhniki_Stadium2

    Source: Mos.ru

    To prepare for this year’s World Cup, the stands were completely reconstructed, and the first football match at the reopened stadium was a friendly between Russia and Argentina (0-1), played on 11 November of last year.

    Apart from the final, Luzhniki will also host the opening match of this year’s event, three further first-round group matches, a round of 16 match, and a semi-final. The opening match of the competition will take place here on Thursday 14 July between the host nation and Saudi Arabia.

    You’ll find the stadium at the Luzhniki Sports Complex in a bend of the Moskva River about 6 kilometres south-west of the city centre. It can be reached via the red metro line 1. Sportivnaya and Vorobyovy Gory stations both lie within a short walk of the stadium. Line 1 directly connects with Moscow city centre, and the ride from either Okhotny Ryad or Biblioteka takes no more than 10 minutes.

    Moscow’s second World Cup venue is the Otkritie Arena, which recently became the new home of Spartak Moscow. The stadium officially opened on 5 September 2014 with a friendly between Spartak and Red Star, which ended in a 1-1 draw. It also hosted three first-round matches of last year’s Confederations Cup, along with the match for third place. It’s first World Cup match kicks off on Saturday 16 June between Argentina and Iceland.

    Located in the north-west of Moscow, just within the Moscow Ring Road, the stadium is about 14 kilometres from the city centre and can be easily reached by metro. The newly constructed Spartak station is on the purple Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya line (line 7), which runs through Moscow’s centre.

    What to see

    Where do we start? Who hasn’t seen the Kremlin’s red walls and shining towers on the news? Or the displays of Russia’s military might parading through Red Square? Every tourist guide to Moscow features at least one picture of St Basil’s Cathedral with its multi-coloured onion-shaped domes. And who hasn’t heard of possibly the world’s most famous theatre/ballet company – the Bolshoi?

    Whatever you do during your time in Moscow, you really must try to find a few minutes – or ideally, hours – to visit the Kremlin. As well as being home to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, it holds countless fascinating stories and impressive monuments, including:

    • The Tsar Bell: cast in 1735, this 19-foot bell was damaged in a fire during the decoration stage, which caused a large piece to break off. It has never been rung due to its weight and structural features.
    • The Dormition Cathedral: the oldest fully preserved building in Moscow, built in 1479. For many years, it was the venue for the coronation of Russia’s tsars, but today, it operates as a museum.
    • The Annunciation Cathedral: once the family chapel of Moscow’s tsars, famous for its floor consisting of sheets of agate yellow-red jasper (otherwise known as imperial jade) and stunning wall frescos.
    • The Armoury Chamber, with its collection of state regalia, military decorations, bejewelled weapons, the dresses of Russian empresses and the harnesses and horse-drawn carriages of the 15th-18th centuries.
    • The Tsar Cannon: cast in 1586, this bronze cannon with a barrel 4 feet in diameter has never been fired.

    To get one of the best views of the Kremlin, walk across the Bolshoy Kamenny Bridge over the Moskva River, which in the Middle Ages used to house residential homes, shops and offices.

    Right next to the Kremlin stands Red Square, overlooked by the Kremlin’s Nikolskaya and Spasskaya Towers, the State Historical Museum and massive GUM department store with its multicoloured windows and outdoor café.

    Before the 1900s, it was the place where vendors hawked their wares, royal edicts were read out loud and occasional public executions were staged. Today, it’s perhaps most famous for the military parade it hosts on Victory Day, 9 May.

    If visiting Red Square, don’t miss:

    • Saint Basil’s Cathedral: Moscow’s most recognisable temple dominates Red Square. Saint Basil’s is not one, but nine churches with 11 multi-coloured ‘onion’ domes. Its construction was ordered by none other than Ivan the Terrible.
    • Lenin’s Mausoleum: built in 1930, it contains the mummified body of Vladimir Lenin, who led the 1917 Russian Revolution that ended the tsar’s rule, established the Bolsheviks’ authority and subsequently saw the founding of the USSR.
    • Monument to Minin and Pozharsky: next to St Basil’s Cathedral is the monument to the leaders of the second all-Russian volunteer army against the Polish invaders in 1611 – Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky – which was erected in 1818.

    The list of landmarks worth a visit it virtually endless. Fancy a little ballet with your football? Then head for the Bolshoi. Or maybe you’d like to see where the feared KGB had their headquarters, in which case you should head for Lubyanskaya Square where their modern equivalent, the FSB (Federal Security Service), is based.

    Maybe the State Historical Museum is more your thing, with its collection of artefacts of Russian and world history, from primeval times to the present (around 5 million items and 14 million priceless documents in total). Or to take home a few souvenirs of your visit, the place to be is the GUM department store, a tourist Mecca that’s as famous for its lavish restrooms as for its incredible range of shops and boutiques, cafes, a cinema, ice-cream sellers…

    If you’ve got children with you, the Central Children’s Store on Lubyanka is a safe bet. Apart from toys, it offers visitors an interactive library and aquarium, a light show about the history of Russia and an amusement ride called Travel to Mars. And while you’re there, why not head up to the observation deck on the roof, watch a dinosaur show or spend a few hours at Kidburg – a children’s play area which imitates a real city where children can try out different professions.

    Alternatively, take a stroll down Nikolskaya Street, which up until the end of the 13th century was a road leading to the city of Vladimir, making it one of Moscow’s oldest streets. Today, its shops, hotels and tenement houses from the 19th century stand side by side with monastery buildings dating back to the 17th century. Or visit the Novodevichy Cemetery where you’ll find the graves of writers Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov and Mikhail Bulgakov, poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, opera singer Feodor Chaliapin, film director Sergei Eisenstein, and artist Isaac Levitan.

    The list goes on. Moscow is full of fascinating churches and cathedrals, palaces and mansions, and cold, functional buildings from the Soviet era, in particular the so-called ‘Seven Sisters’ – seven very similar buildings erected during Stalin’s time in power – which today house hotels, government and administrative offices, residential apartments and the main building of Moscow State University.

    Bars and restaurants

    Where to start? Moscow is awash with great places to eat and drink … and watch the matches, if you haven’t got a ticket. Wherever you are, you’re never far from a bar or eatery to suit your taste and budget. There are plenty of suggestions on the official Russia 2018 website.

    Watch for free

    All 11 World Cup host cities have their own Fan Fest site, where fans can gather and watch all the matches for free on the giant screen. Moscow’s is located at the Lomonosov Moscow State University, situated on a hill on the right bank of the Moskva River, with amazing views of the city. And with a capacity of 40 000 fans, it’s the next best thing to being in the stadium and cheering on your favourite team in person!

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