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