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.

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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.

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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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