Samara Travel Guide
Samara Travel Guide
Located between the Volga and Samara Rivers, this modern city is the gateway to the Volga Region.
Tourists come here to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy the Zhiguli Mountains and sandy beaches along the rivers, explore the city’s Space Museum and spend a fantastic evening at the Opera and Ballet Theatre. Visitors also like Samara for its lakeside promenades, fabulous architecture and festive atmosphere.
The history of Samara begins in 1586 when the fortress Samara Town was built on the bank of the Volga River. The order to build an outpost on the southern borders of Russia was given by Tsar Fedor I. The fortress controlled the territory around the Volga River where many trade routes passed through.
However, the first settlements had already been established here in the 14th century. There was a commercial quay with a small population which was noted on the maps of the Venetian merchants of that time. It was called Samar. The name of the fortress came from the Samara River, which flows into the Volga.
At first, only soldiers lived in the fortress, but gradually, trade developed and houses began to appear behind the defensive walls. In 1688, Samara received its current name and status as a county town. At the beginning of the 18th century, there were more than 200 yards. During that time, the city became the centre of two peasant uprisings which were suppressed.
In 1780, such state institutions as the treasury, courts, city government and other organisations opened in the city. The mayors approved a plan to streamline its development in 1782. The city continued to grow. In 1850, Samara became the centre of the new Samara province. Fifteen thousand people lived there at that time. Later, the population increased to 150 000 people. Large fairs where people could buy a variety of agricultural products were held three times a year. In 1877, the
Orenburg railway passed through the city. The city’s marina, which received up to 1000 ships per year, was one of the largest on the Volga. In addition to the developed trade in the vicinity of Samara, the cultivation of wheat was established, and the city became the largest flour producer in Russia.
In the 20th century, the development of Samara continued. The Soviet government took power in 1917-1918, after the February and October revolutions. In 1935, the city was renamed Kuibyshev, in honour of the famous statesman of the USSR. That name remained until 1991, the year of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), people and factories from the western borders were evacuated to Samara. The city became the centre of military aircraft construction. More than 80% of all IL-2 planes were built there. The planes were one of the main attack aircraft against the German Luftwaffe. Thanks to the evacuated enterprises, production in Samara grew dramatically, and the population rose from 400 000 to 600 000 people. During the war years, Samara made an invaluable
contribution to victory over fascist Germany.
In the post-war years, Kuibyshev was the industrial centre of the USSR. The aviation industry continued to develop, and soon the rocket-building industry was established. Yuri Gagarin, the first cosmonaut in the history of mankind, flew in a rocket assembled by the Samara aerospace enterprise TsSKB-Progress.
In addition, the city had powerful resources for metallurgical, oil refining, heavy and light industries.
Along with the growth of the economy, the population also increased. In 1979, 1.2 million people lived in Samara. Today, the demographic figures remain at this level.
During the upheaval of the collapse of the USSR, Samara lost its industrial significance. Military production became unprofitable, and the city suffered from the economic crisis. But with the beginning of the 21st century, the situation stabilised. Enterprises were redeveloped, and the construction sector was improved. Today, Samara is one of the leading and most prosperous cities in Russia.
Where to Stay
Although accommodation is scattered throughout the city, the most popular place to stay is the embankment of the Volga River. Check out the following hotels which are located in Leninsky district within walking distance of the beach: Art Motel, Paluba Hotel, Best City Hotel or Hotel Loft. You can also stay near the large Gorky Park at IBIS Samara or C&C Apart.
Bars and Restaurants
As a large port town and transport hub, Samara offers plenty of ideas on where to dine. Choose from Georgian cuisine and sushi, or treat yourself to traditional Russian dishes like dumplings, pork-based solyanka, oladyi (pancakes) or grilled meat with potatoes. Café Puri serves up authentic Georgian specialities where you can try khinkali or khachapuri. At Staraya Kvartira, they serve up Soviet dishes cooked from family recipes. Coco’s, Gusto Beach, La Dolce Vita and The Flying Taco are also nice options.
What to See
- The embankment of the Volga River is one of the most beautiful places in the city. Many tourists come here just to see the great River Volga. In summer, locals and tourists lie on a sandy beach, swim and fish. The beaches are equipped with all amenities: sun loungers, locker rooms and water sports. Many kite lovers come to Samara in summer as well.
- There are many legends about Stalin’s bunker, as most information about this defensive structure remained confidential for many years. The bunker was created as the reserve location for Joseph Stalin, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the USSR. In case Moscow was attacked during the Second World War, Samara was to become a reserve capital.
- Samara is home to the famous Zhigulevsky beer. When in Samara, don’t miss the chance to visit the Zhigulevsky brewery, one of the most visited sights in the city. Almost all visitors to Samara come to the brewery to try a foamy drink and bring back a couple of bottles as gifts for friends and relatives. Locals recommend buying it in the store at the factory, because the beer is at its freshest here. It should be noted that the Zhigulevsky brewery is one of the oldest in Russia. It was built in 1881 by the famous brewer,
Austrian Alfred von Wakano.
- Located near the brewery, the Iversky Monastery in Samara is 150 years old. This beautiful architectural complex became a major centre of Volga Orthodoxy, and numerous pilgrims visit it. Here you can see the relics of St Alexander Chagrinsky, icon painting and gold embroidery workshops and the library. You can walk around the area, but monastic premises are closed to visitors.
- The Pokrovsky Cathedral with its golden and sky-blue domes is located in the centre of the city. It is famous for its solemn religious services and school of church singing.
- If you want to find out more about the space, rocket technology and astronomical advancements of Russia, visit the Samara Space Museum. The interactive exposition is divided into two parts. The first includes space instruments and models of spacecraft.
The second part is devoted to people in space, their way of life and everyday activities.
- Konstantin Golovkin’s cottage (House with Elephants) is a modernist mansion. Unfortunately, its interior is closed to visitors.
- Note that in Samara, you can find religious buildings of various confessions: a Polish Catholic church, an elegant red synagogue and a grand mosque designed by Rasim Walshin.
- To enjoy nature, head for the impressive Zhiguli Mountains located on the right bank of the Volga. Here, you can do some trekking or take a boat trip. Adventure-seekers also like the Sokoly Mountains and the cave of the Greve Brothers.
- If you travel with children, visit the Children’s Art Gallery and the city zoo.
The city’s train and bus stations are well equipped. They have everything a tourist needs, from luggage facilities to ATMs and a transit lounge. The airport also has all the necessary amenities. There are daily flights from Moscow and St Petersburg. To get around Samara, you can use trams, buses and the metro.
The metro has just eight stations. Taxis and private minibuses are fairly cheap. You can also use mobile apps to book a Yandex or Uber taxi. The central tourist area is rather small, so you can walk from one place to another.
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