Discover the 11 Russian cities hosting the world’s soccer elite
Published on 10.07.2018
Located in an “exclave” of Russia, Kaliningrad lies snuggled in-between Poland and Lithuania along the coast of the Baltic Sea. Football fans will notice that the city’s unique history can be traced in its buildings: Prussian-era structures rub shoulders with Soviet Modernism and post-Soviet buildings. Currently, the city is trying to better harmonize this mixed heritage. An architectural contest to redevelop the city’s historical center seeks to respect, integrate, and simultaneously move beyond the past using approximate or modernized restoration, greater sustainability, and park-like pedestrian walkways. In Kaliningrad, change is always on its way.
Capital of the semi-autonomous region of the Republic of Tartarstan, Kazan could be one of the biggest cities you have never heard of (but if you have, good for you!). Visitors to Kazan can see the Kazan Kremlin, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and then relax and catch a tan at the Kazan Riviera. Since 2012, the city has been implementing the “SMART City Kazan” project with the goal of transforming Kazan into an international business center and a smart city at the same time.
As the most populous megacity in Europe, Moscow has a lot to offer, from historic structures such as Saint Basil’s Cathedral (the masterpiece of Russian architecture) to modern skyscrapers and expansive public spaces. With a total area of 2,511 km2, you’ll want to use the amazing Moscow Metro and bring along your walking shoes. In fact, Moscow will soon become an even better place to walk: the “My Street” project promises 50 km of new pedestrian zones in and around the city center.
Packed with universities, museums, and churches, Nizhny Novgorod is one of the main cultural centers of Russia due to its abundance of historic sites. Built from 1500-1511, the red brick walls and towers of the grand Kremlin dominate the skyline of the city. The city also boasts a unique form of urban transportation: the Nizhny Novgorod Cableway takes passengers in gondolas from the city center, across the Volga River, and to the municipality of Bor – with an amazing view along the way.
Five seas – the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, the Caspian Sea, the White Sea and the Baltic Sea – connect at the port of Rostov-on-Don, so it’s no wonder it boasts one of Russia’s largest fish markets. To welcome soccer fans properly, the city built the brand-new Platov International Airport. And the development continues: architects from Arup have created a masterplan to build a new sustainable district in a flood-prone area of the city. The development will provide space for 7,500 residents and create 9,000 jobs.
The Russian imperial capital for two centuries, St. Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and it remains the cultural heart of Russia. Its sheer grandeur is best experienced on a boat ride or a stroll down the historic canals. But the best may be yet to come. A new generation of developers and urban thinkers are beginning to convert derelict seaside industrial buildings into attractive spaces for living and working. This also serves to reconnect residents with the recreational potential of their Baltic city, whose roots as a port may soon be producing fresh fruits from the sea for future generations.
Samara is the sixth largest city in Russia and often considered an “architectural gem” rich in examples of art nouveau and constructivist buildings. Despite a recent wave of demolition and redevelopment of the historic sites, the city’s architecture still reflects the cultural mix of Tatar and Bashkir Muslims, Orthodox Russians, and Mordovian pagans as well as minority groups such as Germans, Poles, and Jews.
Approximately 630 km east of Moscow, Saransk is nestled in the Volga basin where the Saranka and Insar rivers meet. It is also the capital of the Republic of Mordovia, a federal subject of Russia. Walking the streets, one can hear Mordvinic languages spoken alongside Russian.
The vast pebble and sand beaches along the Black Sea paired with a subtropical climate make Sochi a beloved summer destination. After massive infrastructure improvements in 2014, it’s been popular in the winter as well. Lovers of nature can visit the 2,957 km2 Caucasian Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The “Hero City” of Volgograd is rich in monuments that commemorate the Battle of Stalingrad, such as “The Motherland Calls,” which is the tallest statue of a woman in the world. The city itself impresses with grand boulevards which are now peppered with modern high-rise buildings – the result of continuous economic development. Volga Sails is one of the more impressive examples: two buildings built in the shape of ship sails that look poised to sail down the Volga river.
At the boundary between Asia and Europe, Yekaterinburg has long stood at the crossroads of the East and West: the most important road of the Russian empire, the Siberian Route, leads straight through the city. The city has undergone massive growth in terms of trade, business and tourism since the 2000s, and it has maintained its heritage as the city with the largest concentration of constructivist architecture in the world.
Have you been to any of these 11 cities?
Moscow 2, photo by Jodie Eckert, all rights acquired
Moscow 4, photo by David Burdeny
Nizhny Novgorod, video by Russia Insight
Saint Petersburg, video by Timelab Pro