The world’s largest country offers it all, from historic cities and idyllic countryside to artistic riches, epic train rides and vodka-fuelled nightlife.
Russia will offer international visitors the most dynamic possible experience as years of planning and excitement come together as they host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Spectators, athletes and officials will enjoy a rich and varied experience amid the unique geography and diverse cultures of the host cities. The Russians undoubted passion and fascination with sports is sure to provide a spectacle to remember. The country has succeeded in a wide variety of sports, consistently performing among the best nations at international competitions. Football, however, is the most popular sport in modern Russia. Football is universally loved and enthusiastically played year-round by the Russian people.
The quality of Russian football is on the rise, as is the performance of the Russian national and club teams. Clubs such as CSKA Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg (2005 and 2008 UEFA Cup winners respectively), Lokomotiv Moscow, Spartak Moscow and Rubin Kazan all with their remarkable achievements in the UEFA Champions League rose to prominence through their success at continental level, while Russia’s national team reached the semi-finals at UEFA EURO 2008.
GET TO KNOW THE THE HOST CITIES
Host Opening Match, Semi-final & Final
Founded in the 12th century, Moscow is the capital of the Russian Federation and one of the most renowned and fascinating cities in the world. It is a dynamic 21st century metropolis showcasing some of the world’s best shopping, nightlife, restaurants and culture. Moscow welcomes over four million tourists each year.
Home to over 130 nationalities and 12.3 million residents, Moscow is served by three international airports and the world’s second busiest underground system. If one hasn’t visited Moscow lately, one hasn’t visited Moscow.
The city is blessed with beautiful architecture and such renowned cultural landmarks as the Bolshoi Theatre, the Kremlin, the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery, to name just a few. Moscow is also home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Kremlin and Red Square. The colourful St Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square is the symbol of both Moscow and Russia.
Luzhniki Stadium is located at the centre of Moscow’s 145-hectare Olympic complex, one of the largest sports complexes in the world. Luzhniki Stadium will be the main venue and the heart of the 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament, used for the Opening Match, a semi-final and the Final. The Luzhniki sports complex stretches along the Moscow River and lies opposite the beautiful Vorob’evy Hills Natural Park. The majestic Moscow State University observation area overlooks the stadium.
Moscow is surrounded by satellite towns and neighbourhoods that comprise Moscow Region. Visitors can travel by bus or train to the small Russian cities as old as Moscow, and bursting with history and charm.
Host Round of 16 game, Semi-Final and Match for third place
Founded by Peter I the Great in 1703 as Russia’s new imperial capital, Saint Petersburg is the ultimate embodiment of artistic talent. Europe’s best architects and Russia’s foremost creative talents, including Alexander Pushkin, Nikolay Gogol, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Dmitry Shostakovich and Joseph Brodsky, left their indelible imprints on this remarkable city.
From architecture and city planning to the performing talents of the Mariinsky Opera and Ballet to the masterpieces of the magnificent Hermitage Museum, everything in this delightful city is focused on beauty and elegance. The city’s legendary drawbridges over the grand Neva River and the famous “White Nights” in June draw tens of thousands of tourists every year. Saint Petersburg city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Tourism is one of the key sectors of the city’s economy. Saint Petersburg welcomes up to five million tourists each year, more than any other city in Russia.
In the same artistic tradition, a new state-of-the-art 69,000-seat stadium is being constructed on Krestovsky Island facing the Baltic Sea. Resembling a spaceship, it was designed by the famous architect Kisho Kurokawa. The stadium will have a retractable pitch, ensuring that the quality of the turf remains high regardless of the weather.
Host four Group Matches, Round of 16 game and a Quarter-Final
Due to its advantageous location on the Volga River, Nizhny Novgorod developed into Russia’s key commerce centre in the 19th century. It is one of Russia’s most traditional and beautiful cities. Famous annual trade fairs attracted the country’s merchants and wealth to the city. Nizhny Novgorod, along with its Kremlin, is beautifully situated on the hills overlooking the Volga River. The Kremlin, dating back to the 16th century, has a 2-kilometre brick fortress wall and 13 watchtowers. It stands on an elevation offering a breathtaking view of the city and its waterfront. Nizhny Novgorod is one of a hundred world cities included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Today, Nizhny Novgorod has a population of 1.2 million and continues to grow as a key business and cultural centre in Russia.
Nizhny Novgorod Stadium’s design is inspired by aspects of nature in the Volga region, water and wind. At the same time, given its location near the city’s most historic districts, the building must have a silhouette that is restrained and severe. The stadium seats 45,000.
Host Matches in Groups B, D, E, and G
Founded in the 13th century by knights of the Teutonic Order and formerly known as Königsberg, the capital of East Prussia, Kaliningrad is home to over 450,000 people and an important Russian Baltic seaport and gateway to Europe.
Throughout its dramatic history, this ancient European city was home to a myriad of thinkers and artists including the philosopher Immanuel Kant, a life-long resident who taught at the local university; the iconic composer Richard Wagner and the romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Kaliningrad’s pride is the reconstructed Königsberg Cathedral of the 14th century. With its two chapels, Orthodox and Protestant, the cathedral is a symbol of peace and reconciliation.
The region has been known from classical antiquity as a main source of amber in Europe. Around 90 per cent of the world’s amber deposits are located here. The amber industry is still a key business in the city and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
The Kaliningrad region is blessed with pristine beaches and pine sand dunes. It features the beautiful nature reserve of Kurshskaya Spit, which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.
Kaliningrad Stadium was specifically built for Russia 2018 on Oktyabrsky Island, right in the heart of Kaliningrad. The selection of Kaliningrad as a host city has prompted the local authorities to develop the island, which for many centuries has been a wilderness, left largely untouched. After the 2018 World Cup, a new residential development will be built around the stadium, with parks, quays and embankments alongside the Pregola river.
Host matches in Groups A, D, G, and H
Formerly known as Stalingrad, Volgograd extends alongside the Volga River and has 1 million residents. Modern Volgograd is an important manufacturing centre, with industries that include shipbuilding, oil refining and steel and aluminium production.
Volgograd and the surrounding area saw some of the heaviest battles during World War II. The Battle of Stalingrad was a turning point in the war. The 85-metre “Motherland calling” statue is Volgograd’s landmark and can be seen from any point of the city.
Volgograd is a centre for ecotourism in Russia. The city is close to the unique Volga-Akhtubin floodplains, the last pristine stretch of the Volga river valleys. Lakes make up 30 per cent of the park’s territory and count over 200 species of birds.
Volgograd is a true sporting city. Yelena Isynbayeva, a multiple world pole-vaulting champion and ambassador for Russia’s bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup, began her sporting career in Volgograd. Volgograd Arena was built on the site of the Central stadium, at the foot of the Mamayev Kurgan war memorial. The location of the previous stadium is a Mecca for local football supporters, with the more seasoned among them able to remember European victory over Manchester United and domestic battles with Spartak Moscow. Seats 45,000.
Host Four Group Matches and a Round of 16 clash at Rostov Arena
Known from the time of Herodotus as a land of warlike Scythians, the endless steppes of the Don river basin eventually became home to the freedom-loving Cossacks.
The flamboyant Cossack culture is still prevalent in Rostov-on-Don, a modern city of one million inhabitants overlooking the beautiful Don river. The village of “Starocherkasskaya”, located 27 kilometres from Rostov-on-Don, is the former capital of the Don Cossacks. Today it is a museum city and one of the area’s main tourist attractions.
Despite its profound history, Rostov-on-Don resembles a young and fresh city. The streets are romantically named Harmonious, Creative and Lucky streets. Here one can find the most unusual monuments: to a water pipe or to a newspaper reader.
River Don provides the city with the serene and picturesque sand beaches and unique cuisine, featuring fish and crayfish dishes.
Rostov-on-Don is situated about 1,000 kilometres southeast of Moscow and is a key transport and cultural hub of southern Russia.
Rostov arena is particular unique the varying heights of the stands allow spectators to savour not only what is happening on the pitch, but also to enjoy views of Rostov-on-Don. From the left bank of the Don, the city looks incredible and the view is worth the admission alone.
Host Four Group Games, a Round of 16 Match and a Quarter-Final
The Black Sea resort of Sochi has risen to global prominence after having been awarded the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Situated along 140 km of the coast (the longest city in Europe) and against the backdrop of the Caucasus Mountains, this resort, now commonly referred to as the “Russian Riviera”, has long been one of Russia’s most popular tourist destinations and a truly great sports city.
The city offers countless opportunities for sports from mountain climbing, hang-gliding, diving, sailing, aqua bikes, skiing and much more. The famous mountain resort, Krasnaya Polyana, is located 40 km from the seacoast. In Sochi one can go skiing in the morning and sailing or swimming in the afternoon on the same day.
The undisturbed forests surrounding the city are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
During the preparations for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Sochi’s tourism infrastructure underwent significant and extensive expansion and renovation. The resulting new accommodation and transport infrastructure provides a modern and tested state-of-the-art tourism environment for visitors attending 2018 FIFA World Cup matches in the city.
Fisht Stadium was built for the Winter Olympics in February 2014, and hosted the opening and closing ceremonies.The stadium has been reconstructed for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and was reopened in 2017, where the venue hosted FIFA Confederations Cup matches.
Host Matches in Groups A, C, F and H
Uniquely located on the geographical borderline of Europe and Asia, and at the foot of the Ural Mountains, Ekaterinburg has a population of 1.4 million.
The city was founded by a decree of Peter I the Great.
Ekaterinburg is the fourth largest city in Russia in terms of population, and is one of twelve Russian cities with a population of over a million.
During the 18th century, the city became known as Russia’s iron making centre, and it is now a modern city with world-class infrastructure that includes an efficient metro system and an excellent airport. The city is also one of Russia’s most well-known centres for the arts and one of Russia’s leading sports centres. Ekaterinburg has the third largest number of diplomatic missions in the country (after Moscow and St Petersburg).
Home to one of the country’s oldest football clubs, FC Ural, the stadium was built in 1953. Since then, it has been refurbished on a number of occasions. The last of these refits has been made for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. On each occasion, however, the stadium’s historical façade remained untouched, as an architectural legacy.
Host Four Group Games, a Round of 16 Match and a Quarter-Final
Kazan, one of the oldest Russian cities, celebrated its millennium in 2005. The ancient walls of Kazan recall many dramatic events, including the historic siege by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century.
Modern Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan and is home to 1.2 million residents. This timeless city is also a city of youth, home to 30 of Russia’s largest universities and more than 180,000 students. This “culture of youth” provides Kazan with a modern and progressive vibrancy, an energy that only young people can instil.
It is also a highly diverse city with more than 100 nationalities. This diversity, coupled with a young population, has created a unique sense of tolerance, understanding and youthful optimism. Visitors will also discover the ancient and fascinating Tatar culture in Kazan. A great centre of Muslim culture and a vivid example of how different ethnicities and religions can live peacefully together for many centuries. The 16th century Kazan Kremlin is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kazan is at the forefront of Russian sport, home to some of the best football, basketball and hockey teams in the country.
Kazan Arena was designed by the same firm of architects as Wembley Stadium and Emirates Stadium in London. It has a unique design, which blends seamlessly into Kazan’s urban landscape. Seats 45,000.
Host games in Groups B, C, G and H
Located in central Russia, Saransk is the capital of the Republic of Mordovia and the area where all Finno-Ugric nations began. It is one of the most pleasant cities in Russia, regularly scoring high in the All-Russia city competition in recent years. This relatively small city is actively promoting sports and has commenced construction of a new, state-of-the-art 40,000-seat football stadium. Mordovia’s athletes take part in more than 100 world, European and national competitions each year.
Modern Mordovia carefully protects the unique languages and cultures of the Moksha and Erzya ethnic groups, who inhabited the area for centuries. They belong to the Finno-Ugrian group, along with the Hungarians, Finns, Estonians and others. Saransk is a frequent venue for ethnographic and folklore festivals aimed at preserving national identity, culture and customs. The arena is located in the centre of the city, on the bank of the Insar river. Seats 44,000.
Host Four Group Games, Round of 16 Match and a Quarter-Final
Samara is the capital of the Samara Region and is home to 1.1 million people. Samara is one of the most prominent Volga region cities and it is famous as Russia’s aerospace centre.
During World War II, Samara became a “second capital” of Russia as all government departments and diplomatic corps were evacuated there from Moscow. Places of interest for visitors include the massive 37-metre deep Stalin’s bunker and the beautiful nature preserve, Zhigulevskie Hills, on the Volga River.
Samara is an ideal city to enjoy the magnificent Volga River, the largest in Europe. The river is almost 2 kilometres wide here and has been a source of inspiration for poets and artists for centuries. An iconic landmark of Samara is a 68-metre, 20-ton monument of the Soyuz carrier rocket, built to commemorate Gagarin’s space flight.
Samara is a major transport hub thanks to its international airport, major railway station and busy river port. Samara Arena’s design concept is dominated by the theme of space, as a tribute to the traditions of the region, and its renowned aerospace sector. Seats 45,000.
Best Dining & Nightlife in Moscow
You’ll have no problem finding a meal in Moscow. It doesn’t matter who you are, from a true food connoisseur, an unpretentious gourmand, a budget eater or a big spender you’ll always find a place to your liking. Since you’re in Russia, don’t miss the chance to try some national dishes. It is often said that Russian cuisine no longer exists, but here are some examples for you to try. Schi, solyanka, yha and rassolnik are traditional hot soups and okroshka is cold soup usually made with kvas. Prices start from around RUB 70 and go up to about RUB 200. Come and explore the tastes of these strange names and fabulous restaurants
Why locals love it
This place is a great example of Soviet time chic. Dr. Zhivago is a grand cafe which proves that Russian cuisine becomes modern and the purely Russian concept appears to be surprisingly fashionable and stylish. Moreover, it is a great place to have affordable luxury dinner with the Kremlin view in an historical site of the National Hotel.
Why you should Book a Table
Here, you will be sitting on the ground floor of the legendary Hotel Nacional with the Kremlin view. The white hall of the restaurant welcomes guests with the paintings of the most famous Soviet artists such as Malevich and Petrov-Vodkin, and the legendary Ruby Star crowns the gold ceiling. Prices in a menu are quite affordable here.
The Burger Brothers
Why locals love it
Hands down the best Burger in Russia! After taking part in a range of local food festivals, the team behind this project finally managed to open up a takeaway joint in the Red October art cluster. Some say they serve the best burgers in town. The interiors and design concept are also pretty impressive.
Why you should visit
This mini burger restaurant opened in November 2013 right by Mayakovskaya metro station. Although it’s tiny (just 30 square metres), it’s really homely. Besides burgers, they serve French fries, scrambled eggs and soup, plus coffee, tea, homemade lemonade and some alcoholic beverages.
Bar-Hop with a Local
Meet Niko! To experience the ultimate nightlife scene in Moscow hit up Niko for an unforgettable bar-hopping experience and visit the very best Moscow bars! All local, hidden, and delicious. Enjoy fantastic drinks and food, and have a great time with friends and locals.
Always best to do this at the start of the trip so you have a great idea of the lay of the land.
The essence of Moscow nightlife is revealed in the city’s best cocktail bars.
This experience is all about bars with great concepts: hidden, nice views, handcrafted drinks, delicious food, and non-touristic prices.
Niko has the secret passwords that afford you entry to the best spots in town. You’ll meet local and foreign friends, see how the city looks at night, and have the chance to practise your Russian, English, or Spanish.
If you like, you can even jump over the bar and mix cocktails for your friends together with a pro bartender. He’ll teach you about the history, recipes, and much more.