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Fisht Olympic Stadium during a 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup match in June 2017|© Edgar Breschanov/Wikimedia Commons
Fisht Olympic Stadium during a 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup match in June 2017|© Edgar Breschanov/Wikimedia Commons
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How Russian Cities are Preparing for World Cup 2018

Picture of Zita Whalley
Updated: 17 April 2018
World Cup 2018 is about to descend on Russia, and the superpower is set to welcome the competition and football fans with super-style. The games will be held across Russia’s immense expanse, and the eleven host cities are preparing to turn on the charm, and dazzle competitors and spectators with their unique appeals. So, whether you’re a fan supporting your nation’s team, or someone who is just using the event as an excuse to see the country, here’s how the red carpet will be rolled out for you.

Moscow

Russia’s imposing capital is increasing foreign-language tourist services to make its sprawl more accessible and easier to navigate. Visitors will be able to bask in the city’s historical wealth. English-speaking tourist police (and a handful of French, German, Chinese and Spanish-speaking officers), will be available to help those who are lost and perplexed by this epic metropolis. Cultural tours will be offered around the Kremlin and neighbouring streets for anyone who is interested in the nation’s fascinating Soviet past.

Moscow will have tourist police helping visitors navigate the city
Moscow will have tourist police helping visitors navigate the city | © Mistery08 / Pixabay

St Petersburg

Nana Gvichiya, deputy head of the St Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development, expects that many of the fans who visit her city will be first-time visitors. As such, she anticipates they will more likely be interested in cultural activities than any competition related adventures. With this in mind, Russia’s second city will beguile visitors with additional excursions and sightseeing jaunts, as well as night cruises. Many of these activities will be available in 25 languages. The city also plans to offer culinary tours that will guide participants through the gastronomical delights of Russian and Central Asian cuisine at some of St Petersburg’s most loved restaurants.

St Petersburg will offer lots of cultural activities
St Petersburg will offer lots of cultural activities | © Julius_Silver / Pixabay

Yekaterinburg

Yekaterinburg anticipates a more local crowd visiting the city during World Cup 2018, and they don’t expect fans to linger for long. It is estimated that only 30% of visitors will be international, so this vibrant cultural hub will give visitors an authentic Russian experience. As the Ural’s first city, this former industrial town is the best place to try regional cuisine like the commonplace pelmeni and several of Russia’s famous hearty soups. Like the other cities that have unique dishes, Yekaterinburg will also host culinary tours as well. This city is unique in its architecture, art and eastern location, so Yekaterinburg will also amp up tours that show off its individuality.

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Visitors will be able to try regional cuisine in Yekaterinburg | © Daria-Yakovleva / Pixabay

Kazan

It is anticipated that the capital of Tatarstan will welcome the most foreign visitors after Moscow and St Petersburg, and so it is already well-equipped with top notch tourist services. There are already Russian, Tatar and English train announcements and tourist services; however, the city’s tourism office is currently training Chinese, Arabic, German and Spanish speaking guides in preparation for the surge of tourists. Tour packages will be offered to help steer visitors through this foodie haven as they sample quintessential Tatar dishes like chak-chak. Guests will also be able to easily visit the historical monuments that make this city the nucleus of Tatar culture in Russia.

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Kazan will offer tours where you can try favourite Tatar dishes | © Elena Moiseeva / Shutterstock

Sochi

Making the most of its reputation as Russia’s premier Balck Sea resort town, Sochi plans to do very little in the way of additional tourism because it doesn’t really have to. World Cup 2018 is on during peak season, where visitors and holiday-makers can make the most of the region’s warm subtropical weather. Outside of competition games, there will be the lure of the azure ocean to while away a day. Alternatively, the Caucus Mountain range is on the city’s doorstep and offers plenty of options for day trips, overnight treks and city escapes into mountainous beauty and alpine meadows.

Fans visiting Sochi will get to enjoy Russia’s premier Black Sea destination
Fans visiting Sochi will get to enjoy Russia’s premier Black Sea destination | © bolotina-o / Pixabay

Kaliningrad

Russia’s most westerly enclave is going to work its lush, green, forest-filled magic for anyone lucky enough to visit it during competition. Bordered by Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea, this Russian outpost is steeped in natural beauty, and it also has a unique history as the disputed land between ancient kingdoms and modern countries. Although it is anticipated that most tourists will want to soak up the wild rugged beauty of the Baltic Sea, the city of Kaliningrad will offer plenty of cultural activities. Museums plan to extend their opening hours until 6:00 am, so visitors can get up to speed with the region’s tumultuous history. Tour companies in turn will organise beer tours, making the most of Kaliningrad’s Germanic ancestry.

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The Curonian Spit will be one of the biggest draw cards in Kaliningrad. | © pasha / Shutterstock

Volgograd

Speaking of beer, Volgograd, home to The Motherland Calls, the epic memorial to the Battle of Stalingrad, is gearing up to be one of the party hubs for the competition and a destination for fans who want to indulge in the good life. The city has prepared over 100 excursions for fans that cover pretty much everything the city has to offer. Sitting on the banks of the Volga, the city will offer river cruises at all hours of the day and night and fishing tours. To get into a celebratory mood, there will also be beer tastings and parties. Restaurants will welcome customers with classic Russian fare, such as pike cutlets, sturgeon and locally made cheeses.

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Beer will flow in Volgograd during Russia 2018 | © Rob / Flickr

Samara

As the gateway to the Volga region, Samara is keen to show off its surrounding beauty. Even though the city’s beach is unbeatable for those who just want to lounge near the Volga River, jumping on a river cruise will take you to the Zhiguli Mountain range, where you can revel in the Volga region’s majestic beauty. The city also invites guests to have a look at some of the locations that reflect Samara’s importance in history, especially during Soviet times. In particular, Stalin’s bunker is a perfectly preserved relic of Soviet paranoia, and visitors can’t leave the city without enjoying a drink at the legendary Zhiguli Brewery.

Samara Beach on the banks of the Volga is a major drawcard for the city
Samara Beach on the banks of the Volga is a major drawcard for the city | © Shvann / Wikimedia

Nizhny Novgorod

Aside from hosting the FanFest zone right in the heart of the city, Nizhny Novgorod is going to offer luxury tours around town that will take visitors through the most important sights. These will include the turreted Kremlin, right in the heart of the old city and the Volga Slope, the sprawling pedestrian embankment along the Volga. Wedged between the Volga and the Oka rivers, the city also expects fans to luxuriate in the city’s particularly delightful location and its laid back, riverside charm.

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The riverside town of Nizhny Novgorod is ideal for scenic strolls | © quinn the islander / Pixabay

Saransk

Anticipating an older, male, football-orientated crowd, the culture department at Mordovia’s capital has decided to do away with trips to museums and churches and other cultural institutions. Instead Saransk will promote walking tours around the city centre, so at least the football fans get their bearings, but hopefully, appreciate the city’s understated appeal as well. These tours will take punters around Millennium Square and its dazzling light fountain. There will also be sports events, where fans can compete against other fans, as well as taste Mordovian pancakes and learn Russian folk songs.

Cathedral of Fyodor Ushakov, Saransk
Cathedral of Fyodor Ushakov, Saransk | © Savelo / WikiCommons

Rostov-on-Don

Home to one of the biggest zoos in Russia, Rostov-on-Don will encourage visitors to have a look at its sprawling animal enclosures. Here, fans can observe impressive and rare wildlife such as Far Eastern leopards, which are so endangered, it is estimated only 80 or so of them roam wild. Another point of local pride is the Hippodrome, a horse racing facility that opened at the turn of the 20th century and survived the repression of the Cossacks during Soviet times. Right in the Cossack heartland, there will be day trips out to neighbouring villages that will inform anyone who is curious about one of Russia’s most iconic groups of people.

Rostov-on-Don will celebrate its Cossack heritage during Russia 2018
Rostov-on-Don will celebrate its Cossack heritage during Russia 2018 | © Rost.galis / WikiCommons