Industrial Samara is the gateway to the Volga region and a bustling hive of activity, a far cry from its early days as a military outpost. From Breweries to beaches, from rockets to hideouts, read Culture Trip’s guide about what to do in Samara.
Samara Space Museum
Aviation Museum, History Museum
A real Vostok rocket outside Samara Space Museum | Courtesy of Samara Space Museum
Educate yourself on astronomical advancements and Russia’s space endeavours – the permanent exhibition here is loaded with space and rocket technology and models.
Brewing some of Russia’s most popular beers since 1881, Samara is affectionately known as the beer capital of a beer-loving country. Founded by Alfred von Vacano, an Austrian, the brewery produced Zhigulevskoye, the beer of choice – perhaps through lack of choice – during Soviet times. At the Zhiguli Brewery, European beerhall favourites fill the menu, along with plenty of dishes using Volga fish. If it is a nice day, bring a bottle to fill straight from the keg and take it for a stroll along the embankment to the beach.
A lazy stroll from the beach, this river-side promenade is another popular spot with people who are making the most of summer. Relax in the gardens or take in the Volga’s beauty without the sand. Get a bit more active by rollerblading or cycling through the strip littered with with monuments, statutes, kiosks and the occasional busker. Samara in the summer doesn’t get much better than here and the beach.
A short trip out of town will reward you with one of the best views of the Volga river there is. For a sweeping panorama across the Samara bend – the point where the Volga hairpins back around and flows through the Zhiguli Mountains – head towards the observation deck housed in a former helipad in the administrative settlement of Helicopter (named after said helipad). The view is so impressive the lookout is a popular place to take a date.
Russia is littered with statues. There is a monument or a statue to celebrate or commemorate pretty much everything. Including the heater. But for a country that endures long harsh winters, with temperatures dipping well below -30°C (-22°F), it is a fairly significant invention. And the only animal that appreciates a heater more than a cold human is a cat, so it is fitting this charming and endearing statute features a cat lazing above a radiator. Created in 2005 by local artist Nikolay Kuklev, the statue pays tribute to the radiator’s Russian origins. St Petersburg-based Franz San Galli is accredited with creating the radiator in the mid 1800s.
Slightly incongruous to Russia’s cold and frosty image is Samara’s glorious beach, stretching along the length of the city. Definitely a highlight, visit in the warmer months to soak up summer-time vibes on the Volga’s sandy banks. Work on your tan as swimming and relaxing with the locals as they thaw out after a long cold winter.
Make a day trip of trekking through the Zhiguli Mountains, also known as the Zhiguli Heights, to become fully immersed in nature. Surrounded by a UNESCO-listed reserve, the mountain range runs along the Volga and is the perfect place to escape into Russia’s remoteness.
Central markets are a great way to get a feel for local life and Troitsky Market is no different. It’s also a great place to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables as well as to try Vobla, salted dried fish. A standard beer snack throughout Russia, it is gutted and salted and then dried with the scales and fins still on. Fill a bottle at Zhiguli Brewery and give the combination a go.
Step back in time at The Old Apartment, Soviet-era kitsch-filled restaurant that serves up old Soviet favourites. Decorated with an unwavering attention to detail, the restaurant looks more like an interactive installation of an old Soviet home, which you are welcome to explore. Dine on dishes loaded with salted fish, sour-cream and pickled produce that will satiate any hunger for authentic Russian flavours and fill your stomach with hearty, home-cooked fare. Don’t forget to book.
The equivalent of a 12-storey building, Stalin’s bunker – one of several – extends 37 metres (121 feet) below the ground. Built over multiple levels, with the ability to hold 115 people, it was discovered by locals as late as 1991.