- Marianna Hunt
Kazan, a city deriving its name from the Tartar word for ‘cooking pot’, is a true melting pot of cultures. Known as the Istanbul of Russia, the ‘East meets West’ atmosphere here derives from Kazan’s true diversity of culture and religion, which is reflected in the city’s architecture, its history, and its cuisine. Over 1,000 years of history have left their mark on the city, making for a truly spectacular skyline. Here 10 thins to do when you visit beautiful Kazan.
Inside the gleaming white walls of this former Tartar fortress, tourists will find a tranquil hide-away of peaceful temples, fascinating museums, and a small, but charming, park. The central government of the republic of Tatarstan is also located right here in Kazan’s Kremlin. Highlights include the Annunciation Cathedral, the Suyumbike Tower, and the Kul Sharif Mosque. Be drawn in by the fascinating stories and legends behind these landmarks. The 59 m leaning Suyumbike Tower boasts of the romantic legend that the Tartar Princess Suyumbike only consented to her forced marriage to Ivan the Terrible if he could construct the highest tower in Kazan in just 7 days. When the tsar completed the task, the princess threw herself off the top of the tower. The Kremlin also offers a spectacular vista of both Kazan’s historic center and the enormous Volga River.
The Hermitage In Kazan
A must-see for art fanatics, the Hermitage in Kazan is an art gallery linked to the world-famous Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg. The regularly rotating exhibitions here, many of which come from the Hermitage itself, showcase a broad range of both Russian and international art. Come and enjoy the best of Kazan’s art world at the Hermitage Kazan located in the building of the Junker School, a former cadet academy. The building’s striking architecture dates back to the early 19th century and the elegant interiors rival the exhibitions in terms of beauty.
Eat Tatar Food
Gain a ‘taste of Tatarstan’ at the outstanding restaurants and cafés that have earned Kazan its reputation as a haven for foodies. The very best of the Tatar delicacies can be sampled here including buttery echpohmak pastries, soft manti dumplings, the succulent speciality of Tatar horse meat, and chak-chak (delicate pastries coated in honeyed sugar syrup decorated with raisins or walnuts). With everything from authentic Tatar delights at either the chic Dom Tatarskoy Kulinarii (House of Tartar Cuisine) or the local favorite Bilyar, to the exotic Eastern spices of the Uzbek Rubai and the refined European elegance of Priyut Kholostyaka, Kazan’s food scene caters to all. The wide range of different restaurant options and cuisines here reflect Kazan’s status as a truly multicultural city and, no matter your tastes, you’re sure to find something to tempt you in Kazan.
The Kul Sharif Mosque
The Kul Sharif Mosque, completed in 2005, serves as both a museum and a working mosque. Visitors can revel in the fascinating story of Tatar Islam as well as immerse themselves in modern day Islamic culture. The mosque was named in honor of the imam killed in 1552 by the troops of Tsar Ivan the Terrible while trying to protect his city and the museum attached offers visitors a chance to discover the turbulent, and often bloody, history of Islam in Russia. Artifacts, relics, and pieces of women’s clothing create a realistic portrait of life for Russian Muslims of the past. The mosque itself is of incredible beauty. The lotus-flower shaped dome is an iconic sight for which the city is famous and featured on scores of postcards around Kazan. The sumptuous interior features soaring malachite columns and light spectacularly flooding in through the huge windows. Elevated views from the mosque’s third-floor observatory balcony offer an unbeatable panorama of the Kremlin.
The Temple of All Religions
The azure blue turrets and bulging domes of the Temple of All Religions bursts into the sky, immediately capturing attention. Onion domes in traditional Russian Orthodox style are combined with jade green Islamic minarets and Gothic towers which loom over statues of Buddha. The original designs planned for there to be 16 different towers representing 16 different religions and this work is still on-going. Apart from numerous mosques and Orthodox churches, Kazan is also home to a synagogue and Catholic church and this temple aims to celebrate the city’s welcoming, multi-faith, atmosphere. On the banks of the Volga River, about 10 km away from the Kazan city center, visitors should take bus number 2 from the city center to reach the peaceful retreat that is the Temple of All Religions.
Bauman Street, Kazan’s main pedestrian street, perpetually buzzes with life and is flooded each day with musicians, artists, and an incredible range of street performers which can range from folk dancers to a fire-show. Souvenir shops, charming cafés, lively bars, and fascinating museums, are just a few of the entertainment options available on this vibrant street. Fountains and statues adorn the street, making for a beautiful backdrop to the colorful hustle and bustle of Kazan life.
Visit The Kazan Arena
Kazan is fast becoming known as a sporting city. The completion of the new Kazan Sports Arena in 2013 has hailed the start of a new era of outstanding sport in the city. A visit to watch Kazan’s successful ice hockey team, Ak Bars, at their TatNeft arena is well-worth it, promising exciting skids, ferocious skating, and gasps of awe in spades. But more spectacular is the sight of the Kazan Arena. Kazan has been chosen as one of the host cities for the 2018 FIFA world cup and rumors suggest that this arena will play host to one of the semi-finals. The Kazan Arena is also hosted the 2015 World Aquatics Championships. Kazan’s Rubin football team, whose home ground is the Kazan Arena, were recently Russian champions and a match here always promises to be an exciting spectacle.
The National Museum Of The Republic Of Tatarstan
Become immersed in this Russian republic’s long and diverse history at the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan, the largest museum in Tatarstan. Housed in a lavish building from the late 1700s, the museum‘s exterior is itself worthy of a visit. Admire the ancient jewelry, former household objects, and ferocious weapons of this fascinating people. The museum exhibits give fascinating details about the lifestyle of the Tatar peoples and tell the great stories and legends that lie at the heart of their culture.
The City’s Central Market
A hive of noise and activity, Kazan’s central market promises colorful sights, a vibrant atmosphere, and local flavor aplenty. The wafting scents of exotic spices, aromatic teas, and fresh meat and fish will draw you in immediately. Luscious tropical fruits totter in towering piles alongside a mind-boggling array of dried fruits and nuts. The boisterous sellers will attempt to charm you with their wit and baffle you with their knowledge and recommendations. Whether you simply want to soak up local atmosphere, invest in regional souvenirs, or tuck into a tasty lunch, Kazan’s market is the place to be.
The Museum of Soviet Life
Discover the city’s more recent history in this eccentric museum which has proved a favorite with the floods of tourists descending upon Kazan each year. Be whisked away to the USSR by the intriguing exhibits and authentic artifacts from the Soviet era here at Kazan’s Museum of Soviet Life. The museum is truly interactive. Pop in on Sundays to learn Soviet songs during the museum’s jam-sessions, where guitars, bongos, flutes, strobe lights, and fog machines will transport you back in time. Any chance meeting with the curator, simply brimming with enthusiasm about this era, promises fascinating anecdotes and gripping stories.