A fans’ guide to Kazan

The ‘Sport Capital of Russia’ – now that’s a good title for a World Cup host city to have! And as Russia’s self-proclaimed ‘third capital’ after Moscow and St Petersburg, you’re guaranteed a great time if you’re travelling to Kazan for football’s major event of the last four years.

Kazan really is a feast of a city. With its hot summers, Muslim minarets and Orthodox monasteries, ancient archaeological sites and the science city of Innopolis, there’s something for everyone in this amazing place. Situated among forest steppes and vast expanses of taiga, and with the Great Silk Road running through it, the Tatar capital really is a fascinating mix of the familiar and the exotic.

Kazan View

 Photo: Wiki Commons, Flickr

With a population of over a million, it’s the sixth most populous city in Russia. Lying at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers, it’s about 500 miles by road to the east of Moscow. And with a history that stretches back to the mid-15th century, it’s not short of amazing things to see and places to visit.

Located between Europe and Asia, with both Russian and Tatar populations, Kazan peacefully blends Muslim and Christian cultures. There are also many other religions in Kazan, with a synagogue and new Catholic church in its centre. This vibrant city is an excellent travel destination, and the number of tourists visiting is rapidly increasing every year. So if you’re looking for a real mix of sights and sounds, local customs and national (and international) cultures, then pick Kazan as your destination of choice for this year’s World Cup, and celebrate football’s biggest event in style!

Where to stay

In 2015, Kazan was visited by over two million tourists. So unsurprisingly, the city has more than its fair share of places to stay and things to do. Whether you’re after budget hostels or prefer to treat yourself to a top-of-the-range hotel, Kazan has something for every budget.

For cheap-and-cheerful hostels, many offering free Wi-Fi and friendly, English-speaking staff, Kazan has plenty of choice. Or if you want to make your stay truly memorable, splash out on a few nights in the Mirage – easily the most expensive hotel in the city, but offering wonderful views across to Kazan’s Kremlin, and all the amenities you could ask for.

Of course, proximity to the stadium may be your priority when looking for accommodation. There are plenty of public transport options to reach Kazan Arena from virtually anywhere in the city, but if you really do need your accommodation to be within walking distance, then the north-east of the city is the area to go for.

There aren’t that many options for places to stay near the stadium, but the Riviera Hotel and Hotel MANO are worth considering, along with a few well-rated hostels such as Urbis and Move. There are also a good few apartment rentals close by.

Needless to say, whatever your requirements, we’re here to help you find the most suitable option at the best possible price. So call us today on 0207 985 1234. And remember: the sooner you book, the better your chance of getting a great deal in your perfect location.

The stadium

With a capacity of 45 000, Kazan Arena was opened in 2013 as the new home to FC Rubin Kazan. It first saw service as the main venue of that year’s Summer Universiade, in which over 10 000 university athletes from 162 countries competed in a range of events.

Kazan Arena Stadium

 Source: Wiki Commons, Andsemar

Its first football match wasn’t played until May of the following year, when Russia and Slovakia squared up in a friendly. During the World Cup, it will host four first-round group games, one round of 16 games, and one quarter-final. The action kicks off on 16 June, when France take on Australia, followed four days later by Iran v Spain. So it offers some big-name clashes during the early stages of the competition.

The arena is located in the north-east of the city, on the west bank of the Kazanka River, about 6 kilometres from central Kazan, and can be reached with either tram 5 or 6. Tram 5 runs from Passazhirsky main railway station in central Kazan, not far from the Kazan Kremlin and Rubin’s former Central Stadium. Tram 6, on the other hand, connects Kazan Arena with destinations in the north of the city. To make life easy, the stop to look out for is, unsurprisingly, called Kazan Arena. Alternatively, you can catch trolleybus 7, also from central Kazan, or one of the many local buses that pass the stadium. And remember: your FAN ID allows you to travel free on selected routes.

What to see

Like Moscow, the heart of Kazan is its impressive Kremlin. The Kazan Kremlin is the symbol of the city, the heart of the republic, and the residence of the president of Tatarstan. It’s an architectural conservation area on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Built in the 16th century, it’s home to the Kul Sharif mosque, one of Europe's largest, which can hold up to 8000 people.

The Christian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral is also nearby. The oldest stone temple in the Volga River region, it was built in the 16th century. Tatarstan is a unique republic where Christianity and Islam have co-existed for hundreds of years, seamlessly intertwining the cultures of the peoples that live here.

The Kremlin’s other attractions include the leaning Söyembikä Tower, Preobrazhenskaya and Taynitskaya Towers, the Governor's courtyard, Artillery courtyard, a branch of Saint Petersburg's Hermitage Museum, the Museum of Islamic Culture, archaeological remains of the khan palace, and the mosques and tombs of the Kazan khans. The Kremlin also offers lots of astonishing views of the Volga and Kazanka rivers and different parts of the city.

Outside the Kremlin, there’s the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. Built in 1726 and bearing the name of the Apostles Peter and Paul, people nicknamed the cathedral the Hanging Gardens of Kazan because of the large amount of stone-like plasterwork adorning its walls.

After the 1917 Revolution, the cathedral became the centre of the Orthodox community, and relics and church items from different closed churches were collected here. Since then, it’s housed the Communist Party’s archives, and was later used as a planetarium and restoration workshops. It was only in 1989 that religious services began here again.

Or maybe the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan is more your thing. The museum is right by the entrance to the Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower, across from Ploschad Pervogo Maya (1 May Square) with its monument to the heroic poet Musa Dzhalil. This is Russia's largest regional museum and contains more than 900 000 items. Its archaeological collection consists of countless items from ancient and medieval history, including a unique Bulgarian collection and items from the Bronze and Middle Ages, also covering Egyptian, Classical and Far Eastern artefacts.

For shopping, try the Aleksandrovsky Passage. The Passage (or Mall) was built for local millionaire Alexander Alexandrov. Opened in November 1883, it counted shops, offices and even a hotel among its tenants.

Students may care to have a look at Kazan University. Its large student population makes Kazan one of Russia's youngest cities in terms of population age. In Soviet times, Kazan Federal University was named after Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin, as the future leader of the Russian revolution studied in Kazan for a total of three months. It might have been longer but, on 5 December 1887, the university’s most famous student was expelled for taking part in a protest against the university charter.

For a taste of the East, try Kul Sharif. This was the name of the mosque that once stood inside the walls of the Khan's Kremlin. Unfortunately, the original building was destroyed by the fire that engulfed the city when it was besieged and captured by the troops of Ivan the Terrible in 1552. Construction of a new mosque began in 1997 and was completed in 2005. And what a spectacular sight it is! This monumental building is just as impressive inside as out, with its stained-glass panels, mosaic ornaments, gold-plated artwork, mouldings, giant glass chandelier and Persian carpets. It also houses an Islamic Culture Museum.

Then there’s the Suyumbike Tower. This 190-foot seven-storey patrol tower of the Kazan Kremlin leans like the one in Pisa, and is one of the city’s great symbols.

Alternatively, you could visit Kazan Circus. The pioneers of the State Russian Circus, brothers Dmitry, Akim and Pyotr Nikitin, had their wooden circus built at Bannoye Lake in Kazan in 1890. That was closed for safety reasons in 1961 – a good thing, as the building burnt down soon after. Its modern counterpart stands next to the Kremlin, and looks like a UFO. Today, it hosts guest shows from Moscow and elsewhere in Russia.

Then there’s Kazan Zoo Botanical Garden, home to some 4000 animals from more than 160 species, as well as about 6000 plants from over 1000 species. The inhabitants include foxes, bears, lions, tigers, a hippo, squirrels, snakes, wolves … the list goes on. Or try Tatarstan's first oceanarium with its rays, iguanas, penguins, sharks, crocodiles, swans, and a 130-year old tortoise, to name just a few of its 3000-plus species of animals, birds and fish.

Fancy burning off some calories? Then try the Forsazh Karting Centre. This 4000-square-metre indoor track is great for thrills and spills, with bowling, billiards, mini-golf, 4D car racing simulator, archery and crossbow shooting also on offer. In addition, there’s a karaoke restaurant and nursery on the premises.

Then there’s the Sviyazhskiye Kholmy Golf Club, with coaches on hand to help you get into the swing of things. All equipment is available for rent, and there’s an outdoor swimming pool and sauna, too. And if you like the place, you could always come back in winter and try out the nearby ski resort.

Bars and restaurants

It’s great to see a bit of any new city you’re visiting, but let’s be honest – if you’re travelling to watch the World Cup, football is always going to be at the forefront of your mind. Even if you’ve got tickets for matches at the Kazan Stadium, it’s likely you’ll spend some (a lot!) of your time in bars and restaurants, soaking up the atmosphere … and a few beers, too!

Fortunately, Kazan isn’t short of great places to eat and drink. Wherever you are, you’re never far from a bar or eatery to suit your taste and budget. And a great place to start is the official Russia 2018 website.

Watch for free

All 11 World Cup host cities have their own Fan Fest site, where fans can gather and watch all the matches for free on the giant screen. The Family Centre Kazan is where you’ll find the city’s Fan Fest site. Just opposite the city centre, this fantastic location will offer public viewing free of charge for up to 30 000 local and visiting fans. Enjoy the show!