The 2018 FIFA World Cup is heading to Russia and while many of you will be busy watching the games, you would still want to see places around and do some touristy things on non-match days. Thankfully, there are plenty of cool things to do and see in Russia for the World Cup fans, and all you need is to plan these activities into the itinerary.
Here is my suggestion of the 20 things you should do while traveling to Russia for the FIFA World Cup.
- 1. Visit Red Square in Moscow.
The Red Square is one of the world’s most famous public areas and it can be found in the heart of Russia’s capital. If a person does nothing else but visit this location and watch the World Cup game while they are in Moscow, it is all good! However, with so many landmarks around Red Square, it’s a crime not to check them out! Anyone that visits will be too tempted to stop at St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, or the massive GUM shopping mall.
While visiting the Red Square, you will most likely see a lot of fans from all over the world as it is a popular place to hang out especially on match days. Make sure to take lots of pictures as a memory of your World Cup trip to Russia.
- 2. Check out Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow.
This attraction is one of the strangest things you’ll see in Russia because the highlight of it is the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin. His body has been displayed here since he died in 1924 and the lines to see him are always long. Lenin was a leader of the communist revolution in 1917, and first head of the Soviet state.
The mausoleum is located on the Red Square so it’s very unlikely that you’ll miss it. If you are looking for more things to do in Moscow, take a look at my Moscow travel guide.
- 3. Party like a Russian at one of the nightclubs.
Moscow and St. Petersburg are pretty famous for its thrilling nightlife. If you like going out and you enjoy the electronic music, you have to go party at least once while in Russia.
Some of the best nightclubs in Moscow are Icon Club, Gipsy and Jagger Hall. You can find out more information about nightclubs and nightlife in Moscow in this article.
- 4. Experience riding a tank in Moscow.
Do you know of many places where you can ride military vehicles like tanks? It is totally doable in Russia!
There is no better place in the world to do it because Russia is famous for its tanks! I’m sure many of you heard about a legendary WW2 era tank T-34.
Financially, it will also cost you a lot less then if you were to do such an activity in the United States or pretty much anywhere else.
If you are actually interested in riding a tank, I can help you find a good tour company and contact them!
- 5. Take a “White Night” boat cruise in St. Petersburg.
This is a really cool thing to do if you’ll be in St. Petersburg during the World Cup.
The White Nights is a phenomenon caused by St. Petersburg’s northerly location. And luckily for you, June and July is the best time to experience it! What happens is that the sun does not descend below the horizon enough for the sky to grow dark and it stays bright out all night long.
The best way to experience the White Nights in St. Petersburg is to take a boat cruise at night. You’ll see the most popular sights of this beautiful city as well as the opening of the drawbridges from the different perspective.
- 6. Explore the Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace) in St. Petersburg.
Saint Petersburg, in my opinion, is the most interesting and definitely the most European-like city in Russia. There are a lot of historic places and gorgeous buildings around including the main building of the Hermitage Museum which also named as a Winter Palace.
It was founded by Catherine the Great back in the 18th century when she was looking for a place to store her amazing art collection. The Imperial family lived in the Winter Palace for approximately two hundred years before it was finally opened to the public as a museum. In fact, currently the Hermitage museum is considered to be the second largest museum in the world and it’s definitely worth your visit even if you are not a big museum person.
- 7. Relax at the Summer Garden in St. Petersburg.
Everyone will need some downtime between the football matches, and the Summer Garden in St. Petersburg is the perfect place for it. In fact, Peter the Great used to go to these gardens all the time to enjoy the fountains, statues, and fragrant flowers.
The only thing is that hopefully, we will get lucky with the weather and it won’t rain a lot during the World Cup. For more ideas on what to do in St. Petersburg, check out this article.
- 8. Drink vodka with the Russians at “Ryumochnaya” on Pushkinskaya Street in St. Petersburg.
Your World Cup trip to Russia won’t be complete unless you try to drink vodka like locals do.
This restaurant-bar called “Ryumochnaya” is located on Pushkinskaya street in the city center of St. Petersburg. It’s probably the best place for a foreigner to get a few vodka shots with some Russian food to go with it. This place has an atmosphere of an old Soviet bar, it’s cheap and authentic.
P. S. Don’t get mixed up with the place called “Russkaya Ryumochnaya No. 1” – it’s a different restaurant which is nice and authentic but a lot more expensive.
- 9. Check out Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan.
If you didn’t know yet, Kazan is located in the Tatarstan republic of Russia which was originally Muslim. These days, Kazan is a multinational center where Muslims and Orthodox live in peace for over 450 years.
The Kul-Sharif Mosque is one of the symbols of Kazan, it was built in 2005 within the Kremlin walls. Right next to the Mosque can be found an Orthodox Church – Annunciation Cathedral and it is an absolutely normal situation for Kazan.
- 10. Shop at the Central Market in Rostov on Don.
Everyone needs to experience one of the local markets in Russia and the Central Market in Rostov on Don is a perfect place to do so.
This is a great place to see how the locals live and shop while also purchasing some locally grown produce and trying various fish dishes. I especially recommend you try local’s favorite fish soup called “ukha”.
- 11. Walk around the Dancing Forest in Kaliningrad.
Kaliningrad might not be the most popular city in Russia, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t offer fascinating sights. One of the best things to see while visiting Kaliningrad is the Dancing Forest, which is located on the border of Russia and Lithuania. The trees within this forest are crooked and bent, although no one knows why, and the shadows dance as the sun shines down on them.
- 12. Honor the memory of the fallen soldiers at the World War 2 memorial “Mamayev Kurgan” in Volgograd.
“Mamayev Kurgan” is a massive memorial complex located nearby the Volgograd Arena. The highlight of this memorial is the impressive statue named “The Motherland Calls“, which commemorates those who fought during the Battle of Stalingrad.
In a matter of fact, Volgograd previously named as Stalingrad was completely destroyed during the World War 2 and rebuilt from scratch.
- 13. Visit Pavlov’s House in Volgograd.
Pavlov’s House might look like any other apartment building on the streets of Volgograd, but its significance within history is anything but ordinary. During the Battle of Stalingrad Soviet soldiers used this building to keep the German soldiers away for sixty days and the memorial wall outside reminds people of that time of the war.
At the time, one of the Soviet generals made a joke that the Germans lost more men trying to take Pavlov’s house than they did taking Paris.
- 14. Enjoy the mountains and outdoor activities at Rosa Khutor in Sochi.
Sochi has a truly unique location on the Black Sea coast and at the base of the Caucasus Mountains. That’s how it became so popular as an all year round resort city – you can lay here on the beach during the warm months and ski in the winter (Sochi has one of the best ski resorts in Russia).
When in Sochi during the World Cup, you have to make a visit to Rosa Khutor resort. There are plenty of fun outdoorsy things to do in the summer like hiking, biking, horse riding, and paragliding. Another cool activity was recently opened in May – it’s a terrifying wooden sky bridge. Make sure to try it if you feel brave.
- 15. Chill on the beach and swim in the Black Sea in Sochi.
Russia is well-known for being a cold country but Sochi is actually a very popular beach destination. June and July is a good time to go to one of the beaches as water in the Black Sea typically gets warm by the end of June.
Most beaches in Sochi have pebbles but there is a few that have sand: Riviera beach, Albatross beach, Imeritinskiy beach (you need to pay an entry fee).
- 16. Eat lavash bread fresh out of the oven in Sochi.
Visitors can find lavash almost everywhere in Sochi, and this delicious flatbread tastes better when it is fresh out of the oven. In most places, the baker will prepare it right in front of the customers so everyone can watch the process from start to finish.
- 17. Drink beer at the Zhiguli brewery in Samara.
This brewery has been brewing beer in Russia since 1881 and no one will be able to find a better tasting beer anywhere else in the country.
There are plenty of options on the menu that go well with the beer, but visitors are encouraged to try one of the dishes that include fish from Volga river.
- 18. Take a picture with a statue of Michael Jackson on Vaynera Street in Yekaterinburg.
Vaynera Street is a pedestrian street in the city center of Yekaterinburg – it’s one of the best places to hang out in the city. There is a lot of stores, coffee shops and restaurants in the area.
Vaynera Street is also known for its sculptures and monuments. The one you would probably like the most a statue of Michael Jackson – make sure to take some pictures with the King of Pop.
- 19. Explore the Kremlin in Nizhny Novgorod.
Some people may think that they can skip this Kremlin, especially if they already went to the one in Kazan, but that would be a mistake due to the breathtaking views that can be seen of the city.
The walls of the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin reach twelve meters high and the thirteen towers are much higher, but they all date back to 1500. This attraction is considered the historic center of the city and there is so much for a person to see while they are there including the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael and a monument honoring those who fought during World War II.
- 20. Spend a day at the Pushkin Park in Saransk.
There is not much to do in Saransk because it’s a smaller provincial town in the Republic of Mordovia. In fact, Saransk is the smallest and the least-known city that will host the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
One of the best attractions in town is the Pushkin Park where you can spend a whole day doing all kinds of fun activities. Make sure to ride on a ferris wheel which is pretty old but still a good time :).
No one will be bored during the 2018 World Cup and I promise you’ll have a great time in Russia! As you can see, there are lots of fun activities to do and a lot of cool things to see in the host cities – and I only mentioned some of them in this post.
If you want to learn about more places to visit in Russia, take a look at some of my other posts:
- 20 interesting cities in Russia besides Moscow and St. Petersburg
- 40 beautiful natural landmarks in Russia
- 20 places to visit on Lake Baikal
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment on the post.
See ya’ll in Russia!