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Home » Kazan Travel Guide: Vibrant “Third Capital” of Russia

Kazan Travel Guide: Vibrant “Third Capital” of Russia

Kazan has firmly established itself as one of the most popular cities in Russia. It has everything: history, national character, delicious food, modern architecture, comfortable infrastructure, and opportunities for self-realization. It gives the impression that Kazan has absorbed all the advantages of capital city life without its drawbacks. Compared to megacities, there is less stress and rush here, and the prices are lower. It is comfortable here both to live and to relax.

History

In 2005, Kazan celebrated its millennium. However, this date was determined conditionally: no one knows the exact age of the city. It was founded by the Volga Bulgars – a Turkic-speaking people, whose descendants are considered to be the modern Tatars. Kazan was assigned a rather modest role: to protect the borders of the Volga Bulgaria from nomadic raids. It was a tiny fortress, occupying no more than a third of the area of the modern Kazan Kremlin. The capital cities – Bolgar and Bilyar – played a much more significant role in the state.

In 1236, Volga Bulgaria fell apart under the pressure of the Golden Horde and became part of it. During this period, Bolgar remained a major prosperous center, but by the mid-14th century, it declined due to plague, crop failure, famine, and internecine wars in the Golden Horde: only ruins remained from the city of that time. The descendants of the Bulgars created and developed other cities, including Kazan. From a military stronghold, the city transformed into a major political, economic, and cultural center. When the Golden Horde finally lost control over Kazan, the city became the capital of an entire state – the Kazan Khanate.

Kazan was founded by the Volga Bulgars - a Turkic-speaking people, whose descendants are considered the modern Tatars
Kazan was founded by the Volga Bulgars – a Turkic-speaking people, whose descendants are considered the modern Tatars

In 1552, Kazan was conquered by Ivan the Terrible. Only ruins remained of the former Khan’s architecture, and the city was rebuilt anew, with the Tatars being expelled from it. But even as part of Russia, Kazan continued to play the role of an international trade center. Under Peter I, it became an industrial hub, and in 1804 a university was opened, which remained the only one in the entire eastern part of Russia for almost the entire 19th century.

Bloody battles of the Civil War unfolded in and around Kazan, and it was from here that the White forces evacuated the famous gold reserve of the Russian Empire. The Great Patriotic War did not reach the city, and during that time factories and organizations were massively evacuated here. After the war, permanent enterprises were created on their bases, so Kazan remained one of the most developed cities even in Soviet times.

After the collapse of the USSR, Kazan stood out by becoming the capital of the only region in Russia that gained full sovereignty while remaining part of it. This allowed Tatarstan to independently distribute its budget and become one of the most economically developed regions in the country. Sports facilities and well-maintained parks, a metro system and quality roads, a restored historical center, and modern attractions – all these appeared here in the last 15-20 years. Kazan has successfully hosted the Universiade, world championships in football and water sports, WorldSkills, and dozens of other world-scale events.

The Top Highlights: The Kremlin, Old Tatar Settlement, and Bauman Pedestrian Street

Kremlin

The history of Kazan starts with the Kremlin. Here stands the city’s oldest building – the Annunciation Cathedral (built in 1562). The Kul-Sharif Mosque, built in memory of the eponymous Khan’s mosque for Kazan’s millennium in 2005, is also located here. From the observation deck behind the cathedral, there’s an impressive view of Kazan.

The Kul-Sharif Mosque in the Kazan Kremlin was built in memory of the eponymous Khan's mosque for Kazan's millennium in 2005
The Kul-Sharif Mosque in the Kazan Kremlin was built in memory of the eponymous Khan’s mosque for Kazan’s millennium in 2005

In the Kremlin, you can take photos by the leaning Suyumbike Tower, see the ruins of the first Orthodox monastery in Kazan’s history, and visit its museums (there are about ten of them). Be sure to peek into the courtyard behind the yellow building of the Presidium Places – it was only landscaped in 2023, and it often hosts various events and street terraces of the Kremlin’s cafes.

Entrance to the Kremlin territory is free and open 24/7. The mosque is open daily from 9:00 to 19:00 (with a break on Fridays from 11:30 to 13:15), the cathedral from 8:00 to 19:00, and museums from 10:00 to 17:30, except Mondays.

In the Kremlin, you can take photographs by the leaning Suyumbike Tower, see the ruins of the first Orthodox monastery in Kazan's history, and explore its museums
In the Kremlin, you can take photographs by the leaning Suyumbike Tower, see the ruins of the first Orthodox monastery in Kazan’s history, and explore its museums

Old Tatar Settlement

The Old Tatar Settlement is now part of the historical center but was located outside the city walls in the past. It was here that Ivan the Terrible ordered the resettlement of the Tatar elite, while the majority of Tatars were forced to move thirty versts (about 32 kilometers) away from the borders of Kazan.

The district adjoins the left bank of the Lower Kaban Lake. This is one of the three Kaban lakes, forming the largest lake system in all of Tatarstan. Between 2018 and 2020, a promenade was developed around the Lower Kaban, which urbanist and blogger Ilya Varlamov (declared a foreign agent in Russia) called ‘the best promenade in Russia.

The Old Tatar Settlement adjoins the left bank of the Lower Kaban Lake. Between 2018 and 2020, a promenade was developed around the Lower Kaban. Photo: Zilyagaripova / Wikimedia.org
The Old Tatar Settlement adjoins the left bank of the Lower Kaban Lake. Between 2018 and 2020, a promenade was developed around the Lower Kaban. Photo: Zilyagaripova / Wikimedia.org

On Mardzhani and Kayum Nasyri streets, there are colorful houses that once belonged to local merchants and were restored from ruins for the Universiade. Some of them have preserved authentic interiors. You can visit the Mullin House (Tatar Life Museum) or the Vafy Bigaev House (Chak-Chak Museum) with a guided tour. The ‘Tatar Settlement’ museum tells in detail about the history of the area. At the intersection of Tukay and Fathy Karim (Yunusovskaya Square) streets, the luxurious houses of Madame Shamil and the Yunusov-Apanaevs are preserved, as well as Safa Bakhteev’s pink ‘gingerbread’ house.

On Mardzhani and Kayum Nasyri streets, there are colorful houses that were once owned by local merchants and restored from ruins for the Universiade
On Mardzhani and Kayum Nasyri streets, there are colorful houses that were once owned by local merchants and restored from ruins for the Universiade

Azimov Mosque. According to the author, this is the most beautiful ancient mosque in Kazan. It’s just a 15-minute walk from the tourist part of the Old Tatar Settlement. The path goes through gray industrial zones and unsightly, dilapidated buildings. But it’s all the more surprising to see an ancient mosque among them, adorned with delicate patterns on the facade and colorful stained glass windows. They look especially striking from the inside when the sunlight hits them.
The Azimov Mosque is decorated with delicate patterns on the facade and colorful stained glass windows. Photo: Vyacheslav Kirillin / Wikimedia.org
The Azimov Mosque is decorated with delicate patterns on the facade and colorful stained glass windows. Photo: Vyacheslav Kirillin / Wikimedia.org

Bauman Street

Bauman Street is the main pedestrian thoroughfare in Kazan, bustling with souvenir shops, street musicians, and crowds of people. From the observation deck of the 74-meter-high bell tower of the Epiphany Cathedral, you can enjoy a great view of the city. Nearby, you can also visit the city’s oldest pharmacy, founded in the 19th century by Johann Brenning. It still sells medicines and hosts a free mini-museum.

From the observation deck of the 74-meter-high bell tower of the Epiphany Cathedral, there's a fantastic view of the city
From the observation deck of the 74-meter-high bell tower of the Epiphany Cathedral, there’s a fantastic view of the city

The most important historical buildings on Bauman Street:

    • The State Bank, where the gold reserve of Russia was once stored.
    • The House of Tatar Cuisine, which marks the beginning of the history of Tatar public catering (the restaurant itself is closed).
    • The House of Printing in the constructivist style.
    • Numerous merchants’ income houses.
    • The ‘Kazanskoye Podvorye’ hotel, where writers Alexei Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky, poet Demyan Bedny, and Commissar of Enlightenment Lunacharsky stayed. Lev Trotsky gave a fiery speech from the side balcony of this building after the capture of Kazan.
    • The complex of the St. Nicholas Church. It includes one of the oldest in Kazan, the Intercession Church with the city’s only lace crosses.
Lev Trotsky gave a fiery speech after the capture of Kazan from the side balcony of the Kazanskoye Podvorye. Photo: Devuwka s kluwkoy / Wikimedia.org
Lev Trotsky gave a fiery speech after the capture of Kazan from the side balcony of the Kazanskoye Podvorye. Photo: Devuwka s kluwkoy / Wikimedia.org
The House of Printing in the constructivist style. Photo: Bakshutova / Wikimedia.org
The Press House in the constructivist style. Photo: Bakshutova / Wikimedia.org

Architecture: From Baroque to Kitsch

Despite its ancient age, Kazan has no architectural monuments remaining from the Khanate period. The oldest surviving buildings – the fortress walls and the Annunciation Cathedral in the Kremlin – date back only to the mid-16th century. Due to constant fires, most of the buildings from later periods were lost. The architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries has been best preserved. The construction history of Kazan can be visually studied on a map showing the age of the buildings.

The oldest surviving structures in Kazan are the fortress walls and the Annunciation Cathedral in the Kremlin, dating back to the mid-16th century
The oldest surviving structures in Kazan are the fortress walls and the Annunciation Cathedral in the Kremlin, dating back to the mid-16th century

Architects Rush and Mufke

Perhaps the most striking architectural masterpieces were built by two architects of German origin – Heinrich Bernardovich Rush and Karl Ludwigovich Mufke.

Rush built the Alexandrovsky Passage (1880s), the most expensive project of pre-revolutionary Kazan, which survived destruction and extensive reconstruction, but is abandoned today (Kremlievskaya Street, 17/22).

Rush built the Alexandrovsky Passage — the most expensive project of pre-revolutionary Kazan, which survived destruction and extensive reconstruction
Rush built the Alexandrovsky Passage — the most expensive project of pre-revolutionary Kazan, which survived destruction and extensive reconstruction

The same Rush later constructed the Chernoyarovskiy Passage (Kremlievskaya Street, 21) in the Art Nouveau style. He is also credited with the design of the Epiphany Bell Tower (Baumana Street, 78k2) — the tallest pre-revolutionary building in the city. Additionally, he designed the central railway station, the Kekin income house (Gorky Street, 8/9) with Moorish motifs, and the house of Madame Shamil (Tukaya Street, 74), built for the daughter of the Tatar merchant Ibragim Apakov, who married the son of Imam Shamil, the leader of the mountaineers in the Caucasian War. The building resembles a miniature medieval castle. Rush worked on this project with Fedor Amlong, author of the Sandetsky estate, now home to the Museum of Fine Arts. The Shamil House currently houses a literary museum.

Rush is also credited with the design of the Epiphany Bell Tower — the tallest pre-revolutionary building in the city
Rush is also credited with the design of the Epiphany Bell Tower — the tallest pre-revolutionary building in the city

Mufke was assigned to Kazan after graduating from the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg. He taught at its Kazan branch, and his first project was the construction of a new building for this educational institution (Karl Marx Street, 70/10). Built in the pseudo-Russian style, it resembles a ‘terem’ from Russian epics. The Art School is still located there. However, what truly made the architect famous was a private commission from Alexey Ushkov, who decided to build a house for Zinaida Vysotskaya, in whom he was unrequitedly in love.

Mufke became truly famous thanks to a private commission from Alexey Ushkov, who decided to build a house for Zinaida Vysotskaya, with whom he was unrequitedly in love

Mufke became truly famous thanks to a private commission from Alexey Ushkov, who decided to build a house for Zinaida Vysotskaya, with whom he was unrequitedly in love
Mufke became truly famous thanks to a private commission from Alexey Ushkov, who decided to build a house for Zinaida Vysotskaya, with whom he was unrequitedly in love

According to legend, Mufke asked the client in which style to build the house, and Ushkov supposedly said to build it in all styles, as there was enough money for everything. Each room was decorated individually: a women’s boudoir in the Rococo style, a men’s smoking room in pseudo-Moorish style, a ballroom in the Empire style, and even a grotto room. Zinaida married Alexey, and although their marriage didn’t last long, the building has survived, and locals still call it the Ushkov House (Kremlievskaya Street, 33). You can still visit it on a guided tour (book by phone +7 (843) 238-79-00, cost 300–500 rubles (3.21 – 5.35 euros) per person) and see the luxurious interiors.

With the fee from the Ushkov House, Mufke built his own house (Khadi Atlasi Street, 28) with a predominance of Art Nouveau elements. However, it is located far from tourist streets and is fenced off. Until recently, it was a kindergarten, and now the building is being restored.

Baroque

The Peter and Paul Cathedral (Musy Dzhalilya Street, 21k2), consecrated in 1726, is one of the brightest buildings in the Baroque style. It was built with funds from Ivan Mikhliaev. Mikhliaev’s own house (Musy Dzhalilya Street, 19), also built with elements of Russian Baroque, is considered the oldest civil building in Kazan (late 17th century). Unfortunately, the house has long been abandoned and can only be viewed from the courtyard of the Peter and Paul Cathedral.

The Peter and Paul Cathedral, consecrated in 1726, is one of the brightest buildings in the Baroque style. Photo: Fotodar / Wikimedia.org
The Peter and Paul Cathedral, consecrated in 1726, is one of the brightest buildings in the Baroque style. Photo: Fotodar / Wikimedia.org

Mosques were also often built in the Baroque style – Marjani (Kayum Nasyri Street, 17) and Apanaevskaya (Kayum Nasyri Street, 27), for example. Since 2020, only Muslims are allowed inside the Marjani Mosque, but the Apanaevskaya Mosque is open to all. The only thing is it’s better not to enter during prayers. When visiting a mosque, one must adhere to the dress code: clothing that covers the shoulders and knees, and headscarves for women.

Baroque mosques were also common, for example, the Marjani Mosque. When visiting a mosque, it is necessary to adhere to a dress code: clothing that covers shoulders and knees, and headscarves for women
Baroque mosques were also common, for example, the Marjani Mosque. When visiting a mosque, it is necessary to adhere to a dress code: clothing that covers shoulders and knees, and headscarves for women

Classicism

This style is represented by a large number of civil buildings as well as religious structures: the National Museum (former Trading Court, Kremlievskaya Street, 2), the complex of Kazan University (Kremlievskaya Street, 18), the ceremonial residence of the President of Tatarstan in the Kremlin (former Governor’s Palace), the Town Hall (former Noble Assembly, Karl Marx Street, 33), adorned with details in the style of an Italian palazzo. Outside the center, the house of the merchant Kotylov has been preserved – it can be seen from the roof of the Alafuzov factory (Gladilova Street, 55A).

The National Museum building and the Kazan City Hall are built in the neoclassical style. Photo: Denis Petiovka, Nrais / Wikimedia.org
The National Museum building and the Kazan City Hall are built in the neoclassical style. Photo: Denis Petiovka, Nrais / Wikimedia.org

An example of neoclassicism in church architecture is the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the Bogoroditsky Monastery (Bolshaya Krasnaya Street, 5). Behind it is the Kazan Cathedral (Bolshaya Krasnaya Street, 5b), built in 2021 almost exactly as the original 19th-century design by Ivan Starov. It was demolished during the Soviet era. Among the mosques in the classical style are the operational Blue Mosque (Fatykh Karima Street, 19/8), the Galeevskaya Mosque (Tukaya Street, 40/22), and the White Mosque without a minaret (Kyzyl Tatarstan Street, 20), which is promised to be soon restored and opened for believers.

At the very end of the 19th century, a Catholic church was built in the neoclassical style (Gorky Street, 28/17). At that time, there were many Polish soldiers in Kazan, exiled by Nicholas I after the annexation of Poland to Russia — they made up the main congregation of the church. After the revolution, the Poles left the city en masse, and during the Soviet era, the deserted church building was repurposed as the aerodynamics department of the Kazan Aviation Institute, with a wind tunnel installed inside. It allows for the study of the interaction between a streamlined body and the air environment. This is a mandatory stage in the testing of any aircraft. To simulate real conditions as closely as possible, a calm air stream must be created. Not only airplanes and helicopters were tested here. Models of KamAZ trucks, Kazan’s tallest residential complex ‘Lazurnye Nebesa’, and even the Ufa monument to Salavat Yulaev passed through the Kazan wind tunnel. Unfortunately, it is not possible to enter the church or its territory without special permission, as it is a restricted area, but it can be well seen from the road.

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau is not as widely represented in Kazan as in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Like all new trends, it penetrated into Kazan with a delay and failed to establish itself due to the onset of the revolution. Canonical Art Nouveau cannot be found in the city; it rather ‘diluted’ the eclecticism of the early 20th century.

In addition to the previously mentioned buildings by Rush and Mufke, Art Nouveau can be traced in the income houses of Merkulov-Gubaidullin (Ostrovskogo Street, 53) and Kiselev (Mushtari Street, 20), in the building of the ‘Amur’ numbers (Moskovskaya Street, 70), the Yunusov-Apanaevs’ house in the Old Tatar Settlement (Fatykh Karima Street, 14/67), and the Academy of Sciences’ polyclinic (Mushtari Street, 33). Varvara Druzhinina’s ‘Tea House’ (Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya Street, 2) is the only wooden building in Kazan in the Art Nouveau style.

Varvara Druzhinina's 'Tea House' is the only wooden building in Kazan in the Art Nouveau style
Varvara Druzhinina’s ‘Tea House’ is the only wooden building in Kazan in the Art Nouveau style

Wooden Architecture

Little of the old wooden buildings has survived in Kazan. Wooden architecture is preserved in the informal district ‘Tri Gory’ (‘Three Mountains’). Local historians call the area around Ulyanov-Lenin, Volkov, and Kalinin streets this, as in the past they were named First Mountain, Second Mountain, and Third Mountain, respectively. This area was inhabited by the scientific intelligentsia of Kazan: university professors, doctors, priests, as well as Lenin and the poet Velimir Khlebnikov. Old wooden houses have also been preserved on the streets of Khadi Atlasi, Remeslennaya, Nizhenkaya, and Ovrazhnaya. People still live in them.

Since 2016, the preservation of wooden architecture has been undertaken by participants of the ‘Tom Sawyer Fest’ festival. With the support of private sponsors, volunteers restore houses. By 2022, 16 houses in Kazan have been renovated, identifiable by yellow-brown plaques.

By 2022, participants of the 'Tom Sawyer Fest' in Kazan had renovated 16 houses, which can be identified by their yellow-brown plaques
By 2022, participants of the ‘Tom Sawyer Fest’ in Kazan had renovated 16 houses, which can be identified by their yellow-brown plaques

Soviet Architecture

Constructivism (1920s – end of the 1930s) in Kazan has only partially survived — much was demolished in the 1990s and 2000s. The most significant buildings of this style include the House of Printing (now the Nogai Hotel) on Baumana, which mimics the silhouette of an open book, the emergency and resettled Mergasovsky house (Dzerzhinsky Street, 18/19) — one of the few remaining examples of residential constructivist architecture — and the dormitory of the wagon parts factory in Admiralty Settlement (Malaya-Moskovskaya Street, 30).

The emergency and resettled Mergasovsky house is one of the few, if not the only, monuments of residential constructivist architecture
The emergency and resettled Mergasovsky house is one of the few, if not the only, monuments of residential constructivist architecture

Soviet Art Deco (or post-constructivism, 1940s) retains the functionality and forms of constructivist architecture, combining this with the decorations and decor of classical architecture. Characteristic examples include the Opera and Ballet Theatre, adorned with sculptures in Tatar costumes and moldings with national ornaments, the main buildings of the Technological Institute (Karl Marx Street, 68), the Institute of Economics (Butlerova Street, 4), the chemical building of KFU (Kremlievskaya Street, 29/1), the institute of international relations of KFU (Pravo-Bulachnaya Street, 55) and the Philharmonic (Pavlyukhina Street, 73).

In the list of the most beautiful buildings in the Empire style (1940s – 1956), residential buildings and dormitories for workers of various enterprises are usually included. For example, ‘Tatvalenok’ near Lake Kaban (Tatarstan Street, 3/2), where employees of the felting trust lived, the residential building of the Vakhitov oil factory (Pravo-Bulachnaya Street, 37), the 3rd house of specialists (Moskovskaya Street, 23/24) or ‘grey horse’, as the residential building of the synthetic rubber plant SK-4 (Nazarbaeva Street, 35 k. 1) is called. Especially valued is the house for employees of the ‘Radiopribor’ factory at Freedom Square (Bolshaya Krasnaya Street, 29), more commonly known as ‘Peace to the World’ due to the slogan construction installed on the house.

The building for the employees of the 'Radiopribor' factory at Freedom Square is popularly known as 'Peace to the World' due to the slogan construction installed on the house
The building for the employees of the ‘Radiopribor’ factory at Freedom Square is popularly known as ‘Peace to the World’ due to the slogan construction installed on the house

Among the examples of Soviet modernism (1960s–1990s) is the circus (Millennium Square, 2), built in the shape of a flying saucer. It was the first concrete monolith in the USSR and arguably the first such bold architectural project in Soviet Kazan. The builders erected it without supports around the circumference, causing disapproval from officials. The authorities kept sending the blueprints back for revision, and the project’s authors had to resort to deception, adding columns to the ‘saucer’ in the drawings to get approval for construction.

The House of Culture (Said-Galeeva Street, 6) is easily recognizable by its ribbon windows and concrete grilles with patterns in the Eastern style. The same techniques were used by the architects of the student cafeteria complex (Tolstoy Street, 8). In the 1970s, Kazan saw a trend for high-rises. Soviet guides called the university buildings ‘twins’ (Kremlievskaya Street, 35) and the physics faculty (Kremlievskaya Street, 16a), as well as the ‘Tatarstan’ hotel (Pushkin Street, 4), ‘modern’ and ‘elegant’.

In the 1970s, Kazan saw a trend for high-rises. A prominent representative of the era is the building of the Institute of Physics, with a metal bas-relief on the facade
In the 1970s, Kazan saw a trend for high-rises. A prominent representative of the era is the building of the Institute of Physics, with a metal bas-relief on the facade

Another notable construction of the late Soviet era is the Kamal Theater (Tatarstan Street, 1), which mimics the silhouette of a sailing ship, as if floating on Lake Kaban. This design, by the way, became a model for buildings in other cities of the USSR: the music theater in Rostov-on-Don and the regional philharmonic in Krasnoyarsk.

Another notable construction of the late Soviet era is the Kamal Theater (Tatarstan Street, 1), which mimics the silhouette of a sailing ship, as if floating on Lake Kaban
Another notable construction of the late Soviet era is the Kamal Theater (Tatarstan Street, 1), which mimics the silhouette of a sailing ship, as if floating on Lake Kaban
The high-rise building of Sewing Factory No. 3 is a dominant feature at the corner of Tukaya and Tatarstan streets. An elevator shaft attached to the main building of the factory is a popular compositional technique in the architecture of that period
The high-rise building of Sewing Factory No. 3 is a dominant feature at the corner of Tukaya and Tatarstan streets. An elevator shaft attached to the main building of the factory is a popular compositional technique in the architecture of that period

Contemporary Architecture and Loss of Monuments

Many modern buildings in Kazan were constructed for the city’s millennium celebration (2005) and the Universiade (2013). Unfortunately, the construction of new facilities was accompanied by the mass demolition of historic architecture and the elimination of ‘dilapidated housing’. In terms of the number of lost architectural monuments, Kazan has become one of the leaders in Russia. Particularly affected were the Old Tatar Settlement, the wooden houses of ‘Koshachki’ (now the ‘Neftyaniki settlement’), as well as the ‘Degtyarki’ and ‘Sukonki’ districts, where the Millennium Park, the Puppet Theater, modern hotels, office buildings, and elite residential complexes have appeared.

The most famous building of the first wave is the Kul Sharif Mosque in the Kremlin. Not far from the Kremlin, in 2005, the ‘Neftyaniki settlement’ appeared — a complex of 30 cottages, fenced off and guarded by the police — ‘Kazan’s Rublevka’ in the very center of the city. Here live the wealthiest people of Tatarstan, who mainly made their money in oil. Previously, this area was occupied by low-rise wooden buildings. Many photos have been preserved on the Pastvu website.

The most famous building of the first wave is the Kul Sharif Mosque in the Kremlin. Not far from the Kremlin, in 2005, the 'Neftyaniki settlement' appeared — a complex of 30 cottages, fenced off and guarded by the police — 'Kazan's Rublevka' in the very center of the city
The most famous building of the first wave is the Kul Sharif Mosque in the Kremlin. Not far from the Kremlin, in 2005, the ‘Neftyaniki settlement’ appeared — a complex of 30 cottages, fenced off and guarded by the police — ‘Kazan’s Rublevka’ in the very center of the city
In 2005, the metro was also opened. The stations 'Kremlyovskaya' and 'Ploshchad Tukaya' are adorned with mosaics in the Tatar style
In 2005, the metro was also opened. The stations ‘Kremlyovskaya’ and ‘Ploshchad Tukaya’ are adorned with mosaics in the Tatar style

In 2005, the metro was also opened. The stations ‘Kremlyovskaya’ and ‘Ploshchad Tukaya’ are adorned with mosaics in the Tatar style. Petersburgskaya Street, ‘gifted’ to Kazan by Saint Petersburg for the city’s millennium, begins at the ‘Ploshchad Tukaya’ metro station, featuring numerous elements reminding of the connection between the two cities. For example, there’s a monument to the galley ‘Tver’, on which Empress Catherine II arrived in Kazan. Or the rotunda, designed after the dome of the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.

The rotunda on Petersburgskaya Street, designed after the dome of the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg
The rotunda on Petersburgskaya Street, designed after the dome of the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg

Many of Kazan’s buildings from the 2000s are criticized and ridiculed by architecture enthusiasts, while others love to take photos with them. In any case, they have already become iconic, although many of them are not older than 20 years. The most striking examples of Kazan’s kitsch include the Palace of Agriculture and the residential complexes ‘Antika’ and ‘Renaissance’, the Puppet Theater, the ethno-complex ‘Tugan Avylym’, the Pension Fund, the ‘Koltso’ shopping center, ‘Basket-Hall’.

Many of Kazan's buildings from the 2000s are criticized and ridiculed by architecture enthusiasts, while others love to take photos with them
Many of Kazan’s buildings from the 2000s are criticized and ridiculed by architecture enthusiasts, while others love to take photos with them

Kaprom (or capitalist romanticism, 1990s – 2000s) is the term used by the creators of the public group ‘Klizma romantizma’ to describe the architecture of new Russia.

The main part of contemporary architecture is located on the right bank of the Kazanka River, on the opposite side from the historical center. This includes the Kazan Family Center by Dasha Namdakov (2013), the ‘Tatneft-Arena’, built for the local hockey club ‘Ak Bars’ in the shape of a giant puck (2005), and the ‘Riviera’ complex with a hotel, water park, and Ferris wheel, as well as the Palace of Water Sports, which echoes the shape of a wave (2013), and the largest stadium in Tatarstan, ‘Ak Bars Arena’, with a capacity of more than 45,000 spectators.

The main part of contemporary architecture is located on the right bank of the Kazanka River, on the opposite side from the historical center
The main part of contemporary architecture is located on the right bank of the Kazanka River, on the opposite side from the historical center

What Else to See

Kremlievskaya Street

Kremlievskaya is often compared to Saint Petersburg, being referred to as the ‘local Nevsky’. It’s well-maintained and affluent, and also much quieter than Baumana. The street starts at the Kremlin and runs along the entire Kremlin hill. Currently, there are almost no residential buildings here, with mostly government services and agencies located on this street.

Kremlievskaya is often compared to Saint Petersburg, being referred to as the 'local Nevsky'. It's well-maintained and affluent, and also much quieter than Baumana
Kremlievskaya is often compared to Saint Petersburg, being referred to as the ‘local Nevsky’. It’s well-maintained and affluent, and also much quieter than Baumana

The most impressive buildings on Kremlievskaya include the City Hall, the Gostiny Dvor (now the National Museum), the building of the Spiritual Seminary (Geology Faculty of KFU), the ‘France’ Hotel (Hotel ‘Giuseppe’), the Alexandrovsky and Chernoyarovskiy passages, and the Ushkova House.

The street ends with the historical complex of the 19th-century Kazan University. Here is its main building, opposite which stands a monument to Lenin, or rather, to a seventeen-year-old first-year student, Volodya Ulyanov. There’s a joke that he looks like Leonardo DiCaprio here. Behind the main building is a cozy university courtyard with buildings of the former observatory, the anatomical theater, and monuments to famous students Leo Tolstoy and Sergey Aksakov.

The street ends with the historical complex of the 19th-century Kazan University. Here is its main building, opposite which stands a monument to Lenin, or rather, to a seventeen-year-old first-year student, Volodya Ulyanov
The street ends with the historical complex of the 19th-century Kazan University. Here is its main building, opposite which stands a monument to Lenin, or rather, to a seventeen-year-old first-year student, Volodya Ulyanov

Freedom Square

The largest square in the historical center, which was once considered the cultural center of the nobility. One of the most photogenic buildings is the Nobility Assembly (now the City Hall), where nobles gathered for balls and concerts. Chaliapin, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and Mayakovsky performed here on tour.

In the center of the square stood the City Theater. However, the old theater building was long ago destroyed in a fire. In its place now is a park and a monument to Lenin. But the theatrical tradition continues: nearby is the Opera and Ballet Theater, built during the Soviet era. At the same time, a large concert hall building also appeared in the square.

On Freedom Square, there is an Opera and Ballet Theater, built during the Soviet era. At the same time, a concert hall building also appeared on the square. Photo: Vyacheslav Kirillin / Wikimedia.org
On Freedom Square, there is an Opera and Ballet Theater, built during the Soviet era. At the same time, a concert hall building also appeared on the square. Photo: Vyacheslav Kirillin / Wikimedia.org

Today, Freedom Square is more associated with politics than culture. It houses the buildings of all the key bodies of the Republic of Tatarstan. The most noticeable is the Cabinet of Ministers with the office of the regional head, Rustam Minnikhanov. He has a tradition: every morning his press service posts a photo with a view from the window on his personal Telegram channel, each time with the same caption: ‘Исәнмесез!’ (‘Hello’ in Tatar).

Bogoroditsky Monastery

The Bogoroditsky Monastery is the main center of attraction for Orthodox believers in Kazan. It was founded at the site where the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God was found. During the war years, the capital’s tobacco factories were evacuated here. They were only removed in the 2000s, parallel with the revival of the monastery. Now, however, it is a male monastery, with ten monks listed. In 2015, the President of the Republic of Tatarstan issued a decree on the revival of the Kazan Cathedral, which had been blown up at the site of the icon’s discovery. It was rebuilt in 2021 based on photographs and drawings.

The fate of the Kazan Icon is unknown. As early as 1904, it was stolen; the thief was caught, but the icon was not found with him: he had managed to get rid of it. Now in the churches of Kazan and other Russian cities, there are only copies (replicas) of this image.

The Bogoroditsky Monastery is the main center of attraction for Orthodox believers in Kazan. It was founded on the site where the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God was discovered. Photo: Ghirlandajo / Wikimedia.org
The Bogoroditsky Monastery is the main center of attraction for Orthodox believers in Kazan. It was founded on the site where the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God was discovered. Photo: Ghirlandajo / Wikimedia.org

Marusovka Slums

Tourists and residents rarely look into the courtyards, but some of them still retain the spirit of pre-revolutionary Kazan. For example, the courtyard at Pushkin, 26 is part of the Marusovka slum area. Its history begins in the 19th century when Lupp Spiridonovich Marusov, a former serf, began to cheaply buy one house after another, demolish them, and build new ones, in which he rented out apartments (and sometimes even beds). Over forty years, he managed to build several dozen houses on a compact territory, which the townspeople named Marusovka. It was the cheapest housing in the city, where poor students, artists, degraded officials, and alcoholics settled.

Now, almost nothing remains of the old Marusovka: a residential complex has been built on the site of the slums. However, a couple of Marusovka buildings still hide in the courtyards behind Pushkin Street. Photo: Marat Kamalevsky / Wikimedia.org
Now, almost nothing remains of the old Marusovka: a residential complex has been built on the site of the slums. However, a couple of Marusovka buildings still hide in the courtyards behind Pushkin Street. Photo: Marat Kamalevsky / Wikimedia.org

The most famous residents of Marusovka were Fyodor Chaliapin and Maxim Gorky. Chaliapin was born into a poor, large family, and his parents could not afford more comfortable housing. They left Marusovka because their house, which stood on the edge of a hill, leaned and slid into a ravine. Gorky came to Kazan planning to enroll in the university. But with only a primary education of two classes in school, the only prospect for the future writer was a life of poverty and hard labor for pennies. He settled with his friend Guriy Pletnev in one of the rooms of Marusovka (Pushkin Street, 26e) and described the interior of his dwelling in his trilogy: ‘Pletnev was accommodated in a corridor under the stairs to the attic, where his bed stood, and at the end of the corridor near the window: a table, a chair, and that was all.’ He lived there for about a year. Thus, it was Gorky who immortalized the name of the district in ‘My Universities’ — without his mention, it would likely have been forgotten.

Now, almost nothing remains of the old Marusovka: a residential complex has been built on the site of the slums. But a couple of Marusovka buildings still hide in the courtyards behind Pushkin Street. There is also the only residential building of historical Marusovka (Shchapova Street, 11). You can learn more about the district and its famous residents at the Gorky and Chaliapin Museum (Gorky Street, 10).

National Library

The red building with a stela was constructed as the Lenin Memorial. According to the architects’ plan, it was supposed to symbolize a fluttering banner. However, many Kazan residents think it looks more like a crematorium because the stela resembled a chimney. By the way, the national symbol of freedom, the bird Horriyat, is installed on the stela, but it was also joked about, being called ‘Batman’s wife’.

The red building with a stela was constructed as the Lenin Memorial. According to the architects' plan, it was supposed to symbolize a fluttering banner
The red building with a stela was constructed as the Lenin Memorial. According to the architects’ plan, it was supposed to symbolize a fluttering banner

After the collapse of the USSR, the Lenin Memorial predictably closed, and the building was repurposed as a National Cultural Center, hosting concerts, fairs, and housing various museums. In the 2010s, city authorities decided to transform the space into a modern library. Massive walls were replaced with panoramic windows, allowing light to penetrate the once dark building with its cumbersome interiors. The interior was redesigned into a minimalist space in white, akin to the library in Helsinki.

Instead of massive walls, the building of the Lenin Memorial now features panoramic windows, allowing light into the once dark building with its cumbersome interiors, and the inside was transformed into a minimalist white space, similar to the library in Helsinki. Photo: Mikhail Frolov / Wikimedia.org
Instead of massive walls, the building of the Lenin Memorial now features panoramic windows, allowing light into the once dark building with its cumbersome interiors, and the inside was transformed into a minimalist white space, similar to the library in Helsinki. Photo: Mikhail Frolov / Wikimedia.org

The National Library can be called one of the most progressive in Russia: it has several computer rooms, spaces with comfortable tables and seating for work and study, its own theater studio, a recording studio, an exhibition hall, a music hall with a piano, and rooms for children of different ages. The book collection comprises more than two million storage units and is constantly being updated with new publications in various languages. A library card can be obtained in just five minutes, requiring only a passport. There is also a café that makes signature drinks with a national twist, and the ‘Smena’ bookstore, where one can find new releases including those from local publishers in both Russian and Tatar. The library is open daily from 9:00 to 21:00, except for the last Monday of the month.

From the hill on which the National Library is located, there is an excellent view.
From the hill on which the National Library is located, there is an excellent view

Elite Residential Complexes and the Palace of Agriculture

The architects of the ‘Renaissance’ residential complex (built in 2010) were inspired by European architecture from the periods of classicism and baroque. The opinions of the citizens about ‘Renaissance’ are divided: for some, it is a standard of modern architecture, for others, it is a ridiculous mix of incompatible styles. Previously, there were old wooden houses here, whose residents were relocated to the outskirts, and the houses were demolished. Thirteen years after the complex was completed, a large part of the apartments remain unoccupied. Many owners bought the properties as investments. Now, you can rent an apartment here for 80,000–180,000 rubles (856.64 – 1,927.45 euros) a month, or 8,000 rubles (85.66 euros) per day.

The opinions of the citizens about 'Renaissance' are divided: for some, it is a standard of modern architecture, for others, it is a ridiculous mix of incompatible styles. Photo: Darya Popova / Unsplash.com
The opinions of the citizens about ‘Renaissance’ are divided: for some, it is a standard of modern architecture, for others, it is a ridiculous mix of incompatible styles. Photo: Darya Popova / Unsplash.com

The Palace of Agriculture was built for the Ministry of Agriculture of the republic in 2010 by the same architects from the ‘Antika’ bureau. It may be liked or disliked, but it has undoubtedly become one of the symbols of modern Kazan. A distinctive feature of the building is the 20-meter bronze tree in the arch, which is illuminated in green in the evening. It’s not surprising that the local Ministry of Agriculture has such a grand residence. In terms of agricultural production, Tatarstan leads in the Volga region and is among the top 5 regions in Russia. Many high-ranking officials, including the first president of the republic, Shaimiev, and the current head, Minnikhanov, have agricultural education and started their careers in this field. You can enter the building by saying at the entrance that you are going to the cafeteria. By the way, the food there is tasty and inexpensive. However, the palace itself is unremarkable on the inside: standard white corridors and the offices of officials.

The highlight of the Palace of Agriculture is the 20-meter bronze tree in the arch, which is illuminated in green in the evening
The highlight of the Palace of Agriculture is the 20-meter bronze tree in the arch, which is illuminated in green in the evening

Kremlin Embankment

The Kremlin Embankment was officially opened in 2015, but it has been continuously improved and expanded over the following years. Now its length is four kilometers: it starts from the Kirov Dam and goes to the ‘Millennium’ bridge. The most interesting section is 500 meters from the Kremlin to the ‘Irek’ mosque. It’s windy and sparsely populated during the off-season. However, in summer and especially on weekends, it’s bustling with life: street musicians and illusionists perform, and people dance bachata. There are several restaurants where you can dine on terraces with beautiful views: Mio (Pan-Asian cuisine), La Famiglia (Italian), ‘Yam-Yashel’ (Tatar), and ‘Bakhcha’ (Central Asian).

The Kremlin Embankment was officially opened in 2015, but it has been continuously improved and expanded in the following years. Now it spans four kilometers. Photo: Bismarck / Wikimedia.org
The Kremlin Embankment was officially opened in 2015, but it has been continuously improved and expanded in the following years. Now it spans four kilometers. Photo: Bismarck / Wikimedia.org

Uram Extreme Park

The largest extreme park in Russia was opened in 2020 under the ‘Millennium’ bridge. The street zone is equipped with pump tracks and concrete figures for cyclists, skateboarders, and scooter riders. There are also areas for playing football, volleyball, and basketball. Riding here is free of charge. In November 2021, the park acquired an indoor section, allowing visitors to comfortably ride all year round and in any weather. A four-hour session costs 350–400 rubles (3.75 – 4.28 euros).

The largest extreme park in Russia was opened in 2020 under the 'Millennium' bridge. The street area is equipped with pump tracks and concrete figures for cyclists, skateboarders, and scooter riders
The largest extreme park in Russia was opened in 2020 under the ‘Millennium’ bridge. The street area is equipped with pump tracks and concrete figures for cyclists, skateboarders, and scooter riders

Ekiyat Puppet Theater

‘Ekiyat’ is usually the first attraction tourists see when coming from the airport to the city. The theater looks like a huge fairy-tale house. Performances are held in both Russian and Tatar with simultaneous translation. The repertoire caters to all ages: there are half-hour baby shows for the very young and serious productions for adult audiences. The theater season runs from September to June inclusive. However, you can visit not only with a ticket to a performance but also as part of a tour of the building. Tours are conducted year-round for 200 rubles (2.14 euros) per person.

'Ekiyat' is usually the first attraction tourists see when coming from the airport to the city. The theater looks like a huge fairy-tale house
‘Ekiyat’ is usually the first attraction tourists see when coming from the airport to the city. The theater looks like a huge fairy-tale house

The Right Bank of the Kazanka

About 50 years ago, there was just an empty field there. The first mass construction began in the late Soviet years. For the millennium of Kazan, the whole Sibgat Khakim street was developed along the river, where now elite residential houses, trendy restaurants, and new architectural objects are located. Among them is the Registry Office, built for the Universiade in the form of a cauldron on flames. You can only enter and see the halls as a guest at a wedding. However, the roof is open to everyone: daily from 10:00 to 22:00 for 150 rubles (1.61 euros). True, you have to walk up to the eighth floor, but the view is worth the calories burned.

The Registry Office, built for the Universiade in the form of a cauldron on flames. You can only enter and see the halls as a guest at a wedding. However, the roof is open to everyone: daily from 10:00 to 22:00 for 150 rubles
The Registry Office, built for the Universiade in the form of a cauldron on flames. You can only enter and see the halls as a guest at a wedding. However, the roof is open to everyone: daily from 10:00 to 22:00 for 150 rubles

Just a five-minute drive from the ‘Kazan’ is the ‘Riviera’ water park and the ‘Around the World’ Ferris wheel. They operate year-round. The wheel is 65 meters high and makes a full rotation in about 13 minutes. The cabins are named after different cities of the world, and each plays corresponding national music. Opposite ‘Riviera’ is ‘Tatneft-Arena’ in the shape of a giant puck, the home arena of the ‘Ak Bars’ hockey club. On the same bank is the ‘Ak Bars Arena,’ built for the Universiade, where all the major ceremonies and competitions of recent times have been held.

The ‘Millennium’ bridge, decorated with a structure in the shape of the letter M with decorative stays, and the Kremlin dam connect the center with the right bank of the Kazanka. Recently, a promenade has been developed under the dam, connecting the two banks.

From the center to the right bank of the Kazanka, you can travel via the famous 'Millennium' bridge, decorated with a structure in the shape of the letter M with decorative stays. Photo: Vadim Babenko / Unsplash.com
From the center to the right bank of the Kazanka, you can travel via the famous ‘Millennium’ bridge, decorated with a structure in the shape of the letter M with decorative stays. Photo: Vadim Babenko / Unsplash.com

Alafuzov Factory

Ivan Ivanovich Alafuzov was a leader in fabric and leather production in Kazan, occupying several blocks with his enterprise buildings. The Alafuzov factory was so wealthy that it had its own school, library, and even a theater for workers. In Soviet times, the factory was repurposed for wool production, but by the 2000s, the enterprise closed, and the area was neglected for several years.

In 2013, businessman Andrey Pitulov bought a small part of the factory. For several years, trash was removed, and the area was improved. Now it’s an art space that unites designers, architects, artists, musicians, directors, and entrepreneurs from the art sector.

Now, part of the former Alafuzov Factory is an art space that brings together designers, architects, artists, musicians, directors, and entrepreneurs from the art sector. Photo: Maxime Yahouedeou / Unsplash.com
Now, part of the former Alafuzov Factory is an art space that brings together designers, architects, artists, musicians, directors, and entrepreneurs from the art sector. Photo: Maxime Yahouedeou / Unsplash.com

Inside the buildings are workshops, event and exhibition halls. In the summer, fairs, parties, and festivals are held in the courtyard. From the roof of the factory, there is an excellent view of the city and the House of Kotelyov (built in 1833), the oldest building of the factory.

Ethno-village ‘Tugan Avylym’

‘Tugan Avylym’ translates from Tatar as ‘My Native Village.’ It is a stylized ancient ethno-complex, where visitors are offered to ‘immerse in Tatar culture’: participate in craft workshops, take photos in national costumes or next to the echpochmak monument, visit a bathhouse, and try national cuisine in the local restaurant. Organized groups of tourists are regularly brought here, making this already not very authentic place uncomfortable to visit. If you want to see real Tatar culture, it’s better to travel to one of the villages (for example, to Tatar Avyly in the village of Isakovo – more about this in the ‘Surroundings’ section) or to try something from the national bakery in any canteen or ‘Bahetle’ supermarket – there will be more authenticity there than in ‘Tugan Avylym.’

'Tugan Avylym' translates from Tatar as 'My Native Village.' It is a stylized ancient ethno-complex, where visitors are offered to 'immerse in Tatar culture.'
‘Tugan Avylym’ translates from Tatar as ‘My Native Village.’ It is a stylized ancient ethno-complex, where visitors are offered to ‘immerse in Tatar culture.’

Temple of All Religions (Universal Temple)

The Universal Temple was built by artist and sculptor Ildar Khanov, inspired by the idea of reconciling all the world’s religions. It is not a place of worship but rather resembles a multicultural center. Inside, there are more than a dozen halls dedicated to various beliefs: Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Judaism, Krishnaism, Buddhism, the religion of Ancient Egypt, secret societies, and more. The site is in a state of perpetual construction: Ildar died in 2013, and his brother Ilgiz continues his work. The Universal Temple is open daily from 8:00 to 20:00, with entry by donation of 200 rubles. You can also attend workshops on painting souvenirs or clothing, as well as evening yoga (from 19:00 to 21:00). It can be reached in 20 minutes by taxi from the center or by buses No. 2 and No. 45.

The Universal Temple was built by artist and sculptor Ildar Khanov, inspired by the idea of reconciling all the world's religions. It is not a place of worship, but more resembles a multicultural center. Photo: Aynur Bulatov / Unsplash.com
The Universal Temple was built by artist and sculptor Ildar Khanov, inspired by the idea of reconciling all the world’s religions. It is not a place of worship, but more resembles a multicultural center. Photo: Aynur Bulatov / Unsplash.com

Parks, Squares, and Gardens

Kazan is known among urbanists and architects for its parks – there are many of them, and most are modern and well-maintained. Many events are held in these parks, and it’s convenient to follow the announcements on the v of the Directorate of Parks and Squares.

‘Black Lake’ Park. Crowded but cozy, it is often compared to Moscow’s Patriarch’s Ponds. Interestingly, there is no actual lake here, but there is an artificial pond filled for the summer season, and in winter, it serves as a skating rink. Festivals, poetry slams, fairs, and outdoor training sessions are often held here. The park features a ‘summer house’ with a café, a bookstore, showrooms with clothing and houseplants. Nearby is the Novikov’s ‘Cheesery,’ and beyond the park’s fence is the ‘Duck in a Pot’ restaurant, suitable for a lovely dinner and celebrations, and the ‘Skuratov’ coffee shop.

'Black Lake' Park is crowded but cozy, often compared to Moscow's Patriarch's Ponds
‘Black Lake’ Park is crowded but cozy, often compared to Moscow’s Patriarch’s Ponds

Lenin’s Garden. 150 years ago, this was a bustling place with street performers and state-scale exhibitions. Now, the garden is tranquil and serene, and it still has the city’s oldest fountain.

Lyadsky Garden. A centuries-old gathering place for Kazan’s nobility. Located in a quiet part of the center, surrounded by trendy restaurants and elite residential complexes. Lyadsky Garden has the most popular children’s playground in the center, and around its perimeter are nice cafes and restaurants: ‘Marusovka’ with a veranda opening right into the garden, ‘Artel’ bistro, ‘Skuratov’ and Smorodina coffee shops, and Uva wine bar.

Lyadsky Garden is located in a quiet part of the center, surrounded by trendy restaurants and elite residential complexes
Lyadsky Garden is located in a quiet part of the center, surrounded by trendy restaurants and elite residential complexes

‘Hermitage’ Garden. A secluded garden in the center of Kazan, where tourists almost never go (often simply overlooked). It’s a perfect place to work or read a book in quiet. Near the house at Shchapova, 10a, at the entrance to the garden, there are busts of Kirov and Lenin. They ended up there in 1941 when the residents of the house, in a panic expecting the possible arrival of the German army, started digging trenches in the garden and moved the busts to their yard – and there they have remained.

Near the house at Shchapova, 10a, at the entrance to the garden, there are busts of Kirov and Lenin. They ended up there in 1941 when the residents of the house, in a panic expecting the possible arrival of the German army, started digging trenches in the garden and moved the busts to their yard
Near the house at Shchapova, 10a, at the entrance to the garden, there are busts of Kirov and Lenin. They ended up there in 1941 when the residents of the house, in a panic expecting the possible arrival of the German army, started digging trenches in the garden and moved the busts to their yard

Gorky Park. The central city park with singing fountains, walking alleys, and a couple of trendy restaurants. Come here with friends for a picnic or a joint jog. You can grab coffee to go at ‘Uragan-sarai,’ and for dining, try Leto or ‘Chaykhona.’ From the park, you can descend directly to the Kazanka embankment, to the ‘Uram’ extreme park.

Gorky Park. The central city park with singing fountains, walking alleys, and a couple of trendy restaurants
The Gorky Park with singing fountains, walking alleys, and a couple of trendy restaurants

Tinchurin Square. On Sundays from seven in the morning, there is a flea market here.

On Sundays from seven in the morning, a flea market operates in Tinchurin Square
On Sundays from seven in the morning, a flea market operates in Tinchurin Square

Kirov Garden. Just over a century ago, this was the central square of the Haymarket, where Tatars traded horses, products from local factories, and imported Eastern goods. People criticized it for its impassable mud, the smell of turpentine, and the greed of local vendors.

A postcard from the early 20th century with a view of the Haymarket
A postcard from the early 20th century with a view of the Haymarket

During the Soviet era, the market was closed, a garden was laid out, and a sculptural composition ‘Labor will be the ruler of the world’ featuring three heroes holding the globe on their shoulders was installed. A few years ago, the ‘Vincent’ residential complex was built near the park, which has already been settled by a dozen cafes and restaurants. You can have breakfast at ‘May’ or ‘Cream Coffee’, dine at the Pan-Asian Zuka or Italian Gina, and grab a coffee at Surf or ‘Skuratov.’

A few years ago, near the Kirov Garden, the 'Vincent' residential complex was built, which has already been settled by a dozen cafes and restaurants
A few years ago, near the Kirov Garden, the ‘Vincent’ residential complex was built, which has already been settled by a dozen cafes and restaurants

‘Russian-German Switzerland.’ It resembles a wild forest with the status of a specially protected natural area. The last untouched island of nature near the center of Kazan. According to legend, Professor Franz Bronner of Kazan University compared the forest to Switzerland and started a trend among foreigners to set up country cottages there. In the second millennium BC, there was a settlement here, which archaeologists have named ‘Kazanka II.’ On the territory, there is a picturesque century-old arch, an abandoned water intake station covered in graffiti, a non-freezing bath, and access to a beach on the Kazanka.

Gorkinsko-Ometyevsky Forest. A specially protected natural area located between the ‘Gorki’ and ‘Pobedy Avenue’ stations, a five to ten-minute walk from each. Not long ago, this forest was considered marginal and dangerous, and in 2015 it was almost built over. Kazan activists saved the forest, and soon it was included in the republican program for the improvement of parks and squares and began to transform rapidly. Now, athletes run along its dirt paths, engage in skiing tracks and workout areas. In the ‘Dom’ eco-center, they conduct workshops for children, and in the Cube cultural center, there is a space for meditations and a coffee shop.

In 2015, the Gorkinsko-Ometyevsky forest was included in the republican program for the improvement of parks and squares and began to transform rapidly
In 2015, the Gorkinsko-Ometyevsky forest was included in the republican program for the improvement of parks and squares and began to transform rapidly

Entertainment

Theaters

In Kazan, there are four theaters where plays based on national works are staged. The narration is in the Tatar language, but audiences always have the opportunity to take headphones with simultaneous translation into Russian for free. The theatrical season lasts from the end of August – early September through June.

In the Tatar language

Academic Theater. It’s worth visiting at least for the interior. The spacious auditorium is decorated with Tatar ornaments, and the corridors are adorned with sculptures and paintings by local artists. The repertoire includes works by Tatar classics and contemporary authors, as well as foreign works.

Theater of Drama and Comedy. Here, Tatar dramas and comedies are staged for audiences of all ages.

Youth Theater. During the day, Tatar fairy tales for children are performed, and in the evening, plays for adults, mainly based on works by Tatar classics. There are also unusual performances, for example, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the Tatar language in a modern interpretation with music accompaniment by a Kazan rock band.

‘Ekiyat’ Puppet Theater. Puppet shows are performed in both Russian and Tatar for children from one year old, teenagers, and adults.

Puppet shows at 'Ékiyat' are performed in both Russian and Tatar languages for children from one year old, teenagers, and adults. Photo: Ékiyat Puppet Theater
Puppet shows at ‘Ékiyat’ are performed in both Russian and Tatar languages for children from one year old, teenagers, and adults. Photo: Ékiyat Puppet Theater

In Russian language

Opera and Ballet Theater – classical repertoire with ‘Aida,’ ‘Swan Lake,’ and ‘Madam Butterfly.’ By the way, the Shalyapin Opera Festival and the Nureyev Ballet Festival are held here annually.

Dramatic Theater – the oldest in the city. Plays are based on works by Russian and foreign classics.

MOÑ Theater – the youngest theater in Kazan with a cross-genre repertoire: they stage experimental plastic performances, dance performances, inclusive projects involving citizens, and more. Based in a studio at the National Library.

‘Sdvig.’ Created by former actors of the Kachalov Theater in the nineties and offers contemporary plays ‘of different genres, styles, and boundaries of understanding.

Immersive

‘Night Tram’ – an unusual audio play format from Kazan’s Young Spectator’s Theater on the circular route No. 5. Instead of a stage, there are headphones, and instead of the usual theatrical decorations, there are city landscapes. The story is told from the perspective of a certain Alexander Belov, whose soul is supposedly stuck in the tram between life and death. By the way, the Young Spectator’s Theater will soon launch a second tram play ‘We. Tram. Love’ – tickets for it will start selling in August 2023.

‘Anna Karenina’ – an immersive play based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy. The action unfolds in the Demidov mansion. Audiences can move around it independently and freely transition from scene to scene.

Audiences of the immersive play 'Anna Karenina' can independently move around the Demidov mansion and freely transition from scene to scene. Photo: 'Anna Karenina'
Audiences of the immersive play ‘Anna Karenina’ can independently move around the Demidov mansion and freely transition from scene to scene. Photo: ‘Anna Karenina’

Museums

National Museum – the main and oldest city museum. It showcases the history of Tatarstan from different times and perspectives.

‘City Panorama’ Museum – large three-dimensional plans of old and modern Kazan, films about the legends and history of the city.

Ushkova House – luxurious interiors of the most famous Kazan mansion. Accessible only with a guided tour. No website, reservations by phone at +7 (843) 238-79-00.

‘Tatar Village’ Museum – an interactive museum with a model of the Old Tatar Village, immersion into the daily life and culture, and tea drinking with a virtual Tatar grandmother. Accessible only with a guided tour.

Museum of Tatar Lifestyle at the Mullin House – recreated interiors of a Tatar house in a historical merchant estate.

Recreated interiors of a Tatar house in a historical merchant estate. Photo: Museum of Tatar Lifestyle
Recreated interiors of a Tatar house in a historical merchant estate. Photo: Museum of Tatar Lifestyle

Chak-chak Museum – here, ‘hostesses’ greet you and tell you about the history and intricacies of preparing the most famous national dessert, and at the end, they invite you for tea. Accessible only with a guided tour.

Natural History Museum – the ancient inhabitants of Earth, a collection of rare minerals, space scales, and an interactive telescope.

Museum of Happy Childhood – immersion into childhood memories through forgotten items, sounds, and scents.

House of Entertaining Science and Technology – an opportunity to feel like an inventor and experience physical laws without delving into complex terms: for example, sit in an airplane or rocket and pull control levers.

Gorky and Shalyapin Museum – a museum about the creative paths of two famous friends. Shalyapin was born in Kazan, while Gorky considered the city his spiritual homeland. Located in the historic Derenkov Bakery, where Gorky once worked. They still bake bread here according to an old secret recipe.

Vasily Aksenov House Museum – a corner where Aksenov spent his childhood years separated from his parents, who were arrested during Stalin’s repressions. Literary evenings and concerts of Kazan musicians are often held here.

Republic of Tatarstan Museum of Fine Arts – the main art gallery of the city. The permanent exhibition features iconography, canvases of Russian and European painters from different centuries. There are also temporary thematic exhibitions.

Contemporary Art Gallery – a branch of the Museum of Fine Arts with exhibitions, thematic meetings, and lectures.

‘Smena’ – a center of contemporary culture, where exhibitions are regularly held. There is also a bookstore and a coffee shop.

Artplay Media – multimedia exhibitions dedicated to world artists.

‘Bizon’ – exhibitions of young artists and workshops.

Dmitry Kavarga's exhibition 'The Front Wall is Removed.' Photo: 'Bizon'
Dmitry Kavarga’s exhibition ‘The Front Wall is Removed.’ Photo: ‘Bizon’

Events

There are plenty of events in Kazan, especially during the tourist season. Not counting state holidays, as it’s obvious that mass events are held on these days. Below is a list of regular annual events to check out when planning a trip to Kazan.

February:

March:

  • Nauryz, the festival of Turkic peoples at the Kazan Hippodrome (around 20th March)

April:

  • Festival of the Tatar language on the birthday of Gabdulla Tukay (April 26)

May:

June:

  • Summer Open Space Market (early June)
  • Innopolis City Day (June 9)
  • Youth Day at the ‘Uram’ Extreme Park (June 27 or the nearest weekend)
  • National holiday Sabantuy (mid to late June)

August:

  • Tatar Fair ‘Pechen Bazar’ in the Old Tatar Settlement (August 26, 2023)
  • Volga Peoples Festival ‘Itel’
  • City and Republic Day (August 30)
  • Tatar Music Festival Tat Cut Fest (August 30)

September:

December:

  • Pre-New Year Open Space Market (around the 20th of December)

Excursions

Farolero. An evening theatrical tour with actors accompanied by an old lamplighter through the Kremlin, the Old Tatar Settlement, and beyond.

‘On the Promenade’. An immersive excursion-performance from the perspective of the Time Catcher, who narrates the city’s history in the form of memories. The walk covers Bauman Street, Kremlin Street, and the Kremlin territory.

‘Transition’. Offers a chance to see the Kremlin or the historical center of Kazan from 1910 through virtual reality glasses.

‘Mysteries of Kazan’. Custom tours by guide Yulia Zhiznevskaya. Offers VR immersion into Kazan of 50 and 100 years ago, a theatrical tour through the twilight city accompanied by a guard in a black cloak, a ‘detective investigation’ of Kazan’s lost treasures, and various thematic routes. For example, ‘Sporty Kazan’ with a professional commentator or a tour with a practicing geologist discussing how soil characteristics have influenced the city’s history.

‘Old Kazan for All Time’. Rare thematic excursions by local historians with deep dives into the city’s history and architecture, as well as trips to the countryside.

Non-touristic Kazan. A personal tour by the author of our text, Ksenia Izmalkova. For those who have explored all the central streets and want to see Kazan from an unusual perspective. We immerse ourselves in the world of pre-revolutionary slums where Shalyapin and Gorky grew up, admire the fading wooden Kazan, discuss the fates of famous Kazan residents, and walk through the most beautiful parks and gardens.

Walks with guide Igor Botalov. He offers to view the city from the rooftops, shows ‘Kazan as St. Petersburg’, and conducts gastronomic, coffee, and bar tours with tastings.

Excursions by Jamila Lukmanova. With her, you can see the merchant Kazan, or walk through the noble and professorial quarters.

Tatar Cuisine

There’s a joke that Tatar food is just dough and meat in various forms. This is partially true, as local cuisine has a lot of baked goods.

Baked Goods

    • Elesh – a round pie with minced chicken.
    • Gubadia – a pie with rice, raisins, egg, and kortom (baked cottage cheese). Some might find this combination of ingredients strange, but it’s genuinely delicious!
    • Peremyach – what many are accustomed to calling a belyash. It’s a deep-fried round pie with minced meat and a hole in the middle. According to many Kazan locals, the best peremyachs are made at “Peremyachnaya” (Tatarstan Street, 7).
    • Kystybyi – unleavened dough with a mashed potato filling, similar in shape to a cheburek. In modern recipes, potatoes are sometimes substituted with other fillings.
    • Bekkeny – an elongated pie. The filling can be eggs, vegetables, grains, or just about anything.
    • Echpochmak – a triangular pie with a filling of meat, potatoes, and onions.
Echpochmak - a triangular pie with a filling of meat, potatoes, and onions
Echpochmak – a triangular pie with a filling of meat, potatoes, and onions. Photo: Rashida Gizatullina / Wikimedia.org

Main Dishes

  • Tokmach – chicken soup with handmade egg noodles.
  • Lamb Shulpa. Shulpa translates as “broth.”
  • Kiyau Pelmeni (‘Groom’s Dumplings’). It is believed that the finer the bride makes these dumplings, the stronger her love for the groom.
  • Tatar-style Azu – a stew cooked in a cauldron or pots with vegetables. An immortal classic.
  • Beshbarmak – meat with noodles and potatoes. The name translates as “five fingers” – it was traditionally eaten by hand.

Desserts

  • Chak-chak – everyone has heard of it, but few know that it has many variations. Chak-chak’s “big brother” bausak is made from the same dough but divided into larger pieces. There’s also jigangatkh – dough pieces the size of noodles, twisted into “lanterns.”
  • Talkysh-kaleve (or “sugar pyramids”). It’s an explosive, high-carbohydrate mix of sugar, honey, butter, and flour that melts in your mouth. Reminiscent of the Turkish dessert pishmaniye, which is unsurprising. The author of the original recipe brought it from Turkish captivity.
  • Kak – a fruit leather, thin as paper, without sugar or starch, made from fruit or berry puree. It is also used to wrap a mix of nuts and dried fruits, creating a roll called tatly, which some national restaurants prepare.
There's a joke that Tatar food is just dough and meat in various forms, and that's partially true as the local cuisine features a lot of pastries. Photo: Museum of Tatar Lifestyle
There’s a joke that Tatar food is just dough and meat in various forms, and that’s partially true as the local cuisine features a lot of pastries. Photo: Museum of Tatar Lifestyle

Where to Try Tatar Cuisine

In Kazan, there aren’t many national restaurants, and there’s little competition among them, often resulting in subpar service. The most reputable one is “Chirym,” often chosen for entertaining important guests. It’s advisable to book tables well in advance. Other restaurants serving national cuisine include “Tugan Avylym,” “Tatarskaya Usadba,” “Pir,” and Milli. More casual cafes with friendlier prices and less pretentious atmosphere are Tatar and “Skazka” (Bauman Street, 58). For canteens and fast food, options are “Tyubetey” (a more homely halal alternative to McDonald’s), “Kystybyy,” “Azu,” and “Dom Chaya”.

"Tyubetey" - a more homely halal alternative to McDonald's
“Tyubetey” – a more homely halal alternative to McDonald’s

Non-national cuisine

Manufact – With moderate prices, this restaurant offers an excellent selection of original dishes by Denis Fadeev, who received the “Chef of the Year 2022” award for Tatarstan from the Where to Eat awards. The cuisine is understandable and appealing to all visitors. Interesting options include buckwheat porridge with horse meat and mushrooms, pasta with lamb and pecorino, gnocchi with mint, and oven-baked pizza.

“Artel” – another versatile establishment suitable for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The chefs aim to reinterpret familiar dishes and focus on local products.

“Daft Pub” is suitable for visitors with various tastes. From 12:00 to 16:00, they serve breakfast, and on weekdays, they also offer set lunches. In the evenings, it’s usually crowded and noisy: “Daft” often features musicians and DJs.

“Mama Feta” – a good Greek restaurant. You can come here for brunch, a date, or dinner with friends.

Cicheti Bistro – an affordable Italian bistro where you can eat pasta, order Roman pizza, or enjoy wine.

“Sol” – a bar where from 11:00 to 18:00 they serve inexpensive breakfasts and lunches. In the evening, it becomes the main venue for city parties.

"Sol" - a bar where from 11:00 to 18:00 they serve inexpensive breakfasts and lunches. In the evening, it becomes the main venue for city parties
“Sol” – a bar where from 11:00 to 18:00 they serve inexpensive breakfasts and lunches. In the evening, it becomes the main venue for city parties

City guest bonuses: a welcome drink of your choice at the Relab bar (for all those with an electronic or printed ticket to Kazan on the first day of arrival), French breakfast at Truffo Bakery (for a printed ticket or boarding pass to Kazan from 9:00 to 11:00 on the day of arrival or the next day if arriving in the evening).

Coffee

“Neft” – a specialty coffee shop with its own roasting facility and barista school. Many coffee shops in Russian cities brew coffee with beans from “Neft”.

“Botanika” – another specialty coffee shop with its own roasting. There is one caveat: they will never offer you coffee with sugar – for some, it’s snobbery, for others, a sign of quality.

“Osnovanie” – the silence and spacious premises attract many visitors who come here to work on their laptops.

“Early Bird” (Astronomicheskaya Street, 17) – it’s hard to get a table here as the coffee shop is always crowded, but the coffee is excellent, and you can take it to go, grabbing a couple of bagels with cream cheese.

“Coffee with a Point” – often overlooked due to its unassuming signage, but it offers a cozy atmosphere and a wide selection of signature drinks.

“Filter” (Gabdully Tukaya Street, 71) – perhaps the only place in the Tatarstan neighborhood with decent coffee, plus there’s a unique second-hand store here.

“Peski” (Profsoyuznaya Street, 22) – a vegan coffee shop where coffee is brewed on sand. No cow’s milk, only almond, oat, and rice.

Chain coffee shops: Skuratov (eight locations) and Surf (seven locations).

In Kazan, there are eight specialty coffee shops from the Skuratov chain
In Kazan, there are eight specialty coffee shops from the Skuratov chain

Alcohol

The once unremarkable and abandoned Profsoyuznaya Street has become the Kazan equivalent of St. Petersburg’s Rubinstein Street. Half of the street still consists of semi-ruined historic buildings awaiting restoration, but the other half is home to dozens of establishments for every taste: from bistros and coffee shops to restaurants and bars of various calibers. The most lively part of Profsoyuznaya is somewhere in the middle, between the intersections with Kavi Nadzhmi and Chernyshevsky Streets.

Cocktails: Relab, “More”, Kommunalka.

Wine: “Na bokalchik”, Branch, Port, Wine Me, “Istina”, Uva.

Beer: Fomin, “Daft Pub”, Brew Barrel, “Drink Craft”.

Infusions: “Retsept”, “Bar-Museum of Vasya Lozhkin”.

Dance clubs: “Sol”, Zero, Werk.

Where to stay

If you don’t have business on the right bank of the Kazanka River (for example, if you’re going to a hockey or football match), it’s better to stay in the historical center.

Tasigo Palace (Kaliningrad Street, 3b) is one of the most expensive hotels in Kazan. During the high season, rooms usually cost more than 20,000 rubles (214.16 euros). Throughout the hotel, there are red plastic art objects based on sketches by the Turkish sculptor-cartoonist Erdil Yaşaroğlu.

The hotel occupies the building of a restored modernist hospital in an H-shape. It was built on the order of the Old Believer merchant Yakov Shamov. One of his conditions was to create a separate wing for the Old Believer patients so that they would not be treated together with the heretical Nikonians. The construction was completed in 1910, but Shamov died a year earlier. The hospital operated for almost 100 years and closed in 2008 due to the building’s dilapidation. Ten years later, a hotel of the Turkish Tasigo chain opened in it.

The restoration of the building was approached seriously — preserving the historical appearance and interior elements: the ceremonial marble staircase, restoring the stained glass in the halls. The hotel turned out to be so successful that two years later, a new building was erected next to the historical one for the second hotel. The rooms there are slightly cheaper, and it is connected to the main hotel building by a covered passage.

Throughout the Tasigo hotel, there are art objects made of red plastic, based on sketches by the Turkish sculptor-cartoonist Erdil Yaşaroğlu. Photo: Tasigo Palace
Throughout the Tasigo hotel, there are art objects made of red plastic, based on sketches by the Turkish sculptor-cartoonist Erdil Yaşaroğlu. Photo: Tasigo Palace

In Kazan, there are several chain hotels: Courtyard Marriott (Karl Marx Street, 6), DoubleTree Hilton (Chernyshevsky Street, 21), Cosmos (Lesgaft Street, 7, formerly Radisson), and Ibis (Pravo-Bulachnaya Street, 43/1). Only the Marriott hotel has completely left its original network. You can book these chain hotels on the official websites of international chains, earning points in loyalty programs and nights for accumulating statuses. “Courtyard” and “DoubleTree” are slightly more expensive, while “Cosmos” and “Ibis” are more budget-friendly.

Luciano (Pravo-Bulachnaya Street, 49) is known among Kazan residents primarily as a spa center owned by the wife of the head of Tatarstan. However, the building also houses a hotel. A night at Luciano costs from 11,000 rubles (117.79 euros).

“Nogay” (Profsoyuznaya Street, 16b). All the hotels in our list are located in the city center, but perhaps there is no building more central than the “Nogay” hotel, opened in the former House of Printing, the most iconic monument of constructivism in Kazan. From the hotel, you can step out onto the pedestrian Baumana Street and the bar-filled Profsoyuznaya Street. Its location can also be a downside – the city center is very noisy. If you’re not planning to stroll through bars, consider bringing earplugs. In the low season, a night in the hotel costs 7,500 rubles (80.31 euros), in the high season – from 11,000 (117.79 euros).

“Tatar Inn” (Mardzhani Street, 6) is also conveniently located: at the corner of Mardzhani and Tatarstan streets, a step away from the Kamal Theater, the embankment of Lake Kaban, and “Tyubetey,” where you can enjoy echpochmak until late evening. A room with breakfast can be booked for 5,600 rubles (59.96 euros), and in summer, by the way, it will not be much more expensive.

Yamle (Levo-Bulachnaya Street, 56/2) is a small apart-hotel in the city center. There are three types of rooms depending on the size – all have a washing machine, and the larger ones also have a mini-kitchen. The smallest room in the low season costs from 5,000 rubles (53.54 euros), in summer – one and a half to two times more expensive.

“Khanuma” (Baumana Street, 68) is known to the city’s residents primarily as an inexpensive canteen in the very center. But there is also a hostel and hotel located here. The rooms are quite small but budget-friendly for their location – even in August, the cheapest room can be rented for 3,500 rubles (37.48 euros).

There are very few even cheaper options with good reviews. In the “Geography” hostel (Kirov Lane, 1/24), you can rent a private room from 1,700 rubles (18.20 euros). And the apart-hotel Cho (Zhukovsky Street, 15a) offers apartments from 3,400 rubles (36.41 euros). Anything cheaper than 3,000 rubles (32.12 euros) in Kazan is only in hotels with rather controversial reviews. You can save money by booking an apartment on “Sutochno” – decent options there start from 2,500 rubles (26.77 euros), but they will be a bit further from the city center.

Surroundings

Blue Lakes

20 kilometers from Kazan

The extraordinarily blue color of the lakes is due to the high content of sulfides in the water and bottom silt. The water temperature on the surface sometimes reaches plus ten degrees Celsius in the heat. The water does not freeze in winter. The infrastructure includes convenient paths between the lakes, changing rooms, and access to the water. The Small Blue Lake is the best equipped. People come here to swim, paddleboard, see the waterfall, and collect water from the spring.

How to get there. The easiest way to get there is by taxi. To save money on the trip from the center, take the metro to the final station “Aviastroitelnaya” and call a taxi from there.

The extraordinary blue color of the lakes is explained by the high content of sulfides in the water and bottom silt. Photo: Marianna.Dudchak / Wikimedia.org
The extraordinary blue color of the lakes is explained by the high content of sulfides in the water and bottom silt. Photo: Marianna.Dudchak / Wikimedia.org

Observatory

20 kilometers from Kazan

At the observatory, scientists study celestial bodies, and visitors can visit the planetarium. Interactive day and night tours, astronomical lectures, and star shows are conducted there. Visits are possible by prior reservation, with detailed information available on the observatory’s official website.

How to get there. From Kazan, there are trains (20+ per day) to the “Observatory” station. The journey takes about half an hour, and the ticket costs 30 rubles (0.32 euros). It’s a 15-minute walk from the station.

Raif Monastery

30 kilometers from Kazan

This male monastery was founded in the 17th century in a forest clearing on the shore of a picturesque lake. The area around the monastery is part of the Volga-Kama Nature Reserve. People come here to collect holy water, go boating or scooter riding, and enjoy the silence.

How to get there. From the Northern Station, minibusses number 552 are available.

Visitors come to Raif Monastery to collect holy water, go boating or scooter riding, and enjoy the silence
Visitors come to Raif Monastery to collect holy water, go boating or scooter riding, and enjoy the silence

Innopolis

40 kilometers from Kazan

Innopolis is the youngest city in Russia by year of foundation (2015) and average age of residents (28 years). It is a city for IT specialists, designed by architect Liu Thai Ker, who was instrumental in the creation of Singapore. As of July 2023, it has a population of 7,600 people. The city hosts a special economic zone with favorable conditions for business residency and a profile university, which ranked 21st in the list of the best Russian universities according to Forbes (December 2022), even surpassing Kazan Federal University. Visitors can stroll through the city, visit the Technopark where resident companies are based, ride a free autonomous taxi (ordered through the Yandex.Taxi app using the “Robotaxi” button), observe delivery robots, and dine at a restaurant with the telling name “Messa and Heresy”. Guided tours are available from local travel agencies, allowing access to the university building and student dormitory rooms, and providing detailed first-hand information about city life.

How to get there. Bus 108 goes to Innopolis (from Yuzhny bus station and “Kombinat Zdorovye” stop) with 14 trips a day and an hour’s journey. Bus 106 departs only once a day. The ticket costs 180 rubles (1.93 euros). The schedule is available here.

Innopolis is the youngest city in Russia by year of foundation (2015) and average age of residents (28 years). It is a city designed for IT specialists, planned by architect Liu Thai Ker, who was at the forefront of creating the city of Singapore
Innopolis is the youngest city in Russia by year of foundation (2015) and average age of residents (28 years). It is a city designed for IT specialists, planned by architect Liu Thai Ker, who was at the forefront of creating the city of Singapore

Verkhniy Uslon

50 kilometers from Kazan

People visit this village to climb Sokolka Mountain for views of Kazan, see remnants of a cannon’s turning mechanism from the Civil War, visit the Nikolai-Ilinskaya Church near which the wife of Alexander Menshikov, Peter I’s favorite, was buried, and where a stone from her gravestone is preserved.

In Verkhniy Uslon, visitors come to climb Mount Sokolka for views of Kazan, see the remnants of a Civil War cannon's turning mechanism, and visit the Nikolai-Ilinskaya Church. Photo: Nikita / Flickr.com
In Verkhniy Uslon, visitors come to climb Mount Sokolka for views of Kazan, see the remnants of a Civil War cannon’s turning mechanism, and visit the Nikolai-Ilinskaya Church. Photo: Nikita / Flickr.com

From Verkhniy Uslon, you can walk to the village of Pechishchi, where limestone used to build the walls of the Kazan Kremlin was quarried, and see the remnants of ancient kilns. Pechishchi is home to the Yanka Kupala Museum – the Belarusian poet lived here for seven months during evacuation. The museum is housed in one of the buildings of the former Okonishnikov flour mill, once the largest in the entire Kazan Governorate. From it, a majestic pre-revolutionary building remains, visible even from the Volga River banks. Visitors also come to see the Pechishchi Geological Section, where you can see layers of rock with remnants of ancient mollusks and fish.

How to get there: In summer, a ferry operates from the “Arakchino” pier, running from 6:00 to 22:00. A passenger ticket costs 100 rubles, and 300 rubles (3.21 euros) for a car. In winter, there is an ice crossing at the same location, but visiting Verkhniy Uslon is not as interesting during the winter period.

In summer, you can reach Verkhniy Uslon by ferry from the "Arakchino" pier, operating from 6:00 to 22:00. A ticket for passengers costs 100 rubles, and for a car, 300 rubles. Photo: Cyprien Hauser / Flickr.com
In summer, you can reach Verkhniy Uslon by ferry from the “Arakchino” pier, operating from 6:00 to 22:00. A ticket for passengers costs 100 rubles, and for a car, 300 rubles. Photo: Cyprien Hauser / Flickr.com

Ethno-village “Tatar Avyly”

50 kilometers from Kazan

The name of the place translates as “Tatar village”. It was founded by 63-year-old Minnedamir Kamaltdinov, a former chemistry teacher and director of a rural school, who usually introduces himself as Damir Aby. He was always puzzled why the Tatars, the second most populous ethnic group in Russia, didn’t have their own ethnographic museum to showcase their rural life.

The ethno-village features a historical mill, assembled by Tatar women and teenagers during WWII (which visitors can climb), an active mosque, weaving, blacksmith, and pottery workshops, reconstructed residential houses, a kiln for firing clay, a traditional village bathhouse, and a Tatar swing “dogan” for standing rides. A ticket costs 250 rubles (2.68 euros), and a guided tour by the founder is 1500 rubles (16.06 euros) per group.

How to get there: Take buses heading towards Tyurlema or Civilsk (in Chuvashia) and ask the driver to stop in the village of Isakovo, where the ethno-village is located. There are seven trips per day, with buses leaving from the Central and Northern bus stations.

On the territory of the ethno-village "Tatar Avyly," there is a historical mill assembled by Tatar women and teenagers during WWII — visitors can even climb it. Photo: Ethno-village "Tatar Avyly"
On the territory of the ethno-village “Tatar Avyly,” there is a historical mill assembled by Tatar women and teenagers during WWII — visitors can even climb it. Photo: Ethno-village “Tatar Avyly”

Sviyazhsk Island-City

60 kilometers from Kazan

Now it’s a rural settlement with 250 inhabitants, but once it was a city equal in status to Kazan. It was founded by Ivan the Terrible in 1551 as a strategic fortification for the capture of Kazan. The future wooden city was assembled in utmost secrecy in the forests of Uglich, dismantled into logs, and floated down the Volga River. Then, in a record four weeks, it was erected on a small island at the mouth of the Sviyaga River, a day’s journey from Kazan. The Trinity Church is the only building remaining from those logs. You can learn more about the history of the place at the Museum of the History of Sviyazhsk. In the main cathedral of the Assumption Monastery, unique 16th-century frescoes have been preserved. The complex is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Now Sviyazhsk is a rural settlement with 250 inhabitants, but once it was a city equal in status to Kazan. It was founded by Ivan the Terrible in 1551 as a stronghold for the capture of Kazan. Photo: Yevgeny Shelkovnikov, Denis Petyovka / Wikimedia.org
Now Sviyazhsk is a rural settlement with 250 inhabitants, but once it was a city equal in status to Kazan. It was founded by Ivan the Terrible in 1551 as a stronghold for the capture of Kazan. Photo: Yevgeny Shelkovnikov, Denis Petyovka / Wikimedia.org

The “Tatarskaya Slobodka” Archaeological Wood Museum is open on a real archaeological excavation site. From the street, it seems to blend into the landscape. Its true scale is only felt inside. Most of the museum is below ground level. This location has preserved a wet archaeological layer where organic matter does not decompose due to high humidity and lack of oxygen, retaining a large number of archaeological artifacts. As more and more artifacts were found, it was decided to open a museum right on the excavation site. Log houses, fences, pavements, and even tree stumps with axe marks are located exactly where they were found. The exhibition features authentic household items: clothing, leather and bast products, children’s toys, weapons, coins, carpenter and blacksmith tools, oars, fishing nets and hooks, sled runners, and even a 16th-century ski. The museum’s highlight is a 21-meter animated panel where the wooden fortress comes to life with 450 characters engaged in various domestic scenes, immersing visitors in the realities of the past.

The "Tatarskaya Slobodka" Archaeological Wood Museum is open at a real archaeological dig site. Log houses, fences, pavements, and even tree stumps with axe marks are located exactly where they were found
The “Tatarskaya Slobodka” Archaeological Wood Museum is open at a real archaeological dig site. Log houses, fences, pavements, and even tree stumps with axe marks are located exactly where they were found

There are only two similar museums in the world – the Birch Bark Museum in Brest and the Vasa Ship Museum in Stockholm. In Russia, it has no analogs. The entrance ticket costs 300 rubles (3.21 euros), and a guided tour is 1000 rubles (10.71 euros).

How to get there: Regular buses to Sviyazhsk do not operate. From the River Port, there are steamboats (two hours travel, 137 rubles (1.47 euros)) and recently “Meteors” (40 minutes travel, 900 rubles (9.64 euros)). Schedules and prices can be found on the website tatflot.rf, and tickets can be purchased online if you register on the site. Navigation is usually open from May to September. There are also trains from the main station to the Sviyazhsk station, but it is 15 kilometers from the island-town itself. You’ll need to call a taxi from the station.

Semruk and Kama Sea

60 kilometers from Kazan

Semruk is a mock-up settlement in the Laishevsky district, where the TV series “Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes,” based on the book by Guzel Yakhina, was filmed. Although the series was filmed in Tatarstan, the plot unfolds on the banks of the Angara River. Visiting the set can be combined with a swim at the “Kama Sea” beach. This place is where the Volga and Kama rivers meet, at the widest part of the Kuybyshev Reservoir (44 kilometers). Indeed, it may seem as if you are gazing at the expanse of a sea.

How to get there: Buses to Laishevo run from the Southern and Central bus stations. There are 13 trips per day, the journey takes one and a half hours, and a ticket costs 150–180 rubles (1.61 – (1.93 euros).

Semruk is a mock-up settlement in the Laishevsky district, where the TV series "Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes," based on the book by Guzel Yakhina, was filmed. Video still from the channel "Sem Adventures
Semruk is a mock-up settlement in the Laishevsky district, where the TV series “Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes,” based on the book by Guzel Yakhina, was filmed. Video still from the channel “Sem Adventures”

Kamskoye Ustye

120 kilometers from Kazan

Do not confuse it with the Kama Sea (which is located on the opposite side of the Kuybyshev Reservoir).

The settlement itself is known as a place for gypsum mining. Here, you can w

alk through the mining tunnels, and if you’re not afraid of enclosed spaces, head to the Yuryevskaya Cave. It’s the largest cave in Tatarstan and the only one accessible to tourists. It is strongly recommended to visit it with a local guide. They usually provide gloves and a helmet with a headlamp. You should wear comfortable non-slip shoes and spare clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. The year-round temperature in the caves is plus eight degrees Celsius.

Yuryevskaya Cave is the largest cave in Tatarstan and the only one accessible to tourists. Photo by Azmanova Natalia / Wikimedia.org
Yuryevskaya Cave is the largest cave in Tatarstan and the only one accessible to tourists. Photo by Azmanova Natalia / Wikimedia.org

From the top of Lobach Hill, the highest point of the settlement (136 meters), there are spectacular views. In its surroundings, Repin sketched for his painting “Barge Haulers on the Volga.”

40 kilometers from Kamskoye Ustye in the village of Tenki, you can visit the imperial nursery, where decorative conifers are grown, the largest vineyard in Tatarstan, where you will learn about the intricacies of growing table and technical grape varieties in the middle belt, as well as a local cheese factory. For a more relaxed experience, visit the “Kamsky Trophy” hotel complex, featuring baths, saunas, a restaurant, and even an open-air jacuzzi.

How to get there: It’s best to book buses to Kamskoye Ustye two days in advance by calling the dispatcher. Schedule and details here.

From Lobach Hill, the highest point of the settlement (136 meters), there are cool views. In its vicinity, Repin created sketches for his painting "Barge Haulers on the Volga." Photo by Obsrevatoria / Wikimedia.org
From Lobach Hill, the highest point of the settlement (136 meters), there are cool views. In its vicinity, Repin created sketches for his painting “Barge Haulers on the Volga.” Photo by Obsrevatoria / Wikimedia.org

Bolgar

180 kilometers from Kazan

Bolgar is the first capital of the Volga Bulgaria, famous as a trading city long before Kazan was founded. It was here that the Volga Bulgars adopted Islam as the state religion. Ruins of the ancient city remain (dating back to the Golden Horde period). However, Bolgar’s most recognizable landmark was built in 2010: the White Mosque, reminiscent of a miniature version of the Taj Mahal. You can also visit the Bread Museum and a memorial site housing the world’s largest printed Quran.

How to get there: From the river port in Kazan to Bolgar, a hydrofoil operates (2 hours 25 minutes, 397 rubles (4.25 euros)). The schedule and prices can be found on the tatflot.rf website, where tickets can be bought online after registration. This method is usually available from May to September when navigation on the Volga is open. By land, it takes longer: buses from the Central Bus Station to Bolgar take 3 hours 40 minutes.

The most recognizable landmark of Bolgar was built in 2010 - the White Mosque, which somewhat resembles a miniature version of the Taj Mahal. Photo by Alexxx1979 / Wikimedia.org
The most recognizable landmark of Bolgar was built in 2010 – the White Mosque, which somewhat resembles a miniature version of the Taj Mahal. Photo by Alexxx1979 / Wikimedia.org

Elabuga

200 kilometers from Kazan

Elabuga was founded by the Volga Bulgars in the 10th century. The fortress grew up near a dangerous whirlpool where ships often wrecked. This may be why the site of the ancient settlement was called the Devil’s Settlement. The modern town of Elabuga is located just a couple of kilometers from the settlement. Here, you can feel like you’re outside of time, strolling through the old streets of the center, which have retained their appearance since the mid-19th century.

Elabuga, founded by the Volga Bulgars in the 10th century, grew up around a dangerous whirlpool where ships often wrecked. Photo by Azmanova Natalia / Wikimedia.org
Elabuga, founded by the Volga Bulgars in the 10th century, grew up around a dangerous whirlpool where ships often wrecked. Photo by Azmanova Natalia / Wikimedia.org

In its historical center, there are no skyscrapers. Elabuga in the past was a merchant city, mainly trading in bread. Ivan Shishkin, the famous painter, grew up and began his artistic career here. Nadezhda Durova, the first Russian female officer and a cavalry maiden who was a personal orderly of Kutuzov, lived in Elabuga for about 30 years. Her museum-estate is located here. The village near Elabuga saw the birth of the prominent psychoneurologist Vladimir Bekhterev. Today, the village is named Bekhterevo, and in Elabuga itself, there’s a district medical museum named after him. Marina Tsvetaeva’s last refuge and place of death was also in Elabuga. You can feel the atmosphere of her invisible presence in the house where she spent her last days, now a memorial museum, and immerse in her work at the nearby literary museum.

To get there, more than 70 buses go to Elabuga daily, but they all depart from different places – it’s convenient to look up the stations on “Yandex.Schedule.” The journey takes three to four hours, and the ticket costs 650–1100 rubles (6.96 – (11.78 euros).

In Elabuga, one can feel timeless while strolling through the ancient streets of the center, which have retained their appearance since the mid-19th century. Photo by Alexxx1979 / Wikimedia.org
In Elabuga, one can feel timeless while strolling through the ancient streets of the center, which have retained their appearance since the mid-19th century. Photo by Alexxx1979 / Wikimedia.org

What to Bring Back

Edible Souvenirs

  • Chak-chak: It should be fresh (ideally 3-4 days old), soft, well-soaked, not dry, and of uniform color. The brand doesn’t matter as everyone now knows how to make good chak-chak, but defects can occur. It’s best to buy in souvenir shops where they stock small batches and sell them faster. Just check that the date on the package is printed, not stuck on.
  • Pakhlava: The best ones can be found at “Lavka Kuznetsa” (Kayum Nasyri Street, 5A) and “Vostochny Bazar”.
  • Honey: Available almost everywhere, but Laishevsky honey is the most famous. Recommended to buy from Nechkebil, hereditary beekeepers from Laishev – they don’t have their own sales point but operate with delivery and are available on all social networks.
  • Tatar tea with oregano and thyme: Available everywhere.
  • Lokum (Turkish dessert, but also excellently made in Tatarstan): Available at “Vostochny Bazar”.
  • Pastila (sold as ‘sheets’ or mini-rolls, but make sure the ingredients don’t include starch). Handmade gift pastila is available in the “Aida” artisan souvenir shop.
  • Talkysh-Kaleve (sugar pyramids) can be bought anywhere as they are uniformly produced by only a few firms in the city. They are refrigerated but withstand flights well.
  • Duck sausages and duck pâté are available everywhere, but the cheapest place to buy them is at the “Nash Fermer” supplier’s store.
  • Kazylyk – horse sausage. Available everywhere, but recommended to purchase from “Nash Fermer” or “Lavka Kuznetsa”.
  • Kamskoustinsky cheese – you can find it in “Bahetle” supermarkets and some souvenir shops.
  • “Bugulma” balm made from Tatar herbs – available in liquor markets and large grocery stores.
  • Non-alcoholic “Shchutarik” balm made with honey and herbs – can be added to tea, and is available at “Lavka Kuznetsa”.

Traditional Souvenirs

  • Ceramic tableware with national ornament – available at the tableware shop in the “Tugan Avylym” complex or at the “Duslar” showroom (Kayum Nasyri Street, 11).
  • Handmade silver jewelry – at the “Kazanskoe Serebro” store (Tufan Minnullin Street, 14/56) and fashion jewelry from the “Duslar” showroom.
  • Tatar scarves and tablecloths from the Tatar Scarf brand at the “Duslar” showroom.
  • Ichigi, or Chitek – Tatar boots handmade from leather mosaic at the “Sakhtian” store.

Leather mosaic is a traditional craft of the Kazan Tatars, unique to their culture. The process involves treating and dyeing cowhide, cutting it into patterned pieces, and then stitching them together by hand. This labor-intensive and skilled craft is practiced by few, making the products quite expensive. For example, the price of a pair of boots starts from 20,000 rubles (214.16 euros). In addition to footwear, they also make passport covers, keychains, bags, home slippers, and other souvenirs.

Sports clubs’ merchandise

  • Hockey team “Ak Bars” and football team “Rubin”.
  • Tatar “Shchutariki” – 15-gram shot glasses resembling crystal, available at “Lavka Kuznetsa”.
  • Kukmora felt boots and Kazan pots at the Kukmara store.
  • Books with Tatar fairy tales in any souvenir shop.

Support local business

    • Antiques from the “Antikvarny Dom” store or the Sunday flea market in Tinchurin Square.
    • Author’s postcards from local artists and other small items – available at the “Aida” studio for author’s souvenirs and the “Smena” bookshop.
    • Tables, sofas, armchairs, and especially chairs from the “Khoсhu Stul” furniture workshop. Furniture and art objects from Qullar. Chests of drawers, shelves, and a plethora of other furniture from the Yaratam brand.
    • AIgel Salakhova and Daniiar – bags with Tatar ornaments.
    • Idel – knitted items with ethnic motifs.
    • “Siyaniye” Publishing House – music and books.
Author's postcards from local artists and other trinkets can be found at the "Aida" studio of author's souvenirs and "Smena" bookshop. Photo: "Aida"
Author’s postcards from local artists and other trinkets can be found at the “Aida” studio of author’s souvenirs and “Smena” bookshop. Photo: “Aida”

Transport in the City

Ground public transport in Kazan consists of buses, trolleybuses, and trams. The fare is the same for all: 35 rubles (0.37 euros) when paying by card and 36 rubles in cash. You can conveniently view the transport routes on “Yandex.Maps”.

The metro has a single line with 11 stations and is the youngest subway system in Russia. Fares can be paid with a bank card at the turnstile, but you can also buy a plastic token at the ticket office. Locals rarely use tokens, but some tourists buy them as souvenirs. The price is the same as other public transport.

Taxis are cheaper than in Moscow, with “Yandex.Go”, Uber, and “Citymobil” available. An average trip in the city center (three to four kilometers) costs around 150 rubles (1.61 euros).

Carsharing: “Delimobil”, BelkaCar. Taxis are cheaper and easier for city travel, but “Delimobil” covers all of Tatarstan, making it convenient for regional trips. With “BelkaCar”, you can reach Sviyazhsk, Innopolis, or Bolgar, but not Yelabuga.

Kicksharing: Whoosh, Yandex, Urent.

In the city, it's cheaper and easier to get around by taxi. However, "Delimobil" covers the entire Tatarstan region, which makes it convenient to rent a car for trips around the republic
In the city, it’s cheaper and easier to get around by taxi. However, “Delimobil” covers the entire Tatarstan region, which makes it convenient to rent a car for trips around the republic

How to get there

By plane
From the UK:

  1. Direct Flights: There were no direct flights from the UK to Kazan. However, this could change, so it’s worth checking for any new direct routes.
  2. Through Turkey: A popular and convenient route involves flying with Turkish Airlines. You can take a flight from major UK airports like London Heathrow or Manchester to Istanbul, and then connect to a Turkish Airlines flight to Kazan. Istanbul serves as a major hub with frequent and reliable connections.

From Mainland Europe:

  1. Through Turkey: Similar to the UK route, you can fly to Istanbul from various European cities and then take a connecting flight with Turkish Airlines to Kazan.
  2. Through Armenia: Another option is to fly to Yerevan, Armenia, and then take a connecting flight to Kazan. Airlines like Aeroflot offer services to Yerevan from various European cities, and then you can connect with Armenia Aircompany for your flight to Kazan.

During the summer, Kazan has about 20 daily flights to Moscow, up to ten to Saint Petersburg, four to five to Sochi, and one to two to Mineralnye Vody. There are daily flights from Novosibirsk, Ufa, and Yekaterinburg. Several times a week, there are flights from Saratov, Samara, Yaroslavl, Vladikavkaz, Tyumen, Omsk, and many other cities. You can view the flight map on Flightradar. In total, there are more than 30 destinations within Russia. This wide range of destinations is possible thanks to the local airline “UVT-Aero” (UVT stands for “South-East of Tatarstan”) and Nordwind Airlines, which has made Kazan one of its domestic hubs.

Anything cheaper than 3,000 rubles (32.12 euros) is a good price for a one-way ticket from Moscow to Kazan. During sales or last-minute deals, you can find tickets for 1,000–1,500 rubles (10.71 – (16.06 euros), usually with “Pobeda” or “Smartavia”.

Train: One of the most convenient ways to reach Kazan. There are eight trains from Moscow, five of which are overnight. Coupe tickets cost from 1,800 rubles (19.27 euros). To save money, it’s best to buy tickets as early as possible. However, the train from Saint Petersburg takes almost a day and is almost always more expensive than a plane ticket.

Kazan has two railway stations – Central and North (classified as “Kazan-Pass” and “Kazan-2 / Vosstanie-Pass” in the Russian Railways system respectively). Be careful when buying a ticket. However, the two stations are only a 15–20 minute drive apart. The North station is near a metro station, but the Central station is quite far from the metro.

Rail connections between Kazan and neighboring cities are generally poor. But the situation has been slightly improving in recent years. For example, in June 2023, a new train service was launched between Kazan and Ulyanovsk. From Kazan, it departs on Fridays and weekends at 14:30, and from Ulyanovsk on weekends at 07:30. The cost is 450 rubles (4.82 euros) one way. In August 2022, after a decade-long break, a train service from Nizhny Novgorod was relaunched. The train is cheaper than a regular train service – 1,375 rubles (14.72 euros) compared to about 2,500 (26.77 euros), and slightly faster – six hours instead of eight and a half. From Samara, you have to travel on slow and stuffy buses.

By Water: During the navigation period, you can take a river cruise on the Volga. Cruises starting from Moscow usually reach Kazan by the tenth day of the journey. The cost of the cruise varies greatly depending on the type of cabin and how early you book, but expect to pay several tens of thousands of rubles.

During the navigation period, you can take a river cruise on the Volga. Cruises starting from Moscow usually reach Kazan by the tenth day of the journey
During the navigation period, you can take a river cruise on the Volga. Cruises starting from Moscow usually reach Kazan by the tenth day of the journey

From Cheboksary to Kazan, a high-speed “Valdai” boat operates twice a day — the journey takes just over three hours, and the price is 630 rubles (6.75 euros). And from Ulyanovsk, once a day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the “Meteor” operates. The journey takes four hours, and the ticket costs 1,500 rubles (16.06 euros).

By Car: Kazan is located 800 kilometers east of Moscow. Traveling by car on the M-7 highway will take at least 10–11 hours. If you decide on such a journey, we recommend making a stop and spending the night in Nizhny Novgorod, which is exactly halfway there. At the end of 2023, a section of the M-12 toll speedway from Moscow to Kazan is scheduled to open. Traffic up to Arzamas in the Nizhny Novgorod region is planned to open in September, and to Kazan in December, when the new bridge over the Volga south of Kazan is ready. The journey on the new highway should save at least four hours.

Airport: How to get to the city

Taxi: The journey from the airport to the city center takes 20-30 minutes, and the cost when ordered through an app is between 600 to 1000 rubles (6.42 – (10.71 euros).

Aeroexpress: It doesn’t run frequently, only eight times a day, but check the schedule before your flight; you might be lucky. The train will take you to the city center in 30 minutes. Tickets are sold by a cashier at the airport before boarding. At the railway station, tickets are available at the suburban station ticket offices or in machines. You can also buy them on the train for an extra fee – 86 rubles (0.92 euros) instead of 56 (0.60 euros).

Minibus №197: We highly recommend avoiding this option, but it does exist. The route is “Airport – Prospekt Pobedy Metro,” and the journey takes about an hour. The minibus operates approximately from 6:00 to 20:00. On weekdays, it runs every half hour, and on weekends, every hour. In reality, the wait can be up to one and a half hours. There is no fixed cost; the driver announces it, typically around 85 rubles (0.91 euros).

The text is by Ksenia Izmalikova.
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