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Samara Travel Guide

Discovering a Resort Metropolis Boasting a Sprawling Historic Core, a Sweeping Three-Kilometer Beach, and Its Celebrated Brewery

In the sun-drenched months, Samara’s residents affectionately dub their way of life as “Volga hedonism”. It’s a city where, come summer, every other individual saunters into their workplace with remnants of the beach, sand trailing from their shoes. The local brew, “Zhiguly”, becomes the favored complement to a midday meal, and sunsets, painted in hues of passion and warmth, are best enjoyed by the shoreline. Weekends reserved for escapades across the river, tents pitched ready for adventures. 

Table of Contents

 

Many visitors are often pleasantly surprised by Samara’s sprawling historic heart. Imagine thousands of wooden homes adorned with intricately carved trims juxtaposed against Art Nouveau mansions flaunting mascarons, all set against a backdrop of Soviet avant-garde structures and distinctively shaped edifices from the modernist era. This historic core vibrantly pulses with cultural life — think museums, art clusters, galleries, and a delightful smattering of cafes. Yet, many travelers seldom venture beyond this central cocoon.

But wander they should. A mere 15-minute metro ride transports you from the buzzing center to the sleepier outskirts. Bezimyanka, a district intricately planned during Stalin’s reign as “palaces for factory workers,” boasts buildings richly adorned with moldings, grand arches, wrought-iron balconies, and commanding columns. Conveniently, the metro was constructed to service this area, and just a stone’s throw away lies the modernist ‘Avia’ neighborhood, custom-designed for workers of the ‘Progress’ rocket and space center. Bezimyanka holds a special place in Samara’s heart, teeming with its unique myths — tales of Soviet ‘gopniks‘ in oversized hats and bustling markets.

For another 15-minute voyage, this time from the river station in the historic center, a small steamer ferries you to a different realm — the opposite bank of the Volga. Here lies the ‘Samarskaya Luka’ national park, a landscape punctuated with historic villages, dense woodlands, and the Zhiguli Mountains. Locals affectionately refer to this region as simply “Zavolga.”

During the Great Patriotic War, many of the country’s industries and embassies, once ensconced in Moscow, found refuge in Kuibyshev — the moniker Samara proudly bore from 1935 to 1991. Hence, it earned the epithet of the “reserve capital,” a poignant facet of the city’s identity. Today, plaques on buildings mark their erstwhile roles as embassies of nations like the US, Turkey, and Czechoslovakia. Tales of Stalin and Zhukov’s bunkers, legends of underground cities, and tunnels beneath the Volga further enrich Samara’s enigmatic allure.

Come summer, the city’s lifeblood is its three-kilometer-long promenade. Sand-clad beaches stretch almost its entire length, earning Samara its reputation as a resort city. Local summertime living, playfully dubbed as “Volga hedonism,” paints a picture of an every-other resident heading to work, the sensation of sand between their toes, washing down lunch with a chilled beer, and weekends spent across the river under canvas.

Come summer, the city’s lifeblood is its three-kilometer-long promenade. Sand-clad beaches stretch almost its entire length, earning Samara its reputation as a resort city

Must-sees

In the heart of Russia lies Samara, boasting one of the country’s most expansive historic centers—a delightful surprise for many a wandering traveler. On a map, Samara’s core resembles a triangle, its historic boundaries framed by the sprawling Volga and Samara rivers, and punctuated by streets bearing names reminiscent of a bygone era—Kommunisticheskaya and Polevaya.

While its roots stretch back to 1586, few structures from those early days survived. Instead, a majority of the architectural marvels date between the pivotal period of 1850 to 1917.

The Confluence of Styles: From Wooden Artistry to Modernist Reinvention

Walking the streets of Samara feels like stepping into the early 20th century. The grandeur of Kuibyshev Avenue, the lively pedestrian-only Leningradskaya with its cascading fountains, street musicians, and the iconic statue of Uncle Styopa—a gift from the celebrated artist Tsereteli—all evoke the city’s rich past. Wander along Chapayevskaya and Alexei Tolstoy, meander through Molodogvardeyskaya and Frunze, or lose yourself amidst the charms of Galaktionovskaya and Sadovaya. In these historic lanes, the intricate features of gothic architecture merge seamlessly with the sleek curves of art nouveau. As you stroll, you’ll notice rustic wooden cottages, reminiscent of ancient Russian folklore, juxtaposed against the shimmering facades of modern glass structures. It’s a testament to Samara’s ability to harmoniously marry its storied past with a future-looking vision.Among these, rustic wooden cottages stand shoulder to shoulder with gleaming modern edifices, showcasing Samara’s harmonious blend of the old and new.

In Samara historic lanes, the intricate features of gothic architecture merge seamlessly with the sleek curves of art nouveau. Photo: Alexxx Malev / Flickr.com

But what truly captures the architectural imagination is Samara’s flirtation with Soviet Modernism — a style once dismissed as “grey and uninspiring.” Today, this architectural style is experiencing a renaissance. Instagram accounts like ‘Soviet Samara’ chronicle this movement, while books and documentaries delve deeper into its nuances. Modernism in Samara isn’t just the starkness of grey concrete—it’s a quest for unique design during an era that often shunned architectural excess. One can’t help but be captivated by structures like the hauntingly abandoned vertical grain elevator (silo) at Zasekina, 7b or the illustrious Regional Museum at Leninskaya, 142. The edifice of “Gorproekt” on Galaktionovskaya, 132 stands as a testament to functional design, while the residential building affectionately known as “Rashpil” or “Corn Cob” at Lenina, 32 exudes a unique charisma. Further wonders include the Computing Center on Polevaya, 5; the charming “Teremok” Registry Office on Molodogvardeyskaya, 238; and the evocative Builder’s House on Artsybushevskaya, 30.

Must-visits include the hauntingly abandoned vertical elevator

 

The Vertical Grain Elevator (Silo) in Samara — A Benchmark of Brutalist Architecture

Author’s Personal Top Picks in Samara:

  • Gothic Church – Frunze, 157a
  • Kircha – Kuybysheva, 115
  • Nuychev’s Modernist Mansion – Samarskaya, 149
  • Shikhobalov Mansion, also known as “House with Atlantes” – Ventseka, 55
  • Abandoned Synagogue in Neo-Moorish style – Sadovaya, 49
  • Building of the Art Museum – Kuybysheva, 92
  • Chelyshev’s Revenue House in Russian style – Frunze, 56
  • Old Believers’ Church – Lev Tolstoy, 14a (hidden in a courtyard, invisible from any adjacent streets).

The Secret Charm of Samara’s Courtyards

For the wanderlust-driven traveler who relishes in the unexpected allure of secret spaces, Samara beckons. Within the triangle of its historic center lies an uncharted world: the courtyards. Researchers and writers have immortalized these hidden gems, where time stands still. Imagine laundry drying on lines, century-old wooden carvings on homes, whimsical swans crafted from tires, and cats darting about — all encapsulating the city’s unspoiled character. Some even dubbed Samara the “Cat Capital”. Locals, with their customary wit, embraced this nickname, contrasting it with Samara’s official tagline, “Space City,” by crafting postcards reading “Samara Catastic” .

Europe’s ‘Largest’ Square & Stalin’s Bunker: A Glimpse into History

Local pride beams when Samara’s residents refer to Kuybyshev Square — said to be Europe’s largest, albeit with the caveat “including adjacent parks”. Here, the grandeur of the opera and ballet theater stands tall, a monument from the 1930s when it replaced a cathedral and several housing blocks. Not far from the square is a relic from 1942, Stalin’s bunker. Though the leader never graced it with his presence, the city’s distance from the wartime front line deemed it the ‘backup capital’ during World War II, prompting the construction of this shelter.

Visitors keen on exploring the bunker should note its open hours: weekdays from 11 am to 3 pm, with a lunch break between 1 pm and 2 pm. Entry isn’t straightforward; it’s by group admission only, with a minimum of ten people. While some opt to wait for fellow individual tourists, the wait can be hours-long and sometimes futile. It’s advisable to call ahead, check for pre-scheduled tour groups, and seek permission to join. However, directly booking a group tour specifically for Stalin’s bunker is not an option. Visits are typically part of comprehensive Samara tours offered by agencies in collaboration with the bunker.

Local pride beams when Samara’s residents refer to Kuybyshev Square — said to be Europe’s largest, albeit with the caveat “including adjacent parks”.

A Toast to Samara’s Brewing Past

Directly opposite Stalin’s bunker, visitors will discover a fascinating juxtaposition: a Drama Theater clad in faux-Russian architecture and Pushkin Square, arguably the city’s premier spot to watch the sun dip below the horizon. This vantage point offers panoramic vistas of the Volga River, the gleaming domes of the Iversky Monastery, and a pre-revolutionary brewery that to this day sends a sweet, malted aroma wafting through the air, reminiscent of boiled corn. Beer, particularly from the Zhigulevsk Brewery, holds a near-sacred place in the hearts of Samarians. 

Beer, particularly from the Zhigulevsk Brewery, holds a near-sacred place in the hearts of Samarians. Photo: Pavel Neznanov / Unsplash.com

With an impressive per-capita consumption, the city teems with draft beer outlets (“razlivayki”). The on-site bar “Na Dne,” operating since the 1980s, is an eclectic gathering spot, attracting everyone from esteemed professors to students, businessmen in luxury vehicles, and local connoisseurs. Visitors can indulge in fresh-from-the-brewery Zhigulevsk beer, complemented by dried fish, braided cheese, and boiled crayfish.

While the brewery’s production is modern, guided tours — which require prior booking — offer a delightful stroll among historic structures and an immersive look into beer-making processes.

At the “Zhigulevsky” brewery, they still serve beer in your own containers — one can come with a “clear little bag,” as in Oleg Mityaev’s song

Samara’s Canvas: Street Art, Dozens of Murals and Calligraphy by Pokras Lampas

Over the past few years, Samara’s walls and facades have transformed into a vibrant canvas, thanks to the efforts of both local and globally renowned artists. As the city geared up for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the “Champions’ Stories” project saw eleven residential buildings adorned with captivating murals. The 2020 Samara Ground street art festival introduced additional graffiti pieces to the city’s center. Now, almost every Samarian boasts a photograph against the backdrop of calligraphy by Pokras Lampas, prominently displayed on the city’s embankment and an airshaft.

Klaus, a notable Samara-based graffiti artist, has left a distinctive mark on the city with his petite plaster masks hidden in the historic district’s nooks and crannies. The largest such mask can be spotted on Galaktionovskaya Street, with another artistic masterpiece titled “Tetris” gracing the same building — a tile mosaic by Andrey Saylev featuring photos of Samara’s iconic balconies and windows. More recently, under the “Joint Decision” project, a fence at GRES on Volzhsky Avenue was painted in hues representing the city, with “Fish Turquoise” and “Night Volga” voted as the top colors by residents.

In late 2020, local artists added another feather to Samara’s street art cap by decorating a courtyard in the old center. For those eager to delve deeper into the stories behind these vibrant artworks, journalist Zhanna Skokova and guide Marina Erofeeva offer tours spotlighting Samara’s graffiti and street art scene, allowing visitors to experience the city through the lens of contemporary expression.

Calligraphy by Pokras Lampas on a ventilation shaft. Photo: Pavel Neznanov / Unsplash.com

Samara’s Riverside Resort: A 3-Kilometer Stretch of Sand and Sunsets

Samara’s scenic promenade, affectionately known to locals as “naba”, extends for three kilometers alongside the Volga River. It’s a tapestry of sandy beaches nestled right in the city’s heart. On a typical summer day, even midweek, these beaches buzz with sunbathers. Office workers from the city center often dash to the shores for a quick swim during their lunch breaks. As the sun dips, hundreds of Samara residents toast to the fading day with bottles of the iconic “Zhigulevskoye” beer, a ritual that gives you the undeniable feeling of being in a resort town.

Samara’s scenic promenade, known to locals as “naba”, extends for three kilometers alongside the Volga River. On a typical summer day, even midweek, these beaches buzz with sunbathers

This sprawling promenade is divided into three sections: the “old” stretch, which runs from the river station to the Zhigulevsky brewery; the “new” portion, extending from the brewery to the former KINAP factory; and the “Ladia” segment on Lesnaya Street, marked by a majestic white monument, Ladia – a symbol of Samara. To pinpoint specific locations along the beach or promenade, locals refer to sections based on the nearest perpendicular streets. For instance, the Prince Zasekin monument is positioned at Polevoy Descent, while the beach is accessible from Krasnoarmeysky Descent. Beaches on the “new” promenade tend to be more crowded, but a secluded spot, perfect for lounging under tree shade, awaits at Vilonovsky Descent on the “old” stretch.

In 2022, a new art object – a sculpture of a backless face – appeared on Samara’s embankment between the Rook and the Kinap children’s entertainment centre. Photo: Ziran Ling / Unsplash.com

Every summer, the city springs to life with VolgaFest”, a riveting festival celebrating the riverfront. It features concerts, lectures, performances, workshops, and vibrant markets. During its festivities, Samara unveils a rejuvenated spirit, basking in a celebratory aura. In 2021, this festival spanned two weeks, drawing in over 300,000 visitors.

The lecture roster was impressive: urbanist Arkady Gershman, Sergei Mudrik, the music editor for “Evening Urgant”, Olesya Baltusova, an aide to the President of Tatarstan, and many more esteemed speakers. The music lineup was eclectic, ranging from the Circassian rhythms of Jrpjej and rock legends “Alliance”, to indie vibes from Kate NV and Mitya, with the grand finale by SBPCH. If you’re looking to experience Samara in its true, festive essence, the VolgaFest is not to be missed.

Bezymyanka: Soviet Heritage and “Palaces” for Workers on the City’s Outskirts

Venture out to Bezymyanka, a district brimming with Soviet legacy, conveniently accessible from the city center via the metro. Alight at the “Bezymyanka” station, and you’ll find yourself in a neighborhood steeped in history. During the Great Patriotic War, factories evacuated from other cities took refuge here. The Rocket and Space Center “Progress”, responsible for constructing the two stages of the “Vostok-1” rocket which carried Yuri Gagarin into space, continues to operate in the vicinity. The Samara metro system itself was built with the primary objective of ferrying workers to these very production sites.

War and post-war periods saw Bezymyanka adorned with exemplary residences, showcasing the grandeur of the Stalinist Empire style. A splendid ensemble of such buildings graces Victory Street. Another emblematic structure from this epoch is the Culture House at Kirov Square. Its interiors boast space-themed mosaics and a grand stained-glass portrayal of Lenin. The facade presents a majestic portico with ten colossal columns, although originally, the design had envisaged even more elaborate decor. 

War and post-war periods saw Bezymyanka adorned with exemplary residences, showcasing the grandeur of the Stalinist Empire style

During construction, the project had to adapt to the decree “On the Elimination of Excesses in Construction and Architecture”, released just after the foundation of the Culture House was laid. Beyond its architectural marvels, the district carries a hint of notoriety from its criminal past. During the Soviet era, Bezymyanka was home to “gopniks” — hooligans referred to as “furagi”, followers of Lenin recognizable by their oversized caps.

A short walk leads you to the “Yungorodok” station. Here, you’ll find the “Avia” district, where multi-story red-brick modernist buildings reminiscent of rockets stand tall. This district was developed specifically for the workers of “Progress”. If you’re looking to appreciate Soviet-era architecture and the tales they tell, Bezymyanka provides a deep dive into Samara’s industrious past.

Zubchaninovka: A Melting Pot of History, Cultures, and Legends

Tucked away on the fringes, the hamlet of Zubchaninovka beckons to those in search of authentic aesthetics. Once envisioned by the peaceful followers of Leo Tolstoy’s teachings, under the leadership of Evgeny Zubchaninov, this place was to be a utopian garden city. The original blueprint shunned hotels, factories, alcohol sales, gambling, and brothels. Yet, the aftermath of the revolution saw these collective ideals crumble. Zubchaninov was first imprisoned and then placed under house arrest, where he ultimately met his demise.

The 1990s saw Zubchaninovka emerge as a nexus for the narcotics trade, primarily due to the sizable Romani population that had settled there since the early 20th century, contemporaneous with Tolstoy’s disciples. But today, those criminal days are a distant memory. Now, opulent Romani palaces stand in harmony alongside the quaint wooden abodes of the Tolstoyans, a mosque, Hare Krishnas, and Baptists — an emblem of the village’s rich tapestry of cultures. Further enhancing this mosaic is an open-air Railroad Technology Museum on the outskirts, where enthusiasts can interact with authentic steam engines, coaches, and electric locomotives, some even offering a peek inside.

City Tales: Of Zoya’s Stance and Pinya Hoffman

Among the many urban tales, the most gripping is Zoya’s stance. So compelling, it inspired the movie “Miracle”. On New Year’s Eve 1956, when her beau failed to show up, Zoya danced with an icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. Mid-dance, she petrified, standing motionless for 128 days and passing away on Easter’s third day. Although her heart kept beating throughout. While the house bearing this tale no longer stands, a monument to St. Nicholas graces the opposing side at Chkalova, 84.

Another cherished legend centers on an eccentric Jewish elder, Pinya Hoffman. So iconic, unkempt dressers in Samara are colloquially told, “You look like Pinya!” A park, unofficially, even carries “Pinya’s” moniker. In the 1960s and 70s, this enigmatic figure, often clad in outlandish outfits and lugging massive bags filled with stones and food, was a common sight in the city center. He resided by the synagogue at Chapayevskaya, 84b — a place still open to visitors. Today’s caretakers delight in sharing tales of Pinya. The synagogue also houses a petite store offering Israeli treats, with ‘Bamba,’ a corn snack with peanut paste, being a consistent favorite.

For an enriched experience, agencies like Art Excursions” and “City-Resort” curate daily thematic walking tours around the city. Explore cozy courtyards, dive deep into Art Nouveau, or get lost in urban legends, all sans tediousness, bureaucratic jargon, or date overload.

Culture 

Wandering the bustling streets of Samara’s city center, you’re not just ambling through an urban heart but, in essence, a sprawling museum. Beyond its vibrant courtyards and storied landmarks, Samara offers a world of art and culture waiting to be explored.

“House 77” (Leningradskaya, 77): This four-story hub buzzes with creativity. Housing everything from art studios, tattoo parlors to chic showrooms, its walls are a canvas covered in artistic designs. Open doors often mean an invitation to enter, meet the artist, and truly get a taste of the city’s soul. The ground floor teases with the allure of “Eternally Young,” a popular bar boasting a summery veranda. And while summer sees markets flourishing in its expansive courtyard, winter transforms it into an icy skating rink. 2022 marked the inauguration of “Zero Room”, a modern cultural center hosting exhibitions, lectures, and film screenings. Their library, specializing in architecture, urbanism, and art, is an oasis for the weary traveler seeking solace in a book during the sizzling Samara summers.


The ground floor of the “House 77” teases with the allure of “Eternally Young,” a popular bar boasting a summery veranda. Photo: Дом77 / Vk.com

“Stankozavod” (Kuibysheva, 128/1): Aptly dubbed “The Work and Leisure Center,” this repurposed former machinery plant has morphed into an urban mecca. Stripped, refurbished, and painted anew, it now houses a range of residents — from lively bars and cafés to apparel boutiques and innovative workshops. It’s also a hub for lectures, markets, concerts, and endless photo-ops in its corridors and courtyard.

“Artist” (Leningradskaya, 29): Nestled in the heart of the main pedestrian thoroughfare, this creative hub beckons. From its courtyard, one can step into “Ryumochka” and “Tati Nomi” bars or savor a cup of coffee paired with doughnuts at “Dreamers.”

The Museum of Art Nouveau (Krasnoarmeyskaya, 15): This symbol of Samara’s Art Nouveau sits elegantly with its butterfly-patterned wrought iron gates and floral ceiling moldings. Among the over 50 buildings in the city echoing this style, the mansion stands out. The ground floor transports you back to the early 20th century, with recreated boudoirs, studies, and dining areas adorned with period-appropriate furnishings. The upper level and basement play host to a slew of exhibitions, predominantly with an Art Nouveau twist. The museum’s courtyard, arguably one of the city’s coziest niches, beckons visitors to sip cappuccinos from White Cup Café, lounge on chaise longues, and get lost in the views of neighboring spires and the nostalgic hum of old trams.

The ground floor of Museum of Art Nouveau transports you back to the early 20th century, with recreated boudoirs, studies, and dining areas adorned with period-appropriate furnishings. The upper level and basement play host to a slew of exhibitions, predominantly with an Art Nouveau twist

The Church (Frunze, 157a): From the outside, this Gothic edifice might appear lifted straight from a villain’s lair in a theatrical horror film. However, step inside and the atmosphere dramatically shifts. It reveals a luminous expanse peppered with rows of wooden benches. While not a museum per se, it’s worth venturing into this space. There’s always the chance of a delightful conversation with a pastor about life’s complexities, an opportunity to marvel at the absence of traditional religious icons, or perhaps to be serenaded by a heartwarming sermon. Another spiritual haven in the city is the Lutheran Kirche (Kuibysheva, 115). Here, the harmonies of organ music accompany religious services every Wednesday at 7 pm and Sunday at 10 am, with occasional full-blown concerts elevating the spiritual experience.

From the outside, this Gothic edifice might appear lifted straight from a villain’s lair in a theatrical horror film. However, step inside and the atmosphere dramatically shifts. It reveals a luminous expanse peppered with rows of wooden benches. Photo: Alexander Baidukov / Wikimedia.org

“Victoria” Gallery (Nekrasovskaya, 2): As the city’s premier and sole contemporary art gallery, “Victoria” is the embodiment of Samara’s artistic evolution. It serves as a cultural nexus, showcasing exhibitions from renowned domestic and international establishments. Besides hosting its own exhibitions, the gallery regularly organizes lectures and thematic weeks. Typically, two exhibits run concurrently — in the main gallery on the ground floor and in the Victoria Underground on the basement level. However, since May 2023, a major renovation has led to its doors being temporarily closed. Fear not, the Victoria team continues to present its projects, albeit in an alternate, temporary space.

As the city’s premier and sole contemporary art gallery, “Victoria” is the embodiment of Samara’s artistic evolution. It serves as a cultural nexus, showcasing exhibitions from renowned domestic and international establishments. Photo: Victoria Gallery / Vk.com

The Museum of Fine Arts (Kuibysheva, 92): Housed in a neo-classical structure, this museum is a treasure trove of architectural grandeur. From the dazzling stained glass and intricate bas-reliefs to the ornate moldings and a grand staircase, the interiors rival the art on the walls. The museum boasts a diverse collection that ranges from the avant-garde pieces by Lentulov and Malevich to 18th-century Russian art, along with Western European masterpieces from the 16th to 19th centuries. One might argue that the building’s architecture and décor, in their splendor, rival the significance of the exhibits themselves.

Eldar Ryazanov Museum (Frunze, 120): Celebrating the life of the iconic film director, this museum serves as a tribute to the early days Ryazanov spent in Samara – his first month post-birth and during the wartime evacuation from 1941 to 1942. Inaugurated in 2018, the museum, located in his former residence, offers an interactive experience for visitors. Almost everything here is tactile. Dial up on retro telephones and be greeted by Ryazanov’s voice or ring the bells of Soviet communal apartments. The exhibit also showcases wartime artifacts and furniture donated by the director’s family. For film aficionados, the cinema hall screens Soviet classics and retrospectives of European auteur cinema, with summer viewings being held in the adjacent square. Check their group for schedules.

The Museum of Literature (Frunze, 155) and the Gorky Center (Kuibysheva, 113): Samara’s Literary Museum, dedicated to Maxim Gorky, ironically sits within the mansion of Alexei Tolstoy, presenting an intriguing paradox. As you approach, be greeted by the bronze statue of Buratino from “The Golden Key” – and for a touch of luck, give his nose a gentle rub. The Gorky Center, an extension of the Literary Museum, serves as a dynamic hub. From contemporary art exhibits, film screenings, to diverse lectures ranging from feminism to literary classics’ biographies, it’s a cultural hotspot. Don’t miss the exhibit detailing Maxim Gorky’s life in Samara.

Samara’s Literary Museum, dedicated to Maxim Gorky, ironically sits within the mansion of Alexei Tolstoy, presenting an intriguing paradox

Branch of the Tretyakov Gallery (Frunze, 102b / Novo-Sadovaya, 149): 2023 promises a fresh chapter for Samara’s arts scene with the inauguration of the Tretyakov Gallery’s branch. This new space will be ensconced in a unique Constructivist building reminiscent of the hammer and sickle emblem, a former factory kitchen. Currently under restoration, the venue aims to evolve into a sprawling cultural hub, boasting exhibition spaces, restoration workshops, contemporary art galleries, a restaurant, and a multimedia center. While this colossal project is underway, the Tretyakov team operates from a smaller space on Frunze Street. Though devoid of exhibitions, the ground floor offers souvenirs from the main Tretyakov collection and a cozy café, while the floor above hosts lectures and workshops, a haven for art enthusiasts.

Alabin Museum (Leninskaya, 142): Nestled within a modernist ex-Lenin memorial building, this museum offers a curious mix of exhibits. From quirky animal taxidermies and life-sized peasant mannequins to an expansive geological collection overshadowed by a looming dinosaur, it’s an eclectic journey through time. But, the pièce de résistance remains the colossal mosaic of Lenin gracing the staircase. Ground floor visitors can enjoy a café, and summer sees the museum’s entrance dotted with lounge chairs, perfect for sipping an espresso-tonic.

Nestled within a modernist ex-Lenin memorial building, the Alabin Museum offers a curious mix of exhibits

Samara Cosmic Museum (Lenin Avenue, 21): Proudly donning the title ‘Russia’s Space Capital,’ Samara is home to the “Progress” Rocket and Space Center, the birthplace of the “Soyuz” rockets and various scientific space vessels. It’s also where the “Vostok” carrier rocket, which propelled Gagarin into space, was crafted. Greeting visitors at the museum’s entrance stands a towering 68-meter R-7 rocket, a marvel manufactured at “Progress.” Inside, you’ll find satellites, engines, and astronaut tools, and don’t miss the popular souvenir – space food in tubes, a unique taste of the cosmos.

Museum of Urban Legends (Galaktionovskaya, 91): Steeped in tales and whispers, this museum offers more than just stories of Zoya and Pinya Hofman. House owner, Vera Zakrzhevskaya, swears it’s haunted, and her narration style might just convince you. A highlight here is the distinctive installations by renowned Samara artist, Klaus. Tours, priced at 2500 rubles 27.72 $), run every Thursday, whether you’re a solo explorer or a group of ten.

Surroundings

Beyond the Banks: The Enchanting Vistas of Zavolga

Summer in Samara sees locals yearning for the cooler shores of Zavolga, and the journey across is part of the charm. Ferries like “Ome” (affectionately termed “Omike” by Samara residents) and “Moskva” glide forth from either the city’s river station, the Osipenko wharf, or the outskirts’ Frunze’s Meadow dock. A modest 96 rubles (1.06 $) will carry you to the quaint village of Rozhdestveno, while a voyage to the more distant Zolnoe is priced at 166 rubles (1.84 $).

From the bustling boardwalk of Samara, Zavolga emerges as a silhouette of islands and villages nestled on the opposite riverbank. This landscape largely nestles within the bounds of the “Samarskaya Luka” National Park, an impressive peninsula spanning 25 x 60 kilometers, crowned by the Zhiguli Mountains.

Before embarking on woodland strolls or mountain treks within the national park, visitors must procure a pass. These can be secured either in person in Rozhdestveno or Shiryaevo or online (exclusively through Yandex or Atom browsers). A day’s pass is a mere 50 rubles (0.55 $), while a three-day pass goes for 100 rubles (1.11 $). Villages within the park, as well as the paved roads connecting them, can be freely accessed without such passes. However, entry to parts of the park, specifically the Zhiguli Reserve, is strictly tour-only.

Nature enthusiasts will be thrilled by the variety of trekking routes, though it’s essential to note that these trails are fragmented and often traverse raw terrains or even road verges. The year 2022 saw the ambitious plans of the “Path of the River” volunteers who charted the park with aspirations of carving a 230-kilometer circuitous trail. 2023 is poised to witness the fruition of the initial segment of this grand endeavor.

Locals call “Zavolga” everything visible from the embankment, i.e. islands and villages on the other bank. This landscape largely nestles within the bounds of the “Samarskaya Luka” National Park, an impressive peninsula spanning 25 x 60 kilometers, crowned by the Zhiguli Mountains. Photo: Alexey Tisarev / Unsplash.com

Shiryaevo – A Gem of the National Park

Heralded as the park’s premier tourist hamlet, Shiryaevo boasts an impressive artistic pedigree. Pre-pandemic times celebrated the Shiryaevo Biennale every other year, a beacon for contemporary artists worldwide. Art aficionados must visit the former residence of painter Ilya Repin, whose brief sojourn in the village culminated in the iconic painting, “Barge Haulers on the Volga”. From Monastery Hill, the panorama unfolds — a breathtaking view of the national park and the Volga River. For those seeking more rugged adventures, the Camel Mountain beckons, offering a chance to explore caves carved in the early 20th century for stone extraction.

Given the early return of the ferries to Samara, visitors often opt for an overnight stay, ensuring tranquil sunsets from atop the hill and refreshing sunrise dips in the Volga. Numerous locals rent out rooms or even entire houses, with places like the “Camper Shire” mini-hotel offering a unique stay in motorhomes.

Heralded as the park’s premier tourist hamlet, Shiryaevo boasts an impressive artistic pedigree. Pre-pandemic times celebrated the Shiryaevo Biennale every other year, a beacon for contemporary artists worldwide

Rozhdestveno – A Riverside Retreat

A stone’s throw from Samara, on the other side of the Volga, lies the picturesque village of Rozhdestveno. With ferries from the city’s river station making hourly commutes, it’s an accessible haven for those keen on immersive experiences. Cycle enthusiasts can rent bicycles from “Velo Luka” or ProBike63 and set off on a journey through the village’s captivating environs. A day’s rental ranges from 500-600 rubles ( (5.54 – 6.65 $). For water sports enthusiasts, the opportunity to rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards beckons for a refreshing glide on the Volga. From Rozhdestveno, cycling routes offer easy access to neighboring Tornovoe, where the “Hammer and Sickle” monument stands tall atop a hill; to Shelekhmet, home to the panoramic Vysliy Kamen viewpoint; and to Podgor, a village renowned for its twin monasteries and cheesemaking traditions. For a comprehensive guide to the national park, refer to the “Tinkoff Journal”.

The quickest respite from the city’s hustle and bustle can be found on the isle of Proran, juxtaposed against Samara’s historic core. The island provides a serene setting for campers, with the night’s skyline dominated by the lights of Samara, best viewed from the warmth of a crackling campfire. Ferries to Proran also conveniently depart from the river station.

For those yearning for a different perspective of Samara, hopping onto one of the riverboats from the city’s station is the way to go. These boats, which head towards Shiryaevo, allow passengers to disembark within the city limits at the Frunze’s Meadow dock. One caveat — the journey back to the city center will necessitate land transportation. Alternatively, boat rides on smaller vessels are available at the Ulyanovsk descent near the brewery. These 30-minute trips, priced at 3000 rubles (33.26 $), can accommodate up to five passengers, making for an intimate voyage over the majestic Volga.


To walk through the forests and mountains of the Samarskaya Luka Park, you need to buy a pass to visit the National Park in advance at the representative office in Rozhdestven, Shiryaev or online. You can travel through the villages in the National Park and on the asphalt roads between them without a pass

The Volga’s Samara Side: Elevated Views and Enchanting Escapes

Bald Mountain – Samara’s Scenic Peak

Without having to cross to the opposite bank, travelers in Samara can embark on an ascent to Bald Mountain. From its summit, a vast clearing presents panoramic views of both the sprawling Volga and the vibrant city of Samara. The No. 50 bus, departing from the city center, provides a convenient connection, taking about 1.5 hours without traffic. However, during rush hours, it can stretch to 2-2.5 hours. Alighting at the “Dachi” stop, a descent towards the Volga commences. Beach-bound signs will guide your path as you venture up Bald Mountain. For those preferring a drive or a bike ride, the journey can extend to Tip-Tyav, the highest among the Falcon Mountains (an extension of the Zhiguli Mountains). Nestled within is the “Krasnoglinsky Refrigerator”, an erstwhile underground storage facility, which is now open to visitors exclusively via guided tours. If biking, it’s advisable to download tracks in advance.

On the outskirts of the Upravlensky settlement (affectionately dubbed “Uprava” by locals) stands the “Helipad” viewing platform. A testament to its Soviet era origins, it once served as an actual helipad. From this vantage point, sweeping views of the Volga and its river islands unfold. In 2021, the viewpoint underwent a remarkable transformation. Drawing inspiration from Moscow’s iconic Zaryadye Park, gravel pathways, wooden decks, ornamental shrubs, and minimalist benches were introduced. Unique lighting illuminates the space, enhancing its charm. Visitors can now lounge on deck chairs, chat in intimate gazebos, or enjoy the soothing swing of pergola-shaded swings. Reaching the “Helipad” from the city center is seamless, with taxis and the No. 50 or No. 1 buses providing quick commutes. Once at the “Upravlensky Settlement” stop, a pleasant walk towards the Volga leads directly to this modernized marvel.


In 2021, the viewpoint underwent a remarkable transformation. Drawing inspiration from Moscow’s iconic Zaryadye Park, gravel pathways, wooden decks, ornamental shrubs, and minimalist benches were introduced. Photo: Samara City Administration / Vk.com

Volzhskie Termy – A Spa Oasis Near Samara

In the neighboring town of Novokuybyshevsk, a post-pandemic gem has emerged — the “Volzhskie Termy”. Envisioned as a “resort without a flight”, this complex boasts a range of swimming pools, water attractions, saunas, and baths. During the biting chill of winter, even when temperatures plunge to -30°C, guests can still relish an outdoor swim. Summertime, meanwhile, offers the allure of sunbathing on deck chairs and swimming in saltwater reminiscent of the sea. A taxi ride from the heart of Samara will cost between 500-700 rubles (5.54 – 7.76 $) . Alternatively, visitors can use the minibus route 127 or the local train service.

The Azure Allure of Goluboe Lake

Positioned about 120 kilometers from Samara, in the Sergievsky district, is the mesmerizing Goluboe Lake. Its captivating blue hue is attributed to the high concentration of hydrogen sulfide, and when kissed by sunlight, the water transforms into a brilliant shade of blue, revealing its very depths. Astonishingly, the lake’s temperature remains a consistent 8°C year-round, offering a refreshing reprieve during scorching days. While there are no direct buses from Samara to the villages nearest to the lake, one could take a passing bus and alight on the main road. However, this option requires a walk of over ten kilometers. Hence, it’s recommended to approach this natural beauty by car or through a car-sharing service.

Captivating blue hue of Goluboe Lake is attributed to the high concentration of hydrogen sulfide, and when kissed by sunlight, the water transforms into a brilliant shade of blue, revealing its very depths. Photo: MulTicK / Wikimedia.org

Dining in Samara: A Culinary Scene in Evolution

The cityscape of Samara has witnessed a blossoming culinary renaissance in recent times. The culture of dining out has not only taken root but thrived, becoming an integral part of the urban experience. As evening descends upon the city center, securing a table at a restaurant without a prior reservation can prove challenging, even on weekdays, thanks to the throngs of food enthusiasts who fill these spaces to the brim.

For a while, the people of Samara developed a deep fondness for Georgian cuisine. The city’s eateries saw such a proliferation of khinkali (dumplings) and khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) that one might’ve cheekily suggested renaming Samara to Tbilisi, and many wouldn’t have spotted the difference. However, the culinary winds are shifting once more. Presently, the gastronomic inclinations lean towards the flavors of Pan-Asia and the diverse palette of Europe.

Samara’s Most Instagrammable Breakfast Spots

Veranda: This enchanting eatery operates solely during the warmer months. Inside, the café ceiling is adorned with artificial flowers, while the walls and entrance boast the real deal. The entire ambiance feels like a scene straight out of a fairy tale movie. Its outdoor seating – referred to as “letnik” in Samara – provides a perfect summer nook. An intriguing detail in their menu? Special markers beside dishes that are deemed “Instagram-worthy”.

Testo: A patisserie renowned for its extensive breakfast menu and an array of beverages. Their display case is always packed with fresh desserts, beckoning visitors for a sweet indulgence. The café’s crowning jewel? Their filled croissants, which they confidently label as “perfect”.

Filimonov: A bistro serving Mediterranean cuisine at approachable prices. Not only are the servings generously portioned, but their breakfast menu features dishes sure to raise eyebrows, like the decadent French toast topped with red caviar or their unique “buckwheat carbonara”.

Bruni: An Italian-inspired family café with a picturesque view of the Volga River. It features a kid’s playroom and a versatile breakfast menu to cater to all tastes. Their offerings are steeped in tradition: handcrafted pastas and pizzas, a selection of appetizers and salads. And for those on-the-go? Freshly baked bread available for purchase at the counter.

Inside, the ceiling of Veranda is adorned with artificial flowers, while the walls and entrance boast the real deal. The entire ambiance feels like a scene straight out of a fairy tale movie. Photo: Veranda

Coffee Spots in Samara

Signature Cafés Worth a Visit

Tolstoy Coffee: Evolving from a tiny space to a full-fledged café, this family-run gem ensures a warm welcome, with the owner frequently manning the coffee machine. Amidst restored wooden furniture, intricate mirrors, you’ll also find the city’s best treats made with boiled condensed milk.

8 Atoms: Founded by a seasoned barista of 15 years, Yevgeny Ivakhnenko, this café offers an education in coffee. Here, you’re introduced to a variety of coffee blends and guided to select the one that matches your preference. The yellow accents and a historic wrought-iron staircase – a relic from a former tailoring and shoe factory – add to its charm.

White Cup: Dubbed as a ‘courtyard resort’ by its creators, this café offers views of a gothic cathedral and a modern art museum in the neighboring building. Owned by a renowned local architect, Dmitry Khramov, even if you don’t come for the coffee, it’s worth stepping inside just to glimpse the ceiling, designed as a map of Samara’s center, marked by notable landmarks in the form of coffee cups.

Twinz: As the name suggests, this café is the brainchild of twin brothers who not only brew coffee but also roast their beans. Housed in a historic building, it boasts three sections: a primary area, a secondary with a gaming console, TV, and board games, and a third, fashioned as a co-working space.

Muwa: This new-wave signature café is set in a quaint brick house and was opened by a former manager of Skuratov, who moved to Samara from Omsk. The café fosters an intimate environment where the staff interacts with patrons like long-time friends. Tables are set so close that customers often strike up conversations, leading many to forge new friendships over a cup of coffee.

The new-wave signature café “Muwa” is set in a quaint brick house and was opened by a former manager of Skuratov, who moved to Samara from Omsk. Photo: Muwa

Chain Cafés in Samara: Familiar Faces with Unique Flavors

Surf Coffee: A café that transports you to a seaside vacation vibe, offering breakfast options at any time of the day.

Skuratov Coffee: Hailing from Omsk, this chain introduced Russia to airy lattes and nitro coffee, acquainting people with alternative brew methods. With five distinct locations in Samara, each showcases a unique design. The brand pays homage to historical architectural details while incorporating mural works from local and other artists.

Coffee Bean: This is the very café that once introduced the famous “Raf coffee” to the world.

Drinkit: This café venture, from the creators of “Dodo Pizza”, remarkably chose not to start in Moscow. A notable feature is its eponymous app, allowing patrons to assemble and pay for their drink beforehand, and then simply pick up their prepared order upon arrival.

A Culinary Voyage Through Samara’s Dining Scene

  • Puri: This Georgian eatery radiates exclusivity, often requiring an advance reservation. The mastermind behind it, Giga Kahovsky, ensures that Puri feels like a passion project. They pay painstaking attention to quality, sourcing many ingredients directly from Georgia, and the sheer variety is evident – their vegetable salad alone features three different types of tomatoes. Patrons often note that the food here mirrors authentic dishes one might taste in Tbilisi or Batumi.
  • Iskra: Renowned for its wood-fired pizzas, handmade pastas, and cheeses, tables at Iskra are often booked weeks in advance. However, during warmer months, guests can opt for takeout and enjoy their meal in the park across the street
  • “Vashche Ogon” (Fire Meat Restaurant): Beyond its summer patio and the Harley-Davidson centerpiece in its hall, this venue shines with live weekend music. But the star of the show is undoubtedly the meat – a diverse range cooked in various enticing styles.
  • Vinoterria: Blending a wine boutique with Mediterranean gastronomy, Vinoterria exudes sophistication. The service is impeccable; the cuisine is a gourmet’s delight, boasting delicacies like foie gras and a dedicated fridge for aging steaks.
  • “U Vakano”: Housed in a brewery building and operational since 1997, this restaurant offers an authentic Russian culinary experience. The menu spans from game meats like boar to classics like borscht and dumplings. While the interior may hint at 90s nostalgia, the flavors resonate pure culinary excellence.
  • Livingston: Dubbed a “culinary journey” by its founders, this establishment feels more like a museum, adorned with taxidermy displays of African wildlife, reliefs, masks, and murals. The menu is just as eclectic, drawing flavors from across the Middle East, from Israel to Tunisia and Lebanon.
  • Picture’s: Nestled on the grounds of a former film equipment factory, Picture’s revitalized a once-popular entertainment complex from the 2000s. Reopened in Spring 2022, it now houses over 30 gastronomic and entertainment corners, bowling alleys, and a creative hub.
  • “Kuhmisterskaya fon Vakano”: Located in the historic building of the Zhigulevsky brewery’s kitchenmaster’s house, this venue underwent a rebirth after years of neglect. Post its extensive restoration, it now shelters several establishments like the Alfred restaurant, the “1903” gastropub, the “Yurik” cocktail park, and a French club spa. Aesthetically, the building’s façade revives pre-revolutionary sgraffito (particularly stunning on the back), while the interiors flaunt wooden panels listing cities that imported Zhigulevsky beer. Historical artifacts discovered during the restoration grace its hall.

Bar Hopping in Samara: Sip, Dance, Repeat

Turbaza “Veterok”: A must-visit hotspot during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, this bar has etched its name in the memory of every tourist. Their extensive infusion offerings range from spicy mint to creamy toffee. Apart from their signature dumplings and pierogi, visitors can revel in a cozy summer patio nestled in an inner courtyard, complete with grills, hotdogs, and corn on the cob.

Borya: Housed in an Art Nouveau mansion, this bustling local shot bar comes alive on weekends with an eclectic mix of music. From tunes by “Agatha Christie” and “Nautilus Pompilius” to those of Meladze and Letov, the rhythm never stops. Within its “Mutaborya” events, DJ-driven parties are a frequent affair. The food is delightfully simple: sausages with peas, eggs with caviar, garlic croutons, and “Capital” salad. Their beverage selection boasts local Samara beer, an array of spirits like vodka and moonshine, and homebrewed infusions including “tomatovka”, “hrenovuha”, “smorodinovka”, among others.

Prolivoshnaya, or simply Prolivka: Founded by three friends, this bar boasts a wide range of craft beers from sours to ales. Their quirky Instagram humor and the city’s most sought-after open sandwiches make them stand out. Their commitment to ensuring every patron loves their drink is evident, as they offer tastings of any tap beverage before you commit.

Vechno Molodoy: Crowned the techno and house music king, this bar features the most popular summer veranda and a hash brown shawarma that every other local swears by. In the summer the entrance sees lengthy queues, prompting them to expand their courtyard in 2022 to accommodate the burgeoning crowd. Apart from electronic tunes, the venue hums with jazz, concerts, and stand-up performances.

In the summer the entrance to “Vechno Molodoy” lengthy queues, prompting them to expand their courtyard in 2022 to accommodate the burgeoning crowd

Milorad: A hushed haven in the heart of the city, Milorad claims its fame as Samara’s first and only speakeasy. With bartenders seasoned in the art of mixology, conversations here are limited to whispers. To secure a spot between Thursday and Saturday, one must make an advance reservation via the establishment’s Instagram.

Idol: Delight in the tropical allure of Idol, a tiki bar that effortlessly brings the islands to Samara. Here, drinks are served in idol-shaped glasses, while the décor pays homage to classic tiki culture — think grand antlers adorning the entrance, a crocodile gracing the wall, and an array of wooden masks. And when hunger calls, the menu offers Pan-Asian creations to pair with their elaborate cocktail list.

Na Dne (At the Bottom): A Samara staple since the 1980s, this bar’s enduring allure is evident in its eclectic clientele, from students to businessmen and janitors to governors. The simple yet exquisite beer, tinged with a hint of bitterness and revered by locals as a point of pride, is perfectly complemented by dishes like dumplings, Volga fish, croutons, and boiled crayfish.

8bit: A pixelated paradise for the nostalgics, 8bit is a shrine to retro gaming where the likes of Pacman and Mortal Kombat await enthusiasts. Beyond the video game allure, guests can indulge in authentic billiards and foosball. As for gastronomes, the kitchen whips up Mexican treats, succulent pork ribs, and burgers, while the bar pours draft beers and imaginative cocktails.

Rumochka: From the minds behind “Vechno Molodoy,” this two-tiered bar in the Art Cluster “Artist” promises double the fun. The upper level, dubbed “Light Rumochka”, delights with its airy ambiance, where patrons sip infusions and sway to DJ mixes. Descend to the “Dark Rumochka”, and you’re greeted by walls adorned with poetic verses, seductive jazz tunes, dimmed lighting, and crafted cocktails. A playful heads-up: The restroom here might offer more than a mere reflection. With transparent glass replacing the conventional mirror, one might catch a glimpse of visitors of the opposite gender.

The upper level, dubbed “Light Rumochka,” delights with its airy ambiance, where patrons sip infusions and sway to DJ mixes. Descend to the “Dark Ryumochka,” and you’re greeted by walls adorned with poetic verses, seductive jazz tunes, dimmed lighting, and crafted cocktails. Photo: “Rumochka”

Samara Souvenirs: Beyond the Ordinary

In the heart of Samara, small businesses have turned the souvenir game on its head. Instead of the mundane, they’ve infused personality and charm into their designs. You’ll find both the usual — mugs and t-shirts — and the unique, like wooden assembly kits of the Samara stadium or key hangers shaped like wooden homes. Although many of these keepsakes are often available exclusively on Instagram, they’re worth the extra effort compared to the usual fridge magnets and silver spoons. And remember, the best souvenirs are often edible. Don’t leave without a stash of Samara’s signature beer and some dried Volga fish.

Gorod-Kurort (Resort City): Despite a name echoing the previously mentioned brand, this is a distinct label from the eponymous city tour agency. They offer a variety of memorabilia, from t-shirts, mugs, postcards, notepads, to phone cases. What makes them stand out are the witty local slogans, like “all roads lead to the beach” or “had a Zhiguli beer? Stay clear of the steering wheel”.

Tochka na Karte (A Point on the Map): For those who’ve fallen head over heels for the Zhiguli Mountains, this brand offers the perfect memento. Think tourist maps, tin mugs, t-shirts, hoodies, postcards, notepads, waist bags, and shoppers. In essence, it’s a comprehensive kit for the traveler who wants to take a piece of Samara back home.

Tochka na Karte (A Point on the Map) is for those who’ve fallen head over heels for the Zhiguli Mountains. Photo: Tochka na Karte

Vse Drugoe (Everything Else): For those who want to skip the Instagram bargaining and walk into a brick-and-mortar store, “Vse Drugoe” is your haven. This gift shop, although with a limited selection, offers a bit of everything. From t-shirts representing “Samara – Resort City” to memorabilia from “Tochka na Karte”, the store showcases wooden replicas of local monuments, metal keychains shaped like Samara’s iconic structures, and postcards crafted by local artists. What’s more, as a delightful add-on, they offer a vast collection of books, ornaments, and crockery, ranging from the designs of “Artemy Lebedev Studio” to “Zaporozhets”.

Sambook: If you’re the kind of traveler who wants a plethora of options, “Sambook” is your go-to destination. They boast the most extensive assortment of classic souvenirs in the city. Be it magnets, keychains, rare books, paintings, ceramic models, or even traditional “kokoshniks” (Russian headdresses), they’ve got it all. So, if you’ve particularly taken a shine to the Lada car or the rocket from the “Samara Space” museum, Sambook is the place to find that perfect keepsake.

“Na Dne” Bar & The Brewery’s Official Store: Dive into the nostalgia of the Soviet era. At “Na Dne” bar and its nearby official store, you can find brewery-themed merchandise. From mugs reminiscent of Soviet-era pubs to magnets, t-shirts, and even watches made from “Zhigulevskoe” beer glass bottles, it’s a collector’s dream. And if you’re looking to give someone a taste of Samara, their assorted beer gift packs are just the ticket.

Samara Sojourn: Where to Stay

When choosing accommodation in Samara, one mantra reigns supreme: central is essential. In this pulsating heart of the city, you can find studios nestled in historical edifices, contemporary apartments in high-rises, bustling hostels, and luxurious hotels.

Platforms like “Sutochno” and “Avito” present opportunities for lodging that boasts vistas of the sprawling Volga or are tucked away in age-old buildings with charming courtyards. However, it’s not uncommon to find interiors echoing the ubiquitous ‘Euro-renovation’ style.

For consistent comfort and quality, international hotel chains are a safe bet. There’s the opulent Lotte, whose grandeur disrupts the historical skyline, the dependable Holiday Inn, the Hampton by Hilton near the railway station, and the 7 Avenue, enticing guests with its spa and culinary delights. The Renaissance and Ibis also promise pleasant stays, though they’re a 30-minute jaunt from the city center. Room rates across these hotels typically start from around 3000–4000 rubles (33.26 – 44.35 $).

Water enthusiasts might want to consider the intimate Loft Hotel, conveniently located across from the promenade, or the modernist “Russia” hotel beside the river station. Request a room on an upper floor for panoramic views of the Volga or perhaps indulge in some high tea at their restaurant boasting an impressive vista. Unfortunately, much of the hotel’s original interiors have given way to modern refurbishments.

The Art Nouveau structure of the “Bristol Zhiguli” on Kuibyshev Street historically housed a hotel. Its interiors retain some vintage charms like ornate moldings, Art Nouveau mirrors, and cast-iron staircases. On the tranquil Stepan Razin Street lies the 1890 mansion, “Dom Sivre”, a boutique hotel characterized by a spiral staircase, a serene courtyard, and a namesake restaurant offering Mediterranean gastronomy.

On the tranquil Stepan Razin Street lies the 1890 mansion, “Dom Sivre”, a boutique hotel characterized by a spiral staircase. Photo: “Dom Sivre”

For the budget traveler, central hostels offer dormitory spaces ranging between 400 to 700 rubles (4.43 – 7.76 $). To ensure a short walk back after an evening of bar-hopping, consider hostels like “Mishka”, “Yo! Hostel”, “Hostels Rus”, or “Time”. While none sit directly by the waterfront, all promise a quick 10-15 minute stride to the beach.

Getting Around Samara: From Kick-Scooters to Classic Trams

While many of Samara’s central attractions are within easy walking distance, for those who might find the expanse a tad overwhelming, kick-sharing has become a convenient option. Since spring 2021, Samara has welcomed services like Whoosh, Urent, Red Wheels, among others. Exploring the city on a bicycle is also appealing. Though there aren’t designated bike lanes, the flat topography of the city center, devoid of any steep inclines, makes it cyclist-friendly. The only challenge might be the climb from the beach back to the heart of the town. While there isn’t a mainstream bike-sharing service yet, private rentals are available along the promenade and from the long-standing “Tur-Prokat”. Post 10 pm, public transportation takes a break, but fear not, popular taxi services like “Yandex”, “Citymobil”, and “Maxim” have got you covered.

Buses, trams, trolleybuses, minivans (marshrutkas), and even a metro system provide connectivity across the city. The metro, however, hasn’t reached the historical core yet, with “Alabinskaya” being the nearest station. Initially built to transport factory workers to manufacturing sites, the metro stations largely skirt the tourist areas. Locals often jest that the metro primarily carries air, given its primary users are residents from the outskirts. Yet, taking a ride is recommended, if only to admire the murals at the “Gagarinskaya” station and to tick off another city’s metro from your list.

For those cloudy days, consider a tram tour of the city. Route No. 5 glides along Galaktionovskaya Street, passing the iconic Slava Square and its quirky monument colloquially known as “Panikovsky with a Goose”. Tram No. 20 journeys through the old town, giving a glimpse of the Catholic church, while No. 3 offers a comprehensive view, traveling from the center to the last metro station on the opposite outskirts. On these routes, you’ll ride in vintage, charming Czech “Tatra” trams, transporting you back in time as you take in the modern cityscape.

Old but cute Czech Tatra trams operate on Samara routes

In Samara’s municipal transport, the fare is 35 rubles (0.39 $) if you’re paying with cash and 32 rubles (0.35 $) when using a transport or bank card. Private transport comes with a slightly higher fare of 38 rubles (0.42 $ ). In the city, private minibuses, known as “paziki” and “marshrutki,” still operate. Though these do not have the facility to pay by card, a workaround is to negotiate a card transfer directly to the driver. Keeping track of transportation can be efficiently managed using the local app “Pribvyalka”, a native solution that existed in Samara even before the advent of “Yandex.Maps”.

Car-sharing in Samara is facilitated by the “Delimobil” service. While there might not be as many cars available as in a metropolis like Moscow, you can always find a free vehicle in popular areas. In this city, whether you’re hopping on a classic minibus or driving yourself around in a shared car, there’s always a convenient way to reach your destination.

Getting to Samara: A Traveler’s Guide

From Moscow to Samara, there’s no shortage of airlines offering flights. Whether you’re looking at “Uteyr”, “Nordwind”, “Smartavia”, S7, “Rossiya”, or “Aeroflot”, there’s a flight for you. One-way ticket prices generally start from three thousand rubles (33.26 $), with a travel time of about one and a half hours. Direct flights are also available from a plethora of Russian cities like St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Tyumen, Novosibirsk, and many more.

Upon landing, you’ll find that the “Kurumoch” Airport is located approximately 40 kilometers from the city. Although public transportation directly to the city center isn’t available from the airport, you can take minibus no. 406 or bus no. 78 (which runs a few times an hour) to the “Barboshina Polyana” stop. From there, it’s easy to transfer to a tram or another bus. Alternatively, minibus no. 392 runs every 15-30 minutes and will get you to the bus terminal, where you can catch transportation to any part of Samara. For those heading to the railway station, six commuter trains are available daily. Taking a taxi to the city center? It usually costs around a thousand rubles (11.09 $), but during rush hours, the fare may increase by 300-500 rubles (3.33 – 5.54 $). The journey takes at least an hour.

For train enthusiasts, Samara is a significant railway hub. On average, 30-50 trains pass through daily from various directions. A double-decker train from Moscow is an option, with tickets typically ranging from 2000-4000 rubles (22.17 – 44.35 $). However, during the off-peak season, you might snag an upper bunk in a sleeper compartment for just a thousand rubles (11.09 $). For cities nearby, the train is the most convenient mode of transportation to Samara, with the exception of Ulyanovsk and Kazan, where slower buses or cramped minibuses are the primary choices.

Samara railway station claims the title of the ugliest building in Russia. In Ilya Varlamov’s list of “100 ugliest buildings in Russia” it took the second place, second only to Saransk Arena hall

When to Visit Samara: A Seasonal Guide

While many southern resort cities typically hibernate during the winter months, Samara is no exception. Winter in this city seems to put life on pause: the promenade witnesses only the brave joggers and winter swimmers, and a piercing cold wind cuts through the city center due to its proximity to the Volga River. Yet, this also makes Samara tranquil and cozy during the chilly months. The winters in Samara are genuine, characterized by snowdrifts and frosts, offering ample opportunities for outdoor activities. The abundance of snow usually permits activities like snowboarding at “Krasnaya Glinka,” walking or skiing across the Volga River, or even heading to Rozhdestveno on a hovercraft.

As May approaches, the resort city starts blossoming. With the first rays of sunshine, sunbathers dot the beach, even though the official swimming season only starts in mid-June. The city center begins to buzz with life, and cafes and restaurants set up their outdoor terraces. A sense of hedonism engulfs Samara with the onset of summer. Don’t be surprised to find swimwear tucked inside most backpacks, ready for a quick dip in the Volga after a day’s work. Evenings, even on weekdays, are spent in open-air cafes and bars. The average summer temperature in Samara hovers around 26°C (78.8°F) during the day and 21°C (69.8°F) in the evenings. So, the ultimate advice? If you aim to dive deep into the Volga’s hedonistic vibes and understand the resort-like essence of the city, keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan your visit during the warmer months.

As May approaches, the resort city starts blossoming. With the first rays of sunshine, sunbathers dot the beach, even though the official swimming season only starts in mid-June. The city center begins to buzz with life, and cafes and restaurants set up their outdoor terraces. Photo: Alexxx Malev / Flickr.com

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Author: Marina Lukiyan

Photos: Daria Zinkovskaya, Misha Mityukov

Cover: Nata Skorokhodova

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