Everything you have to know about the Tatar capital in one article: what to see in Kazan, how to entertain your kids, where to stay, what to eat, and how to move around.
Kazan is an incredibly picturesque Russian city.
The third capital of Russia is one of the country’s most flamboyant cities, a place that mixes ingredients from various cultures in a giant cauldron. So what do you have to see in Kazan to get the taste of that mixture? Spiritual satiation might well be accompanied by nutritional one as well, for the local cuisine is as interesting as the city itself. Explore our guide and make your Tatar journey as satiating and tasty as possible!
It doesn’t take a weather forecaster to predict that Summer 2018 is going to be hot in Kazan thanks to the looming World Cup. The main football event of the year is to begin June 16 with a group-stage match, and Kazan is going to host a lot of games up until the quarterfinals scheduled for July 6. Kazan is now guaranteed to host the games of such football giants as Spain, Germany, and France; whatever happens thereafter is up to the sports fate! All the games are going to take place at the Kazan Arena, a state-of-the-art stadium praised for its stylish media facade.
But it’s not just about football! Aside from 90 minutes of cheering for your favorite team, Kazan has a lot more to offer.
Kazan’s main sights
Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan, one of Russia’s autonomous republics; however, visiting Kazan is like going to another country. Everything seems so unusual: another culture, another language, another religion, a completely different cuisine and architecture… Going here is like traveling abroad, except that you don’t need a visa, English skills, or foreign currency! So, what can be so interesting about this journey and what are the absolute must-dos in Kazan?
The city’s main sight is its magnificent Kremlin. The ring of its fortified walls encloses peacefully coexisting chubby onion-shaped domes of the Annunciation Cathedral and the slender minarets of the Kul-Sharif Grand Mosque, a military museum, and branch of St. Petersburg’s Hermitage. Visit the Kremlin to see its exhibits dedicated to Islamic culture and Tatarstan’s natural and political history.
Zilant, the Kazan Dragon, in the Kremlin
Where to go for a walking tour in Kazan? Ask the urban environment that truly has capital-level ambitions. The city can boast its spacious Kremlin embankment with a pompous Palace of Tillers or the local main street named after Bauman, where you can spot the bronze carriage of Catherine II (which lacks Her Majesty herself tho).
Kazan has plenty of other original monuments like the cartoonish Zilant the Dragon, the posing Cat of Kazan, or the famous öçpoçmaq, a Tatar patty. The latter is found at Tugan Avılım, an outdoor museum of ethnography. The museum is a genuine Tatar village from the 15th century that has been magically moved to our time: it contains houses with all the furnishing, a mill, a mosque, operating workshops, and baths; it also offers folklore performances and national costumes you can even try on!
If you want to see a younger Kazan from the 18th and the 19th century, go to the Tatar Sloboda which has preserved a lot of historical buildings: marketplaces, local nobility’s manors, and a few picturesque mosques. The city is actually full of majestic churches: find the Church of Alexander Nevsky, the Monastery of Zilant, and the Cathedral of the Epiphany that has a great observation deck in its bell tower; Al Marjani, Sultanov, and Apanayev Mosques are also well worth seeing. The unique Temple of All Religions is the epitome of Kazan’s cultural unity.
What to see and what to do in Kazan if you travel with kids
Finding a place to go with kids is no problem in Kazan! For your cultural program, note three interesting places. Mishkin Dom, the stuffed-toy museum, is a three-storey building full of plush toys in various houses and clothes, each having its own story and secrets. The Happy Childhood Museum will please kids and adults alike. Everybody has to go there: some will remember their youth, others will enjoy a lot of “ancient stuff”. The Pop-Sci and Tech House will bring your kids to a world of modern-day experiments; it’s a museum of the dream where all the exhibits can and must be touched and tried.
Ok, what to do if I am not a museum-goer and prefer something physical? Here’s the entertainment assortment for you! Riviera is a huge water park that offers 50 different amusements, a dedicated river beach, and an outdoor pool which is heated in winter. For those who like it quiet, Baryonix is a somewhat modest but quieter water park. The Touching Zoo (yep, from the word “to touch”) is the best place for animal enthusiasts. The Kırlay Amusement Park offers a lot of open-air amusements, a huge Ferris wheel, extreme rides for adults and slower carousels for kids.
How to get to Kazan’s sights
From the Kazan Airport, you can take a route cab N197 for 60 rubles or a city train of the local Sodruzhestvo Railway for 40 rubles. The second option is preferable not only because it’s cheaper but also because it gets you to downtown Kazan whereas route cabs do not reach the downtown.
Kazan’s public transit system is a single system consisting of buses (the most popular mode of transport), metro (well, just a single line), trolleybuses and trams. Pay for your transit conveniently with a smart card that works like an e-wallet. For one-way trips, you are charged 23 rubles if paying by card, or 25 rubles if buying tickets on the spot. Smart cards are sold at post offices or sales points; card reload service is provided by banks and ATMs as well.
The Tatar capital is rightfully believed to be one of Russia’s most beautiful cities, attracting a lot of tourists and thus offering a great selection of hotels for any budget.
- The cheapest options are, of course, hostels like Krylia (Wings) or Kazanskoye Podvorye (Kazan Farmstead).
- Conventional middle-class hotels we recommend are TatarInn and Osobnyak na Teatralnoy (Manor in Teatralnaya).
- The most demanding tourists should go for 5* hotels like Mirage or Giuseppe.
Tatar cuisine is a great attraction in its own right! You’ll try things you might already now like pilaf or belyashes, or exotic new stuff like shulpa soup, tunterma omelet, or ham beshbarmak. And what a great selection of sweets! the city is filled with honey and nuts, from the flows of which surfaces things like çaq-çaq, talkış kaleve, koş-tele, and other delicacies. Which restaurants to go for a tasting?
If you can’t afford much, there’re nice inexpensive places like the Dom Chaya (Tea House) or Alan Ash. Don’t be confused by the simplicity of these places, for they are “critically acclaimed” by the locals who love eating out there. Need a full-fledged mid-budget restaurant? Then we recommend Tugan Avılım located at the entertainment complex of the same name in the downtown. If you want a luxury national-cuisine dinner in Kazan, the best option is Chirem, an exclusive restaurant on the waterfront of the Volga River.