48 Hours in Kazan

Russia's 'sports' capital' thrums with Tatar culture.  
Photo by: Suraark/Getty Images
Photo by: Suraark/Getty Images

Even before there was Moscow, there was Kazan—the first reference to Kazan pre-dates Moscow’s. It was the victory of Grand Duchy of Moscow over the commanding Khanate of Kazan that established Moscow as a major centre of power and instituted Tsardom in Russia. Today, Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan within the Russian Federation. It is called the ‘Sports Capital of Russia,’ thanks to the many sporting events the city hosts, including the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Day 1

9 a.m. Wink Back at Ronaldo

Given Kazan’s track record with sports, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the city painted a giant mural of a winking Cristiano Ronaldo so the football star would have an interes-ting view from his hotel room when he was visiting during the Confederations Cup. It is still visible from Hotel Ramada Kazan City Center, so go there for a cup of tea or a breakfast shot of vodka. Kazan’s mayor has, in fact, promised a Lionel Messi mural, and who knows, the city may add more. I’m rooting for a winking Thomas Müller.

10.30 a.m. Head to Kazan Kremlin

Inside the white limestone walls of Kazan’s citadel are many of the city’s major landmarks and historical buildings. Undoubtedly, the most magnificent building is the turquoise and ivory Kul Sharif Mosque with its stunning dome and poetic minarets. Step inside to see the delicately carved marble interiors. The mosque also has the Museum of Islamic Culture that tracks the history of the religion, particularly along the Volga River. Other highlights include the soaring Söyembikä Tower, Russia’s ‘leaning tower’, and the blue and gold onion domes of Annunciation Cathedral, Kazan’s oldest.

Photo by: visit-tatarstan.com

Photo by: visit-tatarstan.com

2 p.m. Gorge on Street Food

Immerse yourself into the energy of a Tatar bazaar at Central Market as locals haggle over the price of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a great place to try gubadiya, a traditional Tatar meat pie, and chak-chak, a hot dough and honey dessert so loved that it even has a museum dedicated to it. Head there to try more chak-chak and, if you wish, sign up to learn the recipe.

3.30 p.m. Explore Tatar Culture

Visit the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan for an intimate look at the life and culture of the Tatar people. The museum has an extensive collection of clothing, jewellery, and artefacts from the different tribes of the Volga region. It even has items from major world civilisations, including gold coins from medieval India.

8 p.m. Indulge in a Traditional Feast

Head to Tatarskaya Usadba where you can choose to sit in themed sections like the ‘Summer Court’ or ‘Summer Terrace’. The menu features traditional dishes like kystyby (potato-stuffed bread), echpochmak (a cousin of the samosa), and pilaw (like Indian pulao). If you notice a similarity between Tatar and Indian foods, it’s because of Mongol and Turkic influences in northern India. After all, Mughal emperor Babur was of Mongol-Turkic descent and hailed from present-day Uzbekistan. Those feeling bold can try kazylyk, horsemeat sausages. Not quite there yet? Opt for one of the European dishes on the menu (Shigabutdina Mardzhani, 8).

 

Day 2

10 a.m. Get Up Close with Soviet Life

Step into the time machine that is the Museum of Soviet Life, an extraordinary space delving into the life of ordinary people in the Soviet Union of the 1970s and 1980s. Rock fans will relish the collection of close to a thousand guitars autographed by the likes of Sting, Scorpions, and Deep Purple. For a truly immersive experience, try on clothes from the 1980s. You might walk away with a new Facebook profile pic.

Photo by: FIFA/Contributor/Getty Images

Photo by: FIFA/Contributor/Getty Images

Noon Eat, Shop at Bauman Street

Enter Ulitsa Baumana or Bauman Street, a pedestrian haven dotted with cafés, restaurants and shops. The cobble-stoned look has earned it the name ‘Kazan Arbat’ because it looks like the Old Arbat Street in Moscow. The creative fountain with four bronze frogs and the cast-iron carriage along the centerline add character to the street. Ambling along, you won’t miss the bell tower of the red-bricked Epiphany Cathedral shooting into the Kazan skyline. Just past it, look out for a large black clock with a unique dial featuring gorgeous Arabic calligraphy.

4 p.m. Snap a Selfie or Two

Unwind in Black Lake Park, a fountain-kissed green space, particularly popular in the summer. Don’t miss the white Arka Lyubvi or Love Arch, a perfect photo op for couples. The Park hosts an open-air market on Sundays (Dzerzhinsky Street).

Photo by: Marianna Ianovska/shutterstock

Photo by: Marianna Ianovska/shutterstock

8 p.m. Go bar-hopping

Grab a bite at one of Kazan’s trendy bars. You can’t go wrong with the relaxed vibe of Brown Bear Grill (54/1, Pushkin Street), buzz-central that is The Woods (Bolshaya Krasnaya St., 34/16), or the Cuban-themed Cuba Libre (58 Bauman Street) for a Cuban Missile Crisis, a house special made of rum, triple sec, and pineapple juice. Hit the dance floor at Cuba Libre or head to the lively Sol (22 Profsoyuznaya Street).

 

To explore more of Russia, see our FIFA World Cup 2018 guide to the country here.

  • Aanchal Anand is a travel addict who has been to over 50 countries across 5 continents. When she isn't travelling, she is typically coaxing her two cats off the laptop keyboard so she can get some writing done.

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