With the deafening howl of the vuvuzelas no longer ringing in your ears (it’s only been eight years), it’s time to turn your attention to the Russia World Cup 2018. That’s right, the forecast is in and this summer you can expect football with a chance of football. This year the FIFA World Cup 2018 is being hosted in one of the most interesting and exciting countries in Europe
: Russia. Some of you were lucky enough to have gotten your hands on World Cup tickets. And, once you start to plan your travel to Russia World Cup 2018
, you will undoubtedly be scratching your heads and wondering about things to do in Moscow, or St. Petersburg or any of the other 9 cities hosting this year’s competition. Despite it being football season, you’re going to have plenty of spare time between games, so, we’ve put together some suggestions.
World Cup History
Before we take a look at all the things to do in Moscow and St. Petersburg, let’s look at how the World Cup first got started. First held in Uruguay in 1930, the World Cup was the brainchild of then FIFA president, Jules Rimet. With the 1932 Olympic Games being held in Los Angeles, football, a sport of little interest to the American public, faced potential exclusion. To complicate matters, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA had differing viewpoints with regards to what constituted the amateur status of football players. As such, the Olympic Football Tournament was dropped from the 1932 Olympic Games. This turn of events gave Jules Rimet the wind in his sails to set up the first World Cup.
Having won both the 1924 and 1928 Olympic Football Tournaments, the Uruguayans were favorites to host the inaugural competition. The country was also celebrating its centennial of Independence. That, coupled with the willingness of the country’s National Football Association to cover all expenses, cemented their position as the host nation.
The first World Cup
saw 13 countries participate, 11 from South America, 4 from Europe and 2 from North America. The first ever match played was actually two matches which kicked off simultaneously, France vs. Mexico and the USA vs. Belgium, with the first ever goal scored by France’s Lucien Laurent. Uruguay played Argentina in the final with the host nation lifting the trophy after a 4-2 win. And, since then we have enjoyed 20 more World Cup competitions in 14 different countries.
Things to do in Moscow
Moscow! This sprawling, buzzing metropolis in the biggest country in the world, you could argue, was born out of a party. In 1147, Russian Prince, Yury Dolgoruky, hosted an enormous feast for Prince Novgorod. Where did he choose to throw the shindig? That’s right, a small protective outpost built along the banks of the River Moskva. Throw in its strategic location, the city existed on trade routes connecting it to the Baltics in the North, the Black Sea in the South and Europe to the west. Slowly as the years rolled by Moscow grew in size and importance. Now, it is home to a population of over 10 million and a bustling hotspot of bars, restaurants, and culture
. So, the question really isn’t what do in Moscow
, it’s where to start?
No trip to the country’s capital would be complete without an afternoon exploring Moscow’s Red Square. Although, you could definitely spend more time exploring it. Contrary to popular belief, the Red Square doesn’t get its name from the color of its many beautiful buildings. In fact, it comes from the word “krasnyi” which once meant “beautiful.” But, over time, it has come to mean “red” in contemporary Russian.
The Red Square is a storied space that ties Russian history together. It has held military parades that have celebrated the beginnings and ends of wars, Cold War-era displays of might as well as concerts and New Year’s firework shows. Take a walk and enjoy the jaw-dropping beauty of the wonderland colored, whipped cream domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral or stop off at Lenin’s tomb where you can, 4 days a week, see the perfectly preserved body of the former leader. Directly opposite, you’ll find the famed State Department Store, GUM, a shopper’s paradise steeped in history.
Old Arbat Street
Alternatively, make your way to one of Moscow’s oldest streets, Old Arbat street, which derives its name from that Arabic word “arbad” meaning “suburb.” This street, which has been fully pedestrianized since 1986, is peppered with buskers and street performers. Stroll up and down it and pop into the numerous secondhand book and souvenir shops, or park up at one of the many veranda cafes where you can enjoy a cup of coffee in the warm summer sun and watch the world go by.
Moscow Bars, Clubs & Nightlife
You’re planning to travel to Russia World Cup 2018, but world cup ticket prices mean you haven’t managed to secure a stadium seat. Then why not head to one of Moscow’s many sports bars. Here you’ll be able to rub shoulders with the locals, indulge in a few beers and barrack for your home side. You could try Liga Pap on Bolshaya Lubyanka
Street. This sports bar, which boasts over 20 TVs and a special cinema-style screening room, broadcasts just about every sport under the sun. The atmosphere is casual and the décor elevates the venue out of your bog-standard sports bar into something a little swankier. The friendly staff serve a diverse selection of reasonably priced beers and spirits and if you’re feeling peckish, you can chow down on burgers, wings, salads and soups.
For a complete list of Moscow’s sports bars go here.
Once the games finished, switch your football boots for your dancing shoes and make for Propaganda Club
where you can boogie til your heart’s content every night of the week. This stalwart of the Moscow club scene begins at night as a bar/restaurant, but puts its tables and chairs up as the evening pushes on to host a slew of international DJs who throw down the quality electronic music. The venue enjoys a crowd of young expats, tourists and locals alike who dance away the night into the early hours of the morning.
If clubbing isn’t your thing, then worth checking out is the Moscow neighborhood of Patriarch Ponds. Set around a pond lined by art nouveau buildings, Patriarch Ponds was once an area coveted for its quiet. Now the neighborhood, which formerly housed writers Mikhail Bulgakov and Maksim Gorky, and its main street, Malaya Bronnaya, are a smorgasbord of independent cafes, bars and restaurants teeming with life and buzzing with energy. Check out Bar Klava a cozy, stylish bar with exposed brick walls, leather couches, and intimate chandelier lighting. This place packs out and for a good reason with its extensive list of inventive, delicious cocktails.
Things to do in St Petersburg
St. Petersburg, Russia’s “Window to the West,” is a young city by comparison to many of Russia’s other cities. Founded in 1703, Peter the Great, the city’s founding father, seized the boggy marshlands on which St. Petersburg would later be built while at war with Sweden. St. Petersburg’s strategic location with direct access to the Baltic Sea, would see it dubbed the countries capital and welcome Russia onto the European stage as a powerful political, economic and cultural force. In the 300 years since, despite its young age, St Petersburg has experienced a rich and storied history. From revolution and war to literature, architecture and art, all is woven into the bridges, palaces and waterways of this beautifully unique and vibrant city that is a must see if you plan to travel to Russia World Cup 2018.
Start off your stay with a stroll down St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, Nevsky Prospekt. Often included in the works of Dostoevsky and Gogol, this street is the artery that pumps life into the heart of the city. Walking down Nevsky Prospekt, you will be able to take in some of St. Petersburg’s most iconic sights, like the Eliseyev Emporium and the Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral which was modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica. This neoclassical cathedral features 80-meter dome and 111-meter colonnade. It is a place of quiet contemplation, open to the public free of charge. You can also enjoy the cathedral’s gardens which commemorate Mikhail Kutuzov and Mikhail Barclay, Russian army commanders who fought off Napoleon.
The Hermitage Museum
Opulence knows no bounds at the upper end of Nevsky Prospekt where you will find a complex of buildings that houses the Winter Palace and Hermitage
. If you’re up for an afternoon of art appreciation, then this is the place to head. This Hermitage houses one of the largest art collections in the world that would, it’s been said, take 11 years to see all of. Picasso, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo can all be found on display. Furthermore, you can enjoy works of art dating as far back as ancient Mesopotamia. You can purchase the tickets on-site or online with the first Thursday of every month free to all visitors.
Datsan Gunzechoinei & Museum of Bread
For those looking to do something a little different, St. Petersburg is home to the northernmost Buddhist Temple, Datsan Gunzechoinei. Completed in 1915, this temple was strongly opposed by the Orthodox Church, but given the go-ahead by Tsar Nicolas II. Here you can explore the grounds while learning about Buddhist philosophy, consult an astrologist and enjoy Buryat (Mongol people from Siberian Asia) cuisine in the temple’s basement café.
St. Petersburg’s State Museum of Bread
is the only one of its kind in Russia (there are apparently only 13 museums of bread in the world). This museum champions the history of food of great importance to the city of St. Petersburg. During the 900-day Nazi siege of the city, bread was the only available food rationed to its people. Here you can dive into the long and storied history of grain farming, bread making and the bread trade of St. Petersburg.
St Petersburg Bars, Clubs & Nightlife
If you’re lucky enough to have traveled to Russia for the World Cup but haven’t been able to get your hands on tickets, don’t worry, St. Petersburg’s vibrant bar scene is here to save the day. For football fans, check out BarSlona
just off of Nevsky Prospekt where you can enjoy, as you may have already guessed, Catalan style tapas and all the World Cup action on their big screens. They serve a great selection of excellent beers (and of course sangria) which you can sip in the summer sun in their outdoor seating area. Here, service comes with a smile and many of the bar staff and waiters are fluent in English.
Nestled away on Malaya Sadovaya Street, hiding beneath the Grill Brothers burger restaurant – the only proof of its existence, a small burning candle – is Kabinet Bar
. Based on what used to be a Russian cheese shop, this sophisticated cocktail bar, modeled after the speakeasies of the 1930s, is frequented by a trendy crowd and staffed by hip cocktail connoisseurs. Sit back at the poker table bar and select one of the cocktails. It will be "dealt" to you by the bartender from a pack of cards while you soak up the smooth jazz. The place is often busy, so best to phone ahead and make a reservation.
Practical Info to Travel to Russia World Cup 2018
FIFA 2018 Tickets and Match Information
- You can find all information regarding match times, locations, latest updates as well as ticket prices and availability on FIFA World Cup 2018 website.
Russia World Cup Stadiums
- The map below lists all the Russian World Cup stadium locations along with detailed information on how to get there
- Make sure your passport is valid for a minimum of 6 months after your visa/fan ID expires.
- A World Cup Fan-ID provides visa-free travel to Russia during the World Cup as well as free local travel on buses, metros and trams.
- Remember to register in every host city within 24 hours of arrival. Hotels/hostels/guest houses should do this for you, but it is your responsibility to make sure it’s done.
- Carry a passport/valid form of recognized ID with you at all times.
- For more FIFA World Cup 2018 visa info go here
- Two airports, Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo, service Moscow.
- Aeroflot flies to Sheremetyevo while British Airways provides services to Domodedovo Airport and St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport.
Money & Exchange
- You can exchange US Dollars and Euros at any exchange point.
- Russia State Bank (Sberbank) exchange all currencies.
- Alfa Bank – Russia’s largest private bank – has branches in all major Russian cities.
- Banks set their own exchange rates based on the Central Bank’s rates with a difference of +/- 10 %.
- Sums up to 40,000 Roubles can be exchanged without documentation, but it is advised to always have a valid ID.