There’s less than a month to go until the 2018 Russia World Cup kicks off, but its not too late to book a last-minute trip.
Up to one million international football fans are expected to descend on the nation this summer, as 11 Russian cities welcome teams from around the world for the prestigious tournament.
The Russia World Cup will get underway in Moscow on Thursday 14 June, with the tournament coming to its conclusion in the capital on Sunday 15 June.
Places like Rostov, Nizhny and Kaliningrad will be close to capacity throughout. However, if you’re willing to pay a premium or settle for something less luxurious, you should still be able to find somewhere to stay in each city.
Ahead of the Russia World Cup, Verdict looks at the best places to stay, eat and drink in Russia during the tournament.
Where to stay: Korston Club Hotel
Three of the stadiums being used for the Russia World Cup are located in the capital. However, the two big games, the opener between Russia and Saudi Arabia and the final, will be held at the 81,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium.
The vast majority of those in attendance will likely head for the metro station following the final whistle. Those staying in the centre can expect a lengthy wait to get back home. However, the Korston Club Hotel is located within just 30 minutes of the stadium on foot.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds of rowdy revellers that will likely flood the centre, located on the city’s outskirts, the Korston will offer peace and quiet. If not, you’re only a few minutes away from the metro station.
Price: from approximately $220 per night (13,600 RUB)
Where to eat: White Rabbit
The Michelin guide doesn’t cover Russia, but this is about as close to a Michelin starred restaurant as you can get in Moscow. Gault Millau, a rival to the French food guide, has given White Rabbit four torques, the highest grade available.
“Here, traditional Russian dishes are intertwined with the latest gastronomic trends, and local products vie with recognised world delicacies,” Gault Millau’s expert judges concluded.
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White Rabbit focuses on traditional Russian menu, but there should be something for everyone here, with dishes including lamb steak and smoked potatoes, scallops and hummus, and a vegan set made only of vegetables, fruits and nuts.
White Rabbit is one of the most reputable restaurants in Moscow, so you might have to compete with the ensemble of star footballers present in Moscow for a reservation, but it’s worth the effort.
Price: approximately $170 for a tasting set and wine (10,400 RUB)
Where to drink: Jim ‘N’ Jack’s
Governments have warned their citizens to be safe if travelling to Russia. Alcohol can fuel tensions between rival fans and might be best avoided. However, if you’re looking for somewhere relaxed, friendly and predominantly English-speaking, Jim ‘N’ Jack’s is probably the place to go.
This expat bar regularly runs entertainment, such as comedy nights and live music, in English, so you will feel right at home. It’s small and simple, but it’s always a hit.
Where to stay: Solo Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge
Located out on the edge of the Gulf of Finland, there isn’t much life around the Krestovsky Stadium on non-match days.
If you’re only in Saint Petersburg to watch a game, there are a few hotels, restaurants and bars dotted around the stadium. However, you will spend most days travelling into the city centre to enjoy what St Petersburg has to offer.
The Solo Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge offers a good base in between those two points. The stadium can be reached in less than 20 minutes by taxi, while many of the city’s major landmarks are just a walk across the famous Palace Bridge.
When you’re not exploring the city, relax and unwind at the hotel’s Wellness Club spa, take part in a round of golf at the city’s first indoor golf club, or enjoy an unusual dining experience at Dans Le Noir?, where customers eat in total darkness.
Price: From approximately $247 per night (15,200 RUB)
Where to eat: Vino & Voda (Wine & Water)
There are plenty of excellent eateries in the city, but few offer a dining experience quite like Restaurant Wine & Water. Located on top of the luxury Hotel Indigo on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg’s centre, this establishment offers an incredible view of the city.
Voted the seventh best place to eat in Saint Petersburg by Trip Advisor users and the third best for local cuisine, visitors to the restaurant tend to leave happy.
On the menu is everything from chicken curry to steak and chips. Previous diners frequently recommend the selection of soups and bread. However, what you eat isn’t all that important, as long as you manage to get a seat up on the rooftop terrace.
Price: Approximately $16.50 for a main and drink (1,020 RUB)
Where to drink: Sidreria On Karavannaya
Fans will travel to Russia from six continents to watch 32 nations take part in the Russia World Cup. Many of them will find tastes from home on tap at Sidreria, a cider bar selling 22 varieties of draft ciders from countries across Europe, as well as more than 100 varieties of bottled ciders. Fans from England, France, Belgium and Russia will each find a cider from home here.
Located just a short walk from The Palace Bridge, you will have an easy walk back to the hotel should you have one too many. Or, if you want to keep the night going, you will be within walking distance of Saint Petersburg’s central district.
Price: Approximately $3.80 for a cider (234 RUB)
Where to stay: Radisson Blu Resort & Congress Centre
While the Fisht Olympic Stadium, built to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, is technically in Sochi, it is an actually in the microdistrict of Adler in Greater Sochi. This is a 40-minute drive away from the city centre, or 80 minutes if you plan on using the city’s public transport links.
Getting to the stadium will likely be an arduous task on match days, as 47,600 fellow football fans make their way to the outskirts of the city.
While most of Sochi’s luxury hotels are located in the centre, there are some excellent choices located a little closer to the Olympic stadium.
The Radisson Blu Resort & Congress Centre sits on the coast of the Black Sea, offering a five-star stay in a hotel that has just about everything that you need to stay happy and healthy. There are restaurants, bars, a spa and even a kids club for when you want to have a drink and watch the football without having to worry what the young ones are up to.
Price: From approximately $218 per night (13,420 RUB)
Where to eat: Grill’Age
Grill’Age may place 82nd on the list of Sochi’s best restaurants, but when it comes to options, there’s no place better.
Many Russian restaurants, particularly those offering fine dining, stick to traditional Russian dishes. Grill’Age offers that too, as well as just about everything else. There is a fine selection of Italian and Japanese dishes, as well as seafood, burgers and chicken wings, many of which are smoked in a Josper wood-burning stove to intensify the flavours.
With so much to choose from, Grill’Age provides for large, indecisive groups and fussy eaters.
Price: Approximately $16 for a main dish and cocktail (993 RUB)
Where to drink: Stargorod
According to the official Russia World Cup visitors’ website, this part-restaurant-part-pub is one of the best in the region. It is a regular stop-off point for those travelling to Sochi on excursions.
Stargorod makes four types of beer using traditional Czech methods, as well as a number of meat dishes that receive just as much praise.
Located on the waterfront just outside of Sochi’s centre, customers will be able to enjoy temperatures of up to 25 degrees Celsius overlooking the sea. Once the sun goes down, head inside to watch the World Cup on the big screen.
Where to stay: Hampton by Hilton Samara
Unlike cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg, there is plenty of available in Samara throughout the Russia World Cup. Prices will be up on big match days, but in the grand scheme of things you can expect to pay a wholly reasonable price for somewhere to bed down in Samara.
Rooms are available for under $70 a night in the city centre, but for $30 extra, you might as well pay for somewhere that guarantees comfort and cleanliness.
The Hampton by Hilton, for example, is available for as little as $102 during the tournament for a room with WIFI and breakfast included.
The Hampton is a no thrills sort of hotel, but it has been voted the best hotel in Samara by Trip Advisor users who recommend it for its value for money and good location.
Price: Approximately $102 per night (6,300 RUB)
Where to eat: Staraya Kvartira
Otherwise known as The Old Flat, Staraya Kvartira is part museum, part restaurant. The walls are lined with Soviet-era memorabilia and decorations that make it feel like you’re stepping back in time. An old telephone box sits in one corner and antique radios and televisions line another.
Staraya Kvartira turns back the years and the menu hasn’t been spared. Cutlets of meat are accompanied by home-cooked borscht soup and mashed potatoes, just like those in the region once ate.
This restaurant has been designed to appeal to tourists and it delivers. As one of the most popular eateries in Samara, it might be difficult getting a table when the city is hosting games, but it isn’t one to miss.
Price: Approximately $10 for a main dish and drink (602 RUB)
Where to drink: Harat’s
Both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Russia World Cup finals after suffering defeats to Denmark and Switzerland in the playoffs. However, Ireland will still be present in Samara at Harat’s, an Irish themed pub that is bound to get plenty of attention from travelling fans.
Pub by day and club by night, Harat’s is open until the early hours, offering opportunity to celebrate your team’s successes. Expect a packed bar, but an atmosphere that makes the wait seem not all that bad.
Price: Drinks from approximately $5.70 (350 RUB)
Where to stay: Hotel Attache
There isn’t a whole lot of choice for accommodation in Rostov, but that isn’t to say that you won’t find quality or comfort in this port city. Offering clean lodgings, friendly service and a good location at a reasonable price, Hotel Attache ticks all of the boxes. It is the perfect place to stay for those visiting Rostov for the Russia World Cup.
If you’re looking for proximity to the stadium, you can’t get much closer than the Attache. While Rostov has a reliable transport system, congestion is to be expected on match days. This hotel is within walking distance of the Rostov Arena, so you won’t have to queue to get on a bus or train.
Of the 40 hotels located in Rostov-on-Don, Hotel Attache ranks first according to Trip Advisor. Guests frequently note the hotel’s friendly staff, cleanliness and central location.
Price: From $62 per night
Where to eat: Drunkenwinnie Bar
For those that want to eat like a local without actually eating like a local, Drunkenwinnie Bar is the go-to place for those from Rostov that are looking to dine like an American. This small burger bar is a hidden gem in the city. It isn’t overrun with tourists like many other restaurants, but it is a favourite among the locals looking for somewhere to grab a bite to eat before moving on to drinks.
Greasy, American burgers are what Drunkenwinnie do best. With a range of toppings to choose from, there is almost certainly something for everyone here.
There’s no need to move on afterwards either. Drunkenwinnie offered a large selection of beers, wines, spirits and cocktails, and stays open until 5am throughout the week. Priding itself on being fun and welcoming, you’re bound to make friends here regardless of the team that you’re supporting.
Where to drink: Cuba Libre
The temperature can be hot in Rostov during June, with highs of 26 degrees during the month. When it all gets a little too much, cool off with a cocktail at Cuba Libre, Rostov’s very own Cuban-style cocktail bar.
Featuring drinks from 18 different countries and regions, your favourites are almost certainly on the menu, no matter where you’re travelling from. Here you can follow up a Caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, with Spanish sangria and wash it all down with a Singapore Sling.
Imaginative cocktails are Cuba Libre’s specialty. As well as the classics, you can also grab yourself a zombie Reformula or Hot Honey Gold. There’s plenty to taste test and working your way through the menu won’t break the bank either.
Price: Alcoholic drinks from approximately $2.75 (170 RUB). Cocktails from $3.25 (200 RUB)
Where to stay: Kulibin Parkhotel & Suites
Nizhny Novgorod doesn’t offer much choice. According to Trip Advisor, the city is home to just 40 hotels. With the city expecting up to 60,000 visitors during the Russia World Cup, many hotels are already full and others are charging a premium to stay in Nizhny during the tournament. A one-star hostel is charging $90 for a single bed in a dormitory, or upwards of $200 for a private room.
With prices so high, you might as well shell out for something a little nicer and ensure that your stay is an enjoyable one.
The five-star Kulibin Parkhotel & Suites comes at a cost, but you will live like royalty in the historic home of Russia’s old elite.
It’s some way out of the city centre, tucked away next to Kulibin Park, but the stadium is just a short drive away across the Kanavinsky Bridge. Likewise, you’ll have your own 32in television to catch the games that you’re not able to attend.
Price: From $587 per night (36,200 RUB)
Where to eat: Kupechesky
Now that you’re committed to splashing out, you need a fancy meal to go with your high-class accommodation.
Where better than Kupechesky, a modern-Russian restaurant ran by the city’s most iconic chef? Viktor Smirnov is a well-known figure in Nizhny and one that the locals respect highly for his take on traditional dishes like borscht and Pozharsky cutlets.
Preparation is a little slow – the restaurant stresses that you could wait up to 40 minutes for your food to arrive – but this is because each dish is made fresh when it’s ordered. Quality is valued here and nothing short of perfection is acceptable.
Price: Approximately $15.50 for a main dish and glass of wine (960 RUB)
Where to drink: Strike Zone
This entertainment complex is a world away from the splendour of the Kulibin Parkhotel. Tacky is a word that comes to mind, but that is exactly what Strike Zone is going for. Bright, clashing colours cover the walls, floors and just about everything else in the room, but it gives off that fun, friendly vibe that a place like this needs.
The complex offers bowling lanes and billiards tables to keep you entertained, but during the Russia World Cup, most visitors will undoubtedly be turning to the 60-seat Strike Zone sports bar, which will be streaming the tournament throughout.
After spending hundreds on a hotel room, you’ll appreciate that $3.30 glass or wine or bottle of beer too.
Prices: Approximately $3.30 for a glass of wine or bottle of beer (200 RUB)
Where to stay: It depends
It’s difficult to recommend a place to stay in Saransk during the World Cup as you will basically have to settle for whatever you can get on the days that you plan to attend. Many Russia World Cup host cities have a lack of accommodation options, but none quite like Saransk.
Despite constructing three new hotels just for the tournament, the vast majority of hotels and hostels are unavailable throughout the tournament, but there is the odd room available day to day.
Alexei Merkushkin, Mordovia’s Minister of Targeted Programs, said:
“We did not want to build new facilities that will no longer be of use once the World Cup is over. Instead, we built two four star hotels with a capacity of 83 and 116 rooms, and one five star hotel with a capacity of 159 rooms.”
The city has also constructed a tent city, complete with beds, bathrooms, restaurants and health services, to accommodate up to 2,000 additional fans, which could be an option if you’re unable to find elsewhere.
Where to eat: Big Pig
Despite the city’s small size, there are plenty of places to eat dotted around Saransk, from small independent eateries to big chains like Harat’s, which can be found everywhere and anywhere from the United States to Kyrgyzstan.
Whether you’re looking for something local or something a little more what you’re used to, Big Pig offers a wide range of dishes, including grilled meat (if the name didn’t give that away), seafood dishes and Russian classics. There’s a lot to choose from, but no matter what you pick, you’re certain to get your money’s worth. Big Pig promises big portions and successfully delivers on that.
Price: Approximately $16.50 for a burger, side and pint of beer (1,020 RUB)
Where to drink: Broadway
If football chants haven’t stripped you of your voice already, spend a night in Saransk in one of the city’s numerous karaoke bars.
The best selection of songs and refreshments can be found at Broadway, a New York-themed karaoke bar in the Belyy Medved entertainment complex. The box is well stocked with both Russian and international hits and the bar is well stocked too. There are more than 50 cocktails for you to choose from, all at a reasonable price.
If you grow tired of belting out karaoke classics, you could always take a short walk to Pub Beerloga, the best pub in the city according to Trip Advisor, or the trendy Chateau nightclub, both of which are located in the same complex.
Price: Approximately $5.40 for a cocktail (330 RUB)
Where to stay: Renomme
“Everything is fine with the preparations in Ekaterinburg when it comes to transport and hotels, of which there is an abundance,” said Alexey Sorokin, CEO of the Yekaterinburg Organising Committee.
Sorokin isn’t wrong. While many of Yekaterinburg’s hotels are sold out on days throughout the tournament, there are still plenty of places with rooms available. Finding somewhere to stay isn’t the problem, but with Russian hotels accused of hiking prices by up to 18,000%, cost certainly is.
If you’re going to pay out, you might as well get the best. FIFA recommends the Hyatt Regency, Yekaterinburg’s second best hotel. However, visitors to the city prefer design hotel Renomme, according to Trip Advisor.
The prices are far more reasonable (5,400 RUB compared to 18,000 RUB at the Hyatt Regency), the service is better, and you will be located just over 10 minutes from the Central Stadium by car, or 30 minutes on foot.
Price: Approximately $87 per night (5,400 RUB)
Where to eat: Maccheroni
If you’re fed up of Russian food, Maccheroni is where Yekaterinburg’s locals go when they’re looking for something a little different.
Noted for its modern approach to traditional Italian dishes, Maccheroni offers a wide range of meats, pastas and pizzas. If nothing on the menu takes your fancy, diners can build their own pasta, choosing the type of pasta, sauce and toppings.
Given Maccheroni’s popularity, expect the restaurant to be busy as the World Cup rolls through the city. Thankfully, there are two floors packed with tables to ensure that your wait isn’t a long one.
Price: Approximately $5.50 for a main dish (330 RUB), $5 for a pizza (300 RUB) and $2.80 for a bottle of beer (175 RUB)
Where to drink: Coyote Ugly
Thanks to the 1997 movie by the same name, Coyote Ugly is one of the world’s most well-known bar chains. With popular locations in New York City, Florida and Las Vegas, you wouldn’t expect to find this very American chain in the heart of Russia, and yet there it is.
A night at Coyote Ugly Yekaterinburg is just like any other of the chain’s 20+ bars. Don’t expect a quiet drink. The bar’s employees encourage you to drink until you drop and the blend of locals and visitors are usually happy to oblige regardless of the time or day.
Open until 6am seven nights a week, Coyote Ugly will undoubtedly be the go-to place following the city’s four group games.
Where to stay: Kaiserhof Hotel
While much of Kaliningrad was destroyed during World War II, the city did escape with some of its Prussian charm. The Kaiserhof Hotel is a good example of that. The building’s exterior is far from the look of most modern hotels, but inside Kaiserhof offers everything that you would expect from a four-star establishment.
Situated on the bank of the Pregolya River, the hotel’s location is both visually pleasing and practical. It is just a stone’s throw from the city’s centre, putting you within walking distance of many historical sights and an abundance of restaurants and bars.
Likewise, the Kaliningrad Stadium is a pleasurable 30 minute walk along the river, so you won’t have to brave the city’s bus-dependant transport system on match days.
Price: From approximately $77 per night (4,800 RUB)
Where to eat: Zotler Bier
Formerly a part of Prussia, the predecessor to modern day Germany, the city’s history is still present in Kaliningrad.
Food is perhaps where this is most obvious. Wurst sausages are a frequent sight along the city’s streets and many restaurants can be found serving traditionally German food alongside Russian dishes.
However, Zotler Bier is favoured by locals and visitors for its relaxed atmosphere. Food is cooked using traditional German recipes and Zotler beer is imported from Germany, making you feel like you’re actually 1,000km away in the heart of Bavaria.
Price: Approximately $11 for a main dish, side and beer (690 RUB)
Where to drink: Kropotkin
If you’ve shelled out on World Cup tickets, we can assume that you’re a big sports fan. Kaliningrad is full of sports bars, but there’s no better place to get your football fix than Kropotkin.
A total of 36 television screens are dotted around the room, ensuring that all 500 of Kropotkin’s drinkers have a good view of the action. A packed bar is to be expected throughout the tournament, but waiting for a drink will be worth it to enjoy the electric atmosphere. It won’t compare to match days inside the 35,000-capacity Kaliningrad Stadium, but it’s about as close as you can get.
Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Volgograd
Volgograd is a city with a story to tell. Previously known as Tsaritsyn from the 16th century through to 1925, Volgograd was renamed Stalingrad in 1925 after Joseph Stalin after the city fell under Soviet control. It was here where the Battle of Stalingrad, the largest confrontation of WW2, occurred. Volgograd got its current name in the 1960s as Russia moved on from Stalin.
There’s plenty to see and do in Volgograd. Historic points of interested are dotted between the city’s monuments and museums, from the Hall of Military Glory to the towering The Motherland Calls sculpture. For history buffs, it will take more than a few days to see all of the sights. Most of these are located close to the city’s centre, so be sure to book somewhere close by to cut out unnecessary travel times.
The Hilton Garden Inn is a good bet. You will likely be able to see the Volgograd Arena from your window, as well as many of the city’s historic sites.
It’s a simple, no thrills sort of hotel, but at the Hilton you’re guaranteed a clean room, comfortable bed and helpful employees. It’s unlikely you will find much time to spend sitting around the hotel, so you won’t need much more than that anyway.
Price: From approximately $50 per night
Where to eat: Knyagininskiy Dvor
Don’t let dinner interrupt your history lesson. Knyagininskiy Dvor, which translates as Princess’ Court, will transport you back to Tsaritsyn, before the old city was razed by the Second World War.
Built on the site of a famed merchant’s old home, this restaurant has been rebuilt using plans and drawings from records saved from the city’s time as Tsaritsyn. The restaurant’s menu is also a step back in time. Long forgotten Russian dishes are cooked according to old cook books.
Where to drink: Mama Norka l Papa Bober (Mum’s a Mink and Dad’s a Beaver)
Don’t bother trying to get your head around the name of this place. It is utter, meaningless nonsense. However, it does give some idea of what to expect at Mama Norka l Papa Bober, an unusual cocktail bar that is nothing like the rest of the city.
Restaurant by day, this place really comes to life at night. In the heart of Volgograd’s young district, Mama Norka l Papa Bober is a live music venue open until the early hours serving creative cocktails to revellers eager to see what Volgograd’s music scene has to offer.
There are 24 different cocktails and a large selection of whiskys, beers and wines. Enjoy your night, but make sure you keep your drinks inside the venue. Those caught drinking on the streets in Volgograd face 15 days in a Russian jail cell.
Where to stay: The Riviera Hotel
Football will take centre stage in Kazan as up to a million tourists descend on Russia for the World Cup. Many of those will be in Kazan, a city where the line between European Russia and Asian Russia blurs.
However, in between matches, it is vital that you take the time to explore the city. Unlike some of the Russia World Cup host cities, Kazan actually has plenty to offer other than football. Historic buildings are aplenty and, with large Muslim and Christian populations living together in harmony, there are two Kazan cultures to get acquainted with.
Three of Russia’s 28 World Heritage Sites are within distance of Kazan, including the Historic and Architectural Complex of the Kazan Kremlin, the Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex and the Assumption Cathedral and Monastery of the town-island of Sviyazhsk.
With so much to see and presumably little time, staying at The Riviera Hotel, the second tallest building in the city, will provide a good view of the various sights. If you’re high up enough, you should be able to see the Kazan Arena, located on the opposite side of the Peka kazanka river, from your room. The same goes for just about anything else located in central Kazan.
Price: From approximately $248 per night (15,500 RUB)
Where to eat: Tatarskaya Usadba
Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan, home to the largest population of Tatars, Russia’s largest minority group and second biggest ethnic group. Descended from Turkic-speaking groups from Mongolia, Tatars have their own culture and customs that differ from other parts of Russia. Because of this, borscht soup is off the menu, replaced by Tatar classics like Bäliş, a dish of baked meats and grains.
Tatar restaurants can be found all over the city, but the very best offering can be found at Tatarskaya Usadba, a large, traditionally decorated restaurant inside the Tatar Manor hotel.
Many dishes are cooked the traditional way on a Bolgar wood-burning oven, but if mutton soup, smoked goose or horse meat sausages don’t take your fancy, there’s always the international menu.
Price: From approximately $13.80 for a starter and main dish (860 RUB)
Where to drink: Mr Willard
Mr Willard is a speakeasy cocktail bar, named after famed New York bartender of the same name, which might just be the most exclusive place in Kazan.
Created by the owners of ReLab, another popular bar in the city, Mr Willard is usually only open to Kazan’s inner circle. You might have to make friends with a particularly trendy local to get in. Either way, it’s probably best to leave the football jersey back in your hotel room and slip on your finest shirt if you want to have any chance.