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Kazan: A city guide

With a population of around 1.25 million, Kazan is the largest city and capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. The city lies at the confluence of the Kazanka and Volga Rivers in the South-East of Russia and was considered a crucial trade and political center from the Late Middle Ages onwards. It is now a major industrial, cultural and religious center in Russia attracting over 2 million tourists every year.

Dragon Statue, Kazan, Russia

Kazan geography

Kazan is city in Western Russia and capital of the Tartastan Republic. This location has made the city a major trading and industry hub in Russia, and is only a short link away from the Trans-Siberian Railway. Kazan is one of the most multi-cultural cities in Russia and the Tartar language is widely spoken by locals along with standard Russian. Around 47% of the population made up of ethnic Tartars, 48% of ethnic Russians along with other ethnicities including Chuvash, Ukrainians, Jews, Azerbaijanis and Vietnamese.

Kazan physical geography

 The city is expands across 15 miles of hilly terrain and is largely shaped by ravines and the Volga river which joins the Kazanka River just south of the city at Samara reservoir. Mariy Chodra National Park is a short distance to the North of the city which contains beautiful, scenic woodlands.

Kazan time zone:

Kazan operates on Moscow Standard Time which works out to GMT +3.

Approximate distance from Kazan to other places of interest:

Kazan to Moscow: 820km.

Kazan to Almaty, Kazakhstan: 3200km.

Kazan to St Petersburg: 1520km.

Kazan to Perm: 600km.

History of Kazan

Kazan has a long history stretching back as far as the Middle Ages and has developed a vibrant and unique heritage that mixes Oriental and Russian cultures at multiple points in its history. It has been a center of trade and industry for centuries and continues to be a stronghold of Tartar culture today.

Middle Ages: 5th – 15th century

Archaeology of the Kazan Kremlin has revealed that an urban settlement existed on what is now the site of Kazan around 1000 years ago identified by a series of coins, handicrafts, masonry and wooden fencing.  The official site of old citadel is currently unknown, although three areas of the modern city (the Kremlin, Bisbalta near Zilantaw monastery, and near Qaban lake) have produced evidence of urban settlements. The settlement acted as a border post between Volga Bulgaria and the Mari and Udmurt Finnish tribes.

In the 13th century, Bulgars and Kipchaks from the area mixed to create a new Kazan-Tartar population after the Mongols ravaged the Bolgar and Bilar home territories. Kazan would become the center of the Principality, which was dependent on the Golden Horde. The city fast became an important trade hub for the Horde due to its favourable geographical position on trade routes passing from East to West. In 1438, Kazan fortress was taken by the ousted Golden Horde Khan, Ulugh Muhammad, who killed the local prince and moved the citadel to a new location; the city then became the capital of the Kazan Khanate.

Tsardom: 16th – 17th century

Tsar Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan during the Siege of Kazan in 1552, massacring the majority of the population. For the next few decades the population of Kazan was largely displaced, citizens were deported, forcibly Christianized or relocated to the outskirts of the city to make room for Russian farmers and soldiers. During this period, there were also several fires which destroyed much of the city.

Empire: 18th – 19th century

In 1708, Kazan became the seat of the Kazan Governate after the Tsardom of Kazan was abolished. On visiting the city, Peter the Great made Kazan a center of shipbuilding for the Caspian Fleet. The Pugachev Revolt in 1774 destroyed much of the city although the previous timber structures which occupied the space were soon rebuilt in stone. Catherine the Great also decreed that mosques could once again be built in the city which led the construction of the Marjani Mosque.

Soviet era and World War: 20th century

Kazan was a revolution center in the Soviet Era, and in World War II many factories and industrial plants were relocated to the city. The city soon became a center of military industry producing tanks and planes.

Modern day: 21st century

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Kazan has revived its cultural heritage as the center of Tartar culture and identity. It has since become one of the most important and influential cities in Russia, earning the right to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Things to do in Kazan

Kazan is one of the most diverse and exciting cities to visit in Russia. Since the World Cup in 2018 the city has seen a booming tourist industry and has plenty of things to do to keep tourists occupied. Tourists will find many museums and galleries in the city’s historic Kremlin district offering a crucial insight into Tartar-Russian culture. The Kaban Lake has scenic walks that escape the busy city streets and those interested in hiking are just a short distance away from Mariy Chodra National Park with its picturesque woodlands. No visit to Kazan is complete without a tour of the city’s most famous destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kazan Kremlin.

Kazan Kremlin

Although not as well known as the Kremlin in Moscow, the Kazan Kremlin is no less spectacular as a UNESCO World Heritage Site illustrating the rich and diverse history of Kazan and the Tartar-Russian people. The Kremlin is home to several spectacular architectural examples including the Annunciation Cathedral built between 1554-1562 with its magnificent blue domes and gold spire, the Soyembika tower which is a lasting symbol of Kazan built in six-tiers, and the blue-domed Kul Sharif Mosque known to be one of the largest mosques in Russia and in Europe outside of Istanbul at the time of its construction.

Book your tour of the Kazan Kremlin with us online today!

Kul Sharif Mosque, Kazan Kremlin
Kul Sharif Mosque, Kazan Kremlin

Kaban Lakes

Located in the heart of Kazan, the Kaban lakes are a system of lakes with scenic walks that help you escape from the bustling streets of the city centre. Visitors to the lake can take in breath-taking scenery and amble around the lakes shores or take a peddle-boat ride around the lake during the Summer months. The Kaban Lakes are steeped in myth and legend with Tatar folklore claiming that the lake is the entrance to the underwater kingdom of Qaban and realm of the transformed Zilant. While other stories speak of great fortune and undiscovered wealth of the Khans who through their treasure into the lake after the Khanate of Kazan fell.

View Over Kaban Lakes, Kazan
View Over Kaban Lakes, Kazan

Temple of all religions

A short distance out of Kazan to the West, the Temple of All Religions (also called the Universal Temple) is a unique architectural complex that includes a variety of religious structures that blend in harmony together including an Orthodox church, mosque, synagogue and more.

Book your visit to the Temple of All Religions online today!

Temple of All Religions, Kazan
Temple of All Religions, Kazan

Looking for inspiration? See our full list of Kazan excursions.

Nightlife in Kazan

Visitors to Kazan will not have to go far to find karaoke bars, night clubs and cocktail lounges, dotted around many of the city’s major tourist areas. Bash nightclub is one of the best places to go in Kazan for those looking for live music and a party atmosphere. The club hosts regular DJ’s and incredibly popular with tourists and locals. The club has a modern industrial interior with private seating areas and is centred around a large dance floor. For those looking to combine dinner and evening entertainment, Karaoke Biven is one of Kazan’s best karaoke bars and has a modern restaurant attached. Guests can choose from a wide range of food dishes cooked on a spectacular charcoal-grill while enjoying original entertainment from the edge of their seat.

Best restaurants in Kazan

Kazan has an exceptional range of restaurants and is one of the only places in the world to get authentic Tartar cuisine. Here we have included a few of the best restaurants in Kazan:

Rubai

Located in heart of Kazan, Rubai is well known by locals for offering some of the best Uzbek and Tartar cuisine in the city. The restaurant provides an authentic oriental experience from its ornate interior décor to its use of traditional Uzbek and Tartar recipes including Chebureki.

KEDR

Located in Kazan’s vibrant theatre district, KEDR offers a similarly fresh and vibrant menu that takes inspiration from Italian, French, Russian and Tartar cuisine. The restaurant has a spacious contemporary dining area with an outdoor patio area perfect for the summer months. Whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch or a la carte fine dining this restaurant caters to all.

Priyut Kholostyaka

Priyut Kholostyaka is a restaurant located in one of the oldest houses in Kazan in the historic Chernyshevsky Street. The restaurant uses the building’s architecture along with contemporary elements to create a comfortable and cosy space with a modern feel. The restaurant serves a varied menu of hot and cold food including grilled meat, soup and sushi for seafood-lovers.

Best places to stay in Kazan

As one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in Russia in recent years, Kazan has seen substantial development in terms of hotels, restaurants and bars. Tourists have plenty of accommodation options to choose from near the historical Kremlin from simple hostels for backpackers to exclusive hotels for business events and celebrations. The Shalyapin Palace is a 4* hotel located in Baumana street in the historic Kazan Kremlin district. The hotel has an on-site swimming pool, sauna and fitness center as well as a restaurant specialising in Russian and Tatar cuisine. Hostel V Tapochkakh is a favourite of backpackers, couples and families on a budget. The hostel offers air conditioned rooms, 24-hour front desk, luggage storage as well as free parking and WIFI for its guests.

Browse our full list of hotels in Kazan using our hotel selector tool.

Hotel Shalyapin, Kazan
Hotel Shalyapin, Kazan

Kazan climate

Kazan has a humid continental climate with long cold winters and warm dry summers. Due to its inland position, Kazan's summers are usually extremely warm and winters quite cold compared with other European regions. The warmest month is July which sees average temperatures just above 20 degrees Celsius, and the coldest month is January which is typically averages around -10 degrees Celsius.

How to get to Kazan

Kazan Airport is one of the best airports outside of Moscow and St Petersburg and is approximately 26km away from the city centre. Most flights are from Moscow, and most International airports in the UK, including Birmingham and London airports will fly to Moscow where you will then need to get a connecting domestic flight to Kazan. It is also possible to reach Kazan through the Trans-Siberian train route which will take you through to other nearby destinations including Yekaterinburg or Perm.

Why you should visit Kazan

Kazan is perhaps Russia's most up-and-coming city in 2019. Not only is the city packed with a unique and exceptional history as the center for Tartar culture dating back over 1000 years, in recent years it has established a reputation as the 'place-to-be' to see Russian sport since hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2018. If you are travelling the Trans-Siberian, exploring Kazan is a must.

Streets of Kazan
Streets of Kazan, Russia

Kazan frequently asked questions

We have included a short list of the most frequently asked questions about Kazan. If you have more questions that are not covered here, please contact us at info@realrussia.co.uk.

Where is Kazan Stadium?

Kazan Arena is in the North-East of the city on the western bank of the Kazanka River. The Arena is easy to get to by bus and the Futbol'nyy Kazan'-Arena Stadium bus stop will take you right outside of the stadium.

How far is Kazan Airport from the city centre?

Kazan Airport is approximately 26km from the city centre and takes around 25 minutes by taxi or train or around 35 minutes by bus. There is a direct train from Kazan Airport to the city centre which departs every four hours. It is also possible to book a private transfer which is often quicker and more secure than waiting for taxis, especially during busy holiday periods.

How do I reach Kazan from Moscow?

The best way to reach Kazan in by plane which takes between 1 ½ to 2 hours direct. It is also possible to take the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow Yaroslavskiy Train Station which takes around 11 ½ to 12 hours.