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Volgograd: A city guide

Volgograd is one of Russia’s oldest cities and an important industrial centre with just over a million inhabitants. It has a strategic location to the South of Moscow and is often known as the 'window to Russia, due to it being a short distance away from Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. It has remained an important commercial hub from the Soviet era and remains so in the present day. To most Europeans, Volgograd is perhaps better known under its Soviet name, Stalingrad, and for the famous resistance against the invading German troops during the Second World War. Volgograd's historical legacy still stands strong, and in 2013 the city council voted in favour of using the name ‘hero-city Stalingrad’ during six important commemorative days every year.

Volgograd The Motherland Calls Statue, Russia
Volgograd The Motherland Calls Statue, Russia

Geography

Volgograd is located 1000 kilometres south of the capital on the convergence of the Volga and Don Rivers in the south-eastern region of the European part of Russia. A canal connects the two rivers since 1952. The surrounding landscape is marked by the rough wilderness of the southern Russian steppe.

Volgograd time zone:

Volgograd uses Volgograd Standard Time which is four hours ahead of the UK (GMT +4).

Approximate distance from Volgograd to other places of interest:

Volgograd to Moscow: 1000km

Volgograd to Kiev, Ukraine: 1300km

Volgograd to Tbilisi, Georgia: 1000km

History of Volgograd

The site of Volgograd has a rich and diverse history from its early days as fortress Tsaritsyn, to its subsequent renaming to Stalingrad after Joseph Stalin's role in its defence against the 'whites' in the Russian Civil War.

Tsarytsin: 16th - early 20th century

Originating between 1555 - 1589, The fortress settlement of Tsarytsin had been a commercially and historically important site. The location on two rivers turned it into an important harbour with flourishing trade and commerce and the city grew rapidly, increasing from around 3000 people in 1807 to over 84,000 in 1900. The rise in population led to a surge in development with the first railway reaching the settlement in 1862, which was closely followed by the first theatre in 1872, the first cinema in 1907, and electric lights and tram services in 1913.

Second World War and Soviet era: 20th century

Tsaritsyn was renamed into Stalingrad in 1925 and it then became a centre for heavy industry. This is one of the reasons for which it became an important target during the Second World War. The Battle of Stalingrad and the resistance against the Nazis is equally the most tragic and most triumphal event in Soviet history. Having claimed a million and a half lives it remains the deadliest battle in the history of warfare. During the war large parts of the city were destroyed, but due to its symbolic links with Stalin it was rebuilt more quickly than other places.

Things to do in Volgograd

Volgograd has nearly been rebuilt from scratch after the war, which means large parts of the town are shaped by Soviet architecture from the 1950s and 1960s. Nevertheless, the city’s history is ubiquitous. There is the Mamayev Kurgan, the hill on which the Battle of Stalingrad took place and the Panorama Museum, which houses a panoramic painting of the event, but fallen warriors are commemorated at many other corners of the city. Volgograd is also home to the largest Lenin statue in Russia and the Motherland Calls statue, which is one of the world’s highest and most complex of its kind.

Trips to the surrounding rural area offer a relaxing holiday and there are options to go hiking and fishing and to do boat or canoe trips. The city also has plenty of parks, shopping districts, art museums and even a planetarium for tourists to enjoy.

Mamayev Kurgan

The Mamayev Kurgan (tumulus of Mamai) is a raised area overlooking the city of Volgograd, that is dominated by a memorial complex commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad. Known as being one of the most severe battles of World War II, the battle commemorates the Soviet victory over Axis forces on the Eastern Front. The largest free-standing statue in the world, ‘The Motherland Calls’ pierces the skyline.

Volgograd Panorama Museum

Volgograd’s Panorama Museum is a must-see for lovers of military history. The complex was built in 1942 by the 13th Guards Rifle Division and the museum has a permanent exhibition of military equipment. The territory of the complex also incorporates the 'Historical Reserve' (ruins of the mill named after Grudinina) which is a historical monument of federal significance.

Volgograd Planetarium

Located near the Western bank of the Volga River near the city’s bustling cultural quarter, the Volgograd Planetarium has established itself as one of the best places to visit in Volgograd for families. The planetarium reveals the secrets of the solar system through a variety of exhibits and education programmes suited to both children and adults. In favourable conditions, you can visit the Astronomical Observatory to see various objects of the night sky up close.

Best places to stay in Volgograd

The best place to stay in Volgograd is towards the south of Volgograd 1 train station, on the western bank of the Volga River. There are a wide variety of hotels and hostels in this area to suit any budget from business or corporate travellers to backpackers.

Volgograd Hotel
Volgograd Hotel

The Volgograd Hotel is often the perfect choice for tourists and is located in the heart of Volgograd’s historic cultural quarter, just a short walk away from historic sites including Lenin Square as well as a multitude of theatres and museums including the Volgograd Museum of Fine Arts and Museum Pamyat. The hotel itself has an on-site restaurant serving Russian cuisine, a beauty salon, fitness centre, sauna and pool facilities.

For travellers on a budget, the Hostel Centre is also a good choice. The hostel is less than a 5-minute walk away from the cultural quarter and has several room options with private bathrooms, access to WIFI, washing facilities and more.

Best places to eat in Volgograd

Volgograd has a fantastic selection of restaurants whether you are looking for fine dining or a lite-bite at one of the city’s many cafes. Here, we have selected a few of the best places to eat in Volgograd for you to enjoy:

Schastye Est!

Located a few minutes walk away from Fontan Iskusstvo in Pobedy Park, Schastye Est! offers a great selection of breakfast and lunch items perfect for those looking for a cheap lite-bite option. This French-inspired café has a clean, trendy interior and is ideal for tourists who need a quick break before continuing the tourist trail.

Knyagininskiy Dvor

Reopened in 2014, restaurant Knyagininskiy Dvor serves top-quality Russian and European cuisine using locally selected produce from its own farm ‘Light Farm’. The restaurant interior has a fresh, contemporary feel contrasting natural fabrics, wood and brick to create an elegant and cosy dining space.

Denver Burger

Located in on Volgograd’s busy embankment district, Denver Burger is a firm favourite with tourists wanting a taste of American-style cuisine. Choose from a wide range of premium-quality burgers created with the freshest local ingredients including the Kataif Shrimp Burger, Bavarian Burger, Vegan Burger and their most popular home-brand, the Denver Burger.

Nightlife in Volgograd

Volgograd has a good selection of bars and clubs around the cultural quarter, ranging from simple, dress-down sports bars to elegant cocktail lounges and clubs. We have included a few of the best places to go for a night out in Volgograd:

Friends Bar

Located in a 19th century building right in the heart of Volgograd, Friends Bar is considered the best place to go for tourists.  The bar caters to all its visitors with multiple floors including a separate room with a dance floor, an area for live music and a separate comfortable bar area for those looking for a casual drink.

Gorchitsa Bar

Located a shot walk away from Pobedy Park on the Western embankment, Gorchitsa Bar is a speak-easy bar known for offering the best cocktails in Volgograd. The bar has an opulent yet comfortable interior and serves a fantastic selection of cocktails using traditional Russian recipes.

Volgograd climate

Volgograd has a humid continental climate. This means summers can be extremely hot, with temperatures climbing to 30°C in July, while winter can be cold with temperatures falling well below zero. By Russians standards, however, these winters are relatively mild with light snowfall and dry air. Spring and autumn have nice temperatures with less precipitation and usually very enjoyable seasons.

Weather in Volgograd

 

How to get to Volgograd

Despite its name, Volgograd International Airport can mostly only be reached via domestic flights, although there are seasonal connections to Greece and Cyprus. The railway links are good and it takes around 20 hours to get to Moscow or 34 hours to St. Petersburg. Moreover, there are occasional international trains to Eastern European destinations, though these may be seasonal. The city's location on the river Volgograd means that it can also be visited as a stop on a boat cruise down the Volga River.

Why you should visit Volgograd

Volgograd is perfect for lovers of military and particularly Soviet history, offering a taste of the Soviet Union that has been eradicated in cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Due to this unique position in Russian history, large numbers of Russian tourists flock into the city every year and a trip to the famous ‘hero-city’ should be on the itinerary of any foreigner wanting to get to know Russia better.

Square of the Fallen Fighters, Volgograd, Russia
Square of the Fallen Fighters, Volgograd, Russia

Volgograd frequently asked questions

We have put together a few of the most frequently asked questions for Volgograd, however if you have a question that is not covered here then please contact us directly at info@realrussia.co.uk.

Is Volgograd safe?

From 2004 to 2013, Volgograd had had suffered several terrorist attacks which led to a set-back in tourist numbers to the city. Today, the city is just as safe as most other European and Russian cities, however you should always take precautions around busy tourist areas such as train stations, bus stations and airports. You should always use an official licensed taxi company when travelling across the city.

How far is Volgograd from Moscow?

A direct flight to Moscow from Volgograd will take just under 2 hours or approximately 20 hours by train, usually costing between £38 – 90.

How far is Volgograd from St Petersburg?

A non-stop domestic flight from Volgograd to St Petersburg will take around 2 ½ to 3 hours. Alternatively, a train from Volgograd 1 train station to St Petersburg will take over 32 hours.