Sochi – Must See Sites
“Every person spends vacation in Sochi at least once in a life”, said a character of the famous Russian movie “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears”, and for a long time it had been true. In the USSR period Sochi was one of the most popular resorts and everyone aspired to get there. After the fall of the “Iron Curtain” the situation changed and the stream of tourists has gone down – first of all, due to high prices.
Having become the capital of the 2014 Winter Olympics Sochi attracted a new explosion of interest and grew considerably younger with new hotels built and its streets and parks refurbished. And of course here (to be more precise – in the adjacent Adler, which is a part of the city agglomeration of the Greater Sochi) a large-scale Olympic Park appeared to turn the city into something more than a usual seaside resort.
The city agglomeration of the Greater Sochi spreads for over 140 km along the coast. First of all, this is almost merged with Sochi adjacent Adler and a number of smaller villages – Matsesta with its curative springs, quiet Lazurny, and surrounded by mountains Hosta.
There are very few historical and cultural sights as the main attraction of this resort is its amazing nature. The tender sea, the lofty mountains, the southern colors, the tasty local delicacies, the perfect possibilities for nature tourism – all these still attract tourists from all over Russia. And due to the Olympics this interest raised to the international level.
This article tells about the sights of the Central Sochi and Adler that are easily accessible either on foot or by public transport. The natural attractions that require a whole day for a visit you will find in the article called “Sochi – One Day Trip”.
The Sochi Arboretum
One of the most beautiful botanic gardens in Russia, whose history goes back to the end of the XIX century. It is located in the center of Sochi. Over 1800 kinds of rare plants grow on 49 hectares and separate sections of the arboretum are dedicated to flora of various regions: China, Australia, South and North America, the Caucasus, etc… Collections of subtropical plants and coniferous trees, the Orangerie and the Flower Pavilion deserves attention too. The park is located on a hillside and has two levels, from the top of which an impressive view opens. The place is inhabited by exotic animals and birds: pelicans, peacocks, raccoons, and even ostriches.
Opening hours: The Park: daily from 09:00 to 18:00. The Flower Pavilion: daily from 10:00 to 18:00. The Orangerie: 10:00-17:00 (with a break from 12.00 to 13.00), closed on Mondays and Fridays.
The ticket price is 250 roubles
A nice pedestrian street going from the railway station to the sea. There are many good modern restaurants and the main shopping centers of the city. On the threshold of the Winter Olympics it was turned into a pedestrian street. To memorize the Games a monument to the Olympic rings was installed.
In recent years the street, like many other popular city places, has filled with eccentric sculptures of local craftsmen. For example, here you will find monuments to a teacher, an overzealous goldsmith, and even with an… ear.
The last monument, as Sochi people say, is magical: if you put your hand into the special cavity and whisper your dearest wish to the ear it will definitely come true.
The Sea Port
A beautiful complex of buildings in the Stalinist Empire style near which you can walk, have lunch (with various consequences for the budget), and go for a sea cruise along the coast. It is one of the Sochi landmarks, a sample of architecture of federal importance. The buildings in warm tones with elegant spires and pillars still look festive and magnificent. Also, you can observe the local fishermen and feed extremely impudent gulls.
Beside architectural beauties you can see here interesting statues too. In the Port you will see the monument depicting the characters of beloved from the USSR times eccentric comedy film “The Diamond Arm” and in front of the passenger terminal building there is a monument to the goddess of maritime navigation.
The Port is the starting point of picturesque Primorskaya Street along which it is nice to walk by the sea past Aqua park “Mayak”, the Festival Concert Hall and the beaches to the M.V. Frunze Park.
The Olympic Park and Sochi Park
The Sochi Olympics, in fact took place in Adler that used to be a separate city and now has become one of Sochi districts. So the way from Sochi center to the Olympic park by a local train takes about 50 minutes. Near the Olympic Park there is Sochi Park – a theme park that is often called “the Russian response to Disneyland”. The wisest thing would be to combine visits to both parks.
The Olympic Park has the area of 200 hectares. Now this is a huge deserted area with futuristic ice arenas showing white against the background of the mountains that can be visited only at the time of some concerts or sports events. Unfortunately, after the fireworks of 2014 Winter Olympics faded, the luxury sports buildings are either staying empty most of the time or have been redesigned for other needs, as there are very few events that are equal in scale to the Olympic Games.
However the Park astonishes: there you can assess the scale of the “new Russian construction activities”. The distances between the objects are huge and visitors unwillingly start thinking about renting a bicycle or an electric car that is obstructively offered.
The Olympic Square for celebrations and awarding that is also called “The Square of Six Stadiums”, as the main ice rinks of the country are located around it, is also impressive. One of the stadiums is Fisht with the capacity of 45,000 spectators where the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics took place. It simultaneously resembles a shell and a snowy peak. Another stadium is the Ice Arena “Shayba” for 7,000 places that hosted the Olympic hockey tournaments (now it accommodates the Children’s sports and health center).
The Square also faces the laconic Adler Arena Skating Center, the Bolshoy Ice Dome with the semicircular snow-white dome intended for 12,000 spectators (now this is the home arena of the Sochi Hockey Club), the Iceberg Skating Palace with futuristic design and beautiful bends of the front face, and the Ice Cube Curling Center where curling competitions regularly take place. It is especially beautiful in the evening, when the lights are on.
Another must-see of the evening program is the dancing fountains. It is better to check the timetable on the Park website, but usually the fountain show lasts for one hour – from 19:00 to 20:00, and from May to August this period is shifted one hour forward: from 20:00 to 21:00. The jets of the fountains dance around the Olympic cauldron to the music of Russian composers Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, and Khachaturian.
The scale of the fountain is also amazing – a cauldron that is 75 m in diameter accommodates 264 fountains with individual lighting, whose jets can rise to the height of 70 meters. They say that the fountain resembles the folklore Firebird that fulfils all the wishes. To be able to see the show better it is recommended not to stand close to the edge of the fountain but look at a distance.
At the territory of the park there is an interesting Sochi Auto Museum with a collection of the best achievements of the USSR automobile industry – a charming retro spot in the park. In contrast to the park, the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony Museum does not astonish with its scale – here you can see some prizes of sportsmen and decorations as well as figures of the three animals – symbols of the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Nikola Tesla Museum will interest children: there you can observe electrical tests and even take part in them (both for adults this looks more like a usual tourist amusement).
At the territory of the Olympic Park there is a caring and an Autodrome located close to the Formula-1 circuit.
We should point out that the park infrastructure is not well-developed. Toilets are charged and located far from places of interest. There is only one restaurant in the park, but in spite of its monopolistic position it is quite good. Souvenirs are very expensive here, the same items can be bought in Sochi much cheaper. Also take caps to protect yourself from the sun and jackets to be warm in windy weather: the park is an open space with little greenery, so the sun is cruel here and the territory is open to all winds.
Opening hours: The Olympic Park is open daily from 08:00 to 00:00. Museums: from 10:00 to 22:00.
Tickets: The entrance to the Olympic park is free. The Auto Museum – 500 roubles, the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony Museum – 250 roubles, the Nikola Tesla Museum – 350 roubles.
The Sochi Park was built soon after the end of the 2014 Winter Olympics and is dedicated to characters of Russian fairytales. This is the first and for the time being the only amusement park in Russia. Here you can find both extreme rides where even adults feel uneasy and the whole range of amusements for kids.
The territory is divided into 5 time zones:
· The Trade Alley, designed to resemble a Russian festival trade fair.
· The Land of Warriors (legendary folklore characters) with a pavilion of physical games and a smith’s workshop.
· The Charmed Forest with huge slides Dragon Gorynych (the figure of the three-headed fairy-tale monster supports the slides) and the tallest in the Russia tower for free falling (65 meters!) “The Firebird”, a nice labyrinth and amusing ride with huge rotating cups.
· The Land of Science and Fantasy with unusual futuristic playgrounds, an extreme ride “Quantum Leap” (most of the time you will ride hills over head) and fountain “Gears”.
· The Eco-Village with rides for small children, a water playground, and a pavilion of crafts.
The Park ticket price also includes a show at a small Dolphinarium in its territory that takes place 2-4 times a day depending on the season. There are several cafés and fast food restaurants offering various cuisines of the world.
Sochi Park opening hours 11:00-21:00 daily.
A daily ticket with entrance to all the rides: adults – 1710 roubles, children – 1425 roubles.
How to get to the Olympic Park and Sochi Park: from the Sochi railway station, take suburban train Lastochka at 7:22, 8:24, 12:17, 13:06, 16:29 or 21:16 to the station “Olympijskaya Derevnya” (the direction of Imeretinskiy Kurort). (The return trains leave at 04:20, 07:00, 09:37, 16:33, 18:15, and 22:20). Then go across the bridge to the entrance to the territory following the direction signs. There is a free shuttle bus from the railway station to the Sochi Park.
Historical Museum of Sochi
A nice regional natural history museum that tells about the history of the city starting from the Stone Age and ending with the 2014 Winter Olympics. Expositions dedicated to World War II and cosmonauts are especially interesting. However the plastic cases shimmer and the quality of the photos leaves to wish for the best. The halls are not large, but there are many exhibit items. Usually the place is calm and quiet so you can examine everything without any hurry.
Opening hours: September – May: from 09:00 to 17:30 daily, closed on Mondays.
June-August: from 09:00 to 19:30 daily.
Entry ticket: 100 roubles. Photo permit: 100 roubles.
An old city park with amusement rides, interesting sculptures and plenty of subtropical plants and flowers. It is a bit noisy, but everyone will find an entertainment: there is a Dolphinarium, and Aquarium, a Green Open Air Theater, as well as many amusement rides to any taste – from roller-coaster and a tower for free falling to tigers and carting.
The Park architecture lacks common style. It includes the modern-style historical summer house of the Park founder V.A. Khludov side by side with ill-shaped kiosks and amusing benches designed by local sculptors. But this variety of styles, looks sooner funnier than irritating. Some of the park alleys are thematic. For example, magnolias at the Alley of Cosmonauts were planted by cosmonauts who spent holidays in Sochi including Valentina Tereshkova. There is also the Alley of Writers with their past and the Alley of Stars where trees were planted by popular Russian pop-stars and comics.
Here amusing exhibitions are organized regularly – for example, of old cars or costumes. Of course they have no historical value, but it may be interesting to have a look. From the Riviera Park you can go out to the beach also called Riviera, which is one of the most popular in the city.
A tip: In the park there are many photographers offering to take a picture with a monkey, a parrot and other animals. Do avoid them as every following shot will cost a pretty penny.
Opening hours: the park is open round the clock, the amusement rides work from 11:00 to 20:00 daily.
Tickets: entrance to the park is free, tickets to the Dolphinarium, the Aquarium, and to the rides shall be purchased separately.
The all-season Dolphinarium has performances several times daily. The local dolphins took part in the show of the 1st TV Channel (the main one in Russia) called “Vmeste s Delfinami” (Together with Dolphins), and Sochi people are very proud of that. Dolphins, a beluga whale, walruses, and seals take part in the shows. The tricks are usual: jumps, singing, counting, but the public is always excited. The Sochi dolphins are especially keen on painting and their pictures are sold at auctions held during the performance.
For an extra fee, you can swim with the dolphins, but the queues are very big and every customer receives very little attention. Besides smart dolphins have caught the trick of taking a shortcut and not swimming a full circle while even smarter trainers do not pay attention to that.
Also the Dolphinarium hosts a small Zoo “RIO” with exotic animals, a Butterfly Garden, and a Penguinarium with extremely amusing inhabitants.
“Dolphin Show” (Tuesday-Sunday):
In winter season at 13:00 and 16:00, in summer two evening performances are added at 19:00 and 21:00. The RIO Zoo, the Penguinarium, and the Butterfly Garden: daily from 10:00 to 22:00.
A ticket to the dolphin show: 700 roubles. Entry tickets: the Zoo – 350 roubles, the Penguinarium – 250 roubles, the Butterfly Garden – 200 roubles.
Aquarium “Tainy Okeana” (The Ocean Mysteries) (The Riviera Park)
By its size this aquarium has been considerably inferior to recently opened in Adler Sochi Discovery World Aquarium, but there is something to see here too. The main pool of the aquarium restores the picturesque ecosystem of coral reefs. You will also see here, sharks, rays, moray eels, and penguins.
Winter season: from 10:00 to 21:00 daily. Summer season: from 10:00 to 24:00 daily.
Fish feeding by divers from Monday to Wednesday, also on Fridays and Sundays from 12:00 to 19:00 at the beginning of every hour.
Tickets: 350roubles, children from 4 to 12: 200 roubles, children under 4 – free.
N. Ostrovsky Literary Memorial Museum
The legendary Soviet writer, author of the book “How the Steel Was Tempered” and many others, spent his last years of life in Sochi. Visitors can see the writer’s house in the art Deco style, his personal possessions, photos, and documents. Part of the exposition is dedicated to other famous writers who live and worked in the city – A. Bestuzhev-Marlinsky, V. Mayakosvky, M. Zoshchenko, E. Schwartz.
Opening hours: from 10:00 to 18:00 daily, closed on Wednesdays. The last Tuesday of the month is cleaning day.
Tickets: 50 roubles – exposition dedicated to N.A. Ostrovsky. 50 roubles – exposition “The Literary World of Sochi” about other writers and poets.
The main transport vein of the city that accommodates, like pearls on a string, the main parks and gardens of the city, as well as the Art Museum and the Organ Music Hall. There are a lot of hotels, shops, cafés, and monuments. One of the most famous monuments is Nikolai Ostrovsky memorial.
Kurortny Prospect runs through the Arboretum dividing it into two parts and goes farther along the coast. The traffic is very busy, so on hot days it is very dusty in spite of abundant greenery. From the architectural perspective the street is not remarkable while the distances between places of interest are large, so it is better not to go on foot, but take a bus or a shuttle bus (routes No 1 and 5).
The dancing fountains
A bit inferior to their “colleagues” in the Sochi Park, the dancing fountains in Sochi anyway attract a lot of people. The soundtrack is short – only 5-6 melodies, but the genres vary from Soviet songs to Michael Jackson. The fountains are located in Kurirtny Prospect near building No 16.
The Art Museum and the Square of Arts in front of it
The Museum should be visited to admire some works by Shishkin and Aivazovsky and pictures of the Soviet period, many of them previously decorated the walls of sanatoriums for the elite. Also, there is an interesting exhibition dedicated to cars in art. Visitors are especially interested in the multimedia attraction on the ground floor that takes an image of a person and puts it inside any picture.
The square in front of the Art Museum has become a ground for creative experiments by modern city sculptors. Here you will find the Town Musicians of Bremen from the fairy-tale, the Quartet of unable to come to an agreement musicians from a fable by I.A. Krylov, a generalized character of Photographer Goghi who looks at the landscapes that have not been yet captured by his lens with a mix of fatigue and satisfaction, and many other unusual, primitive or amusing sculptures.
Working hours of the Art Museum: from 10:00 to 17:30 daily, closed on Mondays. On Saturdays the museum works till 21:00.
Museum tickets: 200 roubles, photo pass – 50 roubles.
Sochi Discovery World Aquarium (located in Adler)
The biggest aquarium in Russia with the floor area over 6000 square meters is dedicated to marine and freshwater animals. Here you will find different species – from known to everyone aquarium fishes (Gourami, angelfishes, and many others) to huge sharks, moray eels, jellyfishes, reef and ground-swell inhabitants, as well as turtles. Near every aquarium there is an information board, also in English.
Like at any self-respecting aquarium, there is a tunnel surrounded by water. Shark feeding takes place daily from 14:00 to 15:00, this is a frightening but at the same time fascinating scene. Visitors can also buy food and treat more peaceful fishes – the Koi carps. Diving courses are also offered.
Opening hours: daily from 10:00 to 18:00.
The ticket price is 600 roubles. Photo permit: 100 roubles.
Museum of Sochi Sport Honour
A very small museum in spite of a louder name. A storage place for the Olympic medals of sportsmen from Sochi, the uniform, and the models of Olympic objects. The most precious exhibits are the Candidature File of the 2014 Winter Olympics and the Olympic cauldron. The main amusement is to hold the Olympic Torch and to take pictures with it.
Opening hours: September – May: from 10:00 to 18:00. Closed on Mondays. June-August: Daily from 10:00 to 20:00.
Tickets: 60 roubles.
Sochi Railway Station
Those who arrive by train can hardly miss this colorful Sochi attraction as this is the main railway station of the city. Architect A.N. Dushkin who designed the building tried to reproduce in its architectural look the southern spirit of carelessness (light towers, light tones) and at the same time to preserve the splendor of the Stalinist Empire style, as the main Soviet resort must “keep the standard”. The building is protected by UNESCO.
Stalin’s Dacha (Summerhouse)
I.V. Stalin’s Dacha is one of his numerous residences scatted around the former USSR, but this one was among his most favorite ones. Unshowy dark-green building (to prevent observation from the air) is located five kilometers away from the Sochi center at the height of 50 meters above the sea level, on a top of a hill. The house is surrounded by coniferous trees, so the air is healthy there, same as the waters of the nearby balneological resort Matsesta. The leader went there to receive treatment.
The museum cannot boast of very large exposition of Stalin’s personal items, but the rooms, their decorations and furniture have preserved completely: the main dining-room; the study with a desktop writing set presented to Stalin by Mao Zedong; a billiard room; and a staircase designed with regard to Joseph Vissarionovich’s step. In these laconic and gloomy interiors you can really feel the spirit of the USSR 1930s and can touch the history. To achieve greater authenticity at the desk of the Leader there is his full-height wax figure that may frighten unprepared tourists.
A minus for those who do not speak Russian: currently a visit to the Dacha is possible only with a guided tour in Russia. Part of the tour is shortened and last not more than half an hour, there are also one-hour tours (if there is a large group). Usually such “long” tours take place at about midday.
Opening hours: 09:30-18:00 daily.
Ticket price for a guided tour (in Russian): 300 roubles.
How to get there: From Sochi by bus No 125 or shuttle buses No 2; 100; 105; 123; 124; 125; 143; 187 to the stop “Zelenaya Roscha”. Then go up the hill and turn right at the crossroad.
Sochi – Staying
Unfortunately hotel prices in Sochi are considerably overestimated, but not all the hotels are able to offer the due service level.