Kazan is called “the third capital” of Russia and it deserves it. This city with over 1000-year of history has been the home of two different nations – the Russians and the Tatars, which is amazing. While admiring the Oriental colors of mosques and white-stone Orthodox churches, seeing signs in the metro in two languages and trying nourishing Tatar sweets or dishes of the Russian cuisine, one can enjoy the harmonic convergence of the two cultures.
The Kazan Kremlin
The unique and various complexes of the Kazan Kremlin had been formed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Till present, it has been the historical, cultural, and religious city center. This is the home of one of the main Kazan symbols – the Söyembikä Tower about which there exist a lot of romantic and mystic legends. According to one of them, the last Queen of the ancient Kazanian Khanate jumped down from it after the Khanate had been conquered by the Russian Tzar Ivan the Terrible in 1552. The city people also believe that if you touch the tower and make a wish, it will for sure come true. The Söyembikä Tower is a falling one, it deviates from the vertical by 1.8 m.
The 16th century defensive walls with beautiful towers in various styles as well as administrative buildings preserved well in the Kremlin. The luxury Governor’s Palace is now the residence of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan, other premises are given to museums, among which Museum of History of Statehood of the Republic of Tatarstan dedicated to the history of the republic from ancient times till present days is especially interesting. In 1974, burial places of ancient khans were found in the Kremlin territory, now they are demonstrated in the Mausoleum of Kazan Khans.
Churches of the two official religions live in harmony in the Kremlin – the Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral (the oldest building in Kazan) and the Cathedral of the Saviour’s Transfiguration neighbor established in 1996 Qol Sharif Mosque with elegant 55m tall minarets and beautiful interior. Taking a rest after sightseeing, one can admire the Kazanka River from the observation platform.
Opening hours and tickets:
The Kazan Kremlin. The entrance to the territory is open round the clock (through the Spasskaya Tower), from 08:00 to 18:00 (and from May 1 to September 30 – until 22:00) access is possible through the Secret Tower too. Admission is free. Museums are open from Tuesday till Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00, on Fridays – till 20:00. Tickets cost 100-200 roubles each.
The main tourist and pedestrian arterial street of the city with numerous restaurants, stalls of street painters as well as amusing and interesting monuments and fountains that serve as the favorite background for taking photos by both tourists and local people.
Among many other characters monuments at Baumana Street were built to, the caroch of Russian Empress Catherine II and thick lazy Cat of Kazan had become another unstated symbol of the city (because once Catherine II gave credit to the outstanding abilities of Kazan cats in catching mice and ordered about 30 animals from Kazan to take care of the Hermitage). Fountains “Frogs” and “Pigeons” are amusing and expressive. The Oriental-style clock decorated with the Arabic ligature is the favourite meeting place for lovers.
The street is also remarkable with its historical attractions – the famous Russian baroque style Epiphany Cathedral is located there. It was the place where the famous Russian opera singer Feodor Chaliapin was baptized and, being a teenager, sang in the choir. To memorize that, a statue of Chaliapin has been recently installed not far from the church. The church bell-tower standing separately and built in the old-Russian style of red bricks is even more famous than the church itself. The whimsy ligature of the bell-tower wall ornaments and the lightness and laced appearance of the erection, makes it one of the most beautiful and photogenic landmarks in the city. It accommodates a small concert hall dedicated to Chaliapin’s memory. Theater lovers should also pay attention to the Kazan Academic Russian Bolshoi Drama Theater of V. I. Kachalov – one of the leading Kazan theaters.
Gourmands should undoubtedly visit Dom Tatarskoi Kulinarii in building 31/12 where they can try traditional Tatar sweets.
Baumana Street continues with partially pedestrian Peterburgskaya Street with numerous hotels and [popular among local people shopping centers. You can continue a nice walk in the city center and take a rest at the square presented by St. Petersburg to the millennium of Kazan. Then pay attention to the Petersburg-style land bridges and a monument symbolizing the dome of the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg.
In the same street, you will find the folklore village “Tugan Avylym” with a restaurant, a museum, and a playground for children opened to memorize the 1000th anniversary of Kazan as well as built to resemble a fairy-tale castle Tatar State Puppet Theater “Ekiyat” with an expressive statue of Little Prince. If you go farther straight, you will come across a small open-air museum of old trams located near the Sukonnaya Sloboda metro station.
The Old Tatar Quarter
The historical part of the city with preserved urban terrains of the 18th-19th centuries built in traditional Tatar style is located between the Bolaq Channel and the Nizhny Kaban Lake in the center of Kazan. Many houses in the Old Tatar Quarter were owned by distinguished city people. This street keeps the old Kazan spirit like no other place, here you can also try national Tatar dishes. Most historic buildings are located in the central street of the district – Tukaya Street and in the pedestrian Qayum Nasıri Street.
Especially remarkable is the Shamil House on Tukaya Street designed to resemble a medieval castle. Now it accommodates the museum of poet Ğabdulla Tuqay. Its exposition tells about the life of this most important Tatar poet and about the cultural life in Kazan in the 19th-20th centuries. Historical 18th-19th century mosques located in the Quarter are very interesting too. Especially expressive are the eclectic Bornay Mosque at Akhtyamova Street and Äcem Mosque with beautiful lacy interior and front face decorations.
Ğabdulla Tuqay Museum. Working hours: 10:00-17:00, closed on Mondays. The ticket price is 50 roubles
Fountains of the Bolaq River and Nizhny Kaban Lake
Kazan has a lot of fountains that attract attention with their size if not with their originality. For example, the cascade of 22 fountains on the Bolaq River is 1490m long and is the longest in the world. In the evening, all the fountains are lighted with different colors.
Walking along the embankment of the river one can continue to admire the creations of water art at the bank of the Nizhny Kaban Lake, where you will find the tallest fountain in the city with water head going up to 50m. In front of the Classical Kamal Tatar State Academic Theater also located on the bank of the lake, there is one of the biggest in the city musical fountains, whose water jets will dance to the music of Tatar classical musicians and young composers. Its “performances” attract a lot of spectators and last till 22:00.
The Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral
One of the most beautiful cathedrals not only in Kazan, but also in the whole Russia was built in the 18th century in the Russian baroque style. It was visited by all the famous guests of Kazan, including the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. The light-brown walls of the cathedral are decorated with blue frescos and such combination that is more typical of the Central Asia buildings looks very festive and unusual. Many people compare it with a… gingerbread! There is an impressive golden seven-level iconostasis inside. From the entrance to the Cathedral, one can admire a beautiful panorama of roofs in the city center.
The Soviet Lifestyle Museum
Grown from a home collection, this museum has become one of the most popular in the city. There you will see many items that could be found at any home in the 1970s-1980s. First of all, those are clothes, household appliances, placards, toys, badges, and other household things. Many exhibits can be touched or even tried on. Undoubtedly, this museum will be especially interesting to those who feel nostalgic about the Soviet childhood. If you are lucky, you can meet the museum’s owner who will be glad to give a tour.
10:00–20:00, every day. The ticket price is 250 roubles.
The Kazanka River Embankment
This is another place that is extremely popular among lovers and bikers. The former are attracted by a beautiful river view and the latter – by the ideal road surface. In winter time there is a skating ring and a Christmas market (that is unfortunately difficult to access because of long queues). On the embankment, there is also one of the most debatable modern buildings in Kazan – the eclectic Agricultural Palace built in 2010. Many people dislike its style of excess luxury, but there are equally many people who call it nice.
The National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan
The main regional natural history museum of Kazan with large but a little messy exposition: for example there you will find a caroch of Catherine II and… a huge stuffed beluga. At the same time the collection of national costumes and arts and crafts has been made with love and great professionalism.
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays — from 10:00 to 18:00, the ticket office closes at 17:00, on Thursdays – from 13:00 to 21:00, the ticket office closes at 20:00. On Fridays – from 10:00 to 17:00, the ticket office closes at 16:00. Closed on Mondays.
Ticket prices: 50-150 roubles depending on the exposition.
One of the oldest Russian university whose graduates (or students) included many outstanding people, including the great mathematician Nikolai Lobachevsky (who afterwards had been the university teacher for 40 years and its rector). Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Lenin used to be its students too (however, the latter was expelled only 3 months after admission for participation in students’ disorders).
A complex of 19th-20th century buildings forms the whole student quarter located near Kremlevskaya Street. You can come here to admire the buildings in the Russian Neo-Classicism style and to feel the energy of student life.
More information about the famous graduates of this University can be found in the Museum of Kazan University History. There is only one hall, the exposition mainly consists of photos and documents, but the old scientific equipment is presented. Visitors say that the place has a home like feeling.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday, from 10:00 to 17:00. The entrance is free.
Temple of All Religions
It can be called one of the most multicultural structures in the world. And one of the strangest-looking too. The construction of a temple that would unite elements of houses of worship of all the 7 world religions (and would also include the symbols of bygone religions) was started more than 20 years ago by Ildar Khanov – a flamboyant sculptor and poet born in the village of Maloye Arakcheevo not far from Kazan (some followers of his talent also called Khanov a healer). Minarets of a mosque, the dome of an Orthodox Church, the roof of a Chinese pagoda – these incompatible structures look a bit clumsy but charming.
Of course no religious services are given in the Temple of All Religions (and it would be difficult to do), but according to the designer, the very existence of such an ensemble symbolizes the equality of all cultures. The Temple has not been finished. Ildar Khanov had been building it for 20 years with his personal finance and with donations of enthusiasts and died before the Temple was finished. Now the construction project continues, although very slowly. At the same time, the Temple of All Religions regularly becomes the venue of various concerts and evening gatherings with famous people. On other days, admission for visitors is not possible – they can only view the building from the outside.
You can get there by a suburban train, the station is called Staroye Arakchino (about 11 minutes from the main railway station of Kazan and then on foot). You can also take buses No 2 and 45 to the stop “Poselok Staroye Arakchino” (20-30 minutes from the city center depending on the road situation).