Kazan Getaway. How to spend a successful weekend in Tatarstan’s capital
Feel like a true local by starting the day at one of the favourite city spots. Head over to the city centre, to the “Zhavoronok” coffee shop near the Kazan Federal University for some breakfast. From 7:30am onwards, they serve porridge with fruit and vegetables, bagels, omelettes and other popular breakfast food. If you arrive after 8:00am, another breakfast place will be open nearby - Cafe Mama Deli, where you can take your pick from pancakes, omelettes, eggs benedict and honey granola. In any case, don’t forget to get a takeaway coffee after your meal so you’re ready to head over to the main promenade in the centre of Kazan to start the day.
“Zhavoronok” and Mama Deli are a short walk away from Kazan’s oldest park “Chernoye Ozero” (“Black Lake”). Go through the snow-white “Lovers Arch”, take a walk along the tree alleys, look at the Mergasovsky's House, and then return to Lobachevsky Street and walk over to Kremlevskaya Street. The street begins at the main building of the Kazan Federal University and ends at the Kremlin. As you walk towards the Kremlin, do not miss the beautiful Ushkova House, which is currently occupied by the National Library of Tatarstan. The reading hall, designed like a grotto, can be seen even from the street through the large windows. As you approach the Kremlin, you’ll see the pastel pink coloured Alexandrov Passage. It can be admired for a long time, but in any case, be sure to take a photo. On the square, right in front of the Kremlin, you’ll see the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan which features a wealthy collection of over 910,000 exhibits, and at the entrance to the Spassky Tower before going into the Kremlin grounds, take a moment to check out the monument to the great Tatar poet Musa Dzhalil.
Inspired by the ancient mosque of the Kazan Khanate, the Kul Sharif mosque was built to celebrate the 1,000 year anniversary of Kazan in 2005. The ground floor of the building houses the Museum of Islamic Culture.
The Syuyumbike Tower is named after the ruler of the Kazan Khanate of the 16th century. It has become a true trademark of Kazan and Tatarstan, like the Eiffel Tower in France or the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. As you might notice, the Syuyumbike Tower ‘leans’ to one side.
The Annunciation Cathedral was built in the 16th century by decree of Ivan the Terrible. For a long time, the temple was the centre of Christianity in the Volga region. It was rebuilt many times, so its current appearance has been completely recreated.
Do not miss the observation deck behind the Annunciation Cathedral - from here you will have an excellent view of Kazanka River and the Kremlin embankment, where we recommend you head to next. On the embankment, in summer, you can rent bicycles, cycle rickshaws, and scooters, and in winter – skate along Europe’s longest ice rink.
The Kremlin embankment is a perfect spot for lunch and offers a choice of many restaurants. "Bakhcha" serves primarily eastern cuisine so be sure to order a shish kebab, and for dessert – cheesecake made with "Suluguni" cheese. "Chirem", which resembles a greenhouse, serves Tatar dishes, and if you’re here in summer, ask for a table on the verandah on the second floor. The restaurant nearest to the water is "Pirs" which serves Mediterranean cuisine, has a good wine menu, and floor-to-ceiling windows that show off the beautiful view of the river.
Stroll along to the end of the Kremlin embankment towards the monumental building of the National Cultural Centre. Outside of it, you’ll see "Horriyat" ("freedom" in Tatar) - a gilded sculpture on a stele. Once you’re inside the building, head upstairs to admire the magnificent view of the Kremlin, the ‘Kazan’ Family Centre and the Millennium Bridge.
If you are feeling particularly energetic and are ready to see the coziest corner of Kazan, head over to the "Theatre Kamala" bus stop and take a ride to the Old Tatar Quarter (“Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda”).
The Quarter is located just after you pass Lake Kaban. According to an old legend, Khan gold is buried in this very lake. Take a walk along the pedestrian Kayum Nasyri Street, filled with monuments of history and culture of the Tatar people. Here you will find Al-Mardjani - the first stone mosque of Kazan that was built by decree of Catherine II. The second stone mosque - Apanaeva - is located a little further, near the shortest street in Kazan – Kunche Street (“Kunche” meaning "tanner" in Tatar, which was the main profession of those that lived and worked on this street a long time ago). Opposite the Apanaeva Mosque, you’ll find the "Tatar Sloboda" Museum, where you can check out a model layout of this part of ancient Kazan and visit a virtual Tatar grandmother to have some tea with national sweets.
Kayum Nasyri Street ends with the Apanaev family’s first house, and further along Safyan Street at the intersection with Tukaya Street you’ll see the huge Yunusovs’ manor. In the depths of the Quarter , if you manage to sight the Azimov and Burnaev Mosques, consider yourself a local, as you would have passed and seen some of the most hidden corners of the Old Tatar Quarter that only the locals know about.
To complete a busy day, visit “Tatarskaya Usadba” (“Tatar Manor”) on the shore of Lake Kaban, where the summer verandah offers a stunning view of the lake. Order one of their many meat dishes, which are cooked in an ancient Bolgar wood-burning oven. And if you liked Tatar pastries, grab some to takeaway at the Tatar "Tubetey" fast food chain kiosk near the Kamala Theatre.
To begin your second day of the trip, we recommend visiting Tatarstan’s version of Starbucks – the Beanhearts cafe chain in the GUM Mall or on Ostrovskogo Street. The menu features English and French breakfasts and, of course, coffee. If you’re after something different, try the Pan-Asian cafe Omnomnom on Bauman Street. Their breakfast menu is available on weekends until 4:00pm, which includes omelettes with oyster mushrooms, rice porridge with pineapple and Russian cheese cakes among other exotic breakfast dishes.
After a filling breakfast, go for a walk along the pedestrian Bauman Street. An observation deck on the bell tower of the Epiphany Cathedral will show you the city from a bird's eye view. Right next to the cathedral, you’ll see a monument of the famous opera singer Feodor Chaliapin, and the hotel next to it which is named in his honour. It was this very cathedral, where in its chapel, the singer was once baptized.
The grey building at the intersection of Bauman and Astronomicheskaya Streets is the famous “Dom Tatarskoi Kulinarii” (“House of Tatar Cuisine”). On the ground floor there is a window where you can buy Tatar pastries to takeaway – their triangle pies are considered to be the benchmark. Further along the street is “Dom Pechati” (“House of Press”) - a monument to constructivism, which, based on the architects’ design resembles an open book. Next, we recommend catching a taxi to head over to Raifa to admire the majestic monastery and get acquainted with the famous lake, where the frogs never croak. Near the Raifa Monastery there is an arboretum where you can breathe in the fresh, clean air and see rare tree species.
Having worked up an appetite in Raifa, return to “Dom Pechati” in Kazan, where you will be met with bread and "Salt" (playing on the Russian tradition of meeting guests with the two basic food items as a sign of hospitality) – “Sol” (“salt” in Russian) is one of the city's most beloved bars. Order a burger and “mors” (a homemade cranberry juice), or order one of the lunch or breakfast dishes which are served until 6:00pm.
After lunch, take a stroll along the Bulak canal – you’ll notice that it might remind you of famous cities that also have canals, such as Amsterdam or St Petersburg. The building you’ll see at the end of it in the distance, might remind you of a UFO – this is the Kazan Circus, which opened this year after a large-scale reconstruction. A few streets before the Circus building, at the Lozhkinsky Bridge across the Bulak, turn on to Chernyshevsky Street, and keep walking towards the railway station. Do not miss "Smena" - the centre of modern culture along the way located in the building of a former hayloft. It regularly runs exhibitions of young Russian artists, lectures by scientists and political writers, and concerts of independent musicians. In addition to the lecture theatre and exhibition hall, inside you’ll also find a bookshop, a vinyl records store and a coffee shop, where they can serve you a unique Tatar coffee with oregano.
From “Smena”, you can easily get to the railway station located nearby (if you are leaving Kazan by train) and the airport (a direct train runs from the same railways station).
Remember, this is just one of the many walking itinerary routes around Kazan you can take during your weekend away. Be sure to share it with your friends or create your own with the help of our ‘Itinerary Creator’.
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