Has it ever happened to you that after seeing a picture of the place you knew you have to go there? It happens to me, a lot! One picture, one sentence in the book or one random fact is already a good reason for me to visit a destination.
When I planed my 9 days trip to Russia I knew I can use this whole time in Moscow only and still I wouldn’t be able to explore it properly (after all seeing all the beautiful Moscow metro stations takes a day or two!).
But I figured I can also visit Kazan since it’s not that far away (at least in the Russian standards, it takes one night by train to get there from the capital).
Once I started researching more about the city I knew it was a perfect idea – there were so many things to do in Kazan that I knew my one day in Kazan might not be enough.
Kazan exceeded my expectations. The city turned out to be super interesting, with some beautiful sights and a laid-back vibe. I can definitely recommend visiting Kazan when you are in Russia.
And to give you a little overview of what to do in Kazan here is my small Kazan guide.
Table of contents
- 1 Where is Kazan
- 2 How to get to Kazan
- 3 Where to stay in Kazan
- 4 Short history of Kazan, Russia
- 5 Things to do in Kazan
- 5.1 Visit UNESCO listed Kremlin
- 5.2 Enjoy the pedestrian Bauman street
- 5.3 Climb the tower of Epiphany Cathedral
- 5.4 Visit the Museum of Soviet Lifestyle
- 5.5 Walk the Kazanka river embankment
- 5.6 Find Soviet remnants
- 5.7 Admire beautiful architecture on Kremlyovskaya street
- 5.8 Learn more about Tatar culture
- 5.9 Try Tatar cuisine
- 5.10 Visit Temple of All Religions
- 6 Is it worth to visit Kazan?
- 7 Travel Resources
Where is Kazan
Kazan, with a population of around 1,2 million inhabitants, is the sixth-largest city in Russia and the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan.
The city is located in the European part of Russia, some 700 km east from the capital – Moscow. Kazan lies at the confluence of the impressive Volga and Kazanka rivers.
How to get to Kazan
I went to Kazan by train from Moscow and it was really easy. I took the night train and the whole journey was around 11 hours, from 9 pm to 8 am.
The train was very comfortable and I slept very well – that was crucial as I had only one day in Kazan before catching the next train to Sankt Petersburg and so I needed to be in the top shape. If you plan to travel around Russia – taking the train is your best option.
You can also fly to Kazan. The local airport is located around 25 km away from the city and serves mostly domestic destinations but you can also get here from Baku (Azerbaijan), Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan), Minsk (Belarus), Budapest (Hungary) or Istanbul (Turkey).
Where to stay in Kazan
I stayed in the hotel just around the corner from Bauman street – the main pedestrian zone in Kazan. I can definitely recommend this area – you will be within walking distance to most of the Kazan attractions.
Here are some of the recommended places to stay in Kazan:
- Budget: Happy House Hostel (8.9/10 on Booking) – that’s where I stayed
- Mid-range: Hotel Kaganat (9.3/10 on Booking)
- Luxury: Mirage Hotel (9.0/10 on Booking)
- and more!
Short history of Kazan, Russia
The city was founded in the 11th century, however, the exact year is not known. In medieval times, Kazan was an important center of the Golden Horde and in 1438 it became the capital of the Khanate of Kazan.
A bit over a hundred years later the city was captured by Ivan the Terrible and incorporated into Russia. During the rule of Catherine the Great in the 18th century, Kazan grew significantly and flourished.
Today Kazan is one of the main Russian cultural, religious and industrial centers. It is also often called the “Third Capital” of Russia due to its significant importance in the country.
Things to do in Kazan
Now, that you know a bit about Kazan let’s talk about what to do in Kazan. I can guarantee you won’t be bored there!
Visit UNESCO listed Kremlin
Visiting Kremlin in Kazan is a must. The historic citadel was built when Ivan the Terrible was ruling the country in the 16th century, in the place where the former castle of the Khanate of Kazan used to stand.
On the Kremlin’s premises, you can find numerous important monuments, the oldest one being the Annunciation Cathedral which is the only Russian church from the 16th century with six piers and five apses.
You will definitely also notice Söyembikä Tower, most likely from the times of Peter the Great. Not only it is the highest structure in Kremlin and one of the city’s symbols, but it is also a leaning-tower.
The most impressive building, however, is the Kul Sharif Mosque – the main reason why I wanted to visit Kazan so badly as it just looked like from a fairy tale on the pictures I’ve seen.
This is one of the largest mosques in Russia and in Europe (besides Istanbul) and it is pretty big indeed, taking a decent picture of the building was a challenge. It was completed in 2005 (for the 1000th birthday of Kazan, although this date is just agreed on) and is standing in the place where originally the mosque was located before Ivan the Terrible captured the Kazan’s castle.
Be sure to visit the mosque inside too as the interior is just as stunning as the building itself.
If you have time I recommend visiting Kremlin twice – during the day time to visit all the monuments inside but also around the sunset time. The place will be pleasantly empty with only a few people around and the monuments, especially Kul Sharif Mosque, are beautifully illuminated.
In the evening Kazan Kremlin feels like a completely different place and that’s when you fully can enjoy its vibe.
Enjoy the pedestrian Bauman street
Bauman Street is the heart of Kazan, connecting Kremlin with Tukay Square in the center of the city. That’s where you usually find people strolling down, street musicians, lots of shops, restaurants, and events.
The street is named after Nikolay Bauman, the Russian revolutionist from the bolshevik party who was born in Kazan.
To be honest I wasn’t very impressed with Bauman street (I preferred Kremlyovskaya Street) but it is a pleasant place and definitely one of the spots you can’t miss in Kazan!
Climb the tower of Epiphany Cathedral
The Epiphany Cathedral is located at Bauman street, close to Tukay Square. Be sure to climb the 74-meter bell tower from the 19th century, a perfect example of the Russian neo-Baroque architecture.
From the top, you can admire the beautiful view of Bauman street and beyond, all the way to Kremlin. I was there just before the sunset when the whole city was covered in the soft yellow light – it was the prettiest.
I was also lucky to witness the bells concert up there – it was super loud but very beautiful!
Visit the Museum of Soviet Lifestyle
Located just off Bauman Street, this is such a fun museum to visit. It shows numerous artifacts from the Soviet times, mostly from the 1970s and 1980s. Everything is super kitschy but the fun part is – you can touch and play with many of the items!
If you were raised in the Soviet reality visiting the museum is like a walk down the memory lane (it was for me as I remember many of those artifacts from my childhood).
Otherwise, it’s a great introduction to how cheesy but sad life under the communist rule used to be.
Walk the Kazanka river embankment
Just below Kremlin, you can find the Kazanka river embankment – one of the favorite places of the locals to relax and hang around. You can find there numerous cafes, restaurants, open-air gyms, merry-go-rounds, sunbeds and more.
You might rent a bike to ride around or just walk and enjoy the place and views across the river. You can also stop by at the nearby Museum of the 1000 Anniversary of Kazan.
When you are going from Kremlin down to the embankment don’t miss the spectacular building of the Farmer’s Palace. This eclectic masterpiece is among the most photographed buildings in Kazan and it is popular for a reason – it’s one of the most unique architecture pieces you can see in Kazan.
Apparently it is possible to visit The Farmer’s Palace inside too and it’s worth doing so – I can’t confirm as I was in Kazan on May 1st when everything was closed but otherwise, I would have definitely gone inside as that’s what I always do.
Find Soviet remnants
If you like Soviet architecture and artifacts you will enjoy your trip to Russia to the fullest. There are so many interesting Soviet remnants all over the place and Kazan is no different.
As in every other Russian city, you can find here the statue of Lenin, standing proudly in the crucial place. In Kazan, he is guarding Svobody Square, within a walking distance from the Bauman street.
On the way take a closer look at the Physics Institute – you will see a nice themed bas relief there!
You can also go underground to see the Kazan metro. Even if it’s fairly new, opened in 2005, it can give you an overview of how grand Soviet metro stations can look like.
Admire beautiful architecture on Kremlyovskaya street
While Bauman Street is among the most popular places in Kazan, my personal favorite street was Kremlyovskaya. It’s parallel to Bauman street, leading all the way to the Spasskaya Tower – the main entrance to Kremlin in Kazan.
The street is lined with beautiful buildings from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century (that was probably the reason why I liked it so much) and wandering around is pure pleasure.
The most impressive buildings include Ushkova House (from 1908), Aleksandrovsky passage (built between 1880 and 1883) or The National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan (from 1894) but the whole street is very interesting really.
Be sure to also walk a few steps down to Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral – probably the most beautiful one of Kazan’s churches. It dates back to the 18th century and is one of the city’s symbols that you simply can’t miss!
Learn more about Tatar culture
Kazan is the center of Tatar people and there is no better place to learn more about their history, culture, language and more.
You should definitely visit The National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan, located right across the Spasskaya Tower of Kremlin – it has a great collection of artifacts connected to Tatar culture and some famous local people.
Afterward, you can visit the old Tatar quarter, dating back to medieval times, with some of the important historical and cultural monuments. You can find it across Kaban Lakes, not far from Tukaya Square.
Try Tatar cuisine
Speaking of Tatar culture – be sure to try some of the local food too! There is no better place to get acquainted with the Tatar cuisine than Kazan.
On Bauman Street, you can find some restaurants serving local food, such as Dom Chaya – it might not look any special but it’s among the oldest and most famous Tatar cafeterias in Kazan.
My favorite one, however, was the fast-food chain Tubatay, located on Kremlyovskaya street. Don’t make the “fast-food chain” fool you – the food there was really good, they had vegetarian options and the menu had pictures so it was easier to choose as the names didn’t ring any bells in my head.
Everything I tried there was very good but don’t ask me what exactly I ate as I have no idea.
By the way, in Kazan you can find the chak-chak museum, dedicated to the most famous Tatar sweet dessert. I’m not a big fan of it, to be honest, but the museum can be a great place to learn more about chak-chak and Tatar cuisine.
Visit Temple of All Religions
This is one of the craziest temples I’ve ever seen! Unfortunately, I could see it only from the train when I was leaving Kazan but I was still very impressed.
The Temple of All Religions is located a bit away from the center of Kazan but if you have the time it’s definitely worth the trip.
The complex serves as the universal temple, inside you can find the Orthodox church, the mosque, the synagogue as well as architecture typical for other religions, including the past ones.
Despite the crazy idea, the Temple of All Religions, thanks to its uniqueness, is among the most popular Kazan attractions. And it looks so unreal, like from a fairytale really!
Is it worth to visit Kazan?
While my main reason to visit Kazan was to see the stunning Kul Sharif Mosque it quickly turned out that the mosque is only one of many things to do in Kazan.
The city is full of attractions, is much more beautiful than I expected, the vibe is laid-back and cool, there is so much to learn about (like the Tatar culture or the long and interesting history of Kazan). Not to mention all the great cafes I didn’t have time to visit!
I only wish I had more than just one day in Kazan so when you plan your trip to Russia give yourself more time there because as you can see there is a lot to see and do in Kazan!
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