Discover the beauty of a new travel gem, Tatarstan that lies 800 kilometers east of Moscow on the biggest European river, Volga replete with natural beauty and distinct culture.
Tatarstan is a land of wealth, peace and harmony with an authentic way of life, its own cuisine, music, fashion, art, architecture, hard-working and joyous people. Tatarstan defies the notions of East or West. It has its own modern, colourful, rich, energetic and diverse character. The “Land of 1001 Delights” regularly ranks among the top 3 most popular Russian tourist destinations in various categories. It offers an exciting, pleasant and safe experience to visitors of any type and taste.
What to see in Kazan – Tatarstan’s Capital
Known as “The Third Capital of Russia”, Kazan is a modern and comfortable city offering a wide array of choices to a visitor – from countless cafes and restaurants, shopping and entertainment malls to world-class sports and cultural events. Kazan celebrated its 1000 anniversary in 2005 and keeps on growing wealthier and more beautiful. There are over 150 hotels in the city, including brands of international hotel chains: Courtyard by Marriott, Park Inn by Radisson, Ibis, Ramada and DoubleTree by Hilton.
➔ The Kazan Kremlin
The stunning white walls of the Kazan Kremlin are the primary attraction point in Kazan. The Kremlin dates back to the 12th century and hosts a wealth of sights within its walls. The most obvious one is the blue and white gem of the Kul Sharif Mosque, one of Russia’s largest. Next to it is the Russian Orthodox Blagoveschensky (Annunciation) Cathedral and the mysterious leaning Tower of Syuyumbike, the legendary last queen of Kazan. The Kremlin is home to governmental bodies, a dedicated museum, as well as shops and cafes. One can easily spend a day here, especially during art shows and festivals. Sunsets over Kazan as viewed from the Kremlin, are incredibly dramatic with deep colours and clouds appearing within reach, and the air filled with a sweet flavour of Oriental hospitality. Kazan Kremlin was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.
➔ The Old Tatar Quarter
On the left bank of the legendary Kaban lake, there lies an enchanting small town with tin roofs of merchant mansions and tall minarets of ancient mosques. The Old Tatar Quarter, once an industrial and trade centre of the city, is now an “open-air museum” with almost every building bearing cultural significance. Here one can feel the authentic atmosphere of the old Kazan and learn about the traditional culture of the Tatar people.
➔ Bauman Street
The old Bauman Street is the main pedestrian thoroughfare in Kazan. It is the city’s tourist quarter, complete with restaurants, fountains, street sculptures, small trades and souvenir shops. You can listen to street musicians, get yourself a portrait, have an ice-cream in summer and a hot broth with local specialty “echpochmak” pies in winter. Theatre and dance performances are common, street musicians and artists are a permanent fixture. Day and night, the Bauman Street is full of people, sounds and colours.
➔ “Kazan” Wedding Palace
Family is very important for Tatarstan people. The bond between generations is strong. In every family, there is a “babushka” (Russian) or “davanika” (Tatar) granny, holding keys to life wisdom. Many families nowadays in Tatarstan take their official beginning at the Kazan Wedding Palace, the civic marriage registration centre. Built as a giant chalice, the palace takes its shape from the traditional Tatar cooking pot “kazan”. It embodies the traditional saying that “Home is a bowl full of joy”. Recently, the palace acquired new vigilant guardians for family values – the bronze statues of mythical winged leopards and Zilant serpents. Visitors to the palace can enjoy an unsurpassed panorama of the Kazan Kremlin from a double-level viewing desk 32 metres above the Kazanka river.
➔ “Ekiyat” Puppet Theatre
The building of “Ekiyat” Puppet Theatre is a sure head-turner. Its enchanting turrets and stained glass windows catch the eye from far away. The entrance is crowned by a phoenix bird surrounded by brightly coloured puppets, and the timid “Little Prince” greets visitors from a rooftop. The interior is equally fabulous. Shows are given in Russian and Tatar languages. During summer, the square in front of the theater becomes a place of colorful flower festival.
➔ Temple of All Religions
The temple is a symbol of the peaceful co-existence of people of different religions and ethnicities in Tatarstan. It is a unique complex combining Orthodox and Catholic churches, a Muslim mosque, a Jewish synagogue, a Buddhist temple, a Chinese pagoda – many iconic elements of 16 world religions, including the images of lost civilizations. The temple is intended as an architectural symbol of religious unity rather than a working church. It was built by a local artist Ildar Khanov using charitable donations. The temple opens its doors for art exhibitions and music evenings.
Things to do outside Kazan, the capital city
➔ The Island-Town of Sviyazhsk
Pushkin’s fairy tales come to life on the Sviyazhsk river island only 60 kilometres from Kazan. Initially a fortress built by Ivan the Terrible to seize Kazan in 16th century, Sviyazhsk has grown through the ages into a quintessential place of Russian culture. The island with less than 300 residents and has 37 cultural sights. Sviyazhsk hosts the oldest Christian church on the Volga, the wooden Trinity Church which was built in 1551 during a single day. Among the beautiful murals of the Uspensky Cathedral rare images of Ivan the Terrible himself can be spotted. The cathedral became the 29th Russian site that was recently included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Sviyazhsk bears witness to the worst aspects of the Soviet era, with some of its churches being turned into a prison camp and mental institution. An extensive and careful restoration since 2010 has brought the island’s churches back to their original function. The solitary and pure nature of the island is preserved with no industry or public transport allowed on the island.
Today, Sviyazhsk has a lively arts and festival scene. There is a museum, a stable yard and a medieval theme centre, complete with an iron monger, archery stalls and interactive knight’s
armour displays. The serene and spiritual Sviyazhsk is a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike.
➔ The Great Bolgar
A thousand years ago on a tall shore high above Volga, 180 kilometres away from Kazan, there sat the buzzing capital of the thriving and formidable Volga Bolgar Civilization. Here the ancestors of Tatars adopted Islam in 922, and in the 13th century, Bolgar became the capital of the Golden Horde. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Bolgar remains a sacred pilgrimage place. A visitor can admire the Cathedral Mosque, with its Big Minaret, North and East Mausoleums, Khan’s Tomb, built in the 13-14th centuries. Bolgar is so important for modern Tatarstan that it continues to be developed, keeping it alive and present in the Tatarstan culture. In recent years, an elegant White Mosque was added and a Commemoration Monument to celebrate the adoption of Islam. It hosts the world’s largest Quran with pages 2 metres tall and a solid malachite cover weighing 800 kilograms.The excellent on-site museum displays intricate pieces of beautiful medieval jewelry, runic scrolls and weapons, and tells the engaging story of what was once the core state between Europe and Asia. After a day full of sightseeing, a visit to the Bread Museum with a working mill will be rewarding.
Nature lovers and travelers seeking escape from the hustle and bustle of life will cherish the magnificent and splendid views offered by two great rivers that merge in Tatarstan, the Volga and Kama. The Volga, Europe’s largest river, also reaches its widest span here at 43 kilometres. River cruises are a popular way to enjoy Tatarstan’s nature in a slow and relaxed way. Cruise boats make daily stops in small towns, each with their own character, yet all contributing to a picture of Russia’s historic provincial wealth. The infrastructure for recreation is developing fast in response to the ever-growing demand for Tatarstan’s magnificent nature.
Five reasons to visit Tatarstan
- 1000 year-old historic monuments listed in UNESCO World Heritage sites
- Exotic mixture of nationalities, cultures and religions
- Festivals and championships of global scale
- Authentic way of life and distinctive cuisine
Europe largest river Volga at 43 km wide.