What to do in Volgograd
Visiting Volgograd in the heart of Russia would probably not be on everybody’s list of places to go. In the middle of Russia and not really on the road to anywhere. So why go? The city has one of the world’s biggest statues, a huge history of war, of name changing, of progress and of resilience. The city centre is modern with a garden promenade in the middle of the main street, lots of parks and pleasant walks by the Volga River. Lots and lots of cafe’s which often don’t look nice from the outside but are stunning within. The cafes and restaurants are full of waitresses ready to pounce like a tiger as soon as any piece of tissue or plate is left abandoned for more than 3seconds! So from my extended time there I will outline my list of what to do in Volgograd which includes how to get to places because as far as I could find out the interweb and guide books were fricking useless!
I ended up there as we were getting from Moscow to Sochi for the Olympics and wanted to make the trip a little more adventurous and not fly or get a direct train. Volgograd it was so. The city seems small when you mosey around what looks like everything. But if you take a bus outwards towards the outskirts the more industrial side is on show and some of the remnants of Soviet times with ugly apartment blocks and huge factories. It’s only then that you realise where the 1 million people live.
What to do in Volgograd – Mamayev Kurgan (The Motherland Calls Statue)
One of the iconic statues in the world of Mother Russia calling the troops into battle and THE main attraction to visit in Volgograd. It was the tallest statue in the world when erected in 1967 and is part of the Memorial Complex that commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43. The statue is massive. It is on top of the Mamayev Kurgan Hill which is the tallest point in Stalingrad (former name of Volgograd) and was of strategic importance during the battle. It looks huge far away then doesn’t seem to get that much bigger until you are right underneath it. You don’t even reach to her toes! It is 87mtrs (279ft) high. This is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty without the plinth! The memorial complex has various statues and memorials to the thousands (millions) that lost their lives at the Battle of Stalingrad. See next attraction for more on that. There is a permanent guarded flame on the site which is a tough job if standing for hours when the temperatures are hitting -10deg Celsius (14F) or below. The complex is very well done as you are led slowly past an artistic impression of the battle as you slowly ascend the hill. Part of it has the noises of the battlefield, others some crazy wall graffiti with poses all leading up to the main Motherland Calls statue on the brow of the hill. If in Volgograd you can’t miss it. Admission is free.
To get there: Take the tram northwards (15Rubles per journey) and get off at Mamaev Kurgan (Мамаев Курган). It is a 15min ride and 6 stops north of the main station in the centre, Komsomolskaya. The tram runs on Volgograd’s main street Pr. Lenina. Alternatively you can get one of the many electric blue buses (12 Rubles per journey). These run all over the city so the tram is the easiest so you don’t get on the wrong one.
What to do in Volgograd – Stalingrad Battle Museum (Panorama)
Stalingrad was only another town on the map for the all conquering Nazi’s and of no strategic importance in 1942 but Hitler diverted armies away capturing Moscow so he could conquer the south and take the town of Stalin’s name. It would be a feather in his cap. Despite horrific Soviet losses thus far Stalin ordered a ‘no backwards step’ policy and one of the bloodiest battles in history began. In just over 5 months an estimated 2 million people died and the German army was defeated for the first time. The subsequent Soviet advance meant that D-Day could happen as many resources and troops went from the German Western front to the Eastern Front. From that point on the Nazi’s were in retreat. Every inch of Stalingrad was fought for and exchanged hands numerous times in close encounter fighting. German soldiers would joke that they took the kitchen and bathroom but were still fighting for the bedroom. The Stalingrad Battle Museum is a memorial to this and has guns, tanks, planes, photos, coats, hats, guns and some incredible paintings of the battle. There is also a large scale model of the aftermath of Volgograd after the war with incredible detail of the railway, buildings and factories around the city. Around half of it is translated into English and it doesn’t underestimate how great the Russian army was! Definitely worth a visit as your present worldly situation derives from it. On the grounds is the shell of the mill that remains untouched since the war as a reminder of what any of the few remaining standing buildings looked like.
Admission is 150Rubles. The museum is on the Volga River bank and is behind the Lenin statue on Ploshchad Lenina, Пло́щадь Ле́нина, (Lenin Square), also the name of the tram stop about 1.2km north of centre.
What to do in Volgograd – Pavlov’s House
This is opposite the Battle of Stalingrad Museum and is just a red bricked wall that is out of place on the street. It is a memorial to a strategically important building that was fortified by Srgt. Pavlov who gained fame by defending the building. On German maps the house was called ‘fortress’ and they attacked the building several times a day for 2 months and fired at night so they couldn’t sleep. General Chuikov joked that the Germans lost more men trying to take Pavlov’s House than they did in the invasion of France! Today it is an apartment block but the red bricks are a reminder.
What to do in Volgograd – The Volga-Don Canal
This huge engineering project connects the Volga River and Don River which connects 5 sea’s together. The canal is 110km long and south of Volgograd in the Krasnoarmeykiy Rayon (also where Sarepta is – below) where you can see the final lock before it enters the Volga River. The canal was built by prisoners of war and prisoners of Stalin and opened in 1952. At the final lock there is a huge archway to signify the triumph which is best viewed from the bridge over the canal. Alongside the lake and locks is a nice walk in the associated park which stretches all along the banks towards the Volga River proper and leads to a huge Lenin statue overlooking his watery domain. Statues of Lenin are everywhere in Volgograd so you get very used to them. On the road on the south bank opposite arch is an Aeroflot plane. Yes that is correct, a plane! Opposite this is the Maratime Museum which tells you all about the canal. There is no admission or fee for the canal. You can just walk by its banks.
How to get there: This the tricky part and where guide books are nearly all wrong. If you take the 77 bus from Kaspiyskoye Street (M6) which is approx 7 blocks west of the main Lenina street and head south. It is a 30-40min ride or so. Basically you will be in Volgograd for a bit then out in what seems like flat countryside and then will come to a proper town (Krasnoarmeykiy Rayon) and this is where the Volga-Don canal is. If on the 77 the arch will be on your left as you cross the bridge. If you take the 1C,2C or 15C marshrutkas (yellow vans) then you will head in the right direction but they don’t go all the way. A taxi will cost around 400Rubles from Volgograd which is very reasonable considering it is a 30min ride. The canal is in the middle of the town with a large bridge over it which also is used by the tram (not the same tram as the centre of Volgograd). It is very close to Sarepta and worth visiting together, see below for more.
What to do in Volgograd – Old Sarepta
Not exactly a star attraction but if you bothered to go see the Volga-Don Canal then you should definitely visit. This square of renovated houses was built by Germans that were invited to farm the land in 1765 by Catharine II. The European square looks out of place in the mash of Soviet buildings and apartment blocks and includes a church, pharmacy, school etc as part of a once thriving community all of which were renovated recently. The Germans (now Russians) were kicked out after the backlash after WWII. The square is small and is now an open air museum. Beside the church is the office where you can pay 250Rubles for a tour of some of the buildings which show the way of life. The buildings have wine cellars, models etc. There is not that much to see inside and there are no English translations. They must not get many visitors as it took them 5min to figure out how much I should pay. Photography inside is another 250Ru
How to get there: Old Sarepta is a 3min walk from the bridge over the Volga-Don canal. If you are at the bridge over the canal and walk away from the Triumphal Arch on the north bank then it is there on your right hand side 300mtrs down the road. If you are driving then you will need to turn 300mtrs before you come to the bridge over the canal.
For directions/transport to the town of Krasnoarmeykiy Rayon see directions to the Volga-Don canal above.
What to do in Volgograd – The Squares and Alleys
One thing you will notice in Volgograd is how proud they are of their victory in the Great Patriotic War (WWII). Did you hear they won at the Battle of Stalingrad?? When I was there the place was covered in posters for the 71st anniversary. 71 no less. Not a big one like 70 or 75 but 71years. In the centre of Volgograd is the ‘Square of the Fallen Fighters’ which is surrounded by parks and the theatre, this then leads to the Volga River down Heroes Alley. On either side of this long parkway are good restaurants and cafes. On the banks of the Volga at the end of Heroes Alley is the embankment where there are more columns this time in recognition of the 62nd Army.
It was here I saw a 12 year old girl being outfoxed by a pigeon with a broken wing as she tried to catch it! The pigeon kept going around a tree trunk and the girl couldn’t manage to out manoeuvre it!
What to do in Volgograd – All the Statues
Make sure you are not repulsed by Lenin’s face if you head to Volgograd because his head is everywhere. It still adorns building and statues still lurk around every corner. From Lenin’s Square (Ploshchad Lenina on the tram) where he still dictates to the statues of children on Pl. Lenina, statues of workers, statues for sailors, monuments of the founders of Tsaritsin (first name of Volgograd), monument for the first governor of Tsaritsin, monuments for armies of WWII, monuments for other armies in WWII, for Chekists, for children who fought etc etc. Suffice to say there are a lot, loads, of monuments in Volgograd. Walk 5min and you will run into one.
Practicalities – About Volgograd
€1 = 49 Russian Rubles, US$1 = 36 Ru
- Language – Russian. And almost only Russian. Very little English spoken by anybody outside the tourist industry and hotels. I found though that people once asked are very helpful. Very few signs (road, metro etc) are in English.
- Bus – Volgograd has a good bus service. There are blue electric buses and there are smaller yellow vans called marshrutkas. The buses cost 12Ru per journey and the marshrutkas are similar but depends on the distance.
- Tram – Volgograd has a metro/tram system. The main one runs from just south of the city centre for 14km northwards along Volgograd’s main street Pl. Lenina. It costs 15Ru per journey and is underground in the city centre. There are several other non-connected trams elsewhere in Volgograd.
- Train- Volgograd is well connected by train to both Moscow and other cities. ‘Volgograd 1’ is an impressive train station. The tickets though can be hard to understand. http://eng.rzd.ru/
- Flights- Volgograd has an international airport north of the city and is mainly fed by Aeroflot (www.aeroflot.com/cms/en), S7 airlines (www.s7.ru/en/) and Rusline (www.rusline.aero/). But FlyDubai and airlines from surrounding countries also fly to Volgograd
- Accommodation – US$30-$40 per night for an average double room
- Beer – A pint of beer cost approximately 150 Rubles.
- Visa: All foreigners must get a visa pre-arrival for Russia but a number of countries (usually old USSR) don’t need a visa. You can get single, double or multiple entry (costs vary) and you must specify the dates you enter and exit the country. Your passport must be valid for at least the following 6 months. General info can be found on Russian Visa’s here www.russianembassy.org/page/general-visa-information but contact each individual countries embassy for charges.
- Population of Volgograd: 1 million
Map of Volgograd
|Mamayev Kurgan - Motherland Calls|
The Motherland Calls, Russia, Volgograd
|Stalingrad Battle Panorama Museum|
Stalingrad Battle Panorama Museum, Russia, Volgograd
Stalingrad Battle Panorama Museum, Russia, Volgograd
|The Volga - Don Canal|
Russia, Volgogradskaya oblast, Volga-Don Canal
Europe, Russia, Volgogradskaya oblast, Volgograd, Sarepta
|Square of the Fallen Fighters|
Russia, Volgogradskaya oblast, Volgograd
Russia, Volgogradskaya oblast, Volgograd
|Train Station - Volgograd 1|
Russia, Volgogradskaya oblast, Volgograd
Photo Gallery of What to do in Volgograd