Rostov-on-Don is known to its citizens as Russia’s southern capital, the capital of the Don, the gate to the Caucasus and many other proud titles which emphasise the splendour of the city, which has more than a million residents, and the Don area as a whole.
Hugely popular with the locals is the Don River Embankment, which stretches over nearly two kilometres along the Beregovaya Street. The hustle and bustle never ceases here, making it the city’s most vibrant promenade. Sit down for a snack in the shade (June is usually extremely warm in Rostov-on-Don), take a river cruise along the Don or cycle along the embankment to check out local art and monuments. The embankment has undergone a lot of modernisation in recent years, with more greenery, phone-charging stations and Wi-Fi points.
Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin
A symbol of the city and one of the most recognisable pieces of architecture in Rostov-on-Don, the Cathedral is situated in Cathedral Square, a mere 400 metres from the embankment. Ever since the city’s foundation in 1749, there has always been a church on this site. The first was taken apart, the second burned down and the ever-expanding town outgrew the third. The current cathedral was built in 1860. In the 1930s under Soviet rule, the cathedral fell into disrepair. Reopened on the initiative of its citizens in 1942, a hugely difficult time for the city under German occupation, the cathedral underwent complete restoration after the war, with the bell tower fully restored in 1999 to mark the 250th anniversary of the city’s foundation.
Bolshaya Sadovaya Street and Theatre Square
The pedestrian Soborny Pereulok leads from the Cathedral to the Bolshaya Sadovaya Street, the city’s most presentable and arguably most beautiful street, challenged for this prestigious title only by Pushkinskaya Street, an overwhelmingly green, partly pedestrian-only street a few blocks north. Bolshaya Sadovaya Street crosses the city from west to east and is home to most of the city’s landmarks and monuments.
A walk or a trip on public transport will take you three kilometres towards the Theatre Square and the Academic Drama Theatre. The Fan Festival area will be located here during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. Careful observers may note that the theatre building is shaped like a tractor. This is no accident: Rostov-on-Don is home to Rostselmash, the largest agricultural vehicle plant in the country. The theatre, built in 1935, is an important piece of constructivism architecture. Across from the theatre, visitors will find an array of fountains and the Liberators of Rostov column, which stands at 72 metres high.
Incidentally, Rostselmash is a name synonymous with football in Russia, with the city’s most successful and popular football club enjoying this name for 45 years, before being renamed to Rostov in 2003. Rostov FC will play their home games at the new 45,000 seater stadium built for Russia 2018 once the tournament finishes.
Unusual theatre buildings are Rostov’s calling card. The Music Theatre across from the Pokrovsky Square (halfway between the Cathedral and Theatre Squares) is shaped like a grand piano. The Bogatyanovsky Spusk allows for a quick descent to the embankment from the Music Theatre.
The bulk of the city is currently situated on the Don’s right bank, with the left bank being considerably less developed. Until recently, the left bank has been a recreation area with beaches, cafes, restaurants, BBQ joints, nightclubs and other entertainment infrastructure, as well as industrial sites. However, the local administration believes that the construction of a new football ground on the left bank will breathe new life into the area and help it to develop. Visitors to Russia 2018 will see a whole new left bank, known as the “Levberdon” in local parlance.
Tanais Archaeological Museum Preserve
Rostov is a relatively young city, yet to mark its 300th anniversary, but history aficionados need only travel 15km in the direction of Taganrog to visit the remains of the Tanais colony founded by the ancient Greeks in the 3rd century B.C. Tanais was the northernmost outpost of Greek civilisation, specifically the Bosporan Kingdom, which survived the Goth and Hun invasions, eventually falling in the 6th century under the onslaught of the Turkic Khanate.
Today, the ancient site of Tanais, the ancient Greek name for the Don river, is an archaeological preserve of international importance. Excavations have already produced more than 200,000 different pieces and revealed the remains of fortifications, with visitors able to see reconstructions of ancient dwellings and an extensive collection of ceramics. To avoid missing any details, hire a guide here.
Azov and Azov Castle
If you’ve seen all there is to see in Rostov itself and have time to spare, take a 40km motorway trip to the town of Azov. A small town today with around 80,000 residents, Azov is much older than Rostov, dating back to the Scythian settlements on the Azov Sea coast more than a thousand years ago. Later, the location was used as a Turkish outpost which changed hands repeatedly before finally becoming Russian in the middle of the 18th century. Visitors can see what little remains of Azov Castle here.
If you have time, stop on the way to Azov at the Tachanka-Rostovchanka monument on the Vostochnoye Motorway 4km from the Don to pose for pictures. The monument is dedicated to the First Horse Army from the time of the Russian Civil War.