Nizhny Novgorod: super-arena for first division, Volga vastness and legacy of Russian Detroit

Matches

Nizhny Novgorod will host six world championship matches. Four meetings will be group stage matches – teams from Group D, E, F, G will play in the city. The winner of Group D (highly likely Argentina) will also play the 1/8 finals against the runner-up of Group C (here it's harder to forecast). Moreover, citizens of Nizhny Novgorod will see a ¼ finals match.

So the football festival for the citizens will begin on 18 Junewith the match of Sweden vs Republic of Korea. Sweden prepared for the WC seriously without letting menacing Dutchmen (in the preliminaries) and Italians (in play-offs) go to the championship. The South Korean national team doesn't have so many performances in world championships, but it's considered to be one of the strongest teams in the Asian Cup.

A European-South American battle will take place on 21 June – Argentina against Croatia. It's clear the South American national team chaired by Lionel Messi (two-times winners and three-times WC silver medallists) is the favourite here. But this doesn't mean it will be easy to cope with the Blazers: Croatia has stopped the rival who was stronger in advance in big football competitions many times.

Englandand Panamawill meet in Nizhny Novgorod on 24 June. Having easily gone through the preliminaries, the football founders hope to become at least medallists. The ''twelfth player'' of the English national team, that's to say its fans, deserve special attention. It seems that safety measures on 24 June, on match day, will be unprecedented. The Panama national team is more modest – it makes its debut in this WC. 11 October 2017, the day when the team went through the qualifier first in its history, is a national holiday now.

A meeting of small (in football terms) but proud teams Switzerland vs Costa Ricawill be on 27 June.

Citizens of Nizhny Novgorod will see a 1/8 finals match on 1 Julyand 1/4 finals match on 6 July. The national team of Russia can play in Nizhny Novgorod if it becomes first in its Group A and wins the 1/8 finals.

Stadium

So the main football actions in the city will take place in the deliberately built Nizhny NovgorodStadiumsports complex. Its stands are designed for 45,000 seats, including 902 people with restricted mobility with assistants. It's recognised by experts as Best Football Stadium Project by 2018 FIFA Football World Cup.

It took much time to choose the place for the future facility. In the end, a picturesque place on Strelka, where the River Oka joins with the River Volga, was chosen. The construction started here in 2015. The work in the sports complex ended in March 2018.

''The stadium's image is built on associations with themes of Volga nature – water and wind,'' the championship's organisers explain. ''At the same time, the location of historical quarters in the neighbourhood dictates the moderation and the silhouette's austerity. The exterior of the stadium is a colonnade consisting of triangular pillars that make a circle. The metal transparent roofing construction – a peak above the foyer and stands – is based on them.''

After the 2018 WC end, the site will become a home stadium of local Olimpiyets club (plays in the Russian Football National League).

Stadium stop

Shuttles will circulate to the stadium during the WC. Local authorities promise new land transport routes will be launched on the threshold of the championship (buses, trolleybuses, taxicubs). And, most importantly, Strelka metro station will open. This stop will be the final on Sormovsko-Mescherskaya Line of the metropolitan.

Where to stay

Nizhny Novgorod started to attracted guests from all over the world a long time ago. This is why, usually there weren't problems with guest houses. But it's clear the city hasn't held football world cups yet. This is why four new hotels including that of leading world hotel chains (four-star Courtyard by Marriott, three-star Hampton by Hilton, five-star Sheraton and three-star hotel in Malinovaya Sloboda health centre in Borsk District) were built by the competition. Meanwhile, the best price/quality ratio hotel rooms have already been booked. So one will to try hard to find a normal bed.

According to Booking.com, the cheapest option per night is 800 rubles. For this money, you will have a bed in a bunk-bed in 8-seat room for men. Free Wi-Fi, shared bathroom, WC, iron, hairdryer are among the comforts. Although if paying another 150 rubles, one can stay in another hostel in which the owners also guarantee a safe and even toilet paper!

What should those who don't spare 100,000 rubles do to stay night in Nizhny Novgorod? In this case, the guests are offered a usual three-bedroomed flat 8 km far from the stadium. Or ''apartments'' with an area of 47 sq. m 5 km far from the football pitch, which includes a kitchen, free Wi-Fi, even a living room, bathroom with shower and TV. How can one say 'no' to such happiness? There are also options for cottage lovers for such a price. There are also more expensive options.

Sightseeing points

The city, which is 800 years old, undoubtedly, has what to show to tourists. However, the newly built stadium and its adjacent territory (now the construction of a recreation zone is finished in Strelka) will be probably become a mecca for Nizny's guests during the WC. The Minin and PozharskySquarewill become the second most attendant place – Fan Festival will be here. The matches will be transmitted on a big screen, and the very square will host meetings with football stars, souvenirs of FIFA partners will be sold. A fortress of the old Russian people – Kremlin – is near. One of the oldest streets of Nizhny, pedestrian Bolshaya Pokrovskaya, starts from there. It also have an amazing view on the merge of Oka and Volga and expanses behind Volga.

In Nizhny Novgorod, every guest who respects himself should obligatorily visit Volga Embankment. It's better to go down the Chkalov Stairs. Actually, there are three embankments: Verkhnevolzhskaya, Nizhnevolzhskaya and Fyodorovsky.

Bolshaya Pokrovskaya, which is 2,5 km in length, is alive almost round the clock: it has cafes, shops, museums, theatres. The street unites four squares: the Minin and Pozharsky Square, Theatre, Gorky and Lyadov. Rozhdestvenskaya is the second pedestrian street in Nizhny. It used to be the main trade street. Now it's an open-air museum, in fact: houses (the oldest houses were built in the middle of the 18th century), monuments and authentic cafes are located there.

Nizhny has many Orthodox churches (including Aleksandr Nevsky on Strelka). Of course, the multi-ethnic and multi-religious city has mosques, a synagogue and a Catholic cathedral.

Nizhny Novgorod was anciently a centre of trade, the biggest Nizhny Novgorod Fair in the Russian Empire took place here. Now a complex of buildings is locater here – Main Fair House, exhibition corpuses, Spass (Old Fair) Cathedral, etc.

Nizhny Novgorod produces famous Volga and Gazel cars, so those who want to sink into the history of Russian car engineering can visit GAZ History Museum. It has a unique collection of cars and documents. Legends of the Soviet car engineering industry Volga GAZ-21, Chaika GAZ-13, trucks GAZ-51, GAZ-66 and others are here.

Where to eat

The city has a pile of public canteens to suit every taste and pocket. According to Tripadvisor, Agile Bee restaurant-pub is the leader of the rating. Mitrich that specialises in European cuisine with an inclination to seafood is the runner-up of the list. There is a vegetarian menu too. Expedition. Northern Cuisine closes the top 3. It will serve dishes of Russian cuisine with different fish, northern berries, etc. In general, local restaurants are praised. Judging by users' comments, high prices are the only drawback: some three thousand rubles on your card may not be enough to be full.

Picky tourists also have options. For instance, some restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan dishes. Others specialises in halal food. There is a couple of kosher establishments.

Highlights/specifics

Old-generation people know this city as Gorky – it existed under this name from 1932 to 1990. Even if it changed the name, many names of companies, events, brands and geographical names remained the same – Gorky Automobile Factory, Gorky Railway, Gorky New Year Tree, Gorky Metallurgy Factory, Gorky Milling Machine Tool Factory, Gorky Beer, Gorky TV, Gorky Reservoir, etc.

In 1612, regional leader Kuzma Minin with Prince Dmitry Pozharsky staged people's corps under the walls of the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin to free Moscow where the Polish were at that time. By the way, the very fortress in Nizhny was never conquered by enemies. Nowadays residencies of the plenipotentiary ambassador of the president to Volga Federal District, governor of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and city administration are located in the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin.

In the 1930s, Gorky was called Russian Detroit. Many heavy industry enterprises are concentrated here. GAZ, which was built by Ford specialists, is the most famous of them. And the production of Krasnoye Sormovo shipbuilding company, Gidromash and Sokol aviation factories (for instance, MiG series aircraft) are famous beyond the country.

People of Nizhny Novgorod are famous for their folk craft. This is why one should buy a souvenir made by local masters here. For instance, Kazakovo filigree – elegant metal metalwork from Kazakovo. Diveyev clay toys, Balakhna lace, Varnava bone carving, Zhbannikov flute, Pavlov knives are also famous. While Gorodets and Khokhloma wood painting are known worldwide.

By Timur Rakhmatullin