If you need a break after the thrill of the match, or just fancy getting away from the crowds, then Nizhny has plenty on offer. Follow our guide to discover the quieter and quirkier side of local life, in art, architecture and, of course, stunning natural beauty.
Go looking for the city’s famous street art ensembles
It was just a couple of years ago that Nizhny Novgorod street artists were making a name for themselves across Russia, but very few of them are still active: some have changed professions completely, others are experimenting with gallery spaces and others are selling their work and have even been featured in Forbes magazine. Many works have been painted over, and the wooden houses in the city centre are slowly but surely being demolished, so it can be quite tricky to find the past achievements of the local street artists. You’ll need the help of a street art map, which is freely available online. You can see the art first hand by going into the courtyards in the vicinity of Oktyabrskaya, Nesterova, Kovalikha and Gruzinskaya streets. This is where you’ll find the work of the TOY collective, Andrey Olenev and a collaboration between Andrey Druzhaev and Elena Toptunova. Gogol and Ilinka streets are also worth checking out, before ending your art trail by the Kuybyshevskaya water tower next to the Molitovsky Bridge, where you can admire what is perhaps Nikita Nomerz’ most famous work, The Big Brother.
Get a feel for Soviet-era Gorky in Avtozavod
Since it was first built, the city’s greenest and cleanest neighbourhood has been held back by its reputation as the most dangerous and crime-ridden. Avtozavod has long been considered a city within a city, and getting there from the centre is easier said than done. Residents of uptown Nizhny Novgorod regard Avtozavod with a degree of scepticism, but still regularly make the trip to admire the Stalinist architecture. Buildings of interest include the Radius House on Molodyozhny Prospekt, and the grey and yellow Busygin houses in Sotsgorod. The grey houses in particular are more like a fortress than a residential quarter, with 60 separate entrance halls. A must see.
Take a tour with local historian Dima Four
Photographer and local historian Dima Four organises guided tours, drawing crowds of people who want to learn more about Nizhny. Dima works tirelessly through the weekends, and sometimes even organises tours around Ilinka, Sormov, Grebeshka and Chernigovskaya on weekday evenings for anybody who is interested. Dima’s knowledge of architecture and street art is impressive, and he supplements it with a collection of retro photographs and a repertoire of urban legends. Dima gives his tours on a pay-what-you-want basis. Russian only.
Discover the true face of old Nizhny in its flea markets
Flea markets in Nizhny Novgorod seem to spring up spontaneously, and their legality is often questionable, but even the city’s sanctioned trading spots will make you feel like you’re in the middle of Madrid’s legendary El Rastro. Start your trip at the inconspicuous flea market next to the GERTS electronics market on the outskirts of the city. Though very much a marginal operation, there’s a good chance of finding Soviet porcelain or art objects at absurdly low prices. The next stop on your trip is Nizhegorodskaya Starina on Beketova Street, where on a good day you’ll have the chance to exchange a few words with the owner and book dealer Oleg Ryabov. Bag yourself a dozen shot glasses for the price of a coffee, and then it’s time to head for the city’s central bazaar in Sverdlov Square, which has long been a meeting place for coin collectors. You’ll likely stumble across imperial roubles and kopecks, but there are also plenty of household utensils, retro posters and mass-produced plastic toys washed up from the 70s and 80s. On your way to the flea market on Sverdlov Square, take a look at the little rag and bone shop in the Alekseyevsky Ryad shopping centre, where the set-piece window displays are overflowing with vials of perfume, alarm clocks, badges and jewellery. If you aren’t exhausted yet, hop on the metro and visit the little pocket of disorder next to Zarechnaya station. This market was founded as a neighbourhood initiative, and you can find pretty much anything here: clothes hang from the nearest bush, and rows of old books gather dust and await their fate on cardboard mounts. The final stop on the antiquarian tour is the second hand shop at Moskovsky train station, a secret among Nizhny Novgorod fashionistas, who gather en masse when the shop restocks. The unique selling point of this vintage store is that everything is sold by weight, so you’ll see clothing, footwear, the occasional hat from the top shelf and even books being thrown onto the scales together. As well as the usual suspects, completely unexpected finds sometimes turn up here, like an American football helmet or a sex shop riding crop.
Beketova Street / Sverdlov Square / Alekseyevsky Ryad / Zarechnaya metro station / Moskovsky Railway Station
Explore the ruins of old Russia on the Priklonsky-Rukavishnikov estates
Podvyaze is the family seat of the Priklonsky nobles and the Rukavishnikov millionaires, and one of the best preserved noble manors in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. Completely abandoned at one point, in spite of its wildly inaccessible location it is now undergoing a renaissance thanks to its owner Zhanna Potravko, who has been restoring the ruin to its former glory under her own steam for the past 20 years. It is no longer simply a beautiful and ramshackle cluster of buildings, but a place that breathes life, where you can come to walk around the floodplain meadows and the picturesque parkway, and even spend the night in the manor house. The owner can arrange an experience straight out of a 19th-century Russian novel, where guests can relax on a warm stove and sit by the fireplace. There are guided tours of the entire complex and film screenings of Soviet film The Precipice, which was shot here. There are even sighthounds, roaming the grounds of the estate just as they would have done in the days of the Rukavishnikovs. Just spare a thought for your followers: you’ll be wanting to share photos of your experience from the moment you arrive.
Okskaya Street, Podvyazye, Nizhegorodskaya oblast
Climb inside a Shukhov Tower on the Oka River
One of Russia’s two surviving high-rise multi-section hyperboloid structures designed by the engineer Shukhov, the other being the famous one on Shabolovka Street in Moscow. The Shukhov Tower on the Oka River, built at the end of the 1920s, is considered by experts to be the more complete of the two. There were originally six towers of different heights stretching from Bogorodsk to Dzerzhinsk, but sadly the four shorter towers were dismantled, officially for scrap metal. The remaining higher towers were designated as cultural heritage sites in 1997 and given state protection, but this didn’t stop the other tower from being torn down and scrapped, making Shukhov Tower on the Oka River the last one standing. Get there by walking from Dachny, a collection of holiday houses outside Dzerzhinsk, a former chemical plant outpost an hour’s drive from Nizhny.