Escape the city: journey down Europe’s longest river to discover the gems of Russia’s south

Beyond the game
Escape the city: journey down Europe’s longest river to discover the gems of Russia’s south

You don't have to look far if you want to spend a few hours exploring Volgograd after the football. Enjoy a boat trip on the impressive waterway from which the city takes its name, or gasp at the scale of some of the nearby industrial sites

7 June 2018
Text Elise Morton, Luba Weiss
Image Artem Makarskiy, Anastasia Tsayder

If you want to spend a few hours away from the football in Volgograd, look no further than the famous river that flows nearby. Take a cruise along the Volga to discover new panoramas over the city or deserted beaches on river islands where locals go for dips or have picnics. Or discover cultural hotspots in nearby cities on the Volga and one of the biggest dams in the world.

Volga river cruise

Don’t just admire the majestic Volga River – get out on it! Cruises can be easily picked up at Volgograd’s riverboat station, in front of Park Pobedy, and offer both a fresh angle on this historic city and awe-inspiring natural landscapes as urban sprawl gives way to verdant, untouched riverbanks and tranquil beaches. While some boat routes will take in views of Volgograd’s most renowned sights, such as Mamayev Kurgan with its mammoth The Motherland Calls statue and the eerie beauty of the city’s derelict flour mill, others head away from the tourist hotspots and straight into nature. Sitting out on the deck of one of the many cruise boats is particularly magical come evening time when the setting sun paints the sky and mirror-like water in an array of dazzling colours.

Volzhsky & Petr Lukich Malkov’s sculpture workshop

In the small city of Volzhsky just outside Volgograd, you can visit the workshop of prominent Soviet sculptor and artist Petr Lukich Malkov. Many of the city’s cultural monuments are the product of Malkov’s labour. Today, the workshop hosts evening concerts by local musicians, from improv to renditions of guitar classics. A museum dedicated to the sculptor is due to open on the site soon, hopefully providing a further cultural boost to young creatives in the area.

Address: 44 Lenin Prospekt, Volzhsky

Sarpinsky Island

The perfect place for a waterside camping trip or cookout, visitors and locals alike enjoy escaping down the Volga on boat tours to the pristine Sarpinsky Island. Here you’ll find sandy stretches, trees and not a lot else (bring your own barbecue equipment).

Volzhskaya Hydroelectric Station

“Power stations of the world” may not necessarily be your specialist subject or your ideal travel tour, but the Volzhskaya Hydroelectric Station is an impressive sight for which it’s worth venturing out of town. Built over a ten-year period starting in 1951, Volzhskaya is still the largest hydroelectric station in Europe and boasts a 725-metre long, 44-metre high concrete dam that spans the Volga River and can be crossed by car or train. Commissioned by Josef Stalin, it was among the great construction projects of Communism and still retains an air of Soviet mystique. In line with this atmosphere, forget taking that all important Instagram shot: the facility is guarded by armed security and photography is prohibited. Instead, stroll up to the Red Lighthouse or its twin, the aptly named Green Lighthouse, or enjoy a surreal afternoon relaxing on nearby Energetik Beach in the shadow of the power station.