Sochi A Russian resort with the recent Olympic past
Stretching over an area of 146 km along the Northeastern coast of the Black Sea, Sochi is one of the world’s longest cities, second only to Mexico. Sochi has been a resort for more a hundred years. In the 1930s, the city became a favorite recreation space of the Soviet elite and the only sea resort accessible to regular Soviet citizens.
Besides hotels and sanatoriums, there are many apartments and apart-hotels for rent. The locals call them lieutenant-hotels as the level of service and comfort hardly reaches two stars. Life in Sochi is quite expensive. Prices here are comparable to prices in Moscow so the locals try to earn as much as possible with every centimeter of property. Pay attention to the exterior of the building when booking an apt. There are whole neighborhoods of the amateur-built “living garages” up to six-storeys high. Obviously, you don't expect much comfort there.
In 2014 Sochi hosted the Winter Olympics, however it didn't improve the city’s hospitality. And yet, just like with any other touristic city, if you are prepared you will enjoy its unique nature, mild climate, and the authentic Russian-Mediterranean cuisine.
Sochi is a large agglomeration which is impossible to tour even in a couple of days. If you like nature and hiking, take a tour to the valleys and mountain waterfalls. There are many of them, so ask for tips at a tourist office or your hotel. Top 3 natural landmarks are the Arboretum with a pond and cable cars, the national park Krasnaya Polyana, and Mount Akhun. In the old Sochi, take a walk along the beach promenade starting from the Seaport, take a boat, ride a hoverboard, and dine at a restaurant nearby. Then visit the Olympic Park with its waterfront, electric scooters, and bikes.
The Arboretum and Cableway
ADDRESS: Kurortniy avenue, 74k, 1a
BOX OFFICE OPENING HOURS: 08:00–19:00 daily
PRICE: 250 rubles, tours — 100 rubles; one-way cable car ride — 250 rubles
Established in XIX century, the Sochi Arboretum is a fine example of the art of gardening. The unique collection of subtropical flora and fauna includes more than 1800 plants from around the world. The Arboretum takes 121 acres of space and has the lower and the upper level. At the upper level you can enjoy a magnificent view of the city, at the lower level, visit an aquarium and an exotarium. Take a cable car to get from one part to the other.
The Seaport Building
Sochi is not only a resort, but also one of the most important Russian seaports. The Seaport building is the main city gate and the last monument of the Stalin-era Empire style. The construction plan was created to fulfill Stalin’s directive but the building was commissioned in 1955, under Khrushchev. Four sculptures above three levels of the tower represent four seasons and four points of the compass. There is a big fountain surrounded by roses, palm trees, and Himalayan cedars in front of the building. A female figure symbolising Navigation in the middle of the fountain is holding a ship and a pilot book in one hand and is stopping storms with the other. The Seaport building can be considered the heart of Sochi with its upscale restaurants and luxury boutiques like Gucci, Omega, and others. If you plan to go sailing, start from here – there are a lot of yachts and it's worth bargaining.
The Olympic Park
The Olympic Park is the main object of The Winter Olympics. With its controversial architecture, it can be either loved or hated. Hockey, speedskating, short track, figure skating, curling facilities are all located here. The XXII Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies also took place in the park.
The grandest part of the park is undoubtedly the Fisht stadium: after a recent renovation it can fit up to 47 659 people. Here, next to the forest and behind a fence you can see a hidden Old-ritualist Orthodox cemetery that survived the Olympic infrastructure construction. Ironically enough, this is the only green part of the park. Despite its name, the park is actually a large barely occupied space with sports facilities scattered around. You can travel between them by car, scooter or other transport. The sun heats up the concrete surface here red-hot, so don't forget sunscreen, a hat, and drink plenty of water.
The Russian elite’s most favorite ski resort, Krasnaya Polyana is a mountain village 38 km away from the coast. Not so crowded in summer, it's a nice place to spend a pleasant day in the open air. The locals offer guided tours of the mountain, waterfalls and lakes by jeep-cars or on horseback. If you have extra time, visit a trout farm where you can fish and have you catch cooked on grill. There is one of a few Russian legal casinos, for those who are interested in gambling.
There are four ski resorts at Krasnaya Polyana and each has its own cableway. The resorts lie within some distance from one another and all require a separate cable car ticket. Day ski passes at Gorki Gorod and Roza Khutor cost 1500-2600 rubles.
Rosa Khutor is a resort village built right before the Olympics. You can get there via cable car or by the express train “Lastochka” directly from Sochi. The resort has three levels: hotels and restaurants are located along the Mzymta river on the first level, the second one is taken by the Olympic village and the top one is Rosa Peak. The cableway connects all the three levels. Head straight to the peak to enjoy some fresh mountain air and fantastic scenery. The village is a part of the Sochi National Park. As tempting as it may get, it's forbidden to pick flowers and berries here. The park is strictly monitored and the fine is hefty even by European standards. Finish the tour at the restaurant Vysota 2320, a nice and reasonably-priced dining spot and a perfect shelter from the omnipresent wind.
Dolmens are strange historical structures that are almost exclusively found on the territory of the Greater Sochi. The constructions look like wells with really narrow entrances. They are either built from thick monolithic multi-ton stone slabs or carved in rocks. Their estimated age is around 4-6 thousand years. There is no certainty about the original purpose of dolmens. According to one of the versions, they were built for meditation. You can find several groups of dolmens around Sochi: there is a location in the Lazarevskoye area, in the village of Solokhaul, and around Krasnaya Polyana. Get ready not only to see the mysterious structures but also to meet esotery enthusiasts and all kinds of freaks from all over the country exploring the place.
There are buses, minibuses, and commuter trains in Sochi. A city bus ride costs 22 rubles. However, many routes (like the ride from Lazarevskoye to the city center) are considered commuter routes, so the cost is higher. The fare from the city center to Adler is 76 rubles, and taking a minibus will cost 54 rubles. Check out a useful bilingual city transit portal for more information. The best way to travel between the city landmarks is a tour double decker, 350 rubles for 1-hour trip and 700 for a day pass.
All the popular taxi services are available in Sochi – Uber, Gett, Yandex.Taxi. A ride around the city will cost you about 200 rubles and the ride from the city center to the airport is 1000-1200 rubles. However, the traffic during the World Cup (and the high season in general) is going to be insane. Take the «Lastochka» express train from the airport to get to any place on the coast of the Greater Sochi, and back.
The express «Lastochka» train connects the airport with Rosa Khutor, Tuapse, and the center of Sochi. The other route runs between Tuapse and the Olympic Park, Sochi, and Rosa Khutor. They were designed by Siemens for Russian railroads and are indeed a great means of transportation. The best way to check the train schedule is the Yandex.Schedule app.
The most popular service is URentCar. The fee is 7,5-9 rubles a minute. A 24 hr rent will cost around 2.5-3 thousand rubles. Apart from traffic jams, keep in mind one more local issue - it might not be easy to find a parking spot.
Where to eat
The local food in Sochi is a fusion of several traditions – the Black sea cuisine with trout and seafood and the Georgian cuisine with khinkali, home cheese, and pink tomatoes. Surmullets, conch shells, and mussels are caught right in the Black Sea. The locals, however, never buy mussels - they catch them themselves when they are in season (in September). If you crave fish, choose locally farmed river trout, grilled or wrapped in foil and char-grilled. Also, check out the local dishes and drinks made of chestnut, for example, the chestnut cider in the Arboretum or the chestnut soup at the restaurant in Rosa Khutor. Try the fish soup with fried smelt, pies with conch shells, local oysters, achma (Georgian version of lasagna), kharcho soup, khinkali and the local fast-food – potato chips on a stick. There is also plenty of Greek kebabs or gyros everywhere.
Khinkali restaurant «Belyye nochi» [White nights]
ADDRESS: Ordzhonikidze street, 9
PHONE: +7 (862) 262–52–88
Any local would recommend to you this legendary khinkali place. The menu includes all kinds of Georgian dishes and hasn't changed for years — classic and fried khinkali, lobio, flatbread, khachapuri, and sauces. Be ready for a wait.
Baran-rapan restaurant [Lamb-conch shell]
ADDRESS: Teatralnaya street, 11
PHONE: +7 (862) 225–50–25
One of the top city restaurants well-known far beyond Sochi. It serves Mediterranean and Georgian cuisine, meaning seafood and kebabs. The menu is divided into two parts – Baran has the Solokhaul soup cooked on an open fire and slow-cooked lamb with chestnut mousse; Rapan has pies with conch shells and home matsoni ice-cream with feijoa.
Oyster bar Ama
ADDRESS: Primorskaya street, 3
PHONE: +7 (928) 445–55–09
An oyster bar at the Sochi waterfront. The oysters come from the Black Sea, Crimea, New Zealand and Japan. The menu also has grilled mussels and crab. Don't miss their okroshka with dark oyster beer and a signature shot made of an oyster, tequila, Tabasco and tomato juice.
Vysota 5642 restaurant [Hight 5642]
ADDRESS: 65 Let Pobedy street, 50
PHONE: +7 (988) 288–56–42
Adygeya cuisine in the Olympic Park area. The restaurant complex has three parts – a bakery with croissants and coffee, a burger place and a restaurant with khinkali and Adygeya-style gazpacho.
ADDRESS: Nesebrskaya street, 1a
PHONE: +7 (862) 220–01–11
A restaurant of impressive size offering an impressive view. The place occupies four floors and can fit up to 1,2 thousand guests at a time. The first floor is a cafe with reasonable prices, the second and the third house a restaurant with signature dishes and a bar, the fourth floor is a summer terrace with a panoramic view of the coast and the Seaport building.
Places to eat in Krasnaya Polyana and Rosa Khutor
Wine bar “Grusha” [Pear]
ADDRESS: Medoveya street, 8/1
PHONE: +7 (928) 259–62–59
The zest of this place is rare wines from the South of Russia. Besides, they have an interesting menu with several dishes made with Circassian pear, yet another local endemic that gave the bar its name. Try mead and moonshine produced by the local brand Bootlegger. The bar is conveniently located near the cableway.
«Mandarinovyy jam» in Rosa Khutor [«Mandarin jam»]
A tiny cafe with a few tables on the second level of the Rosa Khutor resort. The locals especially love their coffee with chestnut syrup, khachapuri, and all the grilled dishes. The cafe is located on the Alley of Flags away from touristy crowds, so there is a chance to avoid queues and have a quiet dinner.
Shops and markets
Sochi is a hometown of Sergey Galitskiy, the founder of the popular supermarket chain «Magnet». You can see these grocery stores here in every street. "Perekrestok" has higher prices, but better variety.
Markets are extremely expensive, especially in high season. Groceries here are much more expensive than in supermarkets. Go to the market for spices, local cucumbers, and kiwi. A good place to buy fruits is a small market stall where farmers from Krasnodar region sell their crops.
Medoveevka village, Old Boys hotel & pub
ADDRESS: Medoveevka village, Medoveevskaya street, 19
PHONE: +7 (928) 245–02–45
An authentic mountain village, perfect for a half a day trip. Walk in the apple garden, visit the observation deck, have dinner and drinks. It's very close to Krasnaya Polyana (20 minutes from the main road by bus). Look for a bus with the Old Boys sign. Old Boys stands for a local crew that turned a tiny village into a gastronomy residency praised by the locals, tourists, and journalists alike. Media enjoys the story about the Muscovites who moved to a village in the middle of nowhere and started their lives from scratch, opening a pub with excellent food and a mini-hotel. All the alcohol is produced in the house. Burgers and crème Brulee are made with local farm eggs.
You can spend a night at their eco-hotel built with straw and clay. Bear in mind that there is no mobile coverage in the village. Contact the hotel and book a room on their website.
Things to buy
Buying chestnut honey and feijoa or kiwi jam is a must. Try some kiwi pies as well. Sochi offers many amazing desserts – nuts with honey, churchkhela (a dessert made of nuts and hardened juice), jerky date-plums. The northernmost tea in the world, the Matsestinskiy tea, can be purchased in different formats, including tea bags. The most aromatic one is the one with thyme. If your hometown gets cold in winter, go for goat wool accessories – mittens, socks, and slippers. Check out a local jewellery business, Atauchi Jewellery, that makes handcrafted silver jewelry inspired by the local scenery. If you go to Medoveevka, choose something from the Krasnopolyanskaya cosmetics line. It is produced using glacier water from the top of Mount Achishkho, alpine herbs, and mountain honey.
ADDRESS: Sokolov street, 1, office 20
PHONE NUMBERS: +7 (862) 262–25–61, +7 (988) 238–57–46, +7 (928) 203–21–84
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