Rostov-on-Don The Southern Capital of Russia: wines, Russian fish soup (ukha), crawfish and Cossacks
The Southern Russian city with a million-plus population, Rostov is the native soil for the Don Cossacks and the brutal Russian hip-hop music. With the climate of North California, the city attracts gourmands from all over the country. The shady Don wine production develops here mainly in garages, which only adds to its magnetism and character. A business lunch here might last for a week; however, a month would not be enough to taste all the local specialties.
The main sights are located along the Don River, so you do not need to make circles around the city in search for the next monument. Start your walk from the Theatre Square, head towards the embankment and finish your journey at the Museum of Railway Engineering. Continue exploring at bars and restaurants.
It is the main square, where the whole city gathers on public holidays. A huge stele "To the Liberators of Rostov" is certainly a place of power. The locals call it simply Nike after the Greek goddess of victory depicted on the one side of the monument. Here you will also see the largest ensemble of fountains in the city, with turtles and frogs at the sides. The urban legend has it that the author of the fountains - Eugene Vuchetich, a young sculptor back then, ironically embellished the animals with the looks of city governors. Later on Vuchetich gave up on such jokes and became the leading monumental sculptor in the USSR, who created the iconic statue The Motherland Calls in Volgograd.
The second-biggest panoramic wheel in Russia is also located here, in the square. Take a ride and enjoy a lovely view of the Don from the top.
Bolshaya Sadovaya Street
The main street begins from the house of Margarita Chernova, a famous actress who lived in Rostov in the XIX century. A splendid gift of some passionate admirer, the mansion was a place frequented by Fedor Shalyapin and Nikolai Gumilev. Nearby you can see beauty stores, shoe shops and bookshops, old houses, often called by the names of their owners, and administrative buildings, which explains the street’s local nickname - Rostov’s “Nevsky Prospekt.” It is worth taking a walk here to see the impressive and eclectic facades of modernist buildings; most of them have been preserved since the XIX century.
Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
You will see this cathedral on many of the city souvenirs. A popular sight now, the church had endured difficult times: once it was burnt down by a strike of lightning, twice it was rebuilt, in the Soviet times it used to be a warehouse and a zoo, and only after the Second World War its main function was restored. In front of the cathedral, you can see a monument to Saint Dmitry. Note the bell tower with the church bells weighing almost eight tons.
Built in the XIX century on the bank of the Don, the warehouses have become a cause of disagreement between the authorities and residents of Rostov. The place is famous for the water springs, flowing all year round from the bank of the Don and forming a pool right in the foundation of the building. The locals would come here for a swim, and it was so much fun! Unfortunately, at some point, the authorities dismantled the foundation to drain the water, and even the World Cup preparations have not yet determined the fate of this unique piece of architecture. In the near future, the warehouses will be either renovated or demolished, clearing up space for a recreation center. For the time being, you can walk around and take a good look at the old place.
Named after Admiral Fyodor Ushakov, the embankment stretches along the river bank - from the business center “Don-Riverside” to the restaurant “Pierce.” After the renovation, the embankment was equipped with sockets, USB-connectors for charging smartphones, and special stickers indicating Wi-Fi coverage zones. Despite the neophiliac technological aspirations of the authorities, the old commemorative sculptures remained in their place. Here you can see the characters of Mikhail Sholokhov’s novels and Russian folk tales as well as symbolic statues like “The Iron Heart” commemorating the key role of the Don region in the industrialization of the Russian South.
Left Bank of the Don River
You can get to the other bank by crossing Voroshilovsky Bridge - one of the most recognizable architectural sites of the city. Prior to the World Cup, the locals used to come here to make barbecue, listen to music (obviously, rap) and hang out at the beach. Now that the Rostov Arena stadium has been constructed here, the authorities have decided to improve the large territory as well. The Left Bank got the sidewalks, park lanes, and bike lanes. You can easily get here by car or by bus No. 39.
Museum of Railway Engineering
The museum collection includes the rare railway machines: electric and steam locomotives, a biaxial refrigerator wagon and a Soviet-era suburban electric train. Local enthusiasts have been collecting exhibits for 20 years, and most of them are in good operating condition. You can touch the machines and even get inside some of them.
It will take you about an hour to get from the Platov airport to the city. There is no Aeroexpress train, so your only choice is between a public minibus (marshrootka) and a taxi. It will cost you 95 Rubles to take bus No. 285 or No. 286, which will get you to the Railway Station Square (Privokzalnaya Ploshchad), and 75 Rubles - to get to Oktyabrskaya Station. RuTaxi, Yandex.Taxi and Uber are the taxi apps that work here. Using the apps will be much cheaper than calling a cab via the official Aeroservice operator. In order not be late for a bus download the app “Rostov Transport” (available for android only) indicating the arrival time for all public transport. Check out the transit routes on the website of the Ministry of Transport.
On the days of the matches, you will be able to reach the Rostov Arena stadium by shuttle buses with the prefix "S", which will operate on eight different lines. It will be a quick trip - each bus will make a maximum of nine stops. If you are in the southern neighborhoods of the city take a suburban train departing from Zarechnaya station.
Public transportation in Rostov-on-Don is operating from 05:00 am until 11:00 pm. Buses No. 285 and No. 286 connecting the city with the airport operate 24/7 and depart every half an hour.
Places to avoid
Chkalovsky city district has the reputation of the most criminal neighborhood: some taxi drivers even refuse to go in that direction despite double price offers. Please, keep this in mind when choosing an apartment for your stay in the city.
Where to eat & drink
Get ready to eat and drink a lot in Rostov. Among the specialties, you should definitely try boiled crawfish, ukha and the Don herring. The bravest might want to taste the local version of the refreshing soup "okroshka" made with kvass (a fermented beverage made of rye bread) and dried fish. Considering that the meat industry is thriving in Rostov, steaks at local restaurants rarely disappointed.
Unfortunately, restaurants here are reluctant to serve local wine (you can count the enthusiasts on fingers); yet they offer a great variety of craft beer from all over Russia.
Address: Gazetny lane, 99
Phone: +7 (863) 240–67–24
Opening hours: daily 12:00 pm – 01:00 am, on Friday and Saturday until 02:00 am.
You can hardly find a city in Russia without a local pub called Bukowsky. Yet Rostov’s version is especially popular: it started a transformation of an old tobacco factory into a restaurant cluster. Book your table in advance and do not expect fast service. The menu is rather typical for such places: burgers, sausages, grilled shrimp and draft beer, everything is of excellent quality.
Blues Bar «Korova»
Address: Gazetny lane, 84
PHONE: +7(863) 221–12–95
Opening hours: daily 12:00 pm – 01:00 am, on Friday and Saturday until 02:00 am.
The same tobacco factory cluster offers another meat restaurant with a 12-meter long bar counter and a large summer terrace. The place has its own bakery and an open kitchen. The focus is not only meat itself but also all sorts of meat produce. The bar offers an incredible selection of whiskeys and bourbon as well as draft beer. In the evenings, you can enjoy live jazz and blues performances.
Steaks and jazz music may also be found here: New York, Matador.
Address: Shaumyana street, 67
PHONE: +7 (989) 538–66–33
Opening hours: daily 3:00 pm –01:00 an, on Fridays and Saturdays until morning
A popular spot among the locals, this bar offers a great variety of beer from all over the world. Keep in mind that they do not serve any snacks. The owner of the place is Vlad Parshin, a famous Russian musician from the band «Motorama».
Address: Semashko street, 48
phone: +7 (999) 691–68–78
Opening hours: 5:00 pm –02:00 am, weekends — 3:00 pm–02:00 am
Inexpensive, but very nice and popular gastro-bar serving craft beer from all over the world, as well as creative snacks: chef's hot dogs with dozen of fillings and smørrebrød (Danish for sandwiches). The locals recommend to try their roast beef.
You can also find Russian craft beer here: Esenin.
Mary Wong. Noodle Bar
Address: Nagibina street, 32/2; Shaumyana street, 96
phone: +7 (961) 301–03–30
Opening hours: 10:00 am –10:00 pm
The famous Asian noodle shop Mary Wong is the city’s most popular place to take a selfie. The noodle bar is noted for its minimalistic interior and signature recipes, which have made the restaurant chain famous all over Russia.
Address: Suvorova street,21
phone: +7 (988) 253–29–58
Opening hours: по weekdays 3:00 pm – 11:00 pm, Fridays — 3:00 pm – 00:00 am, weekends — 12:00 pm – 00:00 am
The founders of this pizzeria have developed a creative approach to their mono product: every weekend they come up with a new combination toppings - one week they mix bacon with figs, another time they combine local pumpkin with goat cheese or citrus fruits with coconut. They will gladly assist you in choosing the right beer to compliment your pizza.
The Don Valley is the name for the local winemaking appellation. Wineries had been located here for centuries, but the Soviet regime ruined it almost to the root, and perestroika completed the devastation. The revival of the winemaking industry began 10-15 years ago; enthusiasts restored the old vineyards of the Don grapes varieties such as Tsimlyansk, Siberkovy and Krasnostop Zolotovsky wines. Private winemakers also emerged; they are called the "garage" winemakers, because all their products might fit in a car garage, and oftentimes this is where their wine is actually produced.
Leo Wine & Kitchen
Address: Maksima Gorkogo street, 195
phone: +7 (863) 294–10–30
Opening hours: 10:00 am – 11:00 pm
An excellent bar with wines from around the world, including local varieties. The food does not disappoint: a seasonal menu, local products, and reinvented traditional recipes. Try the Don herring here, especially since fish will be in season during the time of the World Cup. We also recommend you to try a variety of tartars. Book your tables in advance.
Siyanie Wine Bar
Address: Gazetny lane,52
phone: +7 (863) 270–61–39, +7 (928) 621–62–43
Opening hours: 4:00 pm –01:00 am, on Fridays and Saturdays until 02:00 am
A cozy bar serving wine and cocktails. The menu includes tacos, ceviche, bruschettas - simple, but tasteful. Attentive and polite waiters, and friendly local community.
Come to the restaurant cluster at Sokolova Street / Suvorova Street for friendly environment and decent alcohol
The Authentic Cossack food
The Don Cossacks are an indigenous kind of traditional Russian military forces. The Don Cossacks participated in all of the important battles of the Tsarist Russia and, defended its southern borders. Their way of life was distinguished by a special democratic code known as “the Cossack freedom.” Cossacks consider themselves as a separate ethnic group and often speak their own language - balachka, a steppe dialect of Russian and Ukrainian.
The Cossack Hut Restaurant
Address: Levoberezhnaya street, 5
phone: +7 (863) 256–40–32
Opening hours: 12:00 pm –02:00 am
A themed complex including a park, a restaurant, and a hotel, located at the Don River left bank, was designed to resemble a rich Cossack farm. The restaurant aims at reproducing the spirit of the Cossacks’ daily routine; for instance, their guests are served with a shot of alcohol once they enter the building. It all looks touristy; and yet the food here is delicious. This place is mainly popular among local civil servants and security officials.
Great out-of-town places
Visit this town of military virtue located in a 40-minute drive from Rostov-on-Don. Take a walk along the legendary rampart near the Azov fortress, the battle place between the Russian and the Turkish troops, enjoy the view of the Don delta and visit the Azov Historical-Archaeological and Paleontological Museum, exhibiting the first powder magazine and skeletons of a mammoth and a unicorn.
The Aksay Military History Museum is worthy of attention because of its catacombs, outstretching for a hundred kilometers. Anyone can take a along them if they are not afraid of mystical stories and legends hiding in the underground tunnels.
The first archaeological museum and conservation area in Russia. Explore the remnants of the ancient Tanais (with its total area of more than 200 square meters) and explore the excavation finds and the results of reconstruction of local buildings.
The former capital of the Don Army — a genuine open-air museum.
The Don Armenians are another important ethnic group of the Don River region. A small village of Chaltyr is an Armenian enclave, founded in 1779 by migrants from the Crimea peninsula. Their motherland was the capital of medieval Armenia, the city of Ani. Here they speak the Don (or the Crimean-Ani) dialect of the Western Armenian language. A trip to Chaltyr is a complete immersion into another culture, miraculously retaining its roots for centuries. Another excellent reason to come here is tasting incomparable Armenian food: hash, shish kebab, lulah kebab and dolma.
It's worth bringing home some local wine, and there are decent options, for example, the wine produced by the "ВедерниковЪ" winery. Fish delights will also make a good gift. You can also get some local fruits and berries packed for you at the local market. Apricots, cherries and sweet cherries will be in season during the World Cup Championship. The South is also famous for its honey and a variety of berry jams.
Address: Bolshaya Sadovaya street, 45
Tel.: +7 (800) 550–10–61
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Pictures: 1 – Dmitry Artemiev / wikimedia / (CC BY-SA 3.0), 2 – Yury Gubin –stock.adobe.com, 3 – Gastropub Bukowski, 4 – LEO Wine & Kitchen, 5 – ReginaQ –stock.adobe.com, 6 – Altes / wikimedia / (CC BY-SA 4.0), 7 – nkeskin – stock.adobe.com