If you’re wondering where to go for the the 2018 FIFA World Cup, you have a number of excellent options to choose from. From the beauty of St. Petersburg to the beaches of Sochi, there are going to be a ton of amazing opportunities to experience in Russia next summer.
Since the selected teams have yet to be announced, it is too premature to plan your trip based around your country’s national team. However, if you simply want to use this as an opportunity to visit Russia and experience World Cup football then you can get a head start on the competition in planning your trip.
Where the Matches Are
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will feature matches in 11 cities in Russia. These range from the capital of Russia, Moscow, to Yekaterinburg just East of the Urals, down to Sochi on the Black Sea.
You’ll notice in the map above that all matches are going to be contained to “European Russia”, that is the landmass west of the Ural Mountains. Russia is the world’s largest country by land mass, so logistically it makes sense to keep the matches in just one part of the country. This means you won’t have to worry about taking a 3-day train ride out to Novosibirsk!
However, European Russia is massive in and of itself. If you plan on visiting more than one city, allot plenty of time to travel between cities. The World Cup will take place between June 14 and July 15, so this gives you about one month for travel.
I would only recommend visiting more than one city if you will spend more than just a few days there. Better yet a week. Otherwise you are better off staying put.
Also, if you are going to be in a smaller city, like Samara, then I certainly would not blame you for wanting to split time between Moscow too.
The Best Cities to Visit for the 2018 World Cup
A few Russian cities pop right to mind when thinking of the world cup. Here are a few of my recommendations:
St. Petersburg is simply magnificent. It is a city I highly recommend you visit, and doing so during the World Cup will add a unique twist to this historic city.
Petersburg is always packed with tourists, and the World Cup will bring many, many more. Personally, I am not a fan of being jostled around by throngs of tourists, however, at the World Cup that is an inevitability.
You can do your best to avoid these crowds. To do so, get a hotel a few blocks away from Nevsky Prospekt, but not too far, just enough to not walk out your door and see the United Nations! (That is, all the different nationalities of World Cup fans…)
The stadium itself is on Krestovsky Island, which is not in the city center, but a bit north. It is accessible by metro, but I would not advise staying there as it is too far away from the action.
As the capital of Russia and by far its largest city, Moscow will no doubt have the most visitors for the 2018 World Cup. Moscow is a massive city and there is plenty to see and do–not just in terms of sightseeing, but for nightlife and dining too.
There are two stadiums in Moscow that will host World Cup matches–Spartak and Luzhniki stadium. Spartak stadium is way outside the center, however, I wouldn’t worry about staying near the stadium as the transportation is more than sufficient to get around.
I don’t think you can go wrong with a trip to Moscow!
Sochi will be great to visit during the summer. Hit the beaches in the morning and afternoon, then head to a football match, then party at night. What’s not to love?
In fact, if you’ve already been to Russia, or are not particularly interested in history Sochi may be your best bet. Flights to Sochi are reasonable too. Aeroflot flights will likely go through Moscow and Turkish Airlines through Istanbul.
The stadium is at the south end of the city. Again, no need to worry about logistics. Find the best hotel for your budget, enjoy the beach, and then head to the stadium when its time.
Kaliningrad also proves to be an interesting host city. Kaliningrad is not well known and does not get many tourists, however, that should certainly change during the World Cup.
Getting into Kalingrad may be logistically an easy option. You could stay in Gdansk, Poland and then travel into the Russian exclave for just the game. Or just stay in Kalinigrad if you’re looking for a longer trip, though you may get bored after a few days.
The Other Cities
Traveling to cities like Saransk and Ekaterinburg may be interesting, but I don’t think it will be particularly noteworthy. If you haven’t already been to Russia multiple times, then skipping Moscow or Petersburg would be a true crime. Plus, flights to these cities can be pricey and lengthy, and a train trip would be quite a long process.
If you do visit one of these other cities, let me know how it goes!
Do you Speak Russian? (ты говоришь по русски?)
The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is right around the corner. In fact it is less than one year away!
If you plan on going, you better get started on preparing for the trip. This includes things like getting a visa and booking airplane tickets. But is also means preparing for the Russian culture.
English is not widely spoken in Russia, so you should prepare by building some basic Russian language skills.
You can also check out my recommendations here for the best language tools.