Best things to do in Kazan
Find out more about those top places in Kazan
Nestled on the banks of the mighty Volga River, Russia’s main riverine artery, Kazan is where east meets west. As the capital of the autonomous Tartarstan Republic, Kazan is Russia’s only major city where Islam is as prominent as Orthodoxy. Indeed, the city’s main attraction, the 16th century Kremlin, is capped not with the traditional Orthodox cathedral but with the dazzling minarets of the Kul Sharif Mosque, which is named after a local imam who died defending the city against Ivan the Terrible. What is more, the city center, which straddles Kaban Lake, is peppered with traditional wooden tartar houses, some of which date from the era of the Kazan Khanate. With such a unique balance between Islamic and Slavic traditions, Kazan is Russia’s unforgettable hidden gem.
The 16th century Kazan Kremlin is one of Southern Russia’s most historic attractions. Built by Ivan the Terrible on top of the ruins of the former fortress of the Muslim khan of Kazan, the Kremlin has monumental whitewashed walls, jaw-dropping views towards the Volga River and a beguiling blend of Central Asian and Russian architectural styles. Today, the Kremlin also contains the Hermitage Kazan art museum and the futuristic Kul Sharif Mosque.
Completed in 2005 after nearly a decade of construction, the Kul Sharif Mosque is one of Russia’s largest Muslim places of worship and is a proud symbol of Tartarstan’s distinct identity. The mosque is named after a Kazan imam who was killed by Ivan the Terrible in 1552 and inside there is a museum dedicated to the long and often traumatic history of Islam on the Volga. Tours of the futuristic mosque also include a visit to 16th century Annunciation Cathedral.
The Temple of All Religions is one of Russia’s unique buildings. Combining architectural motifs from mosques, Orthodox churches and synagogues, the temple was established in 1992 as an educational center to foster religious unity. For years the temple remained closed to the public but as of 2018 it began welcoming visitors to drop in and admire the architectural medley.
Situated in the heart of Kazan, the pedestrianized Bauman Street throngs with shoppers, business people and university students day in and day out. Beyond its energetic atmosphere, Bauman Street also has numerous historic attractions that are best explored as part of a guided tour. These include the towering Epiphany Church, the dazzling Oriental clock tower and a carriage that was once used by Catherine the Great.
Located at the confluence of the Volga, Sviyaga and Schuka rivers, Sviyazhsk Island is one of Kazan’s most enchanting attractions. The island is dominated by a monumental whitewashed fortress and is peppered with numerous gilded Orthodox churches, including the ancient Assumption Monastery. Guided tours of the island are recommended as they give visitors a unique insight into Sviyazhsk’s complex religious history.