Welcome to Ekaterinburg, the Ural’s treasure trove and a host city of the 2018 FIFA World Cup!

The history of Ekaterinburg is indelibly linked with the Ural's industrial development, which began in the early 18th century. During that time, numerous foundry, copper, and iron works sprung up in the Middle Urals, a region rich in mineral resources. The most significant among those plants was the Ekaterinburg Ironworks, which was the largest Russian metals plant of the period.

On November 7 (18), 1723, two iron-forging hammers were put into operation at the Ekaterinburg Ironworks built on the bank of the Iset River. This event marked the foundation of Ekaterinburg.

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The square in front of the Old Railway Station building in Ekaterinburg © RIA Novosti. Pavel Lisitsyn

Russia's first gold deposit was discovered in this region in May 1745. Throughout the first century of the city's existence, over 85 gold deposits were discovered in the so-called Ekaterinburg Golden Valley.

In 1831, the first emerald deposit was discovered in the city's outskirts, and the emerald mines turned out to be very rich. In the first 30 years of mining alone, 2,227 kilograms of emeralds were produced. Since that time, apart from gold and emerald reserves, deposits of sapphires, aquamarines, diamonds and other precious, semi-precious and ornamental stones have been found in the Urals.

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Artificial emeralds produced at the Ekaterinburg jewelry factory © RIA Novosti. Yuriy Somov

This fabulous wealth is not surprising: after all, an old Bashkir tale says that the Ural Mountains, on the eastern slopes of which Ekaterinburg lies, are a giant's magic belt.

Once there lived a giant who had a magic belt ("ural" in Turkic) embroidered with gold and precious stones. One day he took it off and put it on the ground and the belt rolled from the cold seas of the North to the Caspian Sea in the South. Thus the Ural Mountains were born.

Today Ekaterinburg is the fourth largest Russian city (after Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk) with a population of almost 1.5 million.

Must see

There is a walking route in Ekaterinburg's historical center called the Red Line trail, which helps visitors take a self-guided tour around the city's main places of interest. The Red Line has an audio-guide: you can find telephone numbers near every point of the route, and then call them to hear the story of that place in Russian or English. The Red Line begins and ends near the Lenin Monument on the Square of 1905, and takes you past 35 of the city's attractions. Here are just some of them.

Ротонда перед Домом Севастьянова в Екатеринбурге
The rotunda in front of the Sevastyanov House in Ekaterinburg © RIA Novosti. Pavel Lisitsyn

The Embankment of Working Youth is one of the oldest streets in Ekaterinburg, located on the right bank of the City Pond. In the past, the two kilometer-long embankment was divided into three parts. One of them, which prior to 1919 was called Gimazicheskaya Embankment, is as old as the city itself: the first buildings here date back to the time when the Ekaterinburg Fortress and ironworks were built in 1723.

Another landmark on the Red Line route stands out due to its amazing architecture and splendid façades. It is called the Sevastyanov House. At first, the house was built in a strict classical style, but in 1866 it was embellished with Neo-Baroque, Neo-Gothic and Moorish Revival elements.

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Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater and the Yakov Sverdlov Monument in Ekaterinburg © RIA Novosti. Pavel Lisitsyn

A little bit further on the Red Line is the Church on the Blood built in 2003 on the site of the Ipatiev House, where Emperor Nicholas II and his family were executed and which was demolished in September 1977.

One more sightseeing attraction on the Red Line trail is Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater built between 1904 and 1912 in the Vienna Baroque style.

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The City Pond as seen from the viewing platform of the Vysotsky Tower in Ekaterinburg © RIA Novosti. Pavel Lisitsyn

Apart from walking along the Red Trail, there is one more way to see the sights. Plus, you can do it very quickly and you won't even have to walk. You just need to go to the viewing platform of the Vysotsky Tower. From the height of 186 meters, you can see the whole of Ekaterinburg in front of you: its old manors, constructivist buildings (Ekaterinburg boasts one of the largest collection of constructivist architectural landmark), long roads stretching off into the distance and golden domes crowning the city's churches.

Ekaterinburg Arena

On September 29, 2012, Ekaterinburg officially became a host city of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The games will take place at the Central Stadium, which during the World Cup will be called Ekaterinburg Arena. It is the largest sports venue in the city.

The stadium was built between 1953 and 1957, and is an architectural legacy of Stalinist Neo-Classicism.

The stadium is currently being renovated to meet FIFA standards. The stadium will retain its recognizable historical façade, which will become part of the new modern stadium.

During the World Cup the stadium will welcome 35,000 fans to the venue for each match, with 12,000 of them seated on temporary stands. After the World Cup, the temporary stands will be disassembled, and the stadium's capacity will be reduced to 23,000. The size of the pitch is 105x68 meters.

On June 15, 21, 24, and 27, Ekaterinburg Arena will host four group stage games.

How to Reach Ekaterinburg

By plane: Koltsovo International Airport in Ekaterinburg is the largest regional airport in Russia. Flight time from Moscow is 2h 30 mins.

By train: you can get to Ekaterinburg from Moscow or St. Petersburg by train. It takes 29 hours to get here from Moscow, and 35 hours from St. Petersburg.