Samara is well-known city for its record breaking landmarks. It has longest river embankment in Russia, the highest railway station building and the largest square in Europe. The exact date of the city's foundation is unknown. But according to official data, the city was founded in 1586, when a fortress was erected on the banks of the Samara river.
The new fortress was built in order to guard against the raids by nomads and to control traffic along the Volga and Samara rivers. The fortified city also helped served as a basis to capture new fertile lands in the region.
In the Soviet era, Samara changed its name and was called Kuybyshev until 1991, in honor of Valerian Kuybyshev, a prominent Soviet politician.
Several large Soviet factories, their employees and their families were evacuated to this city during the World War II.
Yuri Gagarin visited Kuybyshev immediately after his legendary space flight, from where he reported the successful completion of his mission by phone.
The rocket that was used to launch Yuri Gagarin into space was also manufactured in Samara, at the Progress Rocket Space Center which continues to operate to this day.
Samara is famous not just for its military and space achievements, but as a popular destination for many famous Russian writers. The city was visited by Leo Tolstoi, Maxim Gorky and Gavriil Derzhavin, while Alexei Tolstoi was born there and spent most of his life in Samara.
The center of the city houses a somewhat unusual sight for a Russian city - a Gothic Polish Roman Catholic church known as the Sacred Heart Church.
Its history dates back to 1890 when a wooden church was built by the local Catholic community which was mostly comprised of Poles, hence why the locals started referring to the building as a Polish Roman Catholic church. During the early 20th century it was rebuilt as a stone church losing its original purpose: it was first sacked and closed down, and then repurposed as a local museum.
During the early 1990s the church was returned to the city's Catholic congregation and resumed its function. Today it is considered the tallest building in Samara.
Another popular attraction is the Iversky Convent, founded during the mid-19th century.
There is also the St George Lutheran church. It was founded by a Russian merchant named Yegor Annayev who also funded the construction.
The church served as a spiritual center for the Germans living in the Samara Region; it contained a kindergarten and a school for children from local German families.
The city also houses a relic from Soviet times known as Stalin's Bunker. This underground complex was built during WWII when the country's Supreme Soviet and diplomatic agencies were evacuated from the capital to Kuybyshev.
Joseph Stalin's reserve headquarters was located here, 37 meters below the ground.
In the 1990s the complex was opened to tourists.
Samara houses one of the oldest breweries in the country, the Zhiguli Brewery, founded in 1881 by Austrian entrepreneur Alfred von Vacano.
In 1914 due to the prohibition imposed during WWI the brewery was repurposed to manufacture grenades, beds and hardtack, while also serving as a storage depot and a medical facility.
Today the brewery produces the famous Zhigulevskoye beer brand as well as several brands of soft carbonated drinks.
Samara also houses many monuments and sculptures dedicated to heroes of the old and mythical characters alike.
One sculpture depicts the legendary Red Army commander Vasily Chapayev leading a charge while another portrays the titular character of Good Soldier Svejk, a comedy novel by Jaroslav Hasek. The city waterfront houses a sculptural tribute to a painting - a bronze monument representing the characters of the famous painting by Ilya Repin, Burlaki na Volge (Barge Haulers on the Volga).
One can also encounter sculptures depicting characters from Soviet movies, like the Red Army officer 'Comrade Sukhov' from White Sun of the Desert, or Yuri Detochkin from the classic comedy Beware of the Car.
Some monuments are dedicated to characters from children's storybooks, like a sculpture of Buratino located in front of the Alexei Tolstoi Museum.
Contemporary sculptors have also contributed to the beautification of the city. Some tourists take their time to gaze at The Cradle of Mankind monument located on the city waterfront, while others snap pictures of a sculpture depicting a cat resting on a radiator (the sculpture was built to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the invention of the radiator).
The new Samara Arena football stadium can accommodate up to 45,000 spectators; it will host four matches of the group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, including the 1/8 final and the quarterfinal matches and the game involving the Russian national team.
The stadium's outward appearance was designed to resemble a "gemstone". Its facets are comprised of intertwining metallic constructions. The open-air football field has a heating system, while the spectators are seated under the roof.
Samara Arena is the largest of the stadiums built specifically to host the World Cup; it also boasts the biggest number of VIP seats (over 1200).
By plane: the Kurumoch International Airport is located to the north of Samara. A flight from Moscow takes 1 hour and 45 minutes while St. Petersburg is 2 hours and 25 minutes away.
By train: the Samara Train Station, the largest train station in Russia is the tallest in Europe at 101 meters high. The Zhiguli train runs between Moscow and Samara, taking approximately 13 hours. One can also travel to Samara on an unusual two-story train which takes 14 hours.
One can travel to Samara from Petersburg on the Samara train; the ride takes about a day.
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