Saturday, April 8, 2017

Kazan, Russia: a 2 days Itinerary

     If you haven't heard of Kazan, go retrieve your travel bucket list now and write it down on the very top. Why do I speak so highly about this city? You'll see. 

     Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. The most interesting fact lies in its location-- strategically located between Europe and Asia. Thus, having both Russian and Tatar population, the land is blessed with a rich history, fascinating culture and the spirit of peace and tolerance.  

     I flew into Kazan International Airport from Moscow on a beautiful Saturday evening. I look an S7 flight, but Aeroflot also offers direct flight to Kazan (There are also other airlines but since I haven't tried them, I am in no position to recommend them to my readers). 

     Some taxi drivers greeted us warmly at the arrival hall, offering to bring us to the city center for 1000 Rubles. Too bad for them that we knew better, so instead, we opened up our "UBER" app and called a comfortable black car for only 450 Rubles. Journey to the city center takes 20-25 minutes.
1. Download UBER in your phone. Here is a free $7 (RM28) for you
2. If you do not want to use Uber, negotiate with one of the taxi drivers. Persuade them to use the meter. With the meter running, your fare will be 500-600 Rubles only. 
3. There is also an Aeroexpress train to the city center but it doesn't run very often (only once in 2 hours). In our case, we missed the train by 10 minutes. The best thing is, it only cost 40 Rubles per person and it takes 30 minutes to reach Kazan train station.  

DAY 1 

     We first checked into White Hostel (click here to view on 
Why White Hostel? 
1. Cheapest hostel bed in Kazan.
2. High review on
3. Near to the Central train station.
4. Friendly and understanding owner. Since we arrived in the evening, she even allowed us to go explore the city first before paying for our accommodation, so that there was no precious time wasted. 

      After checking in, we hired an UBER car to take us to across to the other site of the city, crossing the Millennium Bridge. Our driver is a friendly guy, he took the extra step showing us the significant buildings around the area. After our private little "night tour", the driver dropped us off at the "Naberezhnaya" Embankment. We only paid 75 Rubles each since the driver insisted on giving us a discount, asking us to take that as a gift from the Kazan people. 

     The Embankment is the perfect place to spend one whole night. Pretty dazzling lights got us mesmerized... with only 100 Rubles, we got a chance to tour the "Harry Porter" temporary lights exhibition and get as close as we can to the river, which was completely frozen. 

     After exiting the Embankment, we initially planned to walk to the Kremlin but I foolishly stepped onto the ice that cracked into a pool of freezing water below. At first, the cold kinda made my feet numb (I waded a few steps more before realizing it) but after a few second the feeling kicked in and I immediately felt a million needles pricking my feet! We canceled our plan and headed indoor, wouldn't want to risk getting frostbite

      We went into restaurant La Familigia. This is a cozy restaurant with standard Italian food. The price is on the higher side but since it saved my feet from amputation, I was willing to pay the price. 
What we ordered: Pizza and a jug of English tea
How much we spent: 345 Rubles per person. 
Note: Although the Kremlin is located directly in front of the Embankment, it is still a long walk because the entrance is on the other side.    

     Although we didn't go into Kremlin, I am quite satisfied with the photos I took from outside of the Kremlin Wall. So, no regrets! 

DAY 2 

Temple of All Religion/ Universal Temple

      We visited the Temple of all Religions first thing in the morning. The architectural complex is located on the outskirts of Kazan, it takes about 20 minutes (25 Rubles) to get there. We boarded Bus no.2 at the bus stop across the road from the Kazan Train Station. Stop at  "Staroe Arakchino" bus stop. If you are not sure, ask the lady bus conductor. 

      It is a  very interesting building featuring 16 cupolas dedicated to 16 major religions (actively practiced ones and also some past religions). A true symbol of multicultural harmony in multi-ethnic Kazan. The construction of this temple was started in 1992 by a local artist and philanthropist, Ildar Khanov. No, tourists cannot go inside, but I sincerely think that it is a landmark that should never be missed while you are in Kazan. The Temple of All Religion shows the world how well Kazan peacefully blends different cultures and religions, which, in my humble opinion, is how this world ought to be

Kazan Kremlin

      We entered the Kremlin through the white Spasskaya Tower. Before visiting the Kremlin, I read somewhere online that we need to pay an entrance fee but no I couldn't find the counter selling tickets, nor a turnstile, nor a guard... so we walked straight in... Well, the internet is always wrong about Russia so I guess this is one of the errors? Or we were just lucky? 
Note: If you want to join a guided tour, there are counters at the entrance where you can purchase the packages that you like. 

Kul-Sharif Mosque
      I've never, ever seen a Mosque within a Russian Kremlin Wall. I think this is the only city that has it (Correct me if I am wrong). Kul-Sharif is the name of a 16th-century Tatar imam who sacrificed in the war defending Kazan against Ivan the Terrible (the Russian Tsar). Even though the Tatars lost the war and the Russians took over the city, they eventually decided to honor the warrior and the people of Tatarstan with the construction of this beautiful Mosque! 

      In front of the Mosque, a Russian guard stood there to remind visitors to cover their hair. Entrance is free. We were so awestricken when we setted foot into the building. There was a rotating replica of the Mosque right in the center of the hall, a lot of people were taking photos of it... I am not sure if it is a permanent display. The praying halls are not open to the public unless you are a Muslim going for prayers. However, visitors can take the stairs (passing through a door at the right or left side) to the observation balcony (top floor). However, when you are walking up the stairs, take your time to appreciate the beauty of the tinted glass and its patterns! 

      If you are interested in the development of Islam in Kazan and Tatarstan, spend some time in the Museum of Islam on the ground floor. Entrance is free, and English guided tours are sometimes available. Here one will understand how the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great defended her people's religion while others were trying to convert the Tatars to Christianity. 

A reader commented on my Instagram photo saying that one can rent Tatars' Traditional Costume for free on the square around the mosque. Although I did not come across it, I believe they'll probably set up a booth for this in the warmer months. so, Keep an eye for costume rental, and if you do get to try on their costume, tag me on Instagram @littlemisshappyfeet!!! Share your beautiful photos with me okay? <3 font="" nbsp="">

Suyumbike Tower      
     The legend of this clock tower reminded me of the fairy tale -- Rapunzel... just that it's not as romantic. The only similarity is someone fell and hurt themselves. Legend has it that the tower was built by the Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible as requested by a Tatarstan Princess, so that he could marry her. In only seven days, the tallest tower in Kazan was completed but the Princess climbed to the top of it only to jump to her death. The tower is then named after the Tatar Princess, Princess Suyumbike
      I went to the small door and ask the guard if I would access the stairs to the top and the answer was NO. How sad!

Annunciation Cathedral
      It's a typical Orthodox Church, I've seen a lot of it so it didn't wow me, but if you are visiting Russia for the first time, you'll definitely love what you see. No photos allowed in the Cathedral so I couldn't show you the interior. It looks similar to this, but more toned down, not as spectacular as Lavra St. Sergius.  

      Other places that we didn't get to spend much time in: 
State Hermitage Museum in Kazan (Closed on the day we visited)
State Museum of the Tatar State and the Republic of Tatarstan

Bauman Street

      The pedestrian zone starts near the entrance/ exit of the Kazan Kremlin. It is a looonnnggg walk and so we decided to call a taxi to bring us to the very heart of it. 

House of Tea (Dom Chaya)
      We first stopped by at the Dom Chaya to have lunch. This cafe is truly a gem, highly recommended by locals! From the outside, it looks like a boring bank (due to a bank standing right next to it, but in the inside, it is very classy (yet so budget friendly).
What we ordered:  Gubadia, Elesh, Chak-Bhak, Sour Cream Pie (the first 3 are Tatarstan Traditional dishes while the pie is a Russian thing)
How much we spent: 113 Rubles per person 

1. Go to the 2nd floor if your pocket is flat but still want to dine like a noble. 
2. Stay on the ground floor if you want to experience traditional Russian cafeteria. 

House of Tartar Cuisine
      After a satisfying meal, we exit the cafeteria only to find that the House of Tartar is right opposite!! Oh, God!! I was looking for this restaurant all along the way in the taxi and eventually gave up, how could I not see it? We had to check the place out. I initially wanted to try the famous traditional Tatarski meat cut here but now that I bad been fed, what should I do?! After spending a good 15 minutes enjoying the visually striking interior, looking at the menu, asking the waitress if I could get a quarter of it instead of a full plate (Yea... I did that. lol), we left the place (darn it!). 
Side note: 
The waitress and waiters are soon friendly, even when I didn't end up dining here, I can tell that their service is top-notch! 

      SO, even without actually trying the meals, I would like to recommend coming here (Preferably) in a group and try some of these on their menu! I DO REGRET COMING WITH FULL STOMACH, damn it. (but I don't regret eating at House of Tea. )
What to try: Traditional Meat Cut and Kazi of Horse Meat (See price below)
      Someone also recommended "Bilyar" to us. It is a rustic restaurant serving inexpensive Tatar food. But since it is located too far out of our way (uphill near to Tatarstan Hotel), we decided to give it a miss. 
Recommended dishes online: Echpekmoks, Ukha (creamy fish soup).   

      We continued walking down Bauman street, looking at boutiques and souvenir shops. A group of television crew caught up with us and we did a good 5 minutes interview with them! I got excited as well and caught the whole process on my own camera while my friend did all the talking. Yeah, Kim is on Russian TV! 

Get Lost

     Don't be afraid to get lost in Kazan. We tool a map from the Tourist information desk in the airport and wander around the city using the Public Bus. Go check out Millennium Park, Kamal Theater, Kazan University and the Kaban Lake. They are all within walking distance. Other than that, you can also use the Metro!
A post shared by Vivian Dominique Lee (@littlemisshappyfeet) on

Where to Stay? 

      You're probably asking why am I have a separate section for this since I already recommend White Hostel in the very beginning of the article. 
The reason: Although I like the hostel and it is near to the train station, I think staying near to the Kremlin is a good choice there'll be more cafes and you'll have a chance to visit the Kremlin at night without much hassle.  

      While walking down Bauman Street, I noticed a few hostel and after browsing through the reviews on, I recommend booking Pushkin Hostel (click here to view on, only 1 minute to Bauman Street and its still relatively cheaper.  

In a Nutshell, 

1st day
Taxi from Airport 225r
White Hostel 400r
Taxi across Most Millennium 75r
Naberezhnaya 100r
La Familigia 345r
Taxi back to hostel 57r
2nd day
Bus to Temple of all religion and back 50r
Taxi to central Bauman Street 30r
Cafe Dom Chai 113r
Public transportation 25r
Aeroexpress to Airport 40r

Total: 1460 Rubles/ $26/ RM115 

Follow me on Instagram if you would like to see more photos from Russia! 
📌For more travel tips, like Eat Love Travel Breathe with Miss HappyFeet. 
📌Subscribe to the monthly newsletter for exclusive travel deals, tips, free E-books, monthly giveaway and travel coupons! 

Thank You for Reading! This post is based solely on my honest opinion or personal experience. If you have a different opinion, feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below!

No comments: