An Alternative Guide to Rostov-on-Don
Interesting and unusual things to do in Rostov-on-Don
- Creative Clusters: Punks, tree-huggers and hipsters all meet at 16th line, Rostov’s No.1 avant-garde spot.
- Natural Wonders: Rostov is a sun-kissed, southern region blessed with many a verdant vista, including one of the best landscape parks in Russia and an island with herds of wild horses!
- Legendary Cossacks: Explore the rich customs and histories of the ethnic Cossacks at one of the largest museums in southern Russia.
To really get a feel of a city you have to step outside the normal tourist trail and dive in to the unreviewed and unlisted places waiting to be uncovered downtown. That is, unless you’re a non-Russian speaker, in which case exploring a city like Rostov without a rough guide would probably be fruitless as all the gems are generally tucked away in nondescript courtyards. So instead of wandering hopelessly round Rostov-on-Don, use this list of cool-and-happening places to springboard your journey in finding the real Rostov, Russia’s rap capital.
Rostov Public library
Libraries are often architectural masterpieces and, especially in Russia’s smaller cities, they often take the place of a cultural center. For some reason, however, they are almost always overlooked by travelers. Well, if there’s one library that you have to visit while in Russia, the Rostov public library should be it. Containing over 5.5 million books, Russia’s oldest library in the south is a bookworm’s dream come true. Most Russian libraries also tend to have quite a good collection of plants to go with the books, but even by the relatively green standard of Russian libraries, Rostov’s library is simply a jungle! The sunlight filtering down through the high skylights and the fully-grown trees make this library one of the most pleasant people-watching spots in Rostov and a great place to make a Russian friend, who will most probably be more than happy to tip you off on the least touristy places to visit.
Address: 175A,Pushkinskaya street, Rostov-on-Don
16thLINE (also known as Art Centre MAKARONKA)
The worldwide trend of converting factories to cultural clusters has manifested itself as this bright and cheery mix of theatres, offices, boutiques, creative schools and even a wine cellar, called 16thLINE. This is without doubt the most hip of places in Rostov and it’s a great place to spend the afternoon, appreciating the often grim and challenging works of Rostov’s new wave of artists and then sampling the experimental cuisine in the center’s quirky restaurant. Best of all, you can rent bikes all year round from the bike-rental shop here.
Opening hours: Wednesday – Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Address: 18th line, 8, Rostov-on-Don
This has to be the closest thing to Peterhof south of St Petersburg. Indeed, local inhabitants have come to name it “Little Switzerland” because of the unbelievable amount of crystal-clear lakes, mini-waterfalls, perfectly manicured landscapes and hundreds of statues. Though technically not located inside Rostov-on-Don, it’s only a short ride from the city center, in the quaint village of Staraya Stanitsa. With canals filled with koi flowing throughout its verdant vistas, rabbit burrows, peacocks strutting along its lawns and brown-eyed deer grazing under the park’s oaks; it really does feel like paradise. Apart from the breath-taking gardens, there’s also an old watermill and a house of fun-mirrors. Throughout the park, Cossacks stand alert in their traditional costume and often treat visitors to a frolicking dance. As if it couldn’t get better, the entrance is absolutely free!
Address: Rostov Region, Kamensky District, Old Village Farm, 33 Bolshevistskaya Street
Botanical Gardens, Park Tolokonnikova
For a chance to sit underneath the soft foliage of a rare Ginkgo Biblio, take the bus to this peaceful part of the city which is home to Rostov’s botanical gardens. Inside this lush little corner of Rostov, you’ll find beds overflowing with indigenous plants and winding paths. Adding a touch of variety, they’ve compartmentalized the garden into “rooms”, which include a classic English garden and a therapeutic garden. The Japanese garden, with its tea pavilion and pond shaded by the Ginkgo is the crowning glory of this well-loved haunt of the locals.
Address: Novocherkassk, st. Begovaya, 8.
Maksim Gorky Park
Though this park may be rather unimpressive size wise, it does have the virtue of being located bang in the center of Rostov, right on the main street. After a day’s sight-seeing, this is the best place to buy an ice cream and unwind to the sound of water splashing in the fountain, or the rather less peaceful sound of a discotheka (outdoor disco) which sets the park rockin’ in summer!
Address: 25, Bolshaya Sadovaya str, Rostov-on-Don
Natural Wonders in the Rostov region:
The Sea of Azov
The shallowest sea in the world was probably also the world’s most obscure sea till the Russians seized three Ukrainian ships there in 2018. Even today though, it is practically untouched— especially if compared to the over-developed waterfront of the nearby Black Sea. Though for some, the lack of infrastructure may be off-putting, those who are prepared to pack the necessities will find creamy-yellow, kilometer-long beaches and, as the average depth of this sea is only 1m, exceptionally warm waters. A while ago, dolphins would swim up the channel connecting the Black sea with the Azov to feast on the rich variety of fish. Now, however, they are a rare site due to over-fishing.
Lake Manych-Gudilo, Island of Wild Horses
No one really knows how the horses got to be on this island cut off from the rest of the land by an immense lake. For many years, no one even knew they existed. Then in the 1980s Soviet scientists were astonished to discover a hundred-strong herd of horses on what’s known as the ‘Vodnoye Island’ and interest began to grow. Today it is possible to travel to see this unique herd of feral Don Mustangs on guided excursions.
Address: Rostov Region, Myasnikovsky District, Nedvigovka Farm (1 hour drive from Rostov-on-Don)
Azov Fortress: Stretching way back to the 11th century, Azov is by far the most ancient town of the Don Region. For much of its history the town wasn’t at all Russian; the Venetians were the first to set up a trading post here, then the Turks took over and built a citadel. It was only during the ever-commandeering Peter the Great’s time that Azov became part of the Russian Empire. Unfortunately, Peter was rather ruthless in his methods of attack and thought little of destroying centuries-old buildings to capture the city. The Turkish fortress still stands to this day, but the piles of rubble from cannon fire make up much of this once great fort.
Address: 18, Proletarsky spusk str, Azov
Rostov Regional Museum of Local Lore
Boasting 200,000 precious artefacts from the region, this museum of local lore is a veritable treasure trove where it’s far too easy to lose track of time. Though the majority of exhibits focuses solely on Rostov’s traditions and history, it is not at all monotonous. There are all types of peculiarities on display, like the sturgeon which is purported to be the biggest ever caught in the Don river or the whimsical hand-made instruments that the Cossacks used to make. Conveniently, the museum is located on Bolshaya Sadovaya, the city’s central street.
Address: 79, Bolshaya Sadovaya str, Rostov-on-Don