Best Places to Visit in Rostov-on-Don
An ideal day of sight-seeing in Rostov-on-Don:
9am: Stroll along the main street, Bolshaya Sadovaya, with a guide to point out the many hidden and unhidden points of interest.
11pm: Explore Rostov Regional Museum of Fine Arts and then luncheon at one of the many cafes on the main street.
14pm: Catch a bus to the Rostov Virgin's Nativity Cathedral and marvel at its golden frescoes, then explore the flea market outside and try local street-food.
18pm: Take in the sheer size of the Maxim Gorky Rostov-on-Don Drama Theatre, then go inside to be even more astonished by the astounding dexterity of Russian ballerinas.
Rostov has always been a city of strong, fearless and slightly ferocious people. In the 1570’s the city was established by the Cossacks and it remained their home for more than two centuries till the early 20th century when their tsarist loyalties forced them to flee from the Red forces. Then in the infamous 90’s, Rostov was taken over by the Mafia who set about making it Russia’s capital of crime. Thankfully, the only ‘strongmen’ you’ll see swaggering down Rostov’s streets today are the rappers who have kickstarted Rostov’s burgeoning music and alternative art scene.
Surprisingly, considering its history of barbarous inhabitants, Rostov is also known as the city of smiles and it’s easy to see why. Situated in the southern part of Russia, bordering Ukraine, it gets plenty of sunshine hours. To make the most of the rivers, seas and vast parks on a vacation in Rostov, there’s no better time to go than in summer. But, it is worth bearing in mind that unlike St Petersburg or Moscow, the city can be thoroughly explored in just two days. That being said, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay for longer. Rostov-on-Don may be a smallish city, but the surrounding region is rich in both natural and historical sites; take the magnificent Azov sea to name just one.
Main Sites of Interest
Bolshaya Sadovaya Street
Lined with colorful and wonderfully whimsical mansions and emporiums, the main street of Rostov perfectly encapsulates this sunshine-city.
It’s a good 3km in length and the majority of the city’s attractions are located on it. As there are no ‘red-buses’ in Rostov, it might be a good idea to get a guide to show you around. So many of the city’s most historic events took place here that it’s practically an open-air museum. Though the city was badly damaged during the Nazi occupation, there are still quite a few opulent 19th century buildings, like the City Duma and Municipal Council.
Other buildings to keep an eye out for while strolling down the avenue include:
- Staro-Pokrovsky Church which boasts a dizzying amount of arches.
- Rostov State Music Theater. One of the largest theatres in southern Russia is also the most architecturally unconventional, being designed in the shape of a giant, white piano!
- Martyn brothers’ house. It’s hard not to miss the distinctive red-brick, gothic building which stands out as much as its English owners must have when they moved to this town 200 years ago to set up a trading post. Nowadays, it serves as an insightful museum covering the city’s history.
- Chernova House. This mansion once housed Rostov’s most famous lady, Maria Chernova, who was wrongly accused of adultery. Legendary soirees were held inside its delicately decorated walls and though today’s tenant, being a bank, isn’t much of an entertainer, this building is still as beautiful as it once was all those years ago.
Rostov Virgin's Nativity Cathedral
As the Cossacks were loyal to both the Tsar and church, Rostov was traditionally a very religious city. Sadly, once the Bolsheviks got hold of the city in the early 1900’s, they mercilessly demolished almost all the main churches in the city. The Virgin's Nativity Cathedral is one of the few which survived and it is now seen as the heart of Rostov. Standing tall between the Central Market and Cathedral Square, almost all the buses end their routes here and, a few meters beyond its heavenly-white walls, is the Old Town which— with its promenade, eateries, bars and flea markets— is the perfect place for a stroll.
Address: 58, Ulitsa Stanislavskogo, Rostov-on-Don
St Petersburg has its Peter the Great statue and Rostov has what can roughly be translated as a ‘four-horse machine-gun cart’. Quite a mouthful to say and even more of a mouthful to look at! Built to mark the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution, its overwhelming size was meant to show the sheer might of the Bolsheviks. This is perhaps the best photo-spot in the city; with the river Don flowing directly underneath, it looks as if the horses are plunging into the water.
Address: left bank of the Don, A-135 Highway
Monument to A.P. Chekhov
It’s a little known fact that the famous Chekhov, father of modernism in theatre, was the son of a former Ukrainian serf and Russian cloths-woman. This unassuming genius grew up in the south of Russia, not far from Rostov, and on Pushkinskaya street there’s a touching, life-sized statue of the man. Also, oft unknown is the fact that Mendeleev and Pushkin also lived in the Rostov region for a good part of their lives.
Address: 151, Pushkinskaya Ulitsa, Rostov-on-Don
Museums and Theatres
Museum of the North Caucasus Railway
Running through Rostov’s heart is the North Caucasus Railway which links Russia’s best vacation destinations, Sochi and Anapa, on the Black sea with the Caspian and Azov seas. Paying tribute to this beautiful route, this railway museum tracks the history of the many trains that chugged along its tracks. The collection is rather impressive including over 50 steam engines as well as a dozen different freight and passenger carriages and even a water crane! Apart from the trains, there are also other artefacts on display from the 1800s including telephones, maps and historic photographs.
Address: 73, Ulitsa Tsiolkovskogo, Rostov-on-Don
Opening hours: 10:00-17:00 Tue-Sun
Rostov Regional Museum of Fine Arts
This may be Rostov’s smallest and prettiest museum. Though it was only founded in 1938, it looks as if it came straight from a fairytale; even the interiors are unbelievably ornate for a building that was built by the Soviets. The paintings on show generally focus on local landscape artists but the museum has in the past displayed Picasso, so it’s worth having a look at their program (http://www.romii.ru). At less than 200rub./ticket this museum, petite as it may be, is well worth a visit for art-lovers.
Address: 115, Pushkinskaya Ulitsa, Rostov-on-Don
Opening hours: 10:00-18:00 Wed-Mon
Rostov Museum of Cosmonautics
Another of Rostov’s small museums, all the displays of this museum fit neatly into one medium hall. Rich in variety this museum may not be, but it is certainly brimming with fascinating stories. Every single detail associated with space travel from the different types of space-suits to satellites is covered. The genuine Soyuz space capsule which returned from space in 2007 is perhaps the most interesting attraction out of the hundred or so items exhibited.
Address: 231/2, Stachki Ave., Rostov-on-Don
Opening hours: 09:00-16:00 Mon-Sun
Maxim Gorky Rostov-on-Don Drama Theatre
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you’d have to look far and wide to find a fanatic of Soviet constructivist architecture. It’s brutal, intimidating and frankly just plain cheap design doesn’t give much material for appreciation. Though the Maxim Gorky theatre may be all of the above, it is still a worth visit. Designed in the style of a Russian ‘combinator’ or harvester, it is the epitome of the Soviet hard-headed approach to architecture. But how a giant, caterpillar-like tractor could be associated with the ballet is something perhaps only the Soviets could ever understand…
Address: 1, Teatral'naya Ploshchad', Rostov-on-Don