Sochi is to Russia what Goa is to India. A glittering gem on the Black Sea, it is also a beloved ski resort. Be it summer or winter, you can’t go wrong with Sochi. If the city is on your FIFA list, then book early because you will be competing with beach-ready Russians.
8 a.m. Make a splash
If you feel like relaxing, head to the sandy and pebbly beaches of Sochi’s Lazarevskoye District, a 90-minute drive from the city centre. The municipal beaches are open to all and are dotted with cafés and restaurants. If you feel like moving (or perhaps keeping the kids busy), then head to one of the aquaparks. Morskaya Zvezda and the unfortunately-named Aqualoo are in Lazarevskoye District. Or you could head to Adler district, about 45 minutes from the city centre, for Amfibius Aquapark. In Adler, don’t miss the colourful market where you can find fruits, vegetables, freshly baked bread, spices, nuts, and flowers. This is also a great place to score some locally produced honey.
4 p.m. Go Green
Sochi’s Arboretum, the city’s botanical garden, is a sanctuary for flora and fauna. See if you can spot some finches among the oak and palm trees. Ride the cable car to the top for panoramic views of the city.
7 p.m. Stroll by the Sea
Come dusk, the entire seaside promenade comes alive with locals and visitors enjoying the sea breeze. Primorskaya Street is dotted with many restaurants. East Quarter, Stargorod, Café Terrasa Del Mar, and Lighthouse Restaurant are widely recommended. Ask for the catch of the day and pair it with a local white wine. Ordering wine in vodka country may feel like a sin but take comfort in knowing that Krasnodar, where Sochi is located, is a major Russian wine-producing region.
10 p.m. Hit the Party Zone
Head to some of Sochi’s top nightlife spots such as Cabaret Lighthouse (3, Navaginskaya Street) and Harat’s Pub (3, Chernomorskaya Street). There is even ABBA Bar, a retro joint named after the hit Swedish band (Egorova, 1 A).
9 a.m. Be a Culture Vulture
Just because Sochi’s preferred summer attire is beach shorts and bikinis, it doesn’t mean the city is removed from culture. Soak in some art and architecture at the Sochi Art Museum (51, Kurortnyy Prospekt), a magnificent neoclassical building that houses iconic Russian paintings and artefacts. It even has an exhibit dedicated to antique silver. The Winter Theatre (2 Teatralnaya Street) is another gorgeous neoclassical structure. The white-coloured facade of the Sochi Central Railway Station (56 Gorky Street) is a fine example of Soviet architecture. Don’t miss the impressive St. Michael’s Cathedral (12 Moskvina Street) and Church of St. Vladimir (18 Vinogradnaya Street).
11.30 a.m. Stay in the Home of Stalin
Take a trip to the dacha (summer home) of Joseph Stalin, the longest serving leader of the Soviet Communist Party. Nestled inside the emerald-green complex of Zelyonaya Roscha (Green Grove), a 20-minute drive from the city centre, the dacha still has many of Stalin’s belongings, including a chess set. Starting in 2018, visitors will be able to check into rooms and stay overnight. Whoever ends up in Stalin’s bed is in for some interesting dreams. Or should I say nightmares?
2 p.m. High Times in Sochi
No visit to Sochi is complete without a stop at Krasnaya Polyana. The swanky ski resort hosted the 2012 Winter Olympics and is a popular winter destination. In the summer, you can expect jaw-dropping views of the Caucasus Mountains. A cable car ride to the summit will be well worth your time. Depending on your mood, you could get the adrenaline pumping with a hike or a bike ride, or you could unwind with a spa session. Whatever you do, don’t miss the marvellous sunset. For some fine dining, head to the Rosa Khutor Resort’s restaurants Sakhalin and Red Fox, or to Lyudi Restaurant in Esto-Sadok (Krasnaya Polyana is a 75-minute train ride from Sochi’s city centre).
To explore more of Russia, see our FIFA World Cup 2018 guide to the country here.
Aanchal Anand is a travel addict who has been to over 50 countries across 5 continents. When she isn't travelling, she is typically coaxing her two cats off the laptop keyboard so she can get some writing done.