The best places in town

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Yet another place offering a great view of the Volga expanse and beyond is the boat-shaped stele on the fourth tier of the embankment. The twenty-meter ferroconcrete sailboat, designed by Samara architects Anatoly Yankin and Igor Galakhov, was built for Samara’s 400th anniversary. It is now one of the symbols of Samara. The plaza in front of the stele is the customary ground of town festivals, youth events and sports competitions. 

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The panoramic view from here takes in the Volga, its right bank and embankment. In summer you can observe the “singing” fountain by the CSK VVS swimming pool from here, or watch the boats sailing up and down the Volga. This observation deck was not here until quite recently: November 2015. It was built as part of the landscaping and improvements on the slope at Ploshchad Slavy. The deck is accessed by stairs with safety railings. There is also a ramp for wheelchair access. 

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Nowadays Samarans are accustomed to the fact that Ulitsa Leningradskaya is the heart of the downtown. But a century and a half ago, this was the edge of town. The big change happened in 1856, when the central market was moved from Alekseyevskaya Ploshchad (now Ploshchad Revolutsii) to Troitskaya Ploshchad. Local merchants bought land and started building themselves lavish stone-built homes on what would later become Ulitsa Leningradskaya, in order to be closer to the marketplace. Soon this whole part of town became Samara’s prime shopping neighbourhood, and the street was named Panskaya. The name was changed to Leningradskaya in the 1920s. The section of Leningradskaya between Kuibysheva and Galaktionovskaya is a nice pedestrian area. Most of the 19th-century merchant houses still exist. Now, as many years ago, most of them are shops or restaurants. Buskers, street artists and magicians are a frequent sight here. Leningradskaya is the locals’ favourite place for walking and a.m.usements. Samarans like to refer to it as the “Arbat of Samara.” 

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Military parades on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the October 1917 Revolution took place in three cities: Moscow, Voronezh and Kuibyshev on November 7, 1941. The leaders of the country, foreign diplomats and members of the press corps were in the stalls reviewing the parade in Kuibyshev. Participating in the parade were infantry units, trainees of the Military Medical Academy, the women’s battalion of the Volga Military District, cavalry, tanks and motorized infantry. Hundreds of warplanes flew overhead: bombers, fighters and fighter-bombers. All units went to the frontlines right after the parade. 

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Samara is the home of Russia’s favourite Zhigulevskoe beer. The brewery’s history began in 1880, when a certain Alfred von Vacano of Austria petitioned the local authorities for a land plot, where he intended to have a brewery built. Vacano produced his first beer a year later, in 1881. The beer was initially marketed under two brand names: Venskoe and Venskoe Stolovoe. In terms of technology, Vacano’s brewery was at the time the only state-of-the-art brewery in Russia. It did very well, increasing its output by more than a factor of fifty in 25 years. Following the 1917 Revolution, the brewery, to which the Austrian entrepreneur had given 40 years of his life, was nationalized. The beer it produced was renamed Zhigulevskoe in 1936. These days many breweries across Russia produce Zhigulevskoe brand beer, but the beer brewed in Samara remains the paragon of good taste.
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This is a real Ilyushin-2 fighter bomber, one of those warplanes that made the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany possible during WWII. This monument is now one of the common symbols of Samara. Samara, which was then named Kuibyshev, built and supplied to the frontlines more than 15,000 of the legendary Il-2 fighter bombers during the war. The monument was the idea of the veteran workers of one of Samara’s aircraft engineering factories in the early 1970s. The problem was that not a single Il-2 was to be found in the factory’s hangars. The body of an Il-2, shot down during the Great Patriotic War, was found on the Kola Peninsula in the autumn of 1970. The plane was brought to Samara, restored and placed on a pedestal at the intersection of Moskovskoe Shosse and Prospekt Kirova in 1974. The monument was officially unveiled on Victory Day, 9 May 1975. High-quality illumination was added for the 65th anniversary of the Victory in 2010.  

This is the oldest park in Samara. Once upon a time here, near the embankment of the Volga River, there was a forest that belonged to the manager of the Iletsky salt fisheries Grigory Strukov. In the 1820s he built a homestead on these lands and started a garden. A few years later the facility where Strukov worked moved to Sol-Iletsk, and the garden was abandoned. By 1849 the territory was renovated and officially opened as the city garden. In the park there were various city celebrations, famous guests walked across it, including emperors Alexander I and Alexander II. In the Strukovsky garden there once were a bowling alley, shopping pavilions, a summer stage and a cinema. In the middle of the 20th century, the territory was reconstructed and renamed the Maxim Gorky Park of Culture and Recreation.

Now the park was returned its historical name. This is a place for leisurely walks, traditional city events such as the Press Day and the Flower Festival are held here. At the entrance to the garden there is a small fountain, and in the park itself there is a monument to Maxim Gorky and the grotto on which stands a goat - the symbol of Samara. Strukovsky Garden also has a skate park and a summer concert and movie hall.

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The Samarans have a saying: "The Volga bank is a precious rim of the city." The embankment is one of the postcards of Samara, a favorite vacation spot for both locals and visitors. Until the 1930s, the Volga coast remained unsettled, there were warehouses, stables, sawmills and other industrial buildings. Landscaping began in 1940, and today the embankment consists of four lines with a total length of about five kilometers - from the River Station (where, by the way, you can buy souvenirs from Samara) to the Silicate Ravine. In 2011, a large-scale reconstruction of the embankment began, which is expected to be completed for the World Cup.

One of the main attractions of the embankment is the Ladya spire, installed in 1986, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the city. The 20-meter concrete construction made in the form of a sailboat became one of the symbols of Samara. In 2011, a "singing" fountain was opened near the CSK VVS pool after reconstruction, and in 2014 a monument to the founder and first governor of Samara, Prince Grigory Zasekin was erected on the Polevoy Descent of the embankment.

The second line of the waterfront is particularly popular among those who value a healthy lifestyle. There are mini-playgrounds for playing football and basketball, bicycle paths, rentals of roller skates and bicycles, and in winter there is a skating rink. In the summer of 2010 at the stadium near the Volga under the Pervomayskiy Descent there was held the beach football Cup of Russia, which was won by the Samara team Krylia Sovetov.

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Spaceflights are very much part of Samara’s history. The city is the home of Progress, the rocket engineering centre that has manufactured Russian booster rockets for decades. The rocket that put Gagarin’s Vostok spaceship, flying the first man into space, into orbit was made in Samara.

A unique monument was installed in Samara’s Kozlova Square on Space Exploration Day, 12 April 2001. It is a genuine Soyuz booster rocket, formerly used as a specimen for emergency drills at Plesetsk launch site. Serving as a pedestal for the memorial rocket is an unusual building, which houses the Samara the Space Capital museum. The rocket and the pedestal together are 68 metres tall.

The museum’s permanent exhibits are located on the ground floor. Not only rocket replicas, but real spacecraft, rocket engines, real spacesuits and space food in tubes are on display. Some exhibits are interactive, like Spacebook – Space in Your Pocket, which explains the use of aerospace technology in daily life, including a detailed account of how flight navigation systems and cellular communications work. There is a display detailing the life of astronauts at a space station.