Old City of Samara

The tour starts at Ploschad Revolutsii (Revolution Square) and ends at Ploschad  Slavy (Glory Square). It's a good idea to walk this route, in order to see everything in detail: old Samara is full of unique buildings from different time periods. The walk will take a few hours, and if you include museum visits – a full day.

The central square of old Samara was Alexeevskaya square. Public celebrations were held here as far back as the 19th century. In September of 1879, Alexeevskaya square welcomed home Guriysky Regiment after its return from the Russo-Turkish war. The square was renamed into Revolution Square after and in honor of the October revolution.
Nikolay Khizhnyak/TASS
Leningradskaya Street, or Samara Arbat as the locals call it after the famous pedestrian street in Moscow, is reminiscent of European pedestrian streets such as Stroget in Copenhagen or Crafton Street in Dublin. The street is located roughly one block down ulitsa Kuibysheva from Revolution Square. The pedestrian promenade has plenty fountains, flowerbeds, small shops and street musicians. Centuries-old buildings still standing from Samara's merchant past can be seen on either side of the street. These days, they're home to boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Local art featuring cityscapes by Samara artists can also be purchased here.
The strict silhouette of a Lutheran church (kirche) stands out on the corner of Kuibyshev and Nekrasovskaya streets. It is one of the oldest Lutheran churches still standing in the Volga region. The church was built in the Gothic style. One of its buildings is now home to the German national and cultural center, where one can get acquainted with the history of Germans in the Volga region, displayed in documents and photographs. Books and films in German are available at the library and media hall.
Vladimir Smirnov/TASS
If you walk down Kuybyshev street a bit further and then up Leo Tolstoy street, you will reach Samara State Philharmonic. The building was built to replicate the Samara Art Nouveau style of the 19th century. The Philharmonic's prized possession is the organ that was first played in 2001. The organ is known for its incredible tone quality and range – 52 tones, which allows the Samara organ truly sound as “the king of instruments”.

Three memorial sites from old Samara are located just a bit further down on Frunze Street The first is Alexey Tolstoy's manor, currently home to Samara Literary Museum. In 1899, the manor (build in the second half of the 19th century) was purchased by Alexey Apollonovich Bostrom, Alexei Tolstoy's stepfather. In the summer of 1901, before moving to Saint Petersburg, the young writer lived on the second floor, in the right wing of the house. He visited this house often during his vacations from the Technological Institute, and continued to visit his stepfather almost annually afterwards, when he had become a famous writer. Samara Literary Museum not only enables one to see how the great Russian writer lived, but to hear lectures and seminars on literature, modern art, architecture and photography.
Vladimir Smirnov/TASS
Further down is the Roman Catholic cathedral. Today it is the tallest building of the old Samara. The Cathedral looks like it belongs in a European city much more than it does in Samara.

A graduate of the St. Petersburg Institute of Civil Engineering, Aleksander Zelenko was appointed head architect of Samara in 1897. Zelenko was fascinated by art deco architecture and had studied it extensively in St. Petersburg. His ideas and expertise found their fullest expression in the mansion he designed for the local merchant woman Aleksandra Kurlina. This playful blue-green house with wrought iron fences and stucco moulded front was a.m.ong the most luxurious residences in Samara. Its rich exterior was matched by its luxuriant interior decorations and furnishings. The place had all the modern amenities which were not widely available at the time: running water, heating, sanitation and electricity.

Today Kurlina House is an Art Deco Museum. Its permanent exhibits reconstruct the hey-day of this art trend, which lasted from the late 1800s through the early 1900s.    

Vladimir Smirnov/TASS
Kuybyshev Square is only a few steps away from Kurlina's house. It's one of the biggest squares in Europe (17.4 ha area), which is almost an entire hectare bigger than the Red Square in Moscow. Samara Opera and Ballet Academy Theater is located at the square. There is a monument to Valerian Kuybyshev, revolutionary, in front of the theater – the city of Samara was named after him from 1935 to 1991.
Vladimir Smirnov/TASS
As you walk on ulitsa Shostakovicha from Kuybyshev Square down to the Volga river, it is impossible not to notice a magnificent red building with white-stone boiseries reminiscent of an old manor. This is the Samara Drama Theater. It was built in 1851, and burned down in 1854. Citizens of Samara and the city duma (council) collected 3,000 rubles and used that money to purchase a grain barn, which was erected at Khlebnaya square and became home to the Samara theater troupe for many years. The stone building at Theater Square (currently Chapayev Square) was only erected by 1888.

A monument to Vasily Chapayev, one of the Civil War heroes (1917-1922) can be seen in front of the Drama Theater. For a long time this sculpture was the biggest one in the USSR. It's 10 meters high and it's base is 17 by 22 meters. The monument was created in St. Petersburg and sent to Samara. Sergey Kirov, an important statesman and politician, was one of the first people to see the sculpture. He liked it so much that he asked the authors to made an exact copy for Saint Petersburg. Today that copy can be seen in Saint Petersburg, near Budenniy Military Communications Academy.
 Vladimir Smirnov/TASS
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.
Vladimir Smirnov/TASS

The Iviron Christian community of women formed in Samara in 1850, and received an official recognition from Emperor Alexander I in 1855. It was initially based at Mechetnaya (now Samarskaya) Ulitsa, but the shortage of water in the neighbourhood compelled the community to move closer to the Volga, where a wooden chapel and eight cells were built to accommodate 30 sisters. The community became a convent in 1860, which was named in honour of the Iviron Icon of the Virgin Mary. The icon was donated to the convent by a local merchant’s wife, Ekaterina Marikhina.  

Brick buildings and temples were built on cloister grounds a few years later. The nuns ran a few tailors’ shops on the premises. The legendary Banner of Samara, a gift from the people of Samara to Bulgarian popular militia, was sewn and embroidered at the Iviron Convent. Russia gave strong support to the people of the Balkans in their struggle against Ottoman oppression, which unfolded in the second half of the 19th century. The merchants and local community leaders of Samara, who contributed financially to the cause of Bulgaria’s liberation from the Ottoman yoke, decided to give the Bulgarian freedom fighters a banner as a token of their support. The sketch for the banner was made by a local artist, Nikolai Simakov. The banner was sewn together from three sheets of bunting coloured red, white and blue, with a gold-embroidered black cross in the middle. The Iviron Icon of the Virgin Mary is depicted at one side of the cross, and the images of the great enlighteners of the Slavs, the Equal-to-the-Apostles Saints Cyril and Methodius, at the other.  

Inscribed in gold embroidery on the banner were the words: “To the people of Bulgaria from the town of Samara. 1876” and “Glory to the people of Bulgaria. 1876.” The banner was crafted by the nuns of the Iviron Convent. A delegation from Samara handed it over to the fighters of Bulgarian popular militia in Ploiesti, Romania, in May 1877. The Banner of Samara is now on display at the National Museum of Military History in Bulgaria.  

Most of the convent buildings fell into decrepitude during the decades of Soviet rule. Restoration commenced in 1991. The cloister has been fully restored and is now open to the public.