Visit Grozny, the Dubai of the North Caucasus

Visit Grozny, the Dubai of the North Caucasus

Grozny City microdistrict and the Akhmat Kadyrov mosque at night in Grozny, Chechnya

Travelling to Chechnya and visiting its unfamous capital city of Grozny is possible and safe in 2024 ! Despite the insane amount of outdated bullsh*t written online, it’s totally fine, allowed and easy for foreign tourists to visit the Chechen capital these days.

Often called the Dubai of the North Caucasus – at least that’s president Kadyrov aspirations for his beloved city – Grozny stands worlds apart from your typical travel destinations; it’s a great place to learn about the unique Chechen culture and meet some of the most hospitable people in Russia.

This Grozny travel guide is your go-to resource, covering everything you need to know, from cultural etiquette and accommodation options to must-see attractions, tasty chechen cuisine spots, and my personal favorite cafés to meet up friendly english-speaking locals. Join me on an exploration of Grozny, where cultural discovery and genuine hospitality await you !

Everything written bellow is from my personnal experiences and multiple visits to Grozny.

A travel guide to the city of Grozny in Chechnya, with the Akhmat Kadyrov mosque
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Brief introduction to Grozny

Grozny is an old city even though it looks brand new these days (obviously …). It was build by the Cossaks during the 19th century conquest of the Caucasus as a fort/garrison and named “Grozny”, which can be translated from russian by “fearsome” or even “terrible” (as in ‘Ivan Grozny’ translated by ‘Ivan the Terrible’).

In a more recent history, the city was almost enterely destroyed during the two Chechen wars. The central Russian government gave a lot of money to rebuild it as well as the major roads within the republic. The differences with the neighboring republics is noticable and quite shocking in my opinion.

Reminder : No, Chechnya is not a country. Yes, the Chechen republic is a federal entity within the Russian Federation. No, you don’t need a special permit to visit it in 2024.

Grozny is nowadays a very pleasant and safe city, crossed by the Sunzha River, dotted with various police forces including the Kadyrovtsy (easy to spot : mostly tall heavily built bearded men dressed in black, friendly and very efficient in giving directions), trendy cafés all along Putina Prospekt, the only Putin Avenue in Russia and sights easily reachable on foot.

The yellow building of house of culture in Grozny, Chechnya with portrait of Vladimir Putin and Akhmat Kadyrov hanging on the facade

How to travel to Grozny

There are many ways to travel to Grozny :

  • By plane from other russian cities including Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
    From abroad : E.g. direct flights from Istanbul to Grozny starting from 80€ with UTair (can be bought on Kupi.com even with a foreign Visa/Mastercard).
  • By train from Moscow and other russian cities. You can book directly on the RZD website if you own a russian bank card or on Russiantrain.com with a foreign Visa/Mastercard.
  • By marshrutka from Dagestan, Ingushetia and the other North Caucasian republics.
  • From Georgia by marshrutka : from Didube station in Tbilissi via Vladikavaz and Nazran.
  • From Azerbaijan by train or direct marshrutka : at Berkat bus station behind the Berkat market, ask someone to point out the marshrutka to Baku. Prebook your seat the day before – they leave early morning around 9am.

The central bus station is located behind the huge Berkat market. I found it a bit intimidating at first. If you can read cyrillic you might easily find the right bus to take you where you want, if not, simply ask the friendly chechens around you, they will surely help you out.

Many times I had random middle aged men walking me to the other side of the station to help me find the right bus I needed.

A bridge over the Sunzha river in the city of Grozny, Chechnya, North Caucasus

Travelling around the city

Grozny is the capital and largest city in Chechnya, but not that big. All the interesting sights, museums, trains and bus stations, cafés and restaurants are located in the very center, on Kadyrova and Putina Prospekt (Kadyrov and Putin Avenues, yes) or right off the main streets. Everything is within walking distance really.

Marshrutkas and buses are the way to go anywhere, just use Yandex Maps to find the right one.

Taxis are also very common, you can find one directly on the street or order it online on Yandex Go. They are cheap like anywhere else in Russia and I honestly doubt any Chechen driver would rip you off.
If you are arriving in Grozny by train you will find plenty of old friendly taxi drivers right outside the station, ready to take you anywhere you wish. However they are unlikely to speak any english, but never know.

Grozny city and Kadyrov avenue at night in Chechnya

Where to sleep

Grozny has accommodation options for all budgets. Not loads like Moscow but enough to satisfy all types of travellers. Here are some hostel and hostel suggestions that can be booked without a bank card.

Budget hostel : Hostel in Grozny (yes, that’s the actual name) is the one I stayed in everytime I was in Grozny. The ladies running the place are the least friendly people you will encounter in Chechnya but the place is very clean, there is a kitchen, it’s within walking distance from the very center of the city and as a solo female tourist I felt very comfortable. No english is spoken though.

Mid range : Nokhcho-Star right on Putina Prospekt in the very center of the city.

5* russian style hotel : Cosmos Selection Grozny City, right in the brand new Grozny City microdistrict to get some Dubai vibes.

Short term appartment rental : Airbnb just like Booking.com aren’t operating in Russia at the moment but you can find appartments to rent on Ostrovok.ru.

Aerial view of the city of Grozny in Chechnya

What to do & see in Grozny

Grozny has no UNESCO sites to see nor tones of museums. Urbex lovers and Dark Tourism enthusiats will be disappointed because the city has been fully rebuilt. Chechnya’s capital is much smaller than Moscow or St Petersburg so if you are only there for the sights and not so interested in Chechen culture and in meeting up with locals, 24 hours in the city will be plenty enough.

  • Akhmat Kadyrov Mosque aka the Heart of Chechnya

    The Ottoman style Akhmat Kadyrov Mosque also known as Heart of Chechnya is one of the largest mosque in Russia. It was built in a couple of years and finished in 2008, based on the famous Blue Mosque of Istanbul. A unique religious site not to be missed while in Chechnya.
  • The National Museum

    Quite modest but still worth a visit in my opinion. A large part is dedicated to Akhmat Kadyrov, however you can see ancient traditional outfits, pictures of the Chechen mountains (if you don’t have time to visit the backcountry) and the building is pretty nice from the outside with Vainakh stones towers. Visit the official website for more informations.
  • The Grozny City Observation Deck is on top of the “Business center” tower in Grozny city which is the part with all the fancy new towers that are lighted up at night. The observation platform is located on the 29th floor, pictures aren’t allowed on the direction of Kadyrov’s house, entrance ticket was 100₽ last time I was there. Worth a visit to get the size of the city.
  • The Memorial to those killed in the fight against terrorism aka the ones who died in the Chechen wars fighting alongside the Russians. It has an inscription by Kadyrov the father “may justice prevails”. Some very old Chechen gravestones with arabic inscriptions have been placed there.

    You won’t find any memorial in Grozny nor Chechnya in general for all those who died fighting for Chechnya’s independance.
  • Akhmat Kadyrov state gallery
    Curious place. The outside is quite grand, all marble made – it gave me some Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat vibes to be honest. There are plenty of paintings depicting Chechen culture to see. Obviously another place in the memory of the first Chechen president Akhmat Kadyrov. Visit the official website for more informations.
  • Berkat market

    Looking to change cash, buy veges or a long skirt, find a bus or a cheap café for lunch ? The Berkat market has it all. Warning though, it’s a giant maze, get ready to get lost !

Best places to eat in Grozny

You could spend a month in Grozny and eat in a different place everyday. Options seem endless !
Here are a few places I really liked :

  • Kofetun, a mid range prices restaurant serving really good local and western food. It’s very popular so you might not the able to get a table at busy hours.
  • Central Park for a chechen breakfast. The place is small and quiet.
  • Kafé 777 a local café, what many would call an “authentic one” with closed compartments so don’t worry female traveller, you will be comfortably hidden behind curtains. I personally love these kind of cafés. Such places can be found everywhere in Muslim part of the Caucasus and even in the Pankisi valley in Georgia.
  • Zhizhig and Galgash for fancier Chechen food.
  • Inside Berkat market there are plenty of small and very cheap cafés. I had some tasty plov in one of them, but honeslty I couldn’t find my way back there.

Must-try chechen cuisine

Siskal and To-beram : fried cornflour pancakes served with a sort of tvorok made sauce and boiled eggs – for breakfast.

Zhizigh – galnash : Litterally meaning “meat and dough”, it’s boiled meat (either mutton or beef) with little noodles. traditionnally requested by the mother in law to test the culinary skills of her new daughter in law.

Chepalgash : flat pie filled with cottage cheese and green onions.

• Chudnash : the corn flour version of Chepalgash.

Khingalsh : flat bread filled with pumpkin – one of my favourite, simply delicious !
Baarsh : tripe stuffed with mutton or beef with onions, rice.

Holtmash : dumplings filled with mixed nettle, wild garlic, eggs, and/or cheese.

• Jijig – Chorpa : vegetable soup with either mutton or beef meat..

National dishes of the Chechen cuisine, Chechnya

Cafés to meet locals

There are no bars in Grozny but plenty of western style cafés open until late where the young and possibly english-speaking people hang out.

Some cafés might have a more masculine clientele than others so the following places I suggest are only places I’ve tried myself as a solo female tourist and never felt uncomfortable stepping in.

  • Ramozoti, my favourite café in Grozny for sure: coffee is great, staff is great, owner is great. THE place to go without doubt.
  • Starcoffee, Chechen style Starbucks on Putina Prospekt.
  • Søren, classy café just like its owner (she speaks perfect english), a great place for people-watching in Grozny

Can we buy alcohol in Chechnya ?

Even though I said there are no bars in Grozny, one supermarket outside of the city that will sell alcohol to us, foreigners/non chechens (make sure to bring your ID) : Lenta supermarket and only between 8am to 10am. Of course be respectuful and drink your beers or whatever else in private. Alcohol is also served at the Kupol restaurant in Grozny City (the fancy microdistrict).

It is probihited for Chechens to buy and drink alcohol, by decree of president Kadyrov. It doesn’t mean everyone follows the rule.

Now you may wonder : Is it allowed to smoke in Chechnya ? For men, it’s alright, though I’ve never ever seen someone smoking right in the street, so best to avoid it in public. The Chechen Ministry of Tourism shared an instagram post about “rules to follows in Chechnya for tourists and among it was “Women in Chechnya don’t smoke”; so I believe it’s a rather clear instruction.

Tips

  • Quick reminder to pseudojournalists : if you wish to learn about the Chechen wars there are lots of excellent books and documentaries out there (a whole list of them in my Resource library here) . Chechens don’t want to tell you horror stories of the wars, wounds are still open in each and every family : this is not our place to ask such sensitive questions. Please, be respectful.
  • If you are not comfortable with armed uniform men carrying AK47, maybe Grozny isn’t a place you should visit. But one get us to it quickly, I promise.
  • If you are a young-ish women wearing trousers, you will stand out. Expect flirty chechens chatting with you from across the street (confident is definitetly one way to describe these men), and even offer you a ride in their fancy car to whevere you wish to go … Wear covering clothes, hide your tattoos.
  • Guys, do not touch, offer to shake hands or flirt with Chechen women. Yes, Grozny is full of gorgeous girls (Chechen women are some of the prettiest I’ve seen in the Caucasus – from my female western POV), but don’t even think about it. It’s ok for a foreign girl to flirt with a local guy, it’s not for a foreign man to do so with a local woman : A question of honnor. If you want to fight with a bunch of locals remember that the Caucasus, especifically Chechnya and Dagestan are breeding grounds for MMA fighters … Just saying.

    Not so fun fact : famous british youtuber Bald and Bankrupt had to make public apologies in a video after jokes on a chechen lady sharing his train compartment.

    Also, wear covering clothes, no shorts above the knees, and hide your tattoos. Black is the go-to colour in chechen men’s wardrobe.
  • You can change foreign currencies (Euros/US Dollars) in Berkat, there are a few middle age men in front of the market’s gate, small shoulder bag/flat cap) (I pinned the location on the map) – Of course you can change simply change legally in the banks, but the rate won’t be as good.
  • More tips here : things to know before travelling to Chechnya.

All the places mentionned on this post can be found on this Yandex maps. Click the bottom left corner (Открыть в Яндекс Картах) to open it.

Final thoughts on travelling to Grozny & Chechnya

Grozny is a rather easy travel destination in my opinion (in terms of transportation to get there, accomodation, food places …), Chechens are very welcoming to foreigners and will do everything to make you feel comfortable. As a solo female western tourist, I’ve always felt safe and super welcomed every time I visited the city.

Grozny is a great introduction to Chechnya if you have no time to travel to the mountains. Go for it, you won’t regret it !

FAQ

Is Grozny safe now ?

Grozny is not a warzone anymore. The situation is as stable as anywhere else in Russia with heavy police presence. It is totally safe to travel to Grozny and Chechnya in 2024.

Do they speak English in Chechnya?

Yes. I found it’s easier to find english-speaker in Chechnya than anywhere else in Russia. Young chechens are eager to meet foreigners and practice their language skills.

Do Chechens wear hijab ?

Yes, some wear a hijab, or simply a scarf tied low behind the head, and others wear nothing at all. As a woman you do not have to cover your hair unless you enter a mosque.

Ancient muslim headstones and the Akhmat Kadrov mosque in the city of Grozny, Chechnya
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