Krasnodar, the capital of the region bearing its name is often only seen as a transportation hub for russian tourists on their way to the Black Sea beaches of Sochi or Crimea.
However, if you have a day to spare, give it a chance, learn about the city’s imperial past, the Kuban Cossacks’ history and food, and enjoy a walk along the very green “Red street”.
Krasnodar is the gateaway to the Caucasus but you can already experience the Southern hospitality there. Locals are very friendly and laid back compare to the russian north.
In this city guide you will find everything you need to know to visit Krasnodar, including a brief history of the city, transportation, accomodation, food and the best places to visit in the Krai’s capital.
Fun fact : Krasnodar was selected in the top 10 most pleasant russian cities to live in !
Krasnodar was founded in 1793 as a Cossack fortress to protect the Empire’s southern borders. Its first name was Yekaterinodar, litterally meaning ” Catherine’s gift” because the land was given to the Kuban Cossacks by the Empress Catherine the Great.
Yekaterinodar became an official city in 1867. Later, as part of Stalin’s policy, the city was renamed Krasnodar, ” Red Gift”.
Krasnodar was the military base of the Kuban Cossacks for a couple of centuries and because they were seen as a military unit of Imperial Russia, the Soviets deported them in the 1920’s.
Nowadays you won’t see any Cossacks in traditional outfits riding their horses on Krasnodar’s streets but you can visit Cossack museums, eat traditional Kuban food and even hear/see their traditional songs and dances such as the spectacular Shashka sword dancing.
Who are the Cossacks ?
The Cossacks are not a Caucasian tribe natives of the Caucasus nor Kazakh from Kazakhstan. I saw a lot of wrong and misleading informations online.
To put it simply, the Cossaks are russian nomads from the Ukrainian steppes and Western Russia : Cossacks from the Don, the Terek, the Kuban regions (all of these being names of rivers), the Cossacks of Zaporizhia (also known as the Dniper Cossacks). If you followed the recent news, you must have heard about some of these places.
These guys are often confused for a Caucasian tribe because of their similar outfits, excellent swords and riding skills. But they are in fact russian orthodox christians from the steppes.
Get in and out
Air : At the time of writing Krasnodar’s airport is closed due to the SMO. In normal times there are domestic flights to many russian cities including Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and international ones to Turkey for example.
Rail : You can get a train to pretty much anywhere from Krasnodar-1.
– A fast speed train named ” Lastoshka” goes to Sochi daily (actually to Estosadok/Krasnaya Polyana, the mountain resort) in a bit more than 4 hours.
– A Lastoshka fast speed train to the port city of Novorossiysk, in less than 2 and a half hours.
– Trains to Moscow take more than a day of travels or take the 18 hours “fast” Dvukhetarzhny.
– There are overnights train to Simferopol, Crimea.
Note 1 : The airport is closed at the moment, so people choose the train as an alternative travel option. It causes the trains ticket to be sold out quickly, especially during the high season.
Note 2 : I found the train station to be absolutely sh*t and small for such an important city. Almost nowhere to seat, no proper food place etc.
Bus : The bus station is located right in front of the train station, which is very convenient. You can get to many cities if the trains are full : Anapa, Novorossiysk, Rostov on Don and even all the way to Sevastopol in Crimea.
Note : a bus journey to Sevastopol from Krasnodar takes between 8 to 12 hours (or more!), there are a lot of new road buildings around the Taman peninsula. Don’t expect the bus to be on time and plan according to that if you have to catch a train.
Marshurutka, bus, tram or on foot for the very city center. It’s easy to go around Krasnodar. Find your way and the right bus or tram number and schedule directly on Yandex maps.
The re are thousands of options to choose from in Krasnodar. Litterally over 1500 places are registered on Ostrovok.
I give you here 3 options for every budget, they can all be booked without a bank card.
Mid range : Suvorov, kind of half way between the very center and the train station.
Cheap : Blabla rooms hostel : I stayed there for a couple of nights. I think it’s great value and only a few meters away from Krasnaya street. Cheap private room and 2 kitchens. A bit tricky to find, the entrance is from Kalinina street, then pass the old man security, walk up the stairs and it’s on the frist floor (second floor for russians).
Note : Be careful if you book a flat on Ostrovok and arrive late at night. Once I couldn’t find the place I was supposed to stay at. My bus from Crimea was very late, there was no phone number to reach out the owner and no one in the street. I had to find another place to stay at 1am. Not fun at all.
Food and drinks
Krasnodar has a hell lot of nice food places. To name a few :
Here is a list of the best places to visit in Krasnodar, in no particular order:
Krasnaya ulitsa aka Red street is the main street of Krasnodar. Many interesting sights are located along it or nearby like theatres, museums, cafés and restaurants. The Red street is actually pretty green with a park at its centre. The section from Sovetskaya to the theater square becomes pedestrian on week ends.
Church of Saint John the Warrior was built in 2000 on the initiave of a former military pilot turned into priest. It’s built on the territory of the ministry of air defense, hense the fighter aircraft located next to the church.
Alexandr’s thriumphal arch also named the Royal Gates (Царские ворота) is a 12 meters high brick arch built with the local merchants’ money in 1888 for the visit of the Tsar Alexandr III. Destroyed in the late 20’s officially due to some tram lines problems, it was rebuilt in 2008.
The monument to Saint Catherine is located right next to the Royal Gates is a 8 meters high sculpture of Catherine of Alexandria (not the empress Catherine II). The matyr Catherine is the patroness of the city. It’s tradition for local couples to come here on their wedding day.
Church of the Great Martyr George the Victorious is a 1903 red bricks and blue onion domes church. It’s one of the most popular church in the city for locals as well as tourists. George the Victorious is the saint patron of the armies and soldiers in Russia.
The monument of Cossacks writing a letter to the Turkish Sultan represent the Zaporozhia Cossacks sending a rather insulting reply to Mehmed IV Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in the17th asking them to submit to his rule. The sculture is based on the painting of Ilya Repin. The reply letter is however semi legendary.
Square G.K Zhukov is named after the the Soviet marshal and stateman Georgi Zhukov. He is also known as the Marshal of Victory and is still a national hero today. On the square and park surrounding it yo wi’ll find a statue of Zhukov and memorials for the Soviet heros.
Monument to the empress Catherine II mostly known as Catherine the Great, a Prussian princess turned into the most famous female ruler in Russia’s history. The impressive sculpture of the former empress is over 4 meters high and was first built in 1907, destroyed by the Bolsheviks and restored in 2006. Catherine is surrounded by Cossack Atamans (leaders) and the Prince Potemkin.
The Cathedral Saint Catherine is named after the empress. It’s one of the largest in the city and the head church of the Yekaterinodar and Kuban eparchy. Its construction was decided in 1889 but only finished in 1914. It was built on top of a wooden church dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria however the main altar of the present church is dedicated to her.
The Literary museum of the Kuban is a small museum located in the house of an Ataman of the Black Sea Cossack Army about the Kuban region’s history and its people. Lots of pictures and artifacts. No captions in english but still pretty nice to visit.
Park Pobedy is one of Krasnodar’s main parkz. There are a lot of Soviet military equipments displayed as an open-air museum. Access it from the suspended bridge Most Potseluyev aka the kissing bridge.
Kuban’s embankment, Kubanskaya Naberezhnaya, is a long promenade along the Kuban river.
Krasnodar Park also known by locals Park Galitsky (named after owner of the Magnit chain and Krasnodar’s football club among others) because he paid for it, is a 22ha urban park in the middle of the city. It’s located right next to the stadium.
Sennoy market is the largest market in Krasnodar. Openned in 1876 for the fast growing population of Yekaterinodar. Today it’s a great place to find top quality fresh veges and fruits of the south of Russia and pretty much anything else. Here’s a interesting article about the market’s history.
Solnechniy Ostrov Park aka Sunny island park is the largest park in the city. Located next to the Kuban river on 39ha of land with some areas coverred of forest up to 150 years old. Locals love it and you will too if you look for a peacefull corner in the city.
#1 Weather : You must know that Krasnodar in summer is very VERY hot. When I was there in late july/august, it was at least 35 degres. It felt very stuffy.
#2 High season : As said previously, Krasnodar is an important transport hub. Many people stay overnight between a bus and a train for example. It would be wise to book transport and accomodation a bit in advance if you travel during the summer season.
#3 Border zone permit : The entrance to the FSB office is located here. You must ring.. The person who answered me spoke zero english, however the friendly young guy who delivered me the permit did.
There you have it, a complete guide to visit Krasnodar. I know it is not Moscow in terms of tourist attractions but I’d recommend a day to explore the city and meet its culturally mixed and friendly inhabitants.
Let me know in the comments if this Krasnodar city guide has been helpful and I you wish to visit this Cossack city !