Novorossiysk, the Soviet Hero City on the Black Sea

Novorossiysk, the Soviet Hero City on the Black Sea

The Malaya Zemlya memorial, a massive Soviet memorial made of concrete memorial to commemorates the landing of the Red Army marines in1943 in Novorossyisk by the Black Sea in the South of Russia

Novorossiysk, a Soviet Hero City most never even heard of, is located in the Krasnodar Krai, between the popular resort towns of Anapa and Gelendzhik in the Tsemes bay.

It’s one of the Russia’s largest port that is ice-free all year around, loading daily lots of feights and oil.

I visited Novorossiysk in the summer 2022 and I was positively surprised and very much enjoyed my few days there. The city has Southern beach vibes, Soviet history in every corner and its backcountry hides Russia’s best sparkling wine.

Novorossiysk is in my opinion a place not to be missed if you travel between Krasnodar and Sochi.

This guide contains everything you need to know to visit Novorossiysk, including how to get there, where to sleep & eat, and must-visit places around the city.

Last updated : 19/02/2024

The commercial port of Novorossiysk in southern Russia by the Black Sea. A travel guide to a soviet hero city
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Brief history

The city of Novorossiysk was founded in the 19th century on top of the Turkish fortress of Sujuk-kale.

Well before that, archeologists say that the place was inhabited since the 5th century B.C. Novorossiysk was once called Bata, a Greek town of the Bosporus Kingdom trading mostly grain and fish.

Bata was destroyed in the 2nd century B.C by the Alans. Circassian tribes moved in before getting kicked out by the Khazars and Mongols and moved to the mountains.

In the 13th century, the Tsemes Bay belonged to the Golden Horde. Then the Batario fortress was built by people from Genoa, as they controled the sea trading routes between East and West. It defended the town from the Circassian tribes.

In 1943 a handfull of soviet soldiers including L. Brezhnev, heroically defended the city from the Nazis. It reveive the Hero City title in 1973.

Today the city of over 270 000 inhabitants is the naval base of the country’s Black Sea fleet and one of Russia’s largest sea port loading freights and oil each day.

The painting "Flight of the bourgeoisie from Novorossiysk in 1920" by Ivan Vladimirov
 Flight of the bourgeoisie from Novorossiysk in 1920 by Ivan Vladimirov – Museum of Contemporary History of Russia in Moscow

Not so fun facts : #1 There are sanctions on the Novorossiysk commercial port since spring 2022. However it doesn’t look like it when watching the constant traffic of cargos in the bay.

#2 The Tsemes bay is sometimes hit by windstorms and bora winds, reaching up to 220k/h.

How to get there

  • Train : The train station is quite far from the city center, better to take a bus rather than walk (I did). The station is located in the middle of the port and it smells oil right out of the train …

    There are daily train from/to Moscow and Krasnodar (including the Latoshka fast speed train). However to go to Sochi, one must change in Tuapse. You can buy your train ticket on Russiantrain with a foreign Visa/Mastercard.
  • Bus : The bus station is located in the very center, next to the central market. There are plenty of long distances buses from Novorossiysk, to Sochi, Krasnodar, Crimea and beyond. There is only one counter (kassa) to buy ticket and no english is spoken. The marshrutka station to towns nearby like Abrau Durso is just across the road from the main bus station.
  • Plane : At the time of writing, the airport is not working due to the SMO. The closest working airport is Sochi’s.
  • Boat : As far as I know, there’s no passenger boat to other countries around the Black Sea anymore. You may contact the russian shipping company Transflot, Novorossiysk’s port is after all one of Russia’s largest port.

Where to sleep

Novorossiysk is a city for business more than leisure, but there are lots of accomodation for every budget.

I’ve stayed at Chocolate hostel. It was a last minute booking in the middle of summer so I didn’t have much choice. Very clean, nice staff, no english spoken, no windows in the rooms. This is the one on the right side of the road coming from the city center. Booking only with a russian bank card.

Where to eat

I’ve stayed a couple of days in Novorossiysk and I have 2 very nice places really worth to mention for tasty food, friendly staff and cosy environment (all 3 combined is a gem in Russia IMO).

  • Kafé Noy for delicious Caucasian food
  • Eniki Beniki for a wide range of tasty pelminis and russian classics

A couple of other places I passed by that looked great but had no time to try out : Nabokov Khizhnaya Kofeya for coffee and books, Restaurant Kavkazsky Dvoruk if like me you love Caucasian food. I also spotted a halal stolovaya in front of the marshrutka bus station and overall the city is dotted with super nice places to eat various food.

If you have no time to go to Abrau Durso, you can still taste their wine in 1870 Abrau restaurant.

Places to visit

Novorossiysk is all about Soviet history and here are the best places to visit around the city :

  • The cruiser Mikhail Kutuzov was a Soviet then Russian navy’s cruiser and is now a naval museum. You’ll be stunned be its size ! A must-see when in the city. Official webite
  • Malaya Zemlya complex memorial. The massive concrete structure reprensents a ship landing Soviet soldiers. In 1943 a handfull of soldiers heroically defended the city from the Nazis. Hense the Soviet Hero City status.

    Inside the building you’ll find a gallery museum with plaques of soldiers’ names and Soviet patrioc songs playing.
  • Novorossiysk State Historical Museum-Reserve aka the museum of local lore is a great place to learn about the city’s past. During the Bosporus Kingdom’s time, which was an ancient Greco-Scythian kingdom, the city was called Bata. There are plenty of artifacts and archeological founds to discover in the museum.

    It’s also part of a tourist route project, The Bosporan Kingdom Golden Ring, a travel itinerary to discover the Kingdom’s historical cities spread between Crimea and the Kuban region. Learn more about the project on the official website.
  • The Heros’ alley is another Soviet memorial located in the park around Ploshchad’ Geroyev.
  • The central market is a great place for cheap yet fresh local veges and fruits. It’s located in the very city center, walk the park along Sovetov street to reach Lenin’s square on your way to the bus station.
  • Along the seaside promenade there’re plenty of old canons, statues, memorial of the unknown sailor and many others. Pleasant, green and very clean.
  • Across the water opposing the city, you’ll find the ruines of the Soviet palace of culture built in 1940-1941. It was bombed before it actually opens. Now the ruins have been left has a memorial. You’ll find a tank displayed nearby.
  • South of the city, in the village of Myskhako is the Dolina Smerti memorial aka the Death valley. It was an important location for the defense of the city. Leonid Brezhnev who took part of the Novorossiysk’s battle planted a tree there in the 70’s.
  • Abrau Durso’s winery. A day trip to the hidden gem village and lake of Abrau – Durso is a must-do. Hop on a 20 minutes marshurtka drive to drink Russia’s best sparkling wine by a beautiful clear water lake surrounded by vineyards.

I loved the city for a few reasons : the people are friendly and laid back, the fyord-like bay, it is way less touristy than the resort towns of Sochi, Tuapse, Gelenzhjik or Anapa along the Black Sea and it’s a Soviet city of historical importance.

There you have it, a complete travel guide to the Soviet hero city of Novorossiysk. Let me know in the comments if it’s on your Russia travel bucket list !

The Soviet Malaya Zemlya memorial in Novorossiysk in the south of Russia
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