Matches: Group Stage x 4
Flight Time From Moscow: 1h 45m
Stadium: volgograd Arena
Local Team: FC ROTOR VOLGOGRAD
Fun Fact: The Mamayev Kurgan monument is twice as tall as Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
Volgograd’s defining feature is the Motherland Calls monument that overlooks the city, the River Volga, and the new Volgograd Arena. The stadium will hold 45,000 spectators, slightly more than will squeeze into the Fan Zone on the banks of the river nearby.
During World War II, Volgograd, then called Stalingrad, suffered heavy losses. The city was all but destroyed as millions of citizens and military personnel died during the Battle of Stalingrad, from 1941 to 1942, and those who died are remembered throughout the city.
Down by the river, bars and restaurants bathe in the evening sun, not far from a small park full of flowers and statues. Throughout the day, but particularly in the evenings, little bugs and midges gather near the water, meaning that insect repellent is a must.
The local team, FC Rotor Volgograd was a force to be reckoned with in the 90s, regularly featuring in the UEFA Cup, but financial difficulties led to a decline, from which the club is only just recovering. They have just been promoted to the Russian Second Division and will be hoping that strong local support in 2018 and a move to the new stadium will be the catalyst for them to return to prominence.
The Motherland Calls is the central piece in this memorial jigsaw, an evocative monument, taller than the Statue of Liberty, that summons the rest of the country to stand up and fight against the Nazi invasion. An eternal flame burns in a lasting tribute to those who died.
Nowadays, Volgograd is a Soviet-style city, full of wide boulevards and grand, Stalinist architecture. The city is long, narrow and not particularly big. Fans can jump on and off the tram to nip between the stadium and the city centre.