Ironically enough, the city that excited me the most during my trip to Russia was neither St. Petersburg nor Moscow. Sure, I was really looking forward to seeing St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square with my own eyes and to wander around the exhibits in the Hermitage but there was something about the Tatars, a Turkic people that call parts of Russia home, that really piqued my interest.
Compared to the Orthodox Christian majority that define most of Russia, Tatarstan (a republic within the Russian Federation) has a Muslim majority. The result is a hodgepodge of cultures. You have Russian with a distinct Turkic blend and this is manifested in the bilingual signs and varied cuisine in Kazan, its capital.
As it is a bit out of the way relative to the typical Russian itinerary, most people don’t visit Tatarstan at all. But if you have a couple of extra days to spare, I wholeheartedly recommend taking the 1.5 hour or so flight to Kazan for a slice of Russia that you definitely don’t see in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Without further ado, here are the top things you can do in Kazan.