Nizhny Novgorod (Нижний Новгород) is often called the third capital of Russia (even though the same title is contested by a few other Russian cities); based on the number of citizens it is the fifth largest city in Russia. It was founded in 1221 and for a long time it was one of the main commercial centers in the country thanks to the large fair that was held here. The city even earned the title “The Pocket of Russia” that is still in use nowadays.
Today, Nizhny Novgorod is a large commercial, industrial and cultural center in Russia, attracting annually many tourists who come to explore unique historical, architectural and cultural monuments, including the Kremlin. In total, the city boasts over 600 of such historical monuments, thus, UNESCO included Nizhny Novgorod in the list of 100 world cities, that represent significant value in the global history and culture.
Additionally, a great location – the city is built upon the conflux of two great rivers (the Oka and the Volga) gives the city a distinctive charm.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Nizhniy Novgorod?
Geographically, Nizhny Novgorod is divided into 8 districts: Nizhegorodsky, Prioksky, Sovetsky, Avtozavodsky, Kanavinsky, Leninsky, Moscovsky and Sormovsky. But that is not the only separation of the city. The Oka River divides the city into two parts – the Upper City located on the Dyatlov Hills, and the Lower City. Most of tourist attractions are located in the upper part of the city, and the lower part of the city includes mostly residential areas and the territory of manufacturing facilities. There is a good transport connection between two parts of the city but I would still recommend to pick an accommodation in the upper part of Nizhny Novgorod (Nizhegorodsky – the central city district, Prioksky or Sovetsky Districts). If you can’t book a hotel or a hostel in these districts, you can choose accommodation on the other side of the Oka river, but it is recommended to stay closer to the center or to the metro line (unfortunately, the metro covers only a small part of the city).
The districts that you should consider when choosing a hotel in Nizhny Novgorod include:
- Historical downtown – The Kremlin with its inexpugnable walls and solid towers, the Chkalov Staircase, embankments, the pedestrian Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Street, Rozhdestvenskaya Street with Stroganov (Rozhdestvenskaya) Church.
- The district of Nizhny Novgorod Fair and Strelka (The Arrow) – a historical building of Nizhny Novgorod Fair, Alexander Nevsky and Savior (Old Fair) Cathedrals, picturesque views of the Oka and the Volga rivers.
- The district of the railway station – this district is located close to the Fair but is not really historically remarkable, here you will find a number of malls, clothing and food market and supermarkets.
Nizhny Novgorod City Center
The historical center of Nizhny Novgorod is a large territory (approx. 255 ha.) that is bordering on the Kremlin, two embankments, and Lyadova, Svobody, and Sennaya Squares.
The Kremlin (Кремль) is the main city attraction. That is where most of tourists start their journey in the city. Different historical periods are closely intertwined here – the Middle Ages when the Kremlin was used for its intended purpose as a defensive fortress, as well as the period of the Great Patriotic War (WWII) the tales of which we can see in the permanent display of military equipment on the territory of the Kremlin and the memorial Eternal Flame that honors the city’s citizens killed during the war.
Here you will also find a small but cozy Michael the Archangel Cathedral, plus the Kremlin overlooks the Volga river and the views from here are magnificent.
The main tourist attractions are concentrated close to the Kremlin. This includes the Chkalov Staircase with the pilot Valery Chkalov monument and the pedestrian Bolshaya Pokrovskaya street (Большая Покровская) with numerous shops, souvenir stands, restaurants, cafes, theatres and architectural monuments. The historical atmosphere of the 18th-19th centuries changes here into the crazy rhythm of the 21st century without creating any cognitive dissonance for casual bystanders.
If you want to dive deep into this atmosphere, choose a hotel in the near proximity to the Kremlin and Pokrovka (that’s what locals call Bolshaya Pokrovskaya street). Besides, staying in this part of the city will help you save time and money for transport. And if you keep in mind, that usually people come to Nizhny Novgorod just for a weekend, then you will see that time is indeed priceless.
In this district I can recommend the following hotels: Azimuth, located on the Oka embankment, Courtyard by Marriott Nizhny Novgorod City Center right in the heart of the city, hotel ibis near the Gorky Square, a 5-minute walk away from Pokrovkа, and business hotel Diplomat just 10 minutes away from the Kremlin. If your budget is limited, you can pick one of the great hostels – there are more and more of them each year. For example, Berry-Hostel where rooms boast great views over the Kremlin, or hostels Smile and Gorky, located on the Pokrovka within an easy reach from the Kremlin.
Hotels in the Area near the Nizhny Novgorod Fair and the Strelka (The Arrow)
It has already been said that Nizhny Novgorod was a large commercial center of Russia thanks to Nizhny Novgorod Fair (Нижегородская ярмарка) that used to be the largest trade fair in the country in the 19th century.
The Main Fair House is one of few buildings that belonged to the original architectural ensemble built in the first half of the 19th century. The second building that survived over the years is Spassky (Old Fair) Cathedral, located just five minutes away from the Fair House. The rest of the territory is occupied by modern exhibition halls, most of which were supposed to be temporary but it looks like there is really nothing more permanent than something temporary. Unfortunately, the general impression of the Fair is almost ruined by these halls but the great views over the Strelka (Стрелка) make up for it. The Strelka, or the Arrow, is the confluence of the Oka and the Volga rivers that looks a lot like an arrow which gave this area its original name (Strelka (Стрелка) means Arrow in Russian). Besides, you will find one more church – the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral within an easy reach from here.
An advantage of this district is its proximity to the historical downtown. To get to the upper part of the city you only need to cross the bridge and walk a little, and if you don’t feel like walking, you can take a bus – it will take you just a couple of stops to reach the city center. You will find that all the main sights are still pretty close but at the same time you are a little away from all the hustle and bustle of the city center. This district is also a good option for those who want to take part in one of the exhibitions and/or conferences held at the Nizhny Novgorod Fair.
The closest hotel here is located just 5 minutes away from the Main Fair House – the Marins Park Hotel with amazing views over the Oka river. Other good options in the area are Shinel Hotel and Titul Hotel.
Nizhny Novgorod Railway Station
The railway station in Nizhny Novgorod used to be named Moskovsky Station up until recently. This name is still very much alive among locals, even though the official name of the station is Nizhny Novgorod Station now (but the metro station is still officially named "Moskovskaya" – "Московская"). This district is always crowded, in addition to the station you will find here a number of malls, markets and small shops.
Geographically, this district is bordering on the Strelka district – they are just one bus stop (or a 20-minute walk) apart. And you can reach the historical downtown (Gorky Square – пл. Горького) by metro in just 5-10 minutes (also just one stop).
In general, it is not that easy to separate this district from the previous one, but for some tourists it might be important to stay near the railway station or be able to get to the center by metro and not by bus. I must say that you will also be able to save a lot of time, especially if you take into account huge traffic jams on the bridges over the Oka river in the morning and in the evening on working days (there are no traffic jams on weekends).
I don’t think there are any decent hotels in this district, unfortunately, but hostels here are pretty impressive – they offer a very good price/quality ratio. I recommend to take a closer look at such hostels as Bugrov and Kanavinsky. And if the idea of a shared bathroom and neighbors in the room does not make you very happy, you can consider staying in the Hotel Nikol that is just 5 minutes away (by bus or car ride) from the railway station with a metro station nearby. This district is quieter than the area in the near proximity of the railway station. For example, if you choose to stay in hostels, be ready to noisy nights. I would only recommend staying in hostels here if you want to save a lot on accommodation, or if you are very low maintenance. Hostels are definitely not for everyone.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hotel in Nizhniy Novgorod
Nizhny Novgorod is a relatively large and well-known city with amazing architectural and cultural heritage, but despite that it is not on the top destinations list for most tourists – this explains why there are not many hotels in the city. In the recent years the number of accommodation options increased but it is mainly mini-hotels and hostels. There are plans to open new hotels for the FIFA World Cup in 2018. But at the moment, tourists have to choose from what’s available. To be honest, the options aren’t too bad. There are hotels in each city district for any taste and budget.
The main rule is to stay closer to the city center. There are some good budget-friendly options on Bolshaya Pokrovskaya street (Pokrovka). This will allow you to save time and see all the main tourist attractions, exploring this charming city with its rich history on foot.