Sochi On a BudgetLocated on the coast of the Black Sea, Sochi is one of the southernmost major cities in Russia. It is especially busy in the summer when native Russians and international visitors alike come to enjoy the mountainous coastline and sunny beaches. Sochi is also known as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, and many of the Olympic venues can still be visited today.
SightsAfter arriving in Adler District, the first thing that visitors see in Sochi is often the 2014 Sochi Olympic Park. Though most buildings are now vacant or repurposed, visitors can still appreciate the futuristic architecture of luxury sports buildings like Fisht Stadium which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the Adler Arena Skating Center, the Bolshoy Ice Dome, Iceberg Skating Palace, and Ice Cube Curling Center, amongst others. Also nearby is Sochi Park, which is much like a Russian Disneyland, but dedicated to the characters of Russian fairytales.
In addition to the Olympic attractions, Sochi also features many other monuments and historical landmarks. As far as architecture goes, there are plenty of Stalinist period Empire Style buildings as well as Stalin's Summer Residence which now houses a museum. Dating back centuries further, Sochi also has a few ancient sites such as Godlik fortress and Loo Temple. Other monuments around the city include art sculptures like the Anchor and Cannon from 1913, various war memorials, and the Singing Fountains, which operate on summer evenings.
Beyond the manmade structures, visitors also flock to the natural features of the area-the beaches along the Black Sea coastline as well as the mountains to the east. Many are located within Sochi National Park, including Mount Akhun, which is the highest point in Greater Sochi and offers panoramic views of the city. Other unique features include Yew and Boxtree woods (UNESCO), Vorontsovka Caves, waterfalls, and the Dagomys Tea-Party Houses where visitors can learn how tea is grown, collected, and manufactured.
NeighborhoodsSpread along the coastline of the Black Sea, Sochi is actually three times larger than Moscow geographically. Officially, Greater Sochi is divided into four administrative districts: Central Sochi District, Lazarevskoye District, Khosta District, and Adler District. Central Sochi, as expected, is the heart of the city-the most developed, the most populated, and the most attractions (especially for the summer tourists). Lazarevskoye is the largest and takes up much of the coastline, making it a hub for beach tourism. Khosta is a spa and beach vacation resort located to the southeast, and is closer to outdoor attractions, such as Mount Akhun. And finally, Adler is Sochi's transport hub where most visitors arrive. It is also the site of the venues from the 2014 Winter Olympics.
ActivitiesWhen in Sochi visitors enjoy exploring the Olympic Park, populating beachside resorts, and enjoying Sochi's nightlife. There are also many other venues for entertainment to accommodate all interests. For those seeking more information on the art, history, and culture of the area, Sochi has plenty of museums-Sochi Art Museum, Sochi History Museum, and Museum of Sochi Sport Honour, to name a few. For those who enjoy the peaceful solace of nature, there are plenty of city parks like the Riviera Park, which also hosts concerts and festivals, or the Dendrarium, which has a wide variety of tree species. There are even venues dedicated to wildlife like the Sochi Discovery World Aquarium and a Monkey Nursery Center.
Food and DiningThe local cuisine of Sochi is a little different from traditional Russian dishes, often with multicultural influences. One favorite of locals and visitors alike are shish kebabs-skewers of marinated meat usually served with onions, herbs, fresh vegetables, lavosh (a kind of flatbread), and red sauce. Also popular is the Georgian-style Solyanka soup, which is hot and spicy and made with meat, onions, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, and pepper. Similar to dumpling or ravioli, Sochi also has a meat-wrapped-in-dough specialty called khinkali. They are typically served with tomato sauce and tsakhton sauce (a white sauce based on sour cream, herbs, and garlic). Other specialties include khachapuri (cheese- and egg-filled bread boat), magnolia cheese balls (a common appetizer), seafood fished right from the Black Sea, wine made in the neighboring republic of Abkhazia, borscht (beet soup), and blini (Russian crepes).
TransportationThe major airport serving the city is Sochi International Airport, located in Adler district. Flight schedules often depend on the season, but there are usually regular international connections with Vienna through Austrian Airlines, Istanbul through Turkish Airlines, and Tel-Aviv through Donavia. Other regular connections include Yerevan, Armenia; Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Minsk, Belarus; Cishinau, Moldova; and Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The airport also offers plenty of domestic flights daily, including Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Transfers from the airport to town can be made via bus, taxi, or rail.
International travel to Sochi can also be made by train with two major rail terminals in Central Sochi and Adler, as well as by boat with many cruise ships and ferries arriving into port. Cruise ship travel typically allows for visitors to stay up to 72 hours on Russian territory without a visa.