Born and raised in Volgograd, Vlad Yakunin founded Platforma 3/4 while reading journalism at a local university. Today, Platforma 3/4 is a go-to source for coverage of Volgograd's cultural landscape with local news and entertainment listings. Based in a spaceship-looking Ikra Space overlooking the broad expanse of the River Volga, Platforma 3/4 is also an in-house events venue which hosts talks, film screenings and language courses for locals. We asked Vlad to give us his insights on exploring his city and region, talked about similarities between Volgograd and Detroit, and discussed how the dark history of Volgograd shapes its present and future.
Travelling in Russia is like travelling back in time. Despite the crumbling Soviet heritage (living in Volgograd I know all about it), many Russian cities and towns have preserved beautiful historic centres with turn-of-the-century houses and narrow streets. And each city has its own unique growth trajectory which is interesting to watch. But it’s not just about history. Despite the economic crisis and poor development of private sector many new places with great vibes and local character pop up in various Russian cities and towns.
Sokolniki Park in Moscow and Olympic Park in Sochi. I’m a big fan of independent cafés so I would definitely recommend to stop by Scuratov Coffee near Kievskaya metro station in Moscow and Alaska Bar in Volgograd.
To Krasnodar. It’s a Southern Russian city with pleasant climate which seems to have lured away half of the population of Volgograd. And you can easily understand why. It’s a fast-developing city with beautiful parks which can rival the best parks of Moscow. It’s a pleasant place for lazy strolls with perfect spots by the lake to read a book.
I like Sochi. The main promenade has been revamped for the 2014 Olympic Games, along with a very long cycle lane which stretches from the city centre towards the mountains. Just imagine cycling along the sea coast for many kilometres? I absolutely love it.
I’m not a big fan of winter in Russia. It’s too cold for me. So I try to go outside as little as possible. But if I had to choose one place to go in winter I’d probably go skiing in Dombay.
I like its Southern provincialism. There’re no bustle or rush. The city is stretched along the Volga River so you can always find a spot at a summer terrace, sip your coffee and watch the main European river flow.
I’m inspired by local people. Seriously. Volgograd is a poor and provincial city with more than a million inhabitants which has never seen real happiness. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt from scratch in a grim industrial style of the communist ideology. If you’re looking for the communist capital of the world, it’s Volgograd. And despite everything there’re local enthusiasts who risk it all to change the situation, who set up festivals, concerts and open new places. This is truly fascinating.
Platforma 3/4 is an online-magazine about how not to leave Volgograd. If you remember what happened to Detroit, you can imagine that Volgograd has a similar destiny. This city needs development, and we’re trying to do that. We organise talks and language courses for our readers, set up festivals and write about cool projects in the city.
I like Mira Street. It was the first street to be rebuilt after the Battle of Stalingrad. It has great vibes because of its architecture. Sovetskaya Street has a similar story. These are small bits of European architecture in a proletarian city.
Taking the centre aside, I like Krasnooktyabrsky district. There’re many stately Stalinist buildings here unlike in the newer districts. You can really sense the old, historic city here.
Probably the Volga promenade. It’s one of the few places in town which was initially laid out for long strolls. It’s also a good place for cycling and roller skating.
Try espresso at So So Coffee by the planetarium. And grab flat white at Babetta on the corner of Lenin and Pushkin Streets.
Volgograd has many street food joints. I’d recommend going to the guys from Rob Roy.
Try the popular local buffet bar Shchastye Est or get a takeaway pancake at BlinBerry.
I like having lunch at Hungry on the Alley of Heroes. They serve delicious pizza made in an Italian wood-fired oven.
If you’re into craft beer you should definitely pop into Alaska Bar. And if you prefer classic cocktails you should go to Vedrov Bar.
Wine bars is a new thing for Volgograd. Among the wine-savvy places I’d recommend Villa Capri and Compania.
We don’t like spending a lot of money on posh restaurants so we’d probably opt for Beefy Burgers Café.
The promenade again. I suggest walking all the way to the bridge across Volga. The night illumination of this gigantic bridge reflected in the water make this place particularly romantic.
If you want to see the whole city go to Mamaev Kurgan. Don’t even hesitate, it’s the highest point in the city.
Oh, it’s a difficult one because I’m not a big fan of Russian cuisine. But the most famous place serving Russian food in Volgograd is Marusya.
If you’re looking for budget options go to Scotch hostel or Hostel Centre. For more expensive accommodation, there’s Yuzhny Hotel.
One of the main sights of Volgograd is the former German colony known as Old Sarepta. When German colonists moved in they transformed the whole area around them. Now it’s a cluster of over twenty 18-19th century buildings some of which were transformed into museums.
The full-fledged festivals have taken Volgograd pretty recently. Once again, thanks to the local groups of enthusiasts who don’t earn anything from it. There’s a charity fair Atmosphere and PeopleFest run by event agency Pushka. These are the places where you can get to know the up-and-coming local bands and representatives of the Volgograd creative community.
If you decide to venture out here, come in October. In winter, the temperatures drop to -10-12C and in summer it’s scorching hot. So autumn would be the best time to travel here.
Personally, I like the Mashkov Museum. It’s the only art museum in town which has interesting exhibitions by local and foreign artists. Also, I’d suggest going to Loft1890 space which occasionally runs exhibitions.
The only cycle lane in the city centre runs along the promenade, that’s where I cycle regularly. There’re also new cycle lanes on Mamaev Kurgan but I haven’t tried them out yet.
My favourite park is Volgograd-Baku Friendship Park. It used to be an old Soviet park which has been reconstructed and replanted a few years ago. There’re many gazebos, street food and coffee joints, lush lawns - a true luxury for Volgograd set in the middle of a barren steppe. Besides, it’s just a stone’s throw from the new stadium built for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
If you arrive to Volgograd by train, grab a coffee at CoffeeLine next to the train station, take a stroll along Mira Street and pop into So So Coffee for excellent espresso. Visit the planetarium, then walk all the way towards Loft1890 and order delicious freshly-brewed tea in Chinese Panda Tea. Check what’s on at Loft1890, they have many interesting events. After that, walk down towards the river to the Russia, My History multimedia museum. Then stroll along the promenade towards the Battle of Stalingrad Panorama Museum, and from there to the new stadium and to Mamaev Kurgan. If you’re staying for more than a day, catch a bus or a train to Old Sarepta and visit Lake Elton located in the Volgograd Region.
I love Salt Lake Elton. It’s the biggest lake in the Volgograd Region and the biggest mineral lake in Europe.
SO SO COFFEE
26 Mira St.
4 Alley of Heroes
2 Alley of Heroes
5 Alley of Heroes
17 Sovetskaya St.
VILLA CAPRI RESTAURANT
2A Komsomolskaya St.
ROB ROY STREET FOOD TRUCK
Alley of Heroes; 17 Sovetskaya St.
13 Lenin St.
9 Raboche-Krestyanskaya St.
CHINESE PANDA TEA
12 Lenin St.
9/1 Lenin St.
14 Donetskaya St.
18 Raboche-Krestyanskaya St.
5A 10th NKVD Division St.
54B Lenin Prospect
21 Lenin Prospect; 37 Chuykova St.
STALINGRAD PANORAMA MUSEUM
47 Сhuykova St.
14 Gagarina St.
10 Izobilnaya St.
RUSSIA. MY HISTORY MUSEUM
1B 62nd Army Embankment
Elton, Volgograd Region