Five-Minute Fan Guide to FIFA World Cup 2018 in St. Petersburg
“Next station: Nevsky Prospect, FIFA Fan Fest,” says an announcer in plain English in St. Petersburg metro. From bilingual tram conductors to a bar that spans the length of a shopping mall to free shuttles, St. Petersburg is all set to host the matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia that kicks off today. Whether you’re a football fan or just want to participate in the festivities, here’s how to have the most fun.
Where to watch
Lucky ticket holders will get their adrenaline pumping at the new Saint Petersburg Stadium that looks like a spacecraft has landed on Krestovsky Island. But even without a ticket, you can feel the rush at FIFA Fan Fest on Konyushennaya Square, a five-minute walk from Nevsky Prospect. It features large screens with live action, food, games, and concerts by local bands.
If that’s too far to walk, head to the Fan House at Gostiny Dvor, a historic mall on Nevsky. Cheers are on tap at the 100 Yards gastropub – the longest bar in Europe that runs the length of the entire second floor. It’s open air, it overlooks the main street, it’s close to everything, it’s loud and rowdy. The Fan House also features a football museum on hand showcasing historic uniforms and memorabilia. What more can you ask for?
For a more refined experience, check out New Holland, a beautiful urban space, where the games will be shown on large screens and on-site restaurants will offer munchies and brews.
"I'm looking forward to the festive atmosphere, the coming together of people from all over the world to appreciate the world game, to watching some good football and to experience the sights and sounds of Russia. I expect it to be awesome!" - Leon Mauger, Australia
How to get there
Fan IDs grant ticket holders free access to public transport on game days. They can also use free shuttle buses from several metro stations, including Ploshchad Vosstaniya, Petrogradskaya, and Vyborgskaya. Or you can walk from Krestovsky Ostrov and Novokrestovskaya metro stations. Taking a selfie in the beautiful St. Petersburg metro might just be worth the trip.
Fast trams (number 19, 48 and 48A) with Wi-Fi and bilingual conductors that sell tickets and answer questions in English will get you to the stadium from Chernaya Rechka and Staraya Derevnya metro stations in under 20 minutes.
Uber and Yandex.Taxi offer reliable services if you need a ride from the airport at 2 am. Make sure you have these apps downloaded on your phone beforehand and avoid catching taxis on the street, or taxi drivers waiting in the airport arrivals.
Keep in mind
If you’re a ticket holder, always carry your Fan ID and passport. Security is tight at the stadium, so don’t bring large backpacks, as lockers are available but limited. Plan for at least an hour to get to your seat. Don’t try to smuggle in alcohol. Also, keep in mind that open consumption of alcohol is prohibited in St. Petersburg. Just sayin’!
"I’m not quite sure what to expect as there’s been a bit of negative media here in the lead up but thinking security will be high and everything will be fine. I’m looking forward to the atmosphere of a big event." - Jane Agnew, UK
While you’re here
St. Petersburg is often called Northern Venice, so take a cruise along the rivers and canals and watch the bridges go up at night. Your first choice might be famous sites such as the State Hermitage and Peter and Paul’s Fortress, but you might also enjoy small cultural gems, especially considering that they’re offering discounts with Fan ID.
With many restaurants and bars hosting viewing parties, it’s a great time to try some traditional Russian dishes, like “herring under the fur coat,” blinis with caviar, and honey cake.
From festivals to fountain shows, there’s never a shortage of events and activities to attend here. Check out our Weekend Guide for when you’re here.
"I’m expecting to be surprised! As an American, I imagine what we hear in the news about Russia will have little to do with our experience. Hoping to encounter warm and friendly people and make genuine connections. Looking forward to learning about the history and present reality of Russia, and of course, to see some great matches and possibly eat some good food!" - Garrison Turner, USA
Where to buy gifts
St. Petersburg is brimming with the World Cup souvenirs but the cheapest places to buy them are not the tourist traps but local grocery and supermarket chains, such as Dixie and Lenta. The same branded merchandise will cost you a fraction of the price and you can also stock up on traditional Russian souvenirs and unique food gifts.
And don’t forget to buy baby wipes. They take that face paint right off but only after you scream your heart out Goooaaal!!!