Things to Do in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia
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Things to Do in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia

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Looking at the photo, which city comes to your mind? Probably a careless tourist would say it’s Moscow! Indeed, it bears some resemblance to Moscow city. Obviously, architects were inspired by the splendid buildings of the Russian capital.

Yoshkar-Ola is a distance of some 1000 kilometers from Moscow. It is the capital city of the Mari El Republic.

What’s special about this republic? Its large forests, deep rivers and quick-moving streams, also rich flora and fauna unspoiled by humans. The Volga River flows here, one of the largest rivers in the world and the longest in Europe.


Here in Mari Russian-Tartar fights took place during the Middle ages. When Russian tsar Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan in 1552, in order to protect the lands he began to construct fortress cities on the territory of what is now Mari El Republic.

Yoshkar-Ola was one of the fortress cities and was formerly known as Tsaryovokokshaysk.


Yoshkar-Ola at night

There are old buildings along with modern ones in Yoshkar-Ola.

About 20 years ago the construction of cultural “historic” sites and office buildings using Italian, old-Russian style and Danish design began.

Though the city has been the capital of the republic for 500 years, it’s not a big one. You can visit all the sites in a day or two just walking across it.

Places to spend the night

Perviy poezd
revizor hotel

The city can offer you many places to stay from hostels and mini hotels to luxury hotel complexes.

There is a nice hotel called ‘Evrica’ in the city center with excellent coffee, a sauna, a garden and a park.

On the embankment you can find a new hotel, the ‘Revizor’ which was built a year ago. It’s got some unique features, free WI-FI and spacious rooms. A polite staff will make your stay fantastic.

If you just got off a train or a bus, don’t worry, there is a hotel here too. ‘Perviy poezd’ welcomes you to spend a night here in clean, airy and light rooms, and play pool.

On the edge of the city there is an unconventional hotel in Loft-style. It is the only hotel in Yoshkar-Ola designed in this style. The ‘Michurin Klub’ meets high service standards like other hotels in the city.

evrika hotel
Michurin Klub Hotel

How to plan where to go in Yoshkar-Ola?

Look at this plan:

Begin with Patriarch square where the “12 Apostles” clock is situated. Stroll around the embankment with numerous monuments. You can easily observe the “city of replicas” from here. Then turn to Chavain boulevard and have a cup of coffee in a nearby café. Just a 10-minute walk from here there is a well-known sculpture named Yoshkin Cat. Don’t miss an opportunity to take a picture with the cat and make a wish. A Venetian building is just a stone’s throw from Yoshkin Cat. This building is the National Art Gallery, notable for a tower clock showing short theatre performances.

You’ll find many museums on your way, drop in at each one.

Ready. Steady. Go!

Patriarch square

Patriarch square offers panoramic views of Brugge embankment designed in Danish style. Buildings along the embankment are for ministries and agencies. In addition, this place is perfect for romantic rendezvous and photo shoots especially in the evening time when the illuminations are on.

Peter and Fevronia
Angel Gabriel
Alexander Pushkin and Eugene Onegin
His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II

The embankment is around a lake dammed by the Kokshaga river. You’ll find here the “city of replicas” and houses in Europe styles, Moscow Kremlin, St. Peterburg Church of the Savior on Blood and many fortresses. A great range of buildings are red and white, and quite surprising.

There are many monuments along the embankment you can take a picture with. Among them are monuments to Peter and Fevronia, a symbol of family and faithfulness; a monument to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, to Alexander Pushkin and Eugene Onegin and the Sculpture the Angel Gabriel and many others.

Yoshkin cat

Yoshkin cat

The most popular sculpture is dedicated to the hero of Russian idiom “Yoshkin cat”. The idiom became wide spread among people after a famous soviet movie “Love and Pigeons”. Since then the idiom has been used to express disappointment, surprise, confusion or other emotions.

Not only tourists find the Yoshkin cat an interesting place, even locals like it very much. According to a popular belief if you rub the paw of this lazy cat it will bring you luck this year.

“12 Apostles” Clock

“12 Apostles” Clock

Five times a day after the clock has struck you can observe a short performance on the balcony of an attractive building on Patriarch square. A figure of Christ on a donkey and 12 apostles following him (each figure is 150 centimeters high) slowly come out from the left and move to the right over 5 minutes. Judas with 30 pieces of silver in a bag closes the procession. Each figure is stunning and unique. You’ll enjoy watching the performance.

National Art Gallery

National Art Gallery

In the Venetian style National Art Gallery numerous exhibitions of both Russian and foreign artists are held here.

Every hour during a day in a tower clock you can see a short performance. A figure of donkey with an icon goes on his way from the left to the right accompanied by music and clock chimes.

In the Gallery on the opposite side there is Government building of the Republic of Mari El. Nearby you’ll find the beautiful Presidential Fountain – one of the biggest in the city.

Chavain boulevard

Chavain boulevard runs through the whole city to the Park of culture and recreation. Along your way you’ll see flowers and lawns, fountains and benches, and many trade spots. It’s a beloved place of locals. You can have a break here, eat an ice cream and buy some Mari souvenirs. On sunny days musicians perform concerts here.

There are different kinds of museums in Yoshkar-Ola, for example the Museum of the History of Yoshkar-Ola, National Museum of Republic of Mari El named after Timofey Evseyev, Memorial People’s Museum of the History of Gulag, National Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Applied Folks Arts, Museum of the History of the USSR. Tickets are affordable.

Most of the sites are concentrated in the city center, which helps you to visit all of them easily and in a short time.

After a long walk around the city it’s time to eat

You can choose among a wide variety of places to have a snack: National, Japanese, European cuisines, even fast food and cafés. In the ‘Sandal’ café in a cozy hall which resembles a wooden hut you’ll get to know Mari cuisine. Café Mari is known for Mari cuisine too. You’ll see the process of cooking pancakes, hear Mari music and have a good rest here. If you want just casual food with no experiments, Kamelot restaurant welcomes you. Fancy food, nice atmosphere and polite personnel are here at your service.


In addition to Yoshkar-Ola city in the Republic of Mari El there are other sites and attractions.

Sheremetev Castle

The Castle is a pearl of the Volga region. Its castellated towers and stained-glass windows make it look like a medieval building and attracts your attention. It was designed by German architect Rudolf Muller in Gothic Revival style with Gothic, Oriental, Roman and Old Russian elements.

General Skobelev’s office is a famous room in the castle. It has a rich collection of weapons. Another room is designed in Oriental style and bears resemblance to Persian style. It has colored marble columns brought from Italy, on the floor Arabic writings are depicted. Also there are an Art Gallery and the Oak room here. As a rule masters’ rooms were connected with each other by winding staircase.

The castle is situated near the river Volga and Vetluga by untouched forest of pine, oak and birch. These places always attracted Russian artists, writers and historians. The castle was visited by Vladimir Korolenko and Ivan Aivazovsky.

Now the castle is being renovated, part of it is a hotel complex. Living in a 19th century castle is something different and exceptional, each corner is connected with history. It’s worth visiting.

Museum personnel have worked out an amazing excursion program. There is a usual excursion as well as interactive around the main house, mansion, Archangel Church and woodland park.

The only drawback is the transportation. Only during summer you can come here by bus, but the timetable is not regular. In other seasons only a taxi can drive you here. The distance between Yoshkar-Ola and the castle is 200 km. and takes about 2-3 hours, therefore it would be better to find fellow travelers to share the price.

Kozmodemyansk town

Kozmodemyansk town

This town is located 150km. from Yoshkar-Ola on the bank of the Volga River. Historians concluded that this town was a prototype of town Vasuyka from “The Twelve Chairs” by Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov. Due to this fact Benderiada – a feast with the character Ostap Bender is held here annually. 

In addition there are 160 architectural monuments of 18th-19th centuries in the town. Also you can find here chapels, churches and merchants houses. A slow way of life here provides that kind of atmosphere presented many years ago.

Mariy Chodra” National park

“Mariy Chodra” National park

 “Mariy Chodra” National parkis one of the beautiful places in Russia, a pearl of Mari El. Its distinguishing features are pure lakes and springs, rivers, forests and animals. The park has an area of 365 square kilometers. There several routes to the park: from villages Shelanger, Krasnogorskiy, Ilet, Yalchevskiy and others. It’s easy to get to the villages, there are regular buses and trains.

If you want to stay overnight in the park reserve it can be easily arranged in the nearby town Kugu-Yer. You can choose either comfortable houses or for ardent travelers even a tent.

Several tours around the park are at your service: bus-walking tour, walking, horseback riding and water touring, all of which take you though the most stunning places. You’ll have an opportunity to get to know the history of the park and observe diverse species of animals and plants, lakes and sinkholes here. During the tour different views replace each other.

If you are tired of the hectic city, constant stress and polluted air, this place is the best solution to relax and surround yourself with nature.

In accordance with Federal Law N.33, visiting protecting areas is allowed only with permission. You can be issude a residence permit and pay for recreational services in the administration of the Mariy Chodra National Park at the Mari El Republic, Krasnoorskiy, Str. Central 73.

Pugachov’s Oak

This curious object is located in the Mariy Chodra National Park, be sure to make your way via the Oak. It is a major tree connected to the revolt which spread on the large territory of central part of Russian Empire 250 years ago led by the pretender Pugachev.

Legend says that Pugachev rested under this tree before storming Kazan, observing the road led to the city.

It is the biggest oak among others, it is a true giant. Its diameter is 159 centimeters, and height – 26 meters, and it is 500 years old.

Also it’s said that there are hidden treasures here, which were stolen by Pugachev from Kazan city. Don’t be surprised if you see some people looking for something here.

For your information there is an app “I’m here: Yoshkar-Ola” with places worth visiting and routes, unfortunately it is only in Russian, but soon it’ll be translated into other languages.

Nikolai Kuznetsov

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Things to Do in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia
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5 Responses

  1. Samantha says:

    Wow what an absolutely stunning place! I haven’t yet made it to Russia but it would be great to visit after reading your article 🙂

  2. Harini says:

    Both the reflections look extremely stunning,especially the one with the lights at the night.The yorkshire cat looks adorable and the food looks extremely delicious

  3. Twelve Chairs? There is a statue of one of the chairs in the centre of Odessa. There seems to be a craze for rubbing bits of statues in this part of the world too! Lovely looking city.

  4. Travel Lexx says:

    Ok, I’ve never even heard of this town! Looks like it would be an incredible region to visit without tourists crowding its squares and museum. Love the look of the national park and other trips in the region! Looks awesome!

  5. Shona says:

    I really need to get to Russia. Everywhere you take us with your articles feels like a new door has opened. The lakes in the national park and the food look awesome. I’ve pinned this for when I finally get to Russia! 🙂

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