Sochi city guide

Sochi gained international popularity thanks to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Truth is, it has always been a major destination for the Russians. It’s the country’s only large beach resort. Sochi is huge and there’s much more to it than rocky beaches. The climate in this region is unique. You can take a bath in the Black Sea or one of many pools, or hike in the mountains. The Eagle Rocks is an example of a trail with amazing views. There’s a sort of a monastery tower you can climb and watch Sochi from a different perspectives. They say the tower is haunted. The mountain area is a very mystical place. Some people believe that this is where Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock. The Dolmens are a particularly interesting thing around the coast of the Black Sea. They are eerie, stone structures that predate the Egyptian pyramids. They haven’t been researched much. No one knows what they’re supposed to be. Locals call them “the Dwarf Houses” because of the round holes in them. Definitely they are not big enough for a human being to fit in. I think Dolmens are shrines to some obscure pre-Christian gods. Either way, people are actively looking for them. Some say they replenish their “spiritual energy”.

Statue of Neptune with pigeons on his crown at a Sochi beach against backdrop of Black Sea

The statue of Neptune at the beach in Sochi is immensly popular with tourists, sitting to the backdrop of the Black Sea it is without doubts Sochi's most photographed sculpture

There’s so much variety and beautiful nature here. The mountainous Sochi and the seaside part are like black and white: completely different cities. It’s the most amazing ski resort during winter with over 25 km of tracks. Other activities like paragliding and rope parks are quite popular. They also offer some of the best hotels and spas in the region. Meeting Russian celebrities is very much possible in Sochi, if you know any. The seaside resembles something between Monte Carlo and Jersey Shore. Beaches are probably not what you’re expecting. The coastline here stretches over 150 kilometres and it’s stunning. The only thing I strongly disagree with are private beaches next to hotels. I think it’s bullshit that you can’t access those unless you’re a guest or paid for a pass. I know that it’s a standard approach in many resorts, but it doesn’t sit right with me. Beaches between Sochi and Adler to the south are free. They’re not as crowded either and hawkers won’t bother you. The downside is that they’re so rocky. Sunbathing on a mountain of pebbles is pretty uncomfortable. The beaches of Dagomys, north from central Sochi are a bit sandier. Some of them are private but the main one is open to the public.

 Mountainslopes in Rosa Khutor Alpine resort in Sochi

Rosa Khutor is a year-round mountain resort in the southern region of Sochi; considered by many the best ski resort in Russia; during the Olympic Games in 2014 its steep slopes were the setting of 30 sets of medals in alpine skiing and snowboarding

The Riviera Park is what reminds of Jersey Shore. It’s a bit of everything: a boardwalk, an oceanarium, and a botanical garden. People enjoy hanging out there, playing sports or working out. On the beach you will also find street workout equipment, which became quite popular in the past few years and are also a pretty common sight at many beaches in Europe nowadays. There’s even an amusement park with vintage rides. You should check the Sochi Park if that’s something you’re into. People call it the Russian Disneyland, but it’s more like budget Disneyland. They have all the cool rides, a dolphinarium, and all that stuff. But there is no distinct theme to it and lacks that elusive “something”. Experience the Monte Carlo of Sochi in the yacht marina right beside the Riviera Beach. Many of those boats are the pride and joy of Russian multi-millionaires. All the supercars in that parking lot also leave a lasting impression.

The Olympic Village is a cool place to explore. You know how those mostly become ghost towns when the events are over? They took it to another level in Sochi. There’s a cemetery dating back to 1915 next to the skating palace. Imagine coaches motivating their trainees: “See those graves? This is where you’ll end if you keep f***ing around!”. Jokes aside, I like the fact that it’s still a lively part of the city. They even have a functional Formula One racing track. Visit the Winter Theatre if high culture events are your cup of tea. Experience famous Russian ballet, or goose bumps-inducing opera performances. You might not be able to buy tickets in season, but there’s a cool bar in the basement. They brew some amazing beer there and serve it with fried dark bread. I know it doesn’t sound that great, but fried bread is the bomb. The added benefit is that you can listen to what’s happening upstairs. Sochi is the most expensive city in Russia; you do what you gotta do for free entertainment.

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