From 1932 to 1990 the city was known as Gorky (Го́рький), after the writer Maxim Gorky. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the old name was restored.
The city was founded by Grand Duke George II of Russia in 1221 at the confluence of two most important rivers of his principality, the Volga and the Oka. Its name literally means Newtown the Lower, to distinguish it from the older Novgorod. A major stronghold for border protection, Nizhny Novgorod fortress took advantage of a natural moat formed by the two rivers.
Along with Moscow and Tver, Nizhny Novgorod was among several newly-founded towns that escaped Mongol devastation on account of its insignificance and grew up into important centers of Russian political life during the period of Tatar yoke. For a short period of time it was the capital of the Suzdal Principality and competed with Moscow for the power in the region. However the competition with Moscow was lost and in 1392 the city was incorporated into Muscovy. Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin was built in 1508-1511 (under supervision of the Italian fortress engineers) and became one of the strongest Russian citadels. There is a legend saying that the project was initially developed with participation of Leonardo da Vinci. However there is no documented proof of Leonardo's work for that project, the only thing the legend is based on is the striking resemblance of Leonardo's sketches and the actual kremlin schemes. The fortress was strong enough to withstand Tatar sieges in 1520 and 1536.
In 1612, the so-called national militia, gathered by a local merchant Kuzma Minin and commanded by Knyaz Dmitry Pozharsky expelled the Polish troops from Moscow, thus putting an end to the Time of Troubles and establishing the rule of the Romanov dynasty.
In 1817, the Makaryev Monastery Fair, one of the liveliest in the world the 16th-18th centuries, was transferred to Nizhny Novgorod, which thereupon started to attract numerous visitors and by the mid-19th century it turned Nizhny Novgorod into trade capital of the Russian Empire.
Under the Soviet rules the trade connections of the city were abandoned and Nizhny Novgorod turned to become an important industrial centre instead. During the communist time the city was closed to foreigners to safeguard the security of Soviet military research. The physicist and the Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov was exiled there during 1980-1986 to limit his contacts with foreigners.
The climate in the region is humid continental and it is similar to the climate in Moscow, although colder in winter, which lasts from late November until late March with a permanent snow cover.
The city is divided by the river Oka into two major parts: the Upper city (Nagornaya chast) on the hilly right side and the Lower city (Nizhnyaya or Zarechnaya chast — what literally means "the part over the river") on the left bank of the river. The Upper city is the old historical part of Nizhny Novgorod, whereas the Lower city is larger, newer and consists of more industrial districts.
The Upper city is administratively divided into three districts (rayons):
The districts of the Lower city:
The train station in Nizhny Novgorod is located in the northern part of the city centre, near the Metromost Bridge. It is reachable via the metro. The main hall of the train station is beautiful and includes a chandelier as well as soviet-style mosaics symbolizing the life of Russian people.
See also: Trans-Siberian Railway
All Trans-Siberian trains stop at Nizhny Novgorod.
When searching timetables and fares on the RZD website, enter "Nizhniy Novgorod" as the station for Nizhny Novgorod.
There are several options for train travel to/from Moscow including high speed Sapsan trains (3.5 hours, RUB1,200-1,700) and slower late night trains (7 hours, from RUB700). Trains are generally cheaper if purchased in advance. Most trains to/from Moscow arrive to/depart from Moscow's Kursky or Yaroslavsky train stations.
There are 2 daily overnight trains to/from Saint Petersburg (15-16 hours, from RUB900).
There are also direct train connections with Vladimir, Dzerzhinsk, Kazan, Samara, Kirov (6-7 hours, from RUB550), Yaroslavl (9 hours, from RUB450), Kungur (16 hours, from RUB1,200), Yekaterinburg, (20 hours, from RUB1,400), Novosibirsk (40 hours, from RUB2,500), Irkutsk (69 hours, RUB10,000), Astrakhan, Simferopol, Novorossiysk (52 hours, from RUB1,900), Vladivostok, Beijing, Ulaanbaatar, and many other cities. Suburban commuter trains connect Nizhny Novgorod with towns within 200km of the city.
Strigino Airport, (IATA: GOJ), +7 800 100-03-33, also known as Nizhny Novgorod International Airport, is 20km southwest of the city centre. The airport serves over 1.2 million passengers per year. There are regular flights to many major Russian cities including Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Samara, Surgut, and Yekaterinburg, as well as international flights to Tashkent, Yerevan, Osh, Prague, Dushanbe, and Dubai. In addition, Dexter Air Taxi operates flights on small planes to nearby cities in Russia such as Kirov and Perm.
The airport is connected to the city by public transport including buses 11, 20, T-29, T-46. The journey by public transport to the city centre takes approximately 1 hour. A taxi ride takes around 30 minutes and should cost under RUB1,000 if negotiated in advance.
Nizhny Novgorod is situated on the M7/E30 road. The road is in decent condition, although with traffic it can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to drive to/from Moscow.
There are several stops for buses arriving in Nizhny Novgorod; however, departing buses leave from either Kanavinskaya bus station, near the railroad station, for buses going to points north and west, and the main bus station (Avtovokzal) near pl. Lyadova, for the buses going to points south and east.
Buses are generally uncomfortable and slower than the trains.
The city centre is compact and walkable. However, there are many inclines or steps from the river banks. The bridges are not pedestrian friendly since the sidewalk is very narrow and cars drive extremely fast close to the pedestrians.
If visiting in winter take care walking around the city; people are hospitalized every year after slipping on the ice. Many pavements slope down to the roads, so when crossing take extra care not to slide into the road when cars are passing. Also be aware of snow and ice falling from the roof-tops. At the start of winter and towards the end of winter (although sometimes in the middle if temperatures rise) large chunks of ice can snap off the buildings' gutters and come crashing down into the street. Similarly avalanches of snow, built up over the winter, can come loose and entire roof loads of snow have been known to come hurtling down to the street below; this can cause serious injury.
Via public transport
There is a network of trams, trolleybuses, buses, marshrutkas and a 2-line metro system. Google maps can be used for directions via public transport.
The fare on public transport is RUB20 per ride and operating hours are generally 05:15am to midnight.
On surface public transport (trams, trolleybuses, buses and marshrutkas) you are expected to pay within one stop after you enter, the fare is fixed for one ride. A konductor who will come to you, take money and issue a ticket; if there is no konductor, you should pay directly to the driver. Both the driver and konductor will give change if needed, although notes of RUB1,000 and larger are sometimes denied. It is best to have exact change ready.
Marshrutkas do not stop at every stop. To indicate your intention to exit a marshrutka, press a button and to indicate your intention to enter a marshrutka en-route, you need to wave your hand.
The metro consists of 2 lines and 14 stations, with more stations planned in the future. The system was designed during Soviet times and stops are located near factories and industrial areas. However, the demographics have shifted and as a result, the metro is not as useful as it once was and surface transport is more popular and more crowded. The metro system uses tokens that can be purchased in the stations. The 2 lines intersect at Moscovskaya Metro Station. This is the only metro station in the ex-USSR with 4 adjacent tracks.
Nizhny Novgorod does not have any bicycle infrastructure such as bike lanes or parking and cycling is prohibited within the Kremlin and on part of Malaya Pokrovskaya Street. However, many locals still travel by bicycle.
The upper city is very hilly and full of steep inclines and even many locals will get off their bicycles and push their bikes up the hill by foot. Drivers can be reckless and pose a danger to cyclists. The roads can also be icy during the winter.
Note that the walks on the Kremlin's wall are cariied out from 1, May to 1, October.
Take a ride on the new cable-car from Nizhny to Bor on the other side of the river. The station is a bit hard to find, but if you walk along the Volga eastwards you can see the cables spanning the river. Just walk along the bank and you will find the station hidden behind some newly constructed building.
Cross the river and ejoy the great view. There is not much to do in Bor, except for if you like Russian suburban tristesse. One ride is 90 Rubles.
There are 4 centrally-located McDonald's restaurants in Nizhny Novgorod.
All hotels and hostels offer free WiFi and many have computer terminals. Almost all accept credit cards. Hotels and hostels will usually provide a visa invitation and registration for an additional fee.
For information on purchasing a SIM card in Russia, see Russia#Contact
There are payphones in the streets; however, you can only buy phone-cards in the post offices and in a few newspaper kiosks.
Free WiFi is available in most hotels, shopping malls, university buildings, restaurants and cafes, the airport as well as several metro stations. There is also free public WiFi on B. Pokrovskaya street.