Nizhny Novgorod (Russian: Ни́жний Но́вгород), colloquially shortened to Nizhny, is Russia's fifth largest city, ranking after Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg. It had a population in 2005 of 1,297,600. It is the economic and cultural center of the vast Volga economic region, and also the administrative center of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and Volga Federal District.
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 - 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 Makariev 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 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:
Trains are probably the best and the most convenient way to get to Nizhny Novgorod. Most of the Trans-Siberian trains (including the legendary train No.1 between Moscow and Vladivostok and the train from Moscow to Beijing) pass via Nizhny Novgorod.
Note: In train timetables the old name of the city, "Gorky(Горький)", is still used as the destination name instead of Nizhny Novgorod.
By train from Moscow:
The fastest option is to take Burevestnik express which commutes between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod twice per day (departure from Moscow's Kursky station at 1400 and at 1655). It will take around 4 and a half hours to get Moskovsky station in Nizhny. There are also comfortable overnight trains departing from Moscow's Kazansky station at 2225 and from Kursky station at 2340. Of course it is possible to use other trains going eastward departing from various Moscow's stations.
By train from Saint Petersburg: the night train "Volga" departs everyday at 1732 and arrives to NN at 0850 next morning.
There are also direct train connections with Kazan, Samara, Kirov, Yaroslavl and other cities of the region (there are mainly night trains). As well as with Vladivostok, Beijing, Ulaanbaatar, Irkutsk, Astrakhan, Simferopol, Novorossiysk and many others.
The international airport of Nizhny Novgorod (GOJ) is situated in Strigino district what is about 30-40 minutes by taxi from city centre (if there are no traffic jams). The airport is very small. There are several daily flights to Moscow, also there are connections with Saint Petersburg, Baku (Azerbaijan), Frankfurt (Germany), Kaliningrad, Novosibirsk, Surgut, Vienna (Austria), Yekaterinburg and Yerevan (Armenia). Most of the flights are operated by the Russian airlines, but there are also regular flights by Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines.
You can get to the airport by bus number 111 (but from Avtozavod district only) or by taxi (normal price from city centre will be around 700 roubles - appr. 30 USD).
Nizhny Novgorod is situated on M7/E30 road. The road is quite ok and it usually takes about 4 hours to get to Nizhny from Moscow. However the traffic jams in the suburbs of Moscow can make the way longer. The story about speed regimes and the road police will follow soon ...
There are regular bus connections with Moscow (from Kanavinskaya station in Nizhny to metro Schelkovskaya in Moscow) but the buses are very slow (it can take up to 10 hours) and uncomfortable. Also there are buses to Chuvashia, Mari El, and Mordovia (from Lyadova station).
The Kremlin is worth a wander around and contains a church, war monument with eternal flame, a reasonable art museum and impressive views along the Volga River.
If you are planning to spend in Russia more than several days and you are going to communicate with your Russian colleagues by mobile (and send SMS to your home country) it would be reasonable not to spend on roaming and to buy a local SIM-card. There are five GSM networks in the city: three major Russian mobile networks ("big three": MTS, Beeline and Megafon), Tele 2 and NSS (HCC). Also there is a network working in AMPS/DAMPS standard and there was one in NMT-450 (not sure if it's still there). The prepaid tariffs are more or less the same in all GSM networks. A SIM-card can be purchased in numerous shops, kiosks, and special salons. Usually it costs you just to pay some 3 or 4$ for your future calls.
However if you come to Nizhny Novgorod with a SIM-card bought in Moscow or Saint Petersburg be aware that you will be charged higher prices for your calls since providers consider this as inner-Russian roaming (basically the country is divided in several huge roaming zones). Mobile numbers registered in Nizhny Novgorod are of the Volga region zone.
There are payphones in the streets however you can buy phonecards only in the post-offices and in few newspaper kiosks.
There are several wi-fi spots for free internet access in the city. For example, there is wi-fi coverage in the cafe at KARO cinema on the top floor of "Shokolad" (Chocolade) shopping-mall in Belinsky Str.
In the Upper city (Nagornaya chast'):
In the lower city (Zarechnaya chast'):