Samara is a city defined by the vast Volga River, which has held a unique position in Russian culture for hundreds of years.
It's been depicted in some of the country's most famous paintings, like Ilya Repin's "Barge Haulers on the Volga." The Soviet Union's Lada cars were named after a type of Volga boat and built near Samara.
Fans may also be interested to know Samara is famous for its beer.
SEE: World Cup: What you need to know about one of Russia's host cities
The city hosts a game between Uruguay and Russia which could well decide the host nation's fate in the tournament.
Here's what you need to know about this World Cup host city.
Samara's 45 000-capacity stadium was tricky to build thanks to its complex domed roof, designed to evoke the majesty of space. As recently as February, the stadium didn't have a pitch installed, prompting a rebuke from FIFA. The arena finally opened on 28 April.
Allow plenty of time for travel on the buses running for fans, since the stadium is more than six kilometres outside the city centre.
An artist performs while waiting for football fans at the new the World Cup stadium in Samara, Russia. (Photo: AP/ Yuri Strelets)
WHAT TO KNOW
Samara is an industrial city perhaps best known for making the rockets used to send Russian cosmonauts into space.
During World War II the Soviet government was evacuated to Samara, then known as Kuibyshev after a Communist leader, when it looked like Moscow might fall into German hands.
WHAT TO DO
The wide Volga River dominates the city, and its long embankment is dotted with restaurants and cafes, as well as artificial beaches. The river's cold, though, and not especially clean.
Visitors can also take a boat trip up the river — perhaps with a buffet and drinks aboard — for several hours.
Among Russians, Samara is also known for its Zhigulyovskoye lager. It was the Soviet Union's most popular beer, best enjoyed with traditional Russian snacks like dried fish.
WHAT TO WATCH
Samara will host six matches, starting with the Group E game between Costa Rica and Serbia on 17 June.
Denmark will then take on Australia in Group C on 21 June, followed by a Group A match between Uruguay and host nation Russia on 25 June. On 28 June, Colombia plays Senegal in Group H.
There's a game in the last 16 on 2 July, potentially featuring Brazil, and a quarterfinal on 7 July.
Plan your trip to Russia
- Do SA residents need a visa: No - South African citizens travelling to Russia without the intention of working, studying or living in the country will be free from visa requirements and can enter, stay or transit without a visa for a duration of up to 90 days. Read more here.
- Currency & exchange rate: Russian Ruble – 1 Rand = about 4.99 Russian Ruble.
- Main airport: Sheremetyevo International Airport.
- Airlines that travel there: Aeroflot, British Airways, EgyptAir, KLM, Czech Airlines, Air France, Turkish Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Emirates, Qatar Airways, SWISS. Search for flights here.