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World Cup venues


Fire up the route planner, dust off the travel guide and do a Google translate for: “What’s the cheapest room you have please?”

England have been drawn in Group G for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

They’ll face Belgium, Panama and Tunisia.

We also know the venues for the first three games in June – and fans are going to need to do a lot of travelling if they want to be there every step of the way.

Fifa already has it’s own guide for supporters – but Newsbeat decided to compare what Fifa says about each place, with some expert independent advice from travel company Lonely Planet.

And there are a few differences.

Volgograd

England v Tunisia, Monday 18 June

Population: 1m

Distance to Moscow: 584 miles (941km)

What a difference 60-odd years makes. Formerly known as Stalingrad, it saw “some of the heaviest battles during World War Two”.

But now, according to Fifa, it’s “a big centre for ecotourism”.

“Lakes make up 30% of the area’s park territory and count over 200 species of birds.”

Fans may not have time to spot them all

Expert says: It’s difficult to ignore Volgograd’s WWII past – there are memorials on every corner.

This is probably one of the quieter host cities. That said, it has some of the region’s best hotels, from moderately priced chains to the Soviet-era luxury of marble pillars and shiny chandeliers at the Hotel Intourist.

Must see sight – the Mamaev Kurgan hilltop complex, complete with 72m-high statue of Mother Russia

Nizhny Novgorod

England v Panama, 24 June

Nizhny Novgorod

Population: 1.2m

Distance to Moscow: 264 miles (425km)

Distance from previous venue: 613 miles (987km)

If you like a watchtower, you’re in luck. Nizhny Novgorod apparently has 13 of them, as well as a “2km brick fortress wall”.

According to Fifa, the city “is beautifully situated on the hills overlooking the Volga River” and the fortress offers “a breathtaking view of the city and its waterfront.”

Nizhny Novgorod is one of a hundred world cities included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Expert says: While it would likely go unnoticed by most travellers if not for its arresting hilltop kremlin (fortress inside a city), this pretty city is more welcoming than its recent history as a place of exile for Russian dissidents (and closed to foreigners) might suggest.

There are some interesting museums, excellent restaurants and friendly hotels, but the good transport links to Moscow might make this better for a short excursion than a World Cup base.

Must see sight – the spectacular Kremlin, one of Russia’s finest.

Kaliningrad

England v Belgium, 28 June

Kaliningrad

Population: 459,000

Distance to Moscow: 767 miles (1235km)

Distance from previous venue: 1046 miles (1684km)

Any self-respecting Russian historian can tell you (by looking at the Fifa guide) that Kaliningrad was “founded in the 13th century by knights of the Teutonic Order”.

Whatever your football philosophy – long ball or tiki tika – this is the place to have deep thoughts. The philosopher Immanuel Kant lived here – as did the the composer Richard Wagner.

You also can’t move for amber. Apparently, “90% of the world’s amber deposits are located here”. Although no-one’s quite sure what you do with amber.

Expert says: This might be one of the most traveller friendly World Cup host cities.

Kaliningrad is well served with midrange and top-end hotels, but is also experiencing a hostel mini-boom, meaning there should be plenty of affordable places to stay for football fans.

There are also a surprising number of anti-cafes, Russian social hangouts where you pay for your time and nothing else – ideal for travellers who can grab sweet snacks, hot drinks and access to wi-fi.

Must see sight – Kalingrad Cathedral dates from when this region was part of East Prussia, and is a Unesco World Site.

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