MOSCOW — A city of 1.2 million people on the Volga river east of Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod is relatively unknown outside Russia.
Fans arriving for World Cup games featuring the likes of England and Argentina will discover a city of parks, cafes and bars with its own historic kremlin fortress.
Here's what you need to know:
Built where the storied Volga River meets the smaller Oka, the roof of the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium seems to float atop a ring of thin white columns.
A new subway station will make it easier for fans to reach the 45,000-seat arena. Legacy is a concern since the local club plays in the Russian second tier and seems unlikely to fill more than a fraction of the stadium on a regular basis.
WHAT TO KNOW
Traveling to Nizhny Novgorod will take over six hours from Moscow on typical trains or just under four hours on a new high-speed route. Some free tickets for fans are available on both services.
Under its Soviet name of Gorki, Nizhny Novgorod was the place of exile for the Soviet nuclear physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov in the 1970s and 1980s. The aim was to make it difficult for him to communicate with foreign supporters.
Sakharov died in 1989 but, after the Soviet Union collapsed, a major street was named after him in Moscow.
WHAT TO DO
Nizhny Novgorod offers visitors a chance to experience Russia's medieval and Czarist history at its historic kremlin — a walled fortress containing churches and museums.
The central streets are crowded with cafes and bars, and an array of unusual and sometimes bizarre sculptures. A goat and a shoe-shiner are both memorialized in bronze, as well as French novelist Jules Verne in a hot-air balloon.
There's also a cable car to ride across the wide Volga river.
WHAT TO WATCH
Sweden takes on South Korea in Group F on June 18 in Nizhny Novgorod's first World Cup game, before Argentina and Croatia meet in Group D on June 21.
England looks to avoid a stumble against World Cup first-timer Panama on June 24 in Group G. Switzerland meets Costa Rica in Group E on June 27.
In the knockout stages, there's a round-of-16 game on July 1, and a quarterfinal on July 6.