Chances are you’ll arrive in Samara through Kurumoch International Airport and the inviting party will be organizing the transportation to your hotel. There are other options – cabs, public transport (buses), mini-buses or even a helicopter for the VIPs. Anyway, until you reach your hotel you’ll drive through most of the city or get an idea of how big it is. Samara is stretched some 50km (31 miles) along the Volga and some 20km (12 miles) from the Volga to the Samara. So, it will be a long road from the airport to the city boundary and then quite a stretch to the historical centre where most hotels are.
Most of the city is a chunk northwards of the Samara River and to the east of the Volga. There is one smaller part to the south of the Samara, which flows into the Volga. There are some outlying bits of Samara to the north and south of the main part. Even more, the airport is administratively considered part of Samara being 35km (22 miles) from the city. Here’s a short orientation course.
The historical centre of Samara is close to the confluence of the Volga and the Samara and to the north up to Polevaya Street. That’s where you’ll find theatres, museums, concert halls, exhibition halls, most universities and the main chunk of architectural heritage. The majority of public transport routes go to the city centre. American downtown is not a good association with Samara’s city centre as you won’t find skyscrapers there. However, recently this part has been unfortunately spoiled with faceless residential high-rises. When locals say that they are “going to the centre” or “to town” they mean the historical centre and adjacent blocks. Speaking geographically, the city centre is located further north.
The north-eastern part of the main city area is called Bezymyanka (Nameless). This was where most plants and factories were evacuated to just before or at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. Basically, this is the main industrial part of town with lots of residential buildings too. Whatever lies between the city centre and Bezymyanka, as well as areas to the west of Bezymyanka is residential Samara with apartment buildings, shopping centres and some scattered sights. I would call it Mid-City though this term is coined by me and the described area has no official name for the whole of it. The strip along the Volga to the north of the city centre is a vast green area with dachas, private (and often not quite legal housing), sanatoriums and summer camps.
To the north of the main part, there are a few parts united in one administrative district but separated by woods and cemeteries – Mekhzavod, Upravlenchesky and Krasnaya Glinka. Mekhzavod is close to a mechanical plant that gave the settlement its name. Upravlenchesky is adjacent to one of the engine plants (that’s where German engineers were taken after the War). Krasnaya Glinka is the northernmost part. Another northernmost part is called Krutye Klyuchi (or Koshelev Project) and is a huge section with dull rows of 3-storied residential buildings. Kuibyshevsky district lies to the south of the Samara River – scattered residential, industrial areas and dachas. Novokuibyshevsk – a neighbouring town – starts where Samara ends there. Even further to the south lies Yuzhny Gorod – a new development that officially is not part of the city.