I have to say that I had never really heard of Sochi on Russian coastline, but since it’s the hosting city of the winter games I decided I should go take a look for myself. I must admit to being a little apprehensive and not having any great expectations other than the typical ex-communist concrete apartment blocks that are found in many Eastern European countries, but Sochi proved to be different – pleasantly different to be honest. Almost 100 miles from Moscow, Sochi is aptly named the Russian Riviera, with a humid subtropical climate and approximately 90 miles of beautiful Black Sea coastline.

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Clutching my visa tightly I stepped off a plane at Adler-Sochi airport, with over 1.9million passengers passing through the airport annually it looks like business is booming in the Russian Riviera. The town of Sochi is home to some fantastic architecture, a diverse range of cultural monuments and much more. Aside from the usual sea front restaurants and hotels there are also options for the budget traveller and a multitude of things to see and do in Sochi.

One of my most favourite places to visit in Sochi was the Tree of Friendship Gardens, where 167 countries have combined to form an unique and living masterpiece named the “Friendship Tree”. This living tree has been grafted with many types of citrus fruits, what started as a scientific experiment has become one of the highlights of the Russian Riviera. The Friendship Tree and gardens surrounding it have drawn visitors and foreign dignitaries from far and wide – So much so that the guest book currently in a massive 69 volumes long and can be seen at the museum. The Friendship Tree is said to be a symbol of hope, love and the desire of people to live in harmony with nature.

Lovers of architecture can find many grand buildings around Sochi, Stalinist and contemporary structures survive side by side and add to the appearance of the city – You can also visit the summer residence of Stalin and join a guided tour of some of the rooms he used during his time in power. For a musical fix head along to the Hall of Organ and Chamber Music, home of the Sochi Philharmonic Orchestra, where a full programme of events are held throughout the year. Sports fans will find a large variety of venues open, from skiing in the West Caucasus mountains to football, tennis and more.

There are exciting times ahead for Sochi, not only due to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The city is hoping to host the first Russian Formula 1 event in 2014 and also will be taking part in the 2018 football World Cup. My trip to Sochi highlighted the amount that Russia is changing and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. Getting there was no problem, as I got a great deal on flights from flybe.com. The food, people, accommodation and attractions are as modern, pleasurable and accessible as many other European countries with more changes, construction and improvements still taking place ahead of the Winter Olympic Games that will be held over the coming months in this beautiful city.