A Weekend in Siberia
By Liam Harris
Those travelling to Russia to sample what its sophisticated urban metropolises have to offer tend not to stray far from the western cities of Moscow and St Petersburg. Nevertheless, the more easterly sections of the country still possesses a multitude of things to see and do, with Novosibirsk being the perfect example of how vibrant this part of the world can be. The city is the capital of Siberia, a huge Russian province with some of the most unforgettable landscapes of the world, and provides affluent travellers with the chance to experience this country from a completely new perspective. It’s not particularly ‘tourist-friendly’, but this can work to the advantage of explorers wanting to see the real side of Russia.
Introduce yourself to the city
The best way to truly get to know a city is traversing it on foot and Novosibirsk is no exception. The first stop on your sightseeing tour should be Lenin Square, a stark reminder of Russia’s Soviet past, occupying a huge statue of the former leader which towers over the surrounding area. A similar, but no less glorious, landmark in the city is the Monument to Architect Kryuchkov, a tribute to a major Russian architect who designed many of the wonderful buildings of the city. The statue is even positioned in front of a stylish apartment complex that he designed himself.
See some of the rarest animals in the world at Novosibirsk Zoo
One of the highlights of eastern Russia, this attraction holds over 11,000 animals from over 700 different species, many of which are endangered and are receiving specialised care by the supremely knowledgeable staff at the zoo. Aside from being a tourist attraction, it’s also a stellar scientific research institute that focuses on dozens of captivity breeding programmes. All the animals are very well looked after and it’s one of the only places in the world where you see fascinating crossbreeds of nature’s most prominent species, including ligers, an extremely rare animal created from breeding a male lion with a female tiger.
Experience excellent Russian culture
A cornerstone of the diverse cultural landscape of the city, the beautiful architecture of this building means that even a quick stroll around its romantically-designed grounds will be more than worth your time. Originally built in 1944, the facilities were complete renovated in 2005 and it remains the biggest and most technologically advanced theatre in all of Russia. The main theatre room itself has some incredible acoustics and you’re able to have a good view of the stage from any seat. Tickets to any of their outstanding shows are always readily available and all of the shows are in Russian, meaning that they haven’t been compromised to appeal to tourist audiences.
Indulge in fine dining
A feature of Novosibirsk that rarely gets talked about is its commitment to providing quality food in unique settings. For example, the trendy arts space of Loft Trava is a great chance to try delicious local treats whilst viewing works from the best up-and-coming artists in Russia. A number of these exhibitions rotate around you as you eat, so be careful not to get too dizzy. A similarly quirky restaurant is Puppen Haus, which is inspired by traditional fairy tales and puppet shows and is a fantastic venue to gorge yourself on meticulously prepared smoked salmon and herring, popular delicacies in this area of Russia.
Take a stroll along the Ob River
One of the greatest rivers in Asia, the Ob River flows throughout western Siberia and can be easily visited from Novosibirsk. Walk over to Zayeltsovskiy Park and get some wonderful views of the river, explore the peaceful forest and, in the winter months, rent out a variety of skis and sleds to glide along the pristine snow. The park is easily accessible from the city centre and several scenic boat tours are available throughout the year from there. Also the small beaches along the coastline are great to visit in the summer, where temperatures can get surprisingly hot for Siberian standards.
Get to know the old city at the West Siberian Railway Museum
Novosibirsk is one of the main stops on the iconic Trans-Siberian railway – an epic journey that takes you across the plains of Russia – and the city contains a fantastic railway museum for you to learn about the history of the country, alongside catching a glimpse of some beautiful train carriages that date back before the days of the Soviet Union. Located south of the city close to the Ob River, brochures explaining each exhibit come in a number of languages and you’ll be allowed to climb into the carriages on display, allowing you to see these pieces of Russian history up close.
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
A trip to Novosibirsk wouldn’t be complete without visiting this awe-inspiring structure. The medieval cathedral is an example of the lavish lifestyle that the Tsars promoted for hundreds of years before the communist revolution and is built in honour of Tsar Alexander III, who oversaw the construction of the Trans-Siberian railway. Its neo-Byzantine gilded dome can be seen from all over the city and was one of the first stone buildings in the Asian part of Russia. Based right at the heart of the city, the building has survived several failed attempts to destroy it during Stalin’s reign.
Round off your stay with the best cocktails in Russia
Russia’s love for premium alcoholic beverages is known throughout the world and Novosibirsk continues this trend, with its relaxed nightlife helping you de-stress after a long day discovering the city’s main landmarks. One’s of the city’s most exclusive bars is Twiggy’s; a London-themed establishment situated just a few metres from Tsentralnyy Park. You’ll be able to choose from a wide range of delicious cocktails and relax in the beautifully furnished interior of the main indoor drinking area. The nearby Black Milk Cocktail Bar, only a short trip away from Twiggy’s, is also a fine establishment to visit at night.
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