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Destination: Novosibirsk

With a population of over 1.6 million Novosibirsk is the largest city in Siberia, while also offering the flair and charm of being a provincial town. It is an important commercial hub in the region. Hosting one of the best and largest universities in Russia it now also a city shaped by its student population. However, it has not been developed for tourism yet in the way many other Russian cities did since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This lack of foreigners, however, offers those who do travel there a glimpse at the real Russia and life in Siberia in particular.

Geography

Novosibirsk is a stop on the famous Trans-Siberian Railroad. It lies in the West Siberian Plain by the banks of the Ob River. The nearby Ob Sea is created by a concrete dam to create hydroelectric power. It is surrounded by beaches and beautiful pine forests that are home to an impressive range of animals, including brown bears, reindeer, moose, wolves and foxes, and making Novosibirsk a metropolis with nature at its doorstep.

History

Novosibirsk is a relatively young city, even by Siberian standards. It started out a settlement of workers who built a bridge across the Ob River for Trans-Siberian Railway. After its completion in 1897 the settlement became a regional transport hub and grew rapidly to gain city rights in 1907. The city suffered heavily from the Russian Civil War, but it soon began to thrive again under the newly established Soviet rule, when it was made into a political and industrial centre of the region. In the 1950s it also gained importance as a centre of scientific research, when the Akademgorodok, an academic elite institution located about 19 kilometres from the city was established.

What to do

A number of architectural sights are located around the city centre with Lenin’s Square. There are a circus, a zoo and a puppet theatre and with its thriving theatre and music scene, Novosibirsk is a haven for those interested in arts and culture. There also worthwhile destinations for day trips outside the city, such as the Akademgorodo with many museums and the Russian version of the Silicon Valley, the beaches on the shores of the Ob Sea and an open-air rail museum. Despite of the city’s size there is plenty of opportunity for outdoor breaks, such as hiking, boat trips or horseback riding in the summer and skiing or ice skating in the winter. Most importantly, Novosibirsk offers and authentically Russian experience, so travellers should make sure to do as the locals do and try some local food. The perk is that, contrary to Moscow and other Russian tourist hubs, Novosibirsk can be enjoyed on a budget without having to compromise.

Climate

Siberia comes with a continental climate of extremes. This means that winters are severe and long, and temperatures average at -20°C, making Novosibirsk the coldest metropolis of over 1 million people in the world. The summers on the contrary are hot and humid. This means the difference between the lowest and a highest recorded temperature is 88°C. However, the fact that it is mostly sunny makes the extreme weather more bearable.

Weather in Novosibirsk

 

How to get there

The closest airport is Tolmachevo Airport, located about 16 kilometres from the city centre. It is served by flights from most major domestic airports. Buses run from the airport to the train station and into the town. Novosibirsk is also a major stop along the Trans-Siberian railroad and a journey to Moscow takes around two days. Other capitals, such as Beijing and Ulan Bator, and even Berlin are connected directly by train.

Why you should visit

Novosibirsk may not the most obvious tourist destination in Russia, and it has a stereotype of being a rather grey and dull place where only few people speak English very well. However, it is worth taking a look behind this façade and exploring the city. Travellers will be rewarded with a more authentically Russian experience than elsewhere, but perhaps also with the realisation that stereotypes do not always ring entirely true.