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Murmansk: A city guide

The most Northernmost city in the Russian Federation, Murmansk has a long history as a naval port strategically located on the Kola Peninnsula. The has been in slow decline since the 20th century with a population of just 300,000, although it is still known to be the largest city above the Arctic Circle and is one third larger than the 2nd most popular city, Oulu in Finland. Murmansk is primarily an industrial city, however growing interest in major tourist attractions such as the Northern Lights and better transport links between St Petersburg as well as to Norway and Finland are making the city an up and coming tourist destination for those looking for something a bit different.

Lenin Icebreaker, Murmansk, Russia

Murmansk geography

Located on the Kola Peninsula leading onto the Arctic Ocean, Murmansk is a sea port that has been of strategic importance to the Russian Federation for centuries and is primarily used for fishing and industrial shipping. The city is the home port of the Atomflot which is the world's only fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers.

Murmansk physical geography

Murmansk is perched on the Kola peninsula and sits on both slopes of a fjord which is an estuary inlet of the Barents Sea. The River Tuloma passes through the city, while a mix of grassy plains, lakes and mountains make up much of the region's physical landscape.

Murmansk time zone:

Murmansk uses Moscow Standard Time which is GMT +3.

Approximate distance from Murmansk to other places of interest:

Murmansk to St Petersburg: 1350km

Murmansk to Tromsø, Norway: 925km

Murmansk to Oulu, Finland: 770km

History of Murmansk

Murmansk was an artificially constructed location of strategic military importance to the Russian Empire. It was the last city founded by Russia, and was a means to connect allied military supplies to the Murman Coast during World War I.

World War I: 1915-1918

During World War I the allied forces required an ice-free port on the Murman Coast to deliver supplies. To cater to this need, a military terminus, Murmansk Station was constructed which came to boast a port, naval base and adjacent settlement. As the base grew in importance, the population grew with it and soon surpassed nearby Kola and Alexandrovsk, leading to a petition to grant urban status to the settlement which became known as Romanov-on-Murman. After the February Revolution of 1917, the town was given its present name and the British North Russia Squadron was established in the settlement.

Russian Civil War and World War II: 1918-1944

During the Russian Civil War between 1918 to 1920, the town was occupied by the Western powers and the White Army forces. World War II saw the town become a link to the Western world for the Soviet Union where large amounts of goods and military equipment were exchanged and then brought to the city via arctic convoys. German forces launched an assault on the city in 1941 which caused significant damage, however a combination of resilience from the Soviet forces and adverse weather conditions stopped the Germans from conquering the territory. The resistance was commemorated at the 49th anniversary of the victory and became a 'Hero City' on 6th May 1985.

In the Cold War, the city once again saw plenty of action and became the center of Soviet submarine and icebreaker activity, even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the nearby naval base Severomorsk remains the headquarters of the Russian Northern Fleet.

Things to do in Murmansk

As Russia’s Northernmost city and the largest city above the Arctic Circle, Murmansk has a unique and interesting history which is largely tied into its strategic importance as a military port for the Russian navy. The city is dominated by reminders of war with a wide range of monuments and museums dedicated to preserving the history of the region. Tourists that enjoy outdoor activities will find a great selection of walks, lakes and scenic spots to choose from and explorers can even venture north for a chance to see the natural phenomenon, Northern Lights.

Lenin Ship Museum

The Lenin is a nuclear-powered Icebreaker from the Soviet Era. The boat was launched in 1957 as the first nuclear-powered surface ship and was used for clearing sea routes for cargo ships along Russia’s Northern coast. The ship is now a fully-fledged museum located in Murmansk port and is open for guided tours all year round. Perfect for tourists interested in naval or soviet history!

Northern Lights

One of the natural wonders of the World, The Northern Lights (Auralieus borealis) have fascinated travellers for decades with their mysterious luminous green glow. The Lights can be seen at the tip of the Kola peninsula in Teriberka village and are a major tourist destination for travellers visiting Murmansk.

Alyosha Monument

Located just South of Murmansk city centre, the Alyosha monument (Defenders of the Soviet Arctic during the Great Patriotic War) is a spectacular war memorial for the Soviet soldiers, sailors and airman that lost their lives during World War II. The monument is the second tallest monument in Russia outside of The Motherland Calls in Volgograd and weighs 5000 tons. The statue faces west toward the Valley of Glory, which marks the site of the fiercest fighting of the Arctic Campaign where German soldiers were turned back from Murmansk.

Nightlife in Murmansk

Although Murmansk is not known for its nightlife, the city has a good selection of restaurant bars, cocktail lounges and traditional Irish pubs for tourists.

Bulldog Pub

Styled around a traditional British pub, the Bulldog has become a go-to place for UK tourists. The pub is a great place to watch international sports and offers a fantastic selection of imported beers on draft.

Grey Goose Café

Grey Goose is a café / lounge bar located to the West of the city centre that offers both food and live music which you can enjoy from the comfort of your table. This is a great place to go at the start of an evening if you want to combine entertainment with your meal.

Nebo 7 Bar

Murmansk’s 7 Nebo Bar is located at the top of the Azimut hotel and offers spectacular views of Murmansk. This comfortable lounge bar has a decent selection of cocktails, imported beers and spirits for guests to enjoy and is a great place to go to wind down in the evening.

Best restaurants in Murmansk

Located close to Scandanavia and the Finnish / Norwegian borders, Murmansk has developed an interesting fusion of Russian and Nordic cuisine that combines locally sourced products with traditional Russian recipes. The city has plenty of places to eat and tourists can expect to find a fantastic variety of seafood restaurants using local, freshly caught produce. Here we have included a few of the best places to eat in Murmansk for tourists:

Restaurant Tsarskaya Okhota

Located to the South of Murmansk, Restaurant Tsarskaya Okhota is set in an authentic hunting lodge and specialises in Russian cuisine. The restaurant has a considerable menu of seafood and meat dishes from traditional Russian cuisine enhanced with a Nordic twist.

White Rabbit

The White Rabbit is in the heart of the city center about a 5-minute walk from the Fine Arts and Murmansk Art Museums. The restaurant has established itself as a firm favourite of tourists visiting Murmansk with a fantastic selection of desserts and choice of tea, making it a perfect rest stop when exploring the city.

Kai

A Japanese sushi restaurant located a short walk away from the Murmansk Town Exhibit Hall, Kai is known to offer the best sushi in Murmansk. The restaurant prides itself on maintaining a huge selection of classic sushi including nigiri, maki and ebi, while delivering fast and efficient service. Kai is the perfect lunch option!

Best places to stay in Murmansk

Although Murmansk city centre has plenty to offer tourists, Murmansk’s popularity has grown considerably in recent years due to growing interest in the Northern Lights as a destination which can be seen just North of the city in Teriberka village. Tourists will have a variety of hostels and hotels to choose from in Murmansk ranging from budget backpacker hostels to corporate contemporary hotels. The Azimut Hotel is one of the best hotels in Murmansk, located right in the heart of the city centre and just a short walk away from the city’s museums, theatres and monuments. The hotel offers crisp professional rooms with all the modern conveniences you would expect including WIFI and TV. The hotel also includes a restaurant with buffet lunch and a la carte dining. For tourists on a budget, Season’s Hostel offers good-quality, clean rooms with free WIFI throughout the property. Although located a bit further out of the city centre, the hostel is well located near a supermarket and offers a daily continental breakfast.

Browse our full list of hotels in Murmansk using our hotel selector tool.

Murmansk climate

Murmansk has a sub-arctic climate with long, cold winters and short, mild summers. Below freezing temperatures are typically experienced between October and May with average low temperatures during this period at around -14 degrees Celsius. In July, temperatures often exceed 17 degrees Celsius, although the city is slightly wetter in the Summer months.

 

How to get to Murmansk

Despite its location far in North-West corner of the Russian Federation, Murmansk is surprisingly well connected. The city is linked to St Petersburg via the Kirov Railway which is one of the easiest ways to travel. Murmansk Airport receives regular flights from both St Petersburg and Moscow Airports as well as International flights from Tromsø in Norway. Murmansk is connected to the rest of Russia by the M18 Kola motorway.

Why you should visit Murmansk

Murmansk has a peculiar history when compared with the better known Russian cities on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Firstly, it is a port city located on the coast and It is the largest city above the Arctic Circle, in addition, the city's close proximity to Finland and Scandinavia can be felt when walking around the city, and it shares one of Scandinavia's better known natural wonders, the Northern Lights which can be seen just North of the city in Kola Bay at certain times of the year. Murmansk is wholly unique in Russia, and it is a must-see for tourists wishing to see a different side of Russian culture.

Murmansk frequently asked questions

We have included a list of the most frequently asked questions about Murmansk, however if you have a question not covered in this guide, please get in touch by email at info@realrussia.co.uk.

How far is Murmansk from Norway?

Murmansk is just less than 1500km away from the border of Norway and around 2000km by road. The best way to get to Norway from Murmansk is by train which will take around 38 hours.

How far is Murmansk from St Petersburg?

Murmansk is easily accessible by plane, vehicle or train from St Petersburg. A direct flight from Pulkovo Airport to Murmansk airport will take approximately 2 hours, while a train following the Kirov Railway route will take around 27 hours.

Is Murmansk safe?

Murmansk is considered safe when compared with other cities in Russia, however you should still take the usual precautions as you would in any city. We always recommend booking your transfers and taxis with an official company and advise travellers not to hang around busy areas such as bus and train stations or airports.