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A city guide to Novosibirsk

With a population of over 1.6 million Novosibirsk is the largest city in Siberia, while also offering the flair and charm of a provincial town. It is an important commercial hub in the region, hosting one of the best and largest universities in Russia which has shaped the identity of the city. Despite its rising student population, it has not been developed for tourism in the same way many other Russian cities have since the collapse of the Soviet Union, although this is steadily improving each year.

Novosibirsk, Russia

Novosibirsk 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 Novosibirsk reservoir (informally known as the Ob Sea) is the largest artificial lake in Novosibirsk Oblast, created by the construction of a concrete dam to create hydroelectric power. It is surrounded by beaches and beautiful pine forests that are home to numerous animals, including brown bears, reindeer, moose, wolves and foxes.

Novosibirsk time zone:

Novosibirsk uses Novosibirsk Standard Time (NOVT) which works out to GMT +7 for the UK.

Approximate distance from Novosibirsk to other places of interest:

  • Novosibirsk to Moscow: 3400km
  • Novosibirsk to Irkutsk: 1850km
  • Novosibirsk to Almaty: 1800km
  • Novosibirsk to Ulan Bator: 3000km

History of Novosibirsk

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 the Trans-Siberian Railway. After its completion in 1897 the settlement became a regional transport hub and grew rapidly to gain city rights in 1907. 

Russian Civil War and Soviet rule: 20th century

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.

Things to do in Novosibirsk

Novosibirsk has plenty to offer tourists and you can find a number of spectacular architectural examples located around the city centre in 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. We have included a short list below of some of the best things to do in Novosibirsk:

1) Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral named in honour of St Alexander Nevsky. Constructed between 1896-1899, the building was one of the first in Novosibirsk to be constructed from stone and was built in the Neo-Byzantine architectural style. The Cathedral was shut down in 1937 with the aim of destroying the building, however the idea was abandoned and was taken over by documentary film studio producing the movie magazine ‘Siberia of the Screen’. The Cathedral has now returned to its original function and attracts tourists from all over the world with an interest in the local history of the region.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Novosibirsk
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Novosibirsk

2) NOVAT – Novosibirsk State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet

One of the most important theatres in Siberia, the NOVAT (Novosibirsk State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet) is a symbol of pride of the Siberian region. The theatre is one of the best musical and theatre groups in Russia and has participated in a variety of international and Russian festivals. The theatre offers a mixed repertoire of classic ballets and operas such as Swan Lake and Giselle as well as contemporary performances and competitions for young musicians looking to make their mark.

Book your trip to the NOVAT with us today!

NOVAT Opera & Ballet Theatre, Novosibirsk
NOVAT Opera & Ballet Theatre, Novosibirsk

3) Novosibirsk Zoo

Novosibirsk Zoo is a firm favourite of tourists and locals alike with 1.5 million tourists visiting the park each year. The zoo is famed for having one of the closest surviving relatives of the extinct Cape Lion of South Africa, the black-maned lion. Novosibirsk Zoo doubles as a scientific institution and a popular tourist attraction for visitors housing 11,000 animals, 738 species and is committed to various breeding programmes for endangered species.

 

Stuck for something to do? Why not browse our full list of Novosibirsk excursions.

Best places to eat in Novosibirsk

Novosibirsk is home to a wide variety of restaurants specialising in European and Asian cuisine. Here, we have included our short list of some of the best places to eat in Novosibirsk:

1) Puppenhaus

One of the more unusual restaurants in Novosibirsk, Puppenhaus is as much a puppet theatre as it is a restaurant. The restaurant fully embraces its unconventional reputation and serves a variety of culinary creations including exotic ingredients such as moose and bear.

2) Beerman & Pelmeni

A Japanese-Russian fusion restaurant located next to Novosibirsk Musical Theater, Beerman & Pelmeni is well known for offering some of the city’s best dumplings as well as an extensive selection of beers and spirits.

3) Baranzhar

Inspired by the tea-houses of central Asia, Baranzhar has built a reputation in Novosibirsk for offering some of the best Georgian cuisine. The restaurant focuses on customer comfort and offers a variety of vegetarian options to suit all tastes.

 

Looking for a more authentic dining experience? See our Siberian family visit where you can try a traditional Russian home-cooked lunch.

Best places to stay in Novosibirsk

Novosibirsk has a number of hotels and hostels well located the the major tourist attractions in the city centre. Here, we have hand-picked some of the best hotels in Novosibirsk:

1) Dostoevsky Hostel

Perfect for backpackers, groups and travellers on a budget, Novosibirsk's Dostoevsky Hostel offers a wide range of amenities including 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 bed dormitories for groups. The hostel has WIFI available and includes a 24-hour reception, washing machines for personal use and shower facilities.

2) DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Novosibirsk

With all the comforts of a trusted chain hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton Novosibisk is one of the best and easiest places to stay in the city. The hotel is right in the heart of the city and is less than a mile away from all of the top tourist attractions in Novosibirsk including Lenina Square and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. All rooms have access to room service, air conditioning, free WIFI and a minibar, while the hotel itself has an indoor pool for guests to enjoy.

 

Use our hotel planner tool to choose from our full list of hotels in Novosibirsk.

Novosibirsk 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 to Novosibirsk

The closest airport to Novosibirsk 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.

Is Novosibirsk worth visiting?

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 a few people speak English well. However, it is worth taking a look behind this façade and exploring the city, as you will always find something to do whether you are looking to learn more about Siberian history or simply a place to walk and explore. Travellers will be rewarded with an authentic Russian experience, but perhaps also with the realisation that stereotypes do not always ring entirely true.

Novosibirsk View Outside of the NOVAT
Novosibirsk View Outside of the NOVAT

Novosibirsk common questions

We have included some of the most frequently asked questions about Novosibirsk below, however if you have any other questions not covered here, please feel free to contact us directly at info@realrussia.co.uk.

Is Novosibirsk safe?

Novosibirsk is one of the safer cities in the Siberian region, however you should always take precautions when travelling around the city. Make sure you use a licensed, official taxi company and do not hang around near busy areas such as airports and train stations.

How long does it take to get from Novosibirsk to Moscow?

A domestic, non-stop flight to Moscow from Novosibirsk takes around 4 ½ hours. However, most travellers often make the journey as part of the Trans-Siberian Railway which takes around 2 days.

How long does it take to get from Novosibirsk to Irkutsk?

A domestic, non-stop flight to Irkutsk International Airport from Novosibirsk takes around 2 ½ hours. However, it is more common for travellers to take the train as part of the Trans-Siberian which takes around 33 hours.

Is Novosibirsk expensive?

Novosibirsk is relatively cheap compared to other Russian cities such as St Petersburg or Moscow. Ticket prices for attractions are often much lower than other places in Europe, for example, an adult ticket for Novosibirsk Zoo costs around 300 rubles which works out to around £3.70.