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A city guide to Vladivostok

Russia's great harbour in the East

Vladivostok is a city and administrative centre of Primorsky Krai, located in the far east of Russia around the Golden Horn Bay. The city is famous for its harbour location as the home port of the Russian Pacific Fleet and being the final stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Fishing and ship engineering are its primary industries, alongside energy and food production.

The name Vladivostok can be translated into ‘Rule the East’ and was dubbed the ‘Russian San Francisco’ by former Soviet leader Nikita Kurshchev for it's rolling hills, dense fog and its mirror position on the Pacific Coast far away from the country's capital.

View of the Bay in Vladivostok

Geography

Vladivostok lies in picturesque scenery. It is surrounded by bays, islands and many canals as well as the hills, where the landscapes of the north and the south meet. Northern pine trees or oak woods grow next to ginseng and other plants usually associated with South East Asia. Two bridges mark the cityscape: The Zoloty Rog Bridge, which spans the Golden Horn Bay, and the Russky Bridge, which is the world’s largest cable-stayed bridge connecting the mainland with Russky Island. The island is a former military base and now a popular weekend retreat for hiking, cycling and swimming.

Vladivostok population:

Vladivostok has seen a slight incline in population numbers from approximately 590,000 in 2010 to 605,000 as of 2018.

Vladivostok time zone:

Vladivostok uses Vladivostok Time (VLAT) which is is ten hours ahead of Universal Time (UTC).

Approximate distance from Vladivostok to other major cities:

Vladivostok is exceptionally well placed to travel to many countries in the far East, the city's geographical detachment from any other economic and cultural hubs located in Russia and the closeness to China, Japan and Korea have formed a unique culture different from other Russian cities. Here we have included an approximate distance in kilometers to major capitals of China, North Korea, Japan and Russia.

Moscow, Russia: 9200km.

Beijing, China: 1335km.

Pyongyang, North Korea: 685km.

Tokyo, Japan: 1070km.

History of Vladivostok

Vladivostok and the surrounding coastline has developed an intriguing history in that it has been occupied by both China and Russia for significant periods of time, leading to an interesting blending of cultures.

Native culture, Shamanism and tribes: ? - 926

The site of Vladivostok has been frequented by a variety of tribes spanning centuries including the Udege, Nanai, Taz (a sub-culture of intermarriage between the two tribes) and Mohe, some of which still exist today. These tribes mainly engaged in hunting, fishing and the harvesting of Ginseng while tribe leaders indoctrinated shamanism and animism as the accepted religions.

Chinese dynastic rule: 926 - 1860

The successful conquest of the Balhae people (who occupied much of the area around present day Vladivostok), by the Liao dynasty ushered in the beginning of over 900 years of Chinese occupation through successive dynasties including the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing to name a few. Vladivostok has been known by the Chinese since the Qing dynasty as Haishenwai.

The city in turmoil: 1860 - 1991

In 1860, China handed control of the region and Sakhalin Island over to the Russians as part of the Treaty of Beijing due to China's inability to defend the region after their loss in the Opium Wars with Britain. The same year, Alexey K. Shefner, Captain of the military supply ship Manchur, called at Golden Horn Bay and founded the site of Vladivostok. The Manza War in 1868, saw the first attempt by the Russians to expel the Chinese from the territory which resulted in retaliation by the Chinese who attacked two Russian military bases and several Russian towns around the area. Fortifications were erected in Vladivostok in the 1870's and 1890's in response.

1916 saw the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway which connected Moscow to the city. Shortly after its completion, civil war broke out in Russia, with the Bolsheviks taking control of the Railway system. In response, the rebels were overthrown and the city became a staging point for Allied intervention consisting of Japan, United States and China.The Allied army collapsed in 1919 and the city was taken back by The Red Army in 1922. As the main naval base of the Soviet Pacific Fleet, the city was officially closed off to tourists during the Soviet years.

What to do in Vladivostok

The architecture is especially remarkable because apart from few relics from the Soviet era it boasts few modern high-rise buildings. Instead the cityscape is marked by small housing from the Tsardom era. Part of the city centre is made up by Millionka, the former Chinese quarter, with its picturesque courts full of nooks and crannies. There are also many traces of the military history and museums and galleries are aplenty. Those looking to catch some fresh air will enjoy the surrounding area or a trip to Russky Island.

Russky Island

Russky Island is considered to be the crown jewel of Vladivostok and is in the pipeline to becaome a major tourist resort. The island is home to beaches, the University of Far Eastern Federal and the Primorskiy Oceanarium which is considered to be one of the top ten best maritime research centers and aquariums in the world.

Vladivostok Military Fortress

A system of fortifications dating back as early as 1889, Vladivostok's military fortress is now a fully fledged museum focused around the history of the Russian - Japanese war. Lovers of Russian military history cannot fail to be impressed by the substantial amount of military memorabilia and armaments that dot the exterior of the fortress.

For a full list of tours offered by Real Russia, please see our Vladivostok excursions page.

Climate in Vladivostok

Vladivostok's location by the sea means that the annual cycle is marked by a monsoon climate. Fog is mostly present during the spring, which tends to be rainy. Precipitation is likely in the summer, but normally passes in form of short showers.

When is the best time to visit Vladivostok?

The best time of the year to visit Vladivostok is autumn with its warm, dry and sunny climate. Compared to the harsh conditions in Siberia, the winter is surprisingly mild and temperatures rarely ever fall below -20°C.

Weather in Vladivostok

 

How to get to Vladivostok

Despite of its far-off location Vladivostok is well-connected with both the West and the East. The most famous means of transport is through the Trans-Siberian Railroad that connects it with Moscow, but also with China and Mongolia.

The only airport is located about 30 kilometres from the city centre and is served by the major Russian airline, Aeroflot. Flying in from neighbouring countries is also an option; Tokyo is only an hour and a half away. Airport transfer is available via bus and train. A taxi is an option as well, though tourists could expect to overpay for the transfer.

There are also ferries running to and from Japan and South Korea or buses to north eastern China.

Why you should visit Vladivostok

Vladivostok offers a truly unique experience in a place where Western and Eastern cultures meet. Its historical charm and beautiful natural surroundings will appeal to those looking for a city break, as well as travellers who enjoy the hiking, cycling or walking outdoors.

Vladivostok commonly asked questions

Here, we have included a short list of some of the most common questions we get asked from travellers looking to visit Vladivostok:

Where is the best place to stay in Vladivostok?

You can find many hotels in the heart of Vladivostok city centre, and the best hotel for you will depend on your reason for travelling and your budget. You will find a wide range of low-mid range hotels as well as hostels for backpackers. The Lotte Hotel boasts a fantastic central location, dining area, event / conference space and indoor pool for guests wanting a more luxurious experience.

If you are travelling for business for corporate events or are planning a celebration or wedding, the Novik Country Club is a great option. This hotel is located in a prime waterfront location of Russky Island and is a short distance away from the University and Oceanarium.

See our full list of Vladivostok hotels for more information.

How far is Vladivostok from Moscow?

Vladivostok is approximately 9200km away from Moscow. Moscow to Vladivostok by train will usually take between 6 to 7 days on the Trans-Siberian train route or 8-9 hours by plane without any stops.

See our Russian trains page to book your train tickets, or consult our handy Trans-Siberian planner to organise your journey.

How safe is Vladivostok?

Vladivostok has moderate levels of crime just like any city, however so long as you take the usual precautions you would in any city you shouldn't have any problems. Busy tourist areas such as train stations, bus stations and airports often attract petty crime to a greater extent that other areas, therefore you should always aim to move out of these areas as soon as possible when arriving at your destination.

How far is Vladivostok from North Korea?

The distance between Vladivostok and Pyongyang, North Korea is approximately 685km. Although travel to North Korea is prohibited for most foreign nationals, it may be possible to fly to Pyongyang from Vladivostok airport, or get the train from Khasan, north of Vladivostok. You should always make sure that you have arranged your trip into North Korea before travelling.