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A city guide to Yekaterinburg

Russia's window to Asia

Yekaterinburg acts as the divide between two countries, Russia and Kazakhstan and has been dubbed the ‘window on Asia’ due to its close proximity to the border. The city is commonly called Russia's 'third capital' as it is ranked third for tourism, transport and economic size. It holds a special place in Russia for being the site of some history-changing events.

Yekaterinburg

Geography

Located in the middle of the Eurasian continent Yekaterinburg is the most important centre of the Ural Federal District. Yekaterinburg lies on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains by the Iset River. It is located 1,667 kilometres south-east from Moscow and about 1000 kilometres north-east of Novosibirsk. Considering its population, Yekaterinburg is surprisingly compact and easy to get around in. However, traffic in the streets can be really bad, so it will almost always be quicker to use the good tram network or the only underground line rather than a car or bus.

Yekaterinburg population:

As of 2018, Yekaterinburg had an estimated population of around 1.5 million.

Yekaterinburg time zone:

Yekaterinburg uses Yekaterinburg Standard Time which is approximately 5 hours ahead of the UK (GMT +5)

Approximate distance from Yekaterinburg to other major cities:

Yekaterinburg is well placed to travel to many of Russia's major cities and is located next to the border of Kazakhstan.

Yekaterinburg to Moscow: 1787km

Yekaterinburg to St Petersburg: 2225km

Yekaterinburg to Novosibirsk: 1600km

Yekaterinburg to Almaty, Kazakhstan: 2385km

History of Yekaterinburg

Imperial Era: 1723 - 1919

Yekaterinburg was founded in 1723 and was named after two Yekaterinas: the first the wife of Tsar Peter the Great, and the second is the Russian patron saint of mining. It was one of the first cities to be industrialised in Russia due to its importance for the iron industry and it remains a hub for heavy industry until this day. As the railroad system improved the city grew in strategic importance due to its status as a gateway on the frontier with Catherine the Great nominating Yekaterinburg as the administrative centre of the frontier region in 1781.

Revolution and the Soviet Era: 20th century

Yekaterinburg most famously gained entry in the history books as the place where Tsar Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia, and his family were killed in 1918. Six years later the city was given the name Sverdlovsk after Lenin’s right-hand man Yakov Sverdlov. Between the Second World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union Yekaterinburg became a hub for military enterprises and was closed to visits by foreigners.

Modern Yekaterinburg: 21st century - Present

In the early 1990s, Yekaterinburg was first shunned due to Mafia lawlessness that followed economic decline, but has become one of Russia’s most important cities in the twenty-first century in terms of economic size, culture and technological development.

Things to do in Yekaterinburg

A walking tour of the city is a great way to see the beautiful old architecture and the main attractions of historical importance such as the Church on the Blood, the site of the execution of the last Tsar. Yekaterinburg also hosts a number of unusual sights such as the QWERTY Monument, a giant stone keyboard, the so-called ‘Mafia Cemetery’ where former Mafia members are commemorated with life-size images carved into stone, and during the winter an entire city block made of ice. A visit to the Chinese Market with little outdoor stalls that sell almost everything is also a worthwhile experience. During the cold period there are many opportunities to go cross-country skiing and some downhill skiing as well. Day trips into the surrounding area, for example the Deer Stream National Park, are also an option and can be made by public transport.

Church on the Blood

Perhaps Yekaterinburg's most notorious monument, the Church of the Blood is a Russian Orthodox church built to commemorate Romanov sainthood. The church itself was built on the site where the last of the Russian Emperors, Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. The alter of the church is said to stand directly over the execution site.

See our Romanov Dynasty tour for more information.

Deer Springs National Park

A beautiful national park nestled away in the Sverdlovskaya region with enchanting caves, rivers and forests. Deer Springs National Park has become a favourite destination for tourists passing through Yekaterinburg offering sublime landscapes and challenging hikes. This destination is perfect for travellers who love the outdoors!

See our Deer Springs National Park tour for more information.

Best places to eat in Yekaterinburg

Yekaterinburg is home to a wide variety of restaurants. It's position on the border of Europe and Asia has led the city to develop an interesting blend of culinary creations that incorporate the best of Russian and Uzbek food. Here, we have included a list of our top three most recommended places to eat in Yekaterinburg:

1) Nigora

Reaturant Nigora is the perfect place to eat if you are looking for good-quality Russian food on a budget. You will find many European and Middle-Eastern food favourites on the menu including pilaf, Dolma, Lagman (Uzbek noodles) and grilled lamb, chicken and fish dishes.

2) Stroganov Grill

The Stroganov Grill is a must for meat-lovers! This restaurant offers a huge selection of steak many different ways and has built a solid reputation for delivering the best steak in Yekaterinburg, although the resturant also offers a variety of seafood. A custom Argentinian-grill has been set up in the heart of the restaurant, allowing guests a full view of the cooking process.

3) Troekurov

Troekurov is a luxury restaurant combining local Russian produce with French culinary inspiration. This restaurant offers a wide range of signiture dishes including moose stroganoff and Kamtchatka crab. The dining area interior revives 19th century with antique and replica furniture from the Alexander and Nikolaev eras.

Yekaterinburg climate

The weather is marked by the closeness to Siberia and winters are longer and colder than in the European parts of the country with January’s temperatures averaging at -17°C. The summers, however, are long and can be warm and humid. It often ends in a short autumn in September during which the leaves turn colourful, reminiscent of the Indian summer.

Weather in Yekaterinburg

 

How do I get to Yekaterinburg?

Yekaterinburg is one of the major stops along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Koltsovo International Airport is served by domestic and international airlines, with direct flights leaving regularly from some major European airports, though unfortunately not from the United Kingdom.

Why you should visit Yekaterinburg

Yekaterinburg combines many aspects of the European and the Asian sides of Russia, forming a truly unique travel experience. Its special place in Russian history and the charm of the city’s old districts makes it one of the best destinations to visit in the country, but some of the quirky attractions make for unusual travel stories. 

Due to its status as a closed city in the Soviet era and its subsequent problems with violence and crime, Yekaterinburg has only recently emerged as a destination for tourists but it has embraced its historical and industrial heritage. Even if the failed bid to host Expo 2020 was a major disappointment, there is no doubt that Yekaterinburg is the future place to be in Russia.

Yekaterinburg common questions

We have put together a list of the most common questions we get asked about Yekaterinburg below. If you have any questions not covered here, then please contact us directly.

Is Yekaterinburg dangerous?

Although Yekaterinburg has been plagued by criminal activity in the past, the reputation and overall safety of the city has since improved. The city is now considered one of the most popular destinations for tourists.

Where are the best hiking spots in Yekaterinburg?

There are several good hiking spots around Yekaterinburg all though most of these will require a drive or train journey to get to. Taganai National Park is a favourite for many hikers and is home to several spectacular hiking locations including Mountain Kruglitsa and Otkliknoi Greben. The park is located directly South of the city and is approximately 4-5 hours away by car. There is also Mountain Konzhakovskiy Rock which is 5 hours away by car to the North of Yekaterinburg.

What is the best way to get to Kazan from Yekaterinburg?

This will depend on your budget. Trains from Yekaterinburg to Kazan take around 15 hours and will cost between £60-110. A domestic flight will take around 4 – 5 ½ hours but will be significantly more expensive, costing around £150 – 200 on average.

How long is a Yekaterinburg to Moscow flight?

A non-stop flight from Yekaterinburg to Moscow will take between 2 ½ to 3 hours and will typically cost around £60-150. While much faster than taking the train, it is often more expensive and much less enjoyable than going via the Trans-Siberian Railway.