Destination: Yekaterinburg

As a divide between the continents, Yekaterinburg has been dubbed the ‘window on Asia’. With a population of over 1.3 million inhabitants it is the fourth-largest city in the country. It holds a special place in Russia for being the site of some history-changing events.


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 was founded in 1723 and was named after two Yekaterinas: the first the wife of Tsar Peter the Great, and thesecond 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. 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 year 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. In the early 1990s it 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.

What to do

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.


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 to get there

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 combines many aspects of the European and the Asian faces 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 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.