Novosibirsk is the third most populated city in Russia and Siberia’s largest metropolis, making Novosibirsk the unofficial capital of Siberia. The city was founded in 1893 and was built for the purpose of developing the famous Trans-Siberian Railway Bridge over the River OB.
Although the city is very proud of the fact, Novosibirsk is famous for more than just the Trans-Siberian; it is one of three leading scientific centres in Russia, after Moscow and St Petersburg of course. Novosibirsk is also known for being one of Russia’s fastest growing centres of culture with many thriving art galleries, a world famous Opera and Ballet House, and the renowned University of Novosibirsk.
When I was given the task to update our current catalogues with new destinations, Novosibirsk seemed an obvious decision to make mainly for its Trans-Siberian heritage, and for the purpose of covering the Trans-Siberian, Trans-Mongolian, and Trans-Manchurian route. In all honesty, I was equally sold on the idea of having authentic experiences with real locals, and I imagine that this is an experience which many of you will find very appealing.
So what is there to do in Novosibirsk, you ask?
I encourage you to not let the fact that it’s a new city fool you into believing that Novosibirsk has nothing to offer.
Novosibirsk is a Trans-Siberian traveller’s paradise with history at every turn; the culture is vibrant and the locals are very proud of their heritage. The list of activities is endless, a city tour offers innumerable opportunities to get to know Siberia’s new Chicago, and a tour around Akademogorodoc will allow you to immerse yourself in everything that the city stands for, including its Trans-Siberian legacy.
To begin a tour of Novosibirsk, I would venture off into the city with a local guide to explore the all the main sites, starting in Main Square at the Lenin monument, then on marvel at the State Opera and Ballet Theatre.
Following on from the theatre, I would travel to the oldest part of the city, Gorkovo Street, before finishing with a trip to the Ascension Cathedral, St Nicholas Chapel, and the OB River embankment to admire the stunning views as it stretches into the distance.
The last leg of my city tour would include a visit to the old Siberian farmers market, to sample some delicious Siberian delicacies like smoked omul. If you’ve read my food blog ‘A Taste of Russia’, then you’ve already become acquainted with my attempts to make Russian food, so for the purpose of tasting authentic Russian food done right, my trip to the Siberian farmers market would also involve sampling a few Russian dishes.I imagine at the farmers market I would engage with the local traders, learn a few new Russian words, and maybe purchase a Matryoshka doll to take home with me.
When in Russia, do what Russian’s do… or is that Rome?
Vodka, food, and great company is what I call a good time.
My idea of the perfect cultural experience would be to spend an afternoon sat around a dinner table with a local family, and feel as though I’m part of the Russian family by experiencing hospitality, which I’ve been told, is unlike anywhere else in the world. Being able to engage with the locals in the setting of their own home, learning more about their heritage, and briefly immersing myself in their traditions is what I would call an authentic experience.
In my quest to immerse myself in the Novosibirsk culture, I would consider a culinary masterclass and learn the secret to preparing authentic Russian and Siberian cuisine, including pelmeni (which I’ve successfully made before), borsch and shchi. I would quite happily end my cultural adventure here, but I know I would be missing out on the opportunity to become a true ‘Novosibirsker’. With that said, I would spend a day with a local and venture through the lesser known sites to see all the city’s hidden treasures, before trying some of the city’s delicious street food.
All good things must come to an end!
For a city that is only a century old, Novosibirsk has many of interesting and historical sights and stories to tell you. If you’re more of a history enthusiast, I recommend ending your trip in the town of Akademorodok, one of the only scientific towns in Russia, which was the home to over 60,000 scientist during the period of the USSR.
While in Akademogorodok, I would take a tour of the town then proceed to the Open Air Train Museum to see all the magnificent vintage trains, and learn more about the history of the great Trans-Siberian Railway, before continuing down to the embankment of Novosibirskoye Reservoir.
Last but certainly not least, as an animal lover it seems only logical to end my journey by visiting the Novosibirsk zoo to catch a glimpse of some of its endangered wildlife, including the Siberian tiger.
Until next time, do svidaniya (Goodbye)!
Now that I’ve introduced you to the incredible city that is Novosibirsk, feel free to browse through our excursions catalogue, or choose from one of the listed destinations. Remember to keep an eye open for more excursions that will be added over the next few months.
My aim is to expand our collection of activities in Russia and its neighbouring countries, and bring you even more exciting excursions that will enable you to have a truly authentic experience, wherever you decide to go.
If you’re still unsure of what you can do to enhance your experience in Russia, Mongolia and China, you might get a few ideas if you read the previous instalment in ‘Let the adventures begin’.
Have you been to Novosibirsk? If you have, what were the main highlights of your trip?
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Time for a bad news/good news story!
Due to its long-term stability, the fact that it was capped against the Euro and because it is considered a ‘neutral currency’, many international Railway companies, including the Russian, Chinese and Mongolian railways, cost their international tickets in Swiss Francs, which are then paid for in local currency at the prevailing rate on the day of purchase. In particular, this process is used for booking tickets on international trains travelling along the iconic Trans-Siberian railway and it's off-shoots, the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian.
On the 15th January 2015 the Swiss Central Bank shocked the international money markets and unexpectedly removed the Swiss Franc cap against the Euro.
When the cap was removed, the Swiss Franc rapidly strengthened in relation to many other currencies and, in particular, strengthened against the Russian rouble by more than 20% in a matter of hours.
This, in turn, had the immediate effect of pushing up the cost of international train tickets, such as those on the Trans-Siberian route, as more Roubles are now required to buy the same number of Swiss Francs.
To put this into context, assuming international tickets from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia were priced at 500 Swiss Francs on the 15th January 2015, and the starting Rouble rate for that day was 63.9, then the cost of the ticket would be 31,950 Roubles (€425). Less than one hour after the cap was removed, due to the Swiss Franc strengthening to 76 against the Rouble, the exact same ticket would cost 38,000 Roubles (€510).
That is the bad news.
There is, however, some good news.
Recently many other currencies have also strengthened relative to the Rouble, absorbing this cost increase, and then some. For example since January last year the Russian rouble has fallen against the US Dollar and other ‘hard currencies’, such as the British Pound, by over 45%.
This means that, on average, even though the Rouble cost of Trans-Siberian tickets shot up on the 15th January, today they are still up to 20% cheaper if you are buying in British Pounds, Euros or US Dollars than for many years.
When combined with Real Russia’s long standing relationship with Russian Railways, our experience in booking Trans-Siberian adventures and our policy to provide you with the best prices possible, it means there has never been a better time to travel along the world-famous Trans-Siberian railway.