With a population of 1.2 million Perm is the sixth-largest city in Russia and is one of the country’s primary centres for arts and culture with a variety of contemporary museums and theatres adorning it’s streets. Both geographically and culturally, it lies at the threshold between Europe and Asia.
Perm is the eastern-most city that is still on the European subcontinent. This location has made the city one of the major transport hubs in Russia, with the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the motorways from Moscow and Kazan, and the Kama River all crossing through the city. By Russian standards Perm is extremely multicultural and is home to many ethnic groups, who have lived together in this place for centuries.
Perm physical geography
Perm is perched on the outskirts of the Ural Mountains and is surrounded by dense woodland while the Kama river runs through the city. A short distance away to the south of the city are the Kungar Ice caves. These hidden ice chambers give an insight into the physical composition of the region and how this has evolved over centuries.
Kungar Ice Caves Near Perm, Russia
Perm time zone:
Perm works on Yekaterinburg Standard Time (YEKT) which works out to GMT +5.
Approximate distance from Perm to other places of interest:
Perm to Moscow: 1435km
Perm to Almaty, Kazakhstan: 2750km
Perm to Irkutsk: 3800km
Perm has earned an important space in Russian history through being a gateway to Siberia. Not only is the city’s most famous son the Russian hero Erma, whose army marched through the Urals and eastwards, but the construction of the Trans-Siberian Highway also started in Perm.
Early history: 16th-18th century
An informal settlement was established in the area during the 16th century, when the Russians were attracted by the area’s resources of salt and fur and Perm gained city rights in 1723. The founding is still honoured by the White Night Festival every June that features many concerts and performances, parades and fireworks.
Second World War and the Soviet era: 20th century
When the Russian government decided to move much of its industry and cultural artifacts to Perm for safety during the Second World War, many writers, actors and artists followed, manifesting the city’s status as a cultural centre. During the Soviet era Perm was an important military fortress due to the artillery and rocket production in the area. It was one of the Soviet Union’s many well-kept secrets and few people abroad, or even within the country, guessed that the city was actually as prosperous and large as it was.
Modern cultural hotspot: 21st century – present
Perm has gained a reputation as a city of culture and artistic innovation just behind Moscow and St Petersburg. It’s continuous investment in cultural heritage and its ability to adapt to incoming modern art and design trends has marked Perm out as a major tourist spot on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Perm’s architecture is charmingly unusual, lacking the high-rise glass towers that have been built elsewhere in Russia. Instead the city centre is mostly made up if colourful, classic mansions. There are plenty of things to see in Perm and a city tour is often the best option for taking in the city’s bazaars, parks and museums.
Moscow and St Petersburg aside, Perm is the best Russian city to enjoy theatre, the opera or ballet. The art gallery is also especially comprehensive, as is the Gorki Library. Unique to the city is the artillery museum, giving a details history of Russian military production. If you are into sports, the city also hosts some exciting sports teams and offers the opportunity to watch high-profile football, and ice hockey. Here we have included a short list of some of the best things to do in Perm:
A center of culture and arts for locals and tourists alike, the Perm Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre offers some of the best high-brow entertainment outside of the principal cities of Moscow and St Petersburg. The theatre is one of the oldest in the country and offers an outstanding repertoire of performances including classical music concerts, opera and ballet.
Opened in 2009, the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art Museum is a shining example of the cultural development that has taken place in Perm of the last decade. The museum is committed to presenting art as a form of Russian social identity and has become a popular education center for the region, creating over 70 projects, including the well known ‘Russian Poor’ exhibition.
A sinister reminder of political repression during the Soviet era, the Perm 36 museum is located slightly West of Perm and is Russia’s last remaining Gulag camp. The camp has been reformed to demonstrate the conditions in which inmates were confined and enslaved in haunting detail. The museum offers a pictorial exhibit focused around the Soviet era of Russian history.
See our tour page to learn more or book you guided tour of the Perm 36 Museum.
Gulag Village Near Perm, Russia
Unsure of where to start? Browse our full list of Perm tours for more inspiration.
Although not known for it’s nightlife, Perm is quickly becoming a go-to destination for tourists. We have included a brief list of some of the best bars in Perm:
Located on the Eastern edge of Perm city centre, the Molotov Bar and Beer shop is one of the best places to visit for lovers of craft beer. The Bar has a comfortable and casual atmosphere and serves a huge selection of local Russian and foreign craft beers that you will struggle to find elsewhere in the city.
StudiA Event Bar is located on Perm city centre’s Southern-most edge. This sleek, hyper-social bar is focused around its Karaoke and is a great place to go with a group of friends towards the end of an evening.
The Biblioteka Bar fully embraces Perm’s cultural spirit with an impressive lounge space surrounded by bookshelves and artistry. This modern-style bar offers an impressive selection of cocktails and regularly hosts live music for visitors to sit back and enjoy!
Perm has a wide variety of restaurants available for tourists to enjoy including traditional Russian, European and Asian restaurants. Here, we have created a short list of some of the best restaurants in Perm for tourists:
Located around 30 minutes south-west of Perm, Karin specialises in high-end traditional Russian and intercontinental cuisine and is part of the 4 Elements hotel. The dining room has a calming and contemporary feel with mood lighting and spacious dining area, to create a relaxing stress-free space. Visitors to the restaurant can expect to find many traditional Russian food dishes including Posikunchiki, Pelmeni and Borsht.
Les Marches is located a short walk South of the city centre and is located on the first floor with access to a terrace. This elegant restaurant takes its inspiration from contemporary French cuisine and offers an impressive selection of grilled fish and meat dishes as well as a portion of the menu dedicated to vegetarians.
Perm has plenty of places to stay from luxury hotels suited to business travellers to low-cost hostels for travellers on a budget. The 4* Astor hotel is a favourite among tourists and business travellers due to its ideal location in Perm city centre, with major sites such as the Opera and Ballet Theatre and Museum of Modern Art around a 5-minute walk away. This hotel includes free WIFI, a desk space in each room, en-suite bathrooms and a continental breakfast available each morning. Travellers on a budget may prefer to stay in one of Perm’s hostels such as Hostel Club 1723. This hostel is exceptionally well kept with a clean, modern vibe; It is well positioned to the East of the city centre near the city’s best bars and is around a mile away from the main tourist attractions.
The summer is lovely in Perm, with sunny and very warm weather that invites for sunbathing and swimming on the Kama beaches. By Russian standards winters in Perm are not as cold, with temperatures averaging at -15°C. This may still be an off-putting cold compared to European winters, but the cold months in Perm also come with their perks, such as the famous Ice Sculpture Festival and delicious home-made Russian broth.
Bolshoye Savino Airport is the closest airport to Perm, only 16 kilometres southwest of the city. Most flights hail from Moscow, but there are also seasonal flights from Europe, Dubai and Thailand. Its location also makes Perm one of the most important junctions on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, meaning it is well-connected into both directions. The major waterway, the Kama, also makes it possible to visit Perm on a river cruise.
Perm’s effort to reinvent itself from a somewhat charming, but industrial town into one of Russia’s major cultural centres is truly impressive. No matter when you visit Perm, there is surely some festival or other cultural event going on. However, even those not interested in art will find plenty to do in a city that comes with such a rich history and culturally diverse inhabitants.
City View of Perm, Russia
A non-stop direct flight to Moscow from Perm International Airport will take approximately 2 hours 15 minutes. Many travellers also take the train from Perm to Moscow as part of the Trans-Siberian Railway which takes around 1 day.
A non-stop flight to Irkutsk will take approximately 9 hours 15 minutes on a direct domestic flight. It is also possible to get to Irkutsk from Perm by train using the Trans-Siberian route which takes around 67 hours.
Although travelling to Perm may be expensive, prices in Perm itself are relatively inexpensive compared to other major European and Russian cities. For example, tourist attractions such as the Perm Contemporary Art Museum cost 200 roubles to enter which works out to around £2.50, and you will find that public transport, taxis and food are about 30% cheaper in Perm than elsewhere in Europe.*******