Walking Tour of Astana
The capital of Kazakhstan is on everyone’s lips at the moment. When President Nasarbejev chose the city in 1998 to be the new capital, Astana was not more than a town. Today, Astana is already a cosmopolitan city with a population of over 1 million. The city is an embarrassment of modernity and cool architecture.
If you plan to visit Astana, don’t miss out the highlights of the city. Here is a recommended walking tour for you. It is doable in one day - depending on how much time you spend at the museums. For more insights about the city, hire a local guide in Astana.
Walking Tour Astana (Goolge maps)
Distance: 15km, Duration: at least one full day
Start at the Palace of Peace & Reconciliation. This extraordinary pyramid is made entirely out of glass. It was constructed to host the congress of leaders of world and traditional religions. It contains a opera hall, an atrium, conference rooms, a national museum of culture, a university of civilisation, a library and a research center for Kazakhstan's ethnic and geographical groups.
Continue to stroll around looking at the amazing architecture of the buildings around the presidential park. The big white and golden pol is the Kazak Yeli Monument. It symbolises the historic destiny of Kazakh people. The blue building that looks like a volcano crater is the Shabyt, the National University of arts.
If you are interested in visiting museums, here are two worth visiting. One is the angular Kazakhstan History Museum made out of marble. The other one is the blue square building is Palace of Independence which contains a modern art gallery, a gallery of applied art and ethnography, archeology and anthropology and the museum of city Astana.
The last interesting building in this area is the impressive Hazrat Sultan Mosque located a bit further north. We recommend going inside this mosque as it has the biggest dome of the country and is just beautiful inside with massiv chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
After that make your way to the Ak Orda (the White House), the white house of Astana. It is about an 30min walk. Probably it is best to take a short taxi ride to reach the presidential palace. From here walk westwards to see the architecture of the futuristic Central Concert Hall, the two wings of the house of Ministries, the towers of the Mazhilis of parliament and the Senate as well as the two golden shimmering towers containing different companies. You will reach then the Ploshchad Poyushchykh Fontanov (singing fountain). This is probably a nice place to rest and enjoy the vivid scene. There are also some restaurant options around.
Next is one of the most famous landmark of Astana, the Bayterek Tower. It is a 97m high tower build after the Kazakh legend of a mythical bird that laid golden eggs containing the secrets of human happiness concealing it beyond the reach for mankind. Go up with the lift and enjoy the view of the city center. Especially the Kazakhs enjoy the displayed golden hand print of the president at the top floor.
The architectonical walk continues along the Nurzhol Bulvar westwards. First you will encounter the egg shaped National Archive followed by the inclined Emerald Towers and the wavy Northern Lights apartment sky scraper. From here head-south west to the Nur Astana Mosque. It is a stunning white building with a golden dome. Go inside and enjoy the colourful mosaic painting on the wall. If you are back at the boulevard you will see a bronze high-rise building at the right side. It is the Ministry of Transport & Communications Ministry.
A good photo spot makes the view trough the bridge of the Headquarter of KazMunayGaz, the state-owned oil and gas company of Kazakhstan, to the other landmark of Astana, the Khan Shatyr. This very special shopping center is in fact a 150m high building that looks like a gigantic tent. Inside it you will find a shopping mall with shops and entertainment facilities. Two of them being a indoor beach resort with real sand and a monorail. Here you will also find a variety of restaurants if you are hungry.
The rest of the day could be enjoyed with shopping at the Khan Shatyr and save the rest of the program for the next day. But if you are not tired yet head to the City Park and drink a tea at one of the tea houses. Then stroll around the Duman, Astanas amusement park with aquarium and rides. Another thing to do in this area is the Atameken. It is a Kazakh miniature showing basically the most famous monuments and natural sights of Kazakhstan. Afterwards make your way to the Presidential Cultural Center. This center contains a museum of archeology, ethnography, history, culture and arts as well as a library and concert and exhibition halls which are worth visiting.
This part of the “old town” is also a good point to start your evening. Here are the most restaurants and bars. When it is dark, head down to the river. From here you have a good view on the magnificent illuminated skyline of the Dubai of Central Asia.
Food and restaurants in Astana
The hip and cool places to eat change pretty fast in Astana. So the best thing if you are looking for a restaurant is probably just stroll around in the city center and trust your guts. If you are looking for cheaper food the food courts of the big malls like the Khan Shatyr offer good opportunities. Otherwise look out for a laghman restaurant. This Uyghur noodle dish is a fantastic. Astana is next to Almaty one of the cities in Kazakhstan where a wide selection of international food is offered.
Drinking and the nightlife of Astana
There are many bars and clubs located around Astana. The typical Astana night is probably go to a pub/bar and enjoy a good cold pint. Beer drinking and enjoying a snack is popular with the Kazakhs. Surprisingly there are rather many Irish bars to be found in the city. If you are up to sing out your lungs then head to the various karaoke bars. Although it might be a challenge to find European/American songs in the selection. Another fun thing to do is enjoying a nice shisha/hookah at specialised bars.