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Almaty is the former capital of Kazakhstan, located in Almaty Province.
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Points of Interest in Almaty
- Kazakhstan English Language Theater, Ave. Abay 2, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Started in 2001, the Kazakhstan English Language Theater (KELT) is the only English language theater in former Soviet Central Asia. KELT does two shows a year, and runs English language theater classes and workshops periodically throughout the year. Located on the campus of KIMEP Institute in the heart of Almaty.
- Presidential Palace. You will not be allowed to go inside. Nonetheless, the scenery and architecture is breathtaking. If the guards are out front, it means the President is there.
- National Museum. Opposite to Presidential Palace. Blue-roofed. Features displays on Kazakh history, from prehistoric times through the Mongol periods to the present. Guided tours in English (and other languages) are available if you call the museum ahead of time to reserve (their land-line number is 264-55-77, though must be dialed with the appropriate extension from a cellphone). The English guided tours are 2000 TG and Russian guided tours are 600 TG.
- The 28 Panfilov Heroes Memorial Park. Honors the men from Kazakhstan who died on the battlefields of the 2nd World War against Nazi fascism. There is an 'eternal flame' by the war memorial where schoolchildren put flowers on the last day of school, and newlyweds also come to have their photos taken there. In the park is an Orthodox church built from 1904 to 1907, painted in dollhouse colors with a metallic steeple. You can often hear the beautiful singing coming from inside.
- Republic Square/New Square. Former administrative center. Since the capital was moved to Astana, this square has been renovated. TV stations occupy some buildings. There are flower gardens. There is also a Kazakh memorial, consisting of a tall statue of the golden boy, an early Kazakh figure, whose name is Altyn Adam, and circled by metal bas relief panels recounting the history of Kazakhstan, from the time of the fierce Amazon-like queen, to independence 10 years ago.
- Arbat. Almaty’s artist row on a tree-lined pedestrian street. "Arbat" - is a nickname of the street. The real name is Zhybek-Zholy (Silk road). On the same street you can visit the big mall - TsUM (in Russian - ЦУМ - Центральный Универсальный Магазин). At the East end of this pedestrian street there is the Silk Way Mall. Here you can find Wi-Fi internet access at Cafemax on the second level (500 tenge for 100 minutes) and a selection of "upscale" shops. Most of these shops are imitations of western chain stores such as Zara. They also imitate western prices.
- Chocolate factory. Tours possible.
- Medeu. The highest Olympic sized ice stadium. More than 180 world records were made on this ice. Fun to visit in winter. Tipsy teenagers teeter across the ice, coloured lights and loud pop create a slightly surreal but fun ambiance. There is also a large mountain-water swimming pool just below the ice rink, open in summer. The water is extremely invigorating, about 15 degrees celsius!
- Koek Toebe ("Green Hill"). Nice place to relax and enjoy the view of the city. The green hill is situated in the south-east of Almaty and is easily accessible by bus no. 95 or 99 (final station) or by taking cable car (2000 KZT return) from near cinema at intersection of Dostyk and Abai. Entrance fee: 100 KZT. On top of the hill you can find an amusement park, a small zoo, cafés, souvenir shops as well as many benches from which you can enjoy the panorama. A great place for a beer and a scenic view.
Almaty is the former capital of Kazakhstan, and is still its largest city. Being a financial and cultural center of Central Asia, Almaty boasts moderately-sized tourist and expatriate communities.
On a clear day you can see the beautifully rugged, snow capped mountains, right at the city's doorstep to the south. The city, in general, slopes from south to north which makes navigating the streets easy. If you are traveling uphill, you're going south. There is also a small mountain range bordering the city to the east.
Almaty is in the top 50 most expensive cities worldwide for expats to live in according to Mercer Human Research. Although Almaty dropped from 30th place in 2007 to 44th in 2008, it's still more expensive than Toronto, Los Angeles or Hamburg. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful gateway to this undiscovered and distinctive country. Kazakh people are very kind and welcoming, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the hospitality.
- Skating at Medeo Ice-skating stadium. Outside town, on the road to Chimbulak. Skate rentals are available. Take bus number 6 in front of Hotel Kazakhstan on Dostyk Ave. to go to the Medeu (50 tenge on weekdays, 70 tenge on weekends), every 20 minutes.
- Ski or snowboard at Chimbulak, Ak-Bulak and Tabagan ski resorts.
- Ski jumping.
- Cable car / Kok-tube on the cable car up to Kok-Tobe for wonderful views of the mountains, vineyards, and Almaty. The cable car leaves from Satpaeva and Dostyk (still sometimes referred to as Lenin street) and costs 800 tenge (about $5) one way, 2000 tenge both ways. or take bus number 95 & 99 (50 tenge). Entry Fee 100 tenge minimum by walk. Buy souvenirs and have a cup of hot chocolate at a table under the shadow of the TV tower or take a ride on unpowered roller-coaster. Butt TV Tower is closed for visitors due to restricted area. (26/06/2012)
- Ride a bicycle. Rentals are available at "Extremal" stores chain.
- See the famous Charyn canyon and the gorgeous red and orange sandstone layers. Driving 3 hours from the city. The "Singing Dunes" are also not too far - a day trip.
- Dance in a various city's nightclubs and bars if you're in the mood. Remember do not pay for every drink as you get it, get a table an get a receipt.
- Walk at Panfilov Park, a beautiful park in the center of the city, featuring Soviet-era architecture and Cathedral.
- Relax at Tau Spa is up in the mountains and is worth a visit summer or winter. Try the plunge pool at -15 degrees!
- Cheap shopping at Barakholka, a large vendor-style market, find name brands (knock-offs) for cheap. Be aware of pick-pocketing.
- Visit the Green Market, an indoor/outdoor labyrinth of stalls selling everything from homemade goat cheese or Korean salads to hand-knit woolen mittens and socks and pirated DVDs and CDs. Wallet in your front pocket, lest the pickpockets relieve you of your hard-earned money.
- Pack a picnic and drive 2 hours out to the Tamgaly petroglyphs (about 30 km past Copa off the road to Bishkek). The famous "Sunman" is worth the drive.
- Arasan sauna center. Since its cold and windy weather condition visiting saunas with friends is very popular in Kazakhstan. Saunas (Russian banyas or Finnish steam rooms) are an excellent place to discuss business issues or just socialize with friends. Having parties (birthdays, New Year, etc) in saunas is normal practice. In fact many modern sauna complexes in Almaty are usually fully equipped with karaoke, billiards, swimming pools, relax rooms, massage rooms, etc.
Almaty is surrounded by mountains and, weather permitting, there is some fantastic hiking. See above for getting to Medeu, from where you can hike, or get the cable car to Chimbulak, where you can find good hiking.
There is also good hiking around the Big Almaty Lake area up in the mountains (the lake is at 2,500m and there are peaks overlooking it, some of them above 4,500). The lake and surrounding area are beautiful. The lake freezes in the winter and in the autumn it is a stunning turquoise blue colour. You can reach the area by:
- bus and hike: the 28 bus goes from the roundabout at Al-Farabi and Navoi up Dulati street and terminates at the last left turn before Almaarasan. This is a good way up towards Big Almaty Lake; the remainder can be done on foot: the hike is about 15 km and a 1000m altitude increase (to 2,500m). Follow the road about 8 km until you reach a big water pipe, and then follow the water pipe - the first bit is steep but beyond that it gets easier. If you don't take the water pipe the journey is much longer.
- bus and taxi: when you get off the 28 bus there are taxis waiting: they will take you up to within 4 km of the lake for 2,000 KZT (22/20/2011) - but you might as well skip the bus (see below).
- taxi: from the roundabout at Al-Farabi and Navoi a taxi will take you to within 4 km of the lake. You should be able to barter them down to 2,000 KZT (22/10/2011) for a one-way trip.
- Organised tours
You can also hike up above the lake to the Observatory.
- Korean restaurants. Almaty has a huge diaspora of ethnic Koreans. The ladies sell their salads at the market places around town, and there are several quite good restaurants. One of the more Korean popular restaurants is in the square in front of the entrance to the Exhibition on Temirazova (a few blocks away from the Intercontinental and the new Holiday Inn). You'll often see business men from Samsung and LG here lunching with people from the Korean embassy.
- Chinese restaurants. Popular Chinese restaurant located on Gogolya and Tulebayeva (not far from Panfilov Park) in the ground floor of an apartment building. Strange location, but very popular and clean.
- Modern International restaurants. New lounge restaurant called "Boudoir" has picked up the baton, and offers "contemporary global cuisine" in an intimate underground space. The menu includes kangaroo and crocodile dishes, and specialties of the house are the live mudcrabs cooked in 5 different ways, and the chef's selection of homemade icecreams. Menus are in English, Russian and Kazakh, and the place has the funkiest cocktail menu in Central Asia. Open till midnight 7 days a week. Located on Bogenbai Batyr underneath the Kazpost (near Ablai Khan).
- Georgian restaurants. Feature khachapuri, cheese filled bread, eggplant stuffed with nuts, spinach with nuts, and various savory kababs. Try Tbilisi on Zheltoksan or Pirosmani on Ablai Khan (two blocks down from Tsum). Georgian restaurants are great places for vegetarians to dine.
- Indian restaurants. One of the more popular Indian restaurants is Namaste, on the corner of Kosmonaft and Satpaeva (about mid-way between the Intercontinental and the Hyatt). Service is very slow, but if you have time the food is pretty good. Govindas is a wonderful Indian restaurant that is entirely vegetarian.
- Restaurant chain Il Patio / Planeta Sushi. Predictably passable pizza and decent sushi in a clean and efficient atmosphere at decent prices.
- Mama Mia's. Located on Gogol between Ablai Khan and Panfilova (across from Dastarkhan grocery store) and the second Mama Mia is located on Tole Bi and Zharokova. Another pizza restaurant, but with a large assortment of fresh salads (a good place to go when you tire of carrots and potatoes in the winter time). A small, separate non-smoking section. For a change, stop in and order your dishes to go, then walk across the street to Dastarkhan to buy some sodas and pastries for dessert; then walk two blocks east on Gogol and eat in Panfilov Park.
- Venezia. Located on Dostyk (Lenina) between Satpaeva and Abaya. Four pages of choices. The pizza has very good thin crust. The restaurant has two rooms.
- La Grenouille (Shevshenko 18, corner with Dostik). Certainly the best French restaurant in town. Friendly atmosphere and tasty food (you should try the frog legs !) www.lagrenouille.kz
- Emporio Armani Bar (Al-Farabi and Shashkina). Recently opened bar with moderate prices and excellent service. Life DJ and cosy atmposhere.
- Gakku (7 Nikitina Street, between Nauryzbay Batyr street and Seyfullin avenue). On of the best restaurant serving Kazakh national food for reasonable prices. One should try "Beshparmak", "Kuyrdak" and other traditional Kazakh dishes. Foreigners are increasingly frequenting this new restaurant.
- The Grill (on top of the hill at Kok Tobe). Take the cable car up, near Hotel Kazakhstan on Dostyk. Located in a picturesque setting overlooking Almaty. You are perched over the city on a wooden verandah (some parts nice & shady) and it is an awesome setting. The beers are a bit pricey, but the shashliks are awesome and a few drinks here is a 'must do' experience.
- Jantik Club (138 Bogenbay Batyr Street, Shagabutdinov street corner). Western-style bar. Life music and XX century super hits. Beatles fans will be very placed to visit this bar. Residents include Jeraldine Hunt, Oleg Magomayev and Jantemir. Moderate prices.
- Mad Murphy's (somewhere on Tole Bi Street). Unless you're desperate for an Irish pub. The food is predictably mediocre and the bar is thick with smoke and English-speaking expats. Prices are a little steep but you are getting what your money's worth. Some of the best americanized food in Almaty. Although it is filled with middle/elderly business men mostly from America and The U.K it has recently attracted a younger crowd because of its fabulous live band. On Fridays and Saturdays the crowd at Murphy's is treated to great live English music, by the end of the night the whole bar is rocking to the band.
- Queens Pub (Shevchenko and Seifullina). Modern English pub with live bands and evening shows (www.queens.kz).
- Sapphire. Late night club and restaurant for the young people. Basic Chinese menu and live DJ with a dance floor. The main drawcard here is the shisha, or 'hubbly bubbly' 'nargile' or 'water pipe'. Other places in Almaty also have shisha (fruit flavoured tobacco, smoked for an hour or two from a hookah), but this is one of the few to use real charcoal and authentic Al Fakher shisha tobacco from UAE. The bar delivers the vodkas pretty promptly too.
- Soho. Lunch isn't bad - a buffet with a nice assortment of breads, soups, salads, and main dishes called a "business lunch" at a reasonable fixed price. However the evenings are quite pleasant with live music and reasonable drink prices - no entrance fee during the week. Soho is a great place for a single business man to attend during the night. It is not a very classy joint and is usually packed with Almaty's working woman. Nevertheless they have one of the best bands in Almaty and they sing in English! Some of their covers are better than the originals, it's a must see event. Try making a booking for a table, to avoid having to stand at the bar.
- Taj Mahal (59,Masanchi street, corner of Kababai Batyr Street(Near Celinni cinema),Amaty). This is the most authentic Indian restaurant,with Traditional Hukkah & special pizzas, under new management has started to attract an expat crowd,because of their traditional interior & moe prompt service.
- Tau Dastarkhan (halfway up to the mountains). Located in a large area made up of "islands" with Kazakh, Russian, Georgian, and Uzbek kitchens. Not to be missed in the summertime. It's as fun to walk around and see the various settings as it is to eat.
- Turandot (two locations: one on Abai between Kosmonaft and Zhandosova attached to the theater building, other on Ablai Khan just below Makataeva). It is a very cheap and very tasty Chinese eatery. Servings are huge, so don't go overboard! There are plenty of vegetarian dishes to choose from, including tofu dishes.
- Ultra's (Satpaeva between Kosmonaft and Seifulin). Fun restaurant with its own microbrewery on site. It is one of the Staut bars chain. The restaurant has an excellent array of beer, even if it's a little costly.
- Zheti Qazyna (Ablai Khan and Makataeva). The restaurant with three kitchens: Uzbek, Asian (i.e. Chinese), European. The Uzbek room has wonderful wood decorations, blue-tiled kitchen you can see into.
What to eat
- Local food:
"Five fingers", a traditional Kazakh food. "Beshbarmak", a stew with leaves of noodles and pieces of lamb. "Baurzaki", heavy, spongy bread dough cooked in deep fat (similar to a donut, but not sweet). "Plov", a rice dish with meat and carrots or other vegetables. "Shashlik" (Russian: Шашлык) is the most tasty Kazakh food. It is a kebab that is made out of chicken or lamb. Shashlik is not fried, but is grilled over saxaul. Shashlik is popular throughout this part of Central Asia. You can also easily find "doner kebab" or "shaurma" at any number of stands through the city. Just be sure to use the stands with the most customers – it is often the best food, and it is freshly prepared.
Almaty has many modern supermarkets, offering everything from a bakery section to toiletries and vodka. Any food you could possibly want to find is readily available. There are four major supermarket chains: Ramstore, SM-Market, Gros and City. And plenty of single supermarkets and small local grocery shops.
Chain called "Gros" (really) has convenient locations around town and a good selection of drinks and snacks. Ramstore also has at least three locations, but is a bit pricier. The favorite stores among locals are Stolichni (Ablai Khan and Kabanbai Batyr) - super helpful staff and decent fruits/vegetables year around, but vegetable prices are very expensive. Dastarkhan (Gogolya Street between Ablai Khan and Furmanova) has excellent baked goods, especially cakes and cookies. Silk Way City (Tole Bi and Nauryzbai Batyr) shopping center has a supermarket in the ground floor.
Of course, if you really want to save money and enjoy an adventure, go to the Green Market and bargain with the old ladies selling Korean salads, apples, eggplants, cheese, honey, and even arucola and rosemary sprigs!
- Water. The municipal water is more or less drinkable, with no real nasties, but try to boil it if possible. Bottled water is cheap and easily available. When at restaurants, ask specifically for "Sary-Agash" (of Asem-Ai brand) or Borjomi. Many other widely-known water brands can be found in restaurants and supermarkets.
- Tea is widely available, mostly very good and often quite strong. If you are on a budget this is the thing to order with your food. Tea is culturally important in Kazakhstan - "chai" time is one of the most important things a visitor can engage in to learn about the culture.
- Coffee. Modern coffee houses and western-style cafés are appearing. They serve good coffee. Coffeedelia (Kalinina and Furmanova) is popular with expats and does OK coffee. One of the best coffee in Almaty can be found at 4A Coffee where they roast their own daily. Gloria Jeans and Marone Rosso also can be found.
- Kumis. Exotic mare's milk that you can find, taste and buy on markets.
- Tan. Quaint fizzy beverage made of mare's milk.
- Local beer. Becker, Staut, Tian Shan, Derbes, Irbis, Alma-Ata. Local brands brewed in Almaty are pretty good.
- Local wine. Try the local variety, a good one can be had for less than $4 a bottle. "Bibigul" is perhaps the most consistently good wine, and it comes in a semidry red or semidry white. Avoid to drink wine in restaurants, it's usually very expensive.
- Vodka. Good vodka at $8–10 per bottle. In restaurants that do not usually cater to foreigners you get 20(!) cl if you order a vodka, smaller servings not available. Buy a bottle of "Kazakhstan" vodka to take back. It is in a pretty bottle with a picture of Kazakh hunting with a falcon seen through a "window". Try Edil vodka, which is made with the pantacrene of local deer antlers.
If you know English and do not have a guide-interpreter in Almaty, then you can buy Pogulay, an indispensable guidebook to the city which is printed in English and Russian and sold at newsstands. It is priced at $3 US and covers all the attractions, including photos and descriptions.
As of September 2012, $1 equals about 147 tenge and 1 Euro is 200 tenge. As a comparison: a Snickers bar is 80 tenge; a can of Coke is 70 tenge; a cheese pizza at il Patio is about 1200 tenge; a cinema ticket for a movie is about 1000 tenge; a small trip about 10 minutes in length in a taxi - 300-400 tenge; cigarettes 50-150 tenge; vodka 500+ tenge, beer 500ml 120+ tenge, a litre of juice is around 150 tenge. Beef is 900-1500 tenge a kilo, pork 800 tenge a kilo, horse meat 1500 tenge a kilo. A loaf of bread is 40-70 tenge. A 2 bedroom modern apartment is about $1000 a month. Clothing is expensive unless buying knock-offs at Baraholka. Green Market is relatively expensive.
Many of shopping centers and malls are scattered throughout the city.
- On the Arbat street you will find 'Tsum' (stands for 'Centralniy Universalniy Magasin'). Every post-Soviet town has this department store. It's filled with hundreds of identical little counters selling electronic goods on the first floor, and souvenirs and clothes can be found on the second. There is a good selection of souvenirs.
- The Green market, or 'Zelyoni Bazaar' in Russian, has fresh vegetables, dairy products, and meat, as well as a number of non-food household items. Fruit and vegetables are on the lower level. On the upper level you will find dried fruits, nuts, spices, honey and plants, as well as cheese and meat. The meat section includes horse sausages and is a bit challenging to the nose, so vegetarians beware.The prices increase seasonally, and unless you come from Tokyo or London, you will find it quite expensive, as opposed to your "usual" Asian market shopping experience.
- Handmade carpets.
- Felt goods. Handmade dolls, rugs, and slippers made with boiled lambswool and natural dyes.
- Handcrafted metal jewelry, including a "tumar", which is a pendant that opens like a locket.
- Handcrafted leather chess sets in a leather folding case with a board pattern stitched on. In most souvenir shops, and on ground floor of Silk Way (Zhybek Zholy and Furmanova).
- One Saturday a month, there is an 'ad hoc' market on Ablai Khan across from the Tsum. Craftsmen from all over come and sell their wares. It's worth checking out.
- In Almaty there is also a market place called Barakholka, which is 4 km long and 20 rows wide and can be seen easily it is a very busy place. You can find virtually anything there, and if the price isn't right, you can easily haggle with the merchants. Want to find a $300 winter coat for about $45? It's possible.
- As the city continues to modernize, largest international brands continue to establish stores in the city.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Almaty on Wikivoyage.