We support the people of Palestine! 🇵🇸
We support the people of Palestine! 🇵🇸

Things to do in Astana, Kazakhstan: An interview with a resident

Astana is the vibrant capital city of Kazakhstan that provides a captivating blend of modernity and tradition as futuristic skyscrapers contrast with the vast steppes of Central Asia. Home to over 1.4 million people, Astana is a planned city located in the north-central region of Kazakhstan, with a growing population and flourishing cultural scene. We spoke to Amir, a resident of Astana, to learn more about the city.

Hi Amir, Astana is known as the ‘Singapore of the Steppes’. What are some of the main attractions and nice places to visit for a tourist?

Amir: In Astana, tourists shouldn’t miss Baiterek Tower, a symbol of Kazakhstan’s aspirations and future. It offers stunning panoramic views from its observation deck. Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center and Mega Silk Way are great for unique shopping and leisure experiences. Also a tourist can visit Astana Grand Mosque for its magnificent architecture, Astana Opera for cultural performances, and the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, which stands as a testament to Kazakhstan’s commitment to harmony and unity among nations.

Where can a tourist go to learn about the history and culture of Astana, and of Kazakhstan in general?

Amir: To delve into the rich history and culture of Astana, I suggest visiting the National Museum of Kazakhstan, the Kazakh Eli Monument symbolizing our country’s independence, and the Atameken Ethno-Memorial Map of Kazakhstan, displaying miniature replicas of significant Kazakh landmarks. You can look at the entire country within an hour. Also you can look into the future by visiting the Nur Alem Future Energy Museum at the Expo Congress Centre.

Astana Grand Mosque, Astana, Kazakhstan
Astana Grand Mosque

Ok, so that’s learning. What’s the best way to experience the culture of Kazakhstan in Astana?

Amir: I think the best way tourists can truly experience Kazakh culture is by attending traditional performances, exploring local markets for authentic cuisine and handicrafts, and participating in cultural festivals that celebrate Kazakh traditions.

And what about traveling in Astana? What’s the best way to get around?

Amir: The best way to travel around Astana depends on personal preference. Taxis offer convenience but can be more costly. Buses provide a cheaper alternative, while walking is great for exploring the city centre.

What are the main languages spoken in Astana? Will it be difficult for a tourist who can only speak English?

Amir: In Kazakhstan, the main languages spoken are Kazakh and Russian. However, English is increasingly becoming more common, especially in tourist areas, hotels, restaurants, and among younger generations. For a tourist who only speaks English, it might be a bit challenging to communicate in some situations, especially outside of tourist areas. However, many signs and menus in popular tourist spots are often translated into English, and some locals, particularly those working in the service industry, may have basic proficiency in English. It’s always helpful to learn a few essential phrases in Kazakh or Russian, or to use translation apps to bridge language barriers.

Expo Congress Centre, Astana, Kazakhstan
Expo Congress Centre, Astana, Kazakhstan

What kind of weather can a tourist expect in Astana?

Amir: Astana has a continental climate. Winters are extremely cold with temperatures well below freezing, while summers are warm with occasional hot days. Spring and autumn offer milder temperatures, ideal for visiting. It’s important for tourists to be prepared for the weather conditions during their visit to Astana, especially during the winter months when cold temperatures and snow can make outdoor activities challenging. Dressing in layers and bringing appropriate winter clothing such as heavy coats, hats, gloves, and boots is essential for staying comfortable.

What about safety in Astana? Would it be suitable for a solo traveler to visit?

Amir: Kazakhstan is a country with a long history of balanced and multicultural relations, where both locals and visitors are always treated with respect and friendliness. Tourists will feel welcomed and experience hospitality in this country. Astana is generally safe for tourists, including solo travelers. However, like any city, it’s advisable to be careful and use common sense, especially in unfamiliar areas or at night.

What are some examples of traditional Kazakh food you recommend to a tourist visiting Astana?

Amir: If you ask what Kazakh dishes to try during your first visit to Kazakhstan, you will definitely be told “beshbarmak”, the main traditional dish of the Kazakhs. Beshbarmak is boiled horse meat or mutton with dough pieces boiled in broth, cut into small pieces, and generously garnished with dill, parsley, and cilantro. It is served on a large oval platter. The serving of beshbarmak is accompanied by a unique ritual and it can be tasted at any national restaurant.

In Astana you can visit famous Qazaq Gourmet restaurant, which is internationally recognised. You can also enjoy Kazakh cuisine at Tary Ethno Cafe, which has managed to preserve traditional recipes and table settings. Each dish is served on a plate in the national style. The menu features items such as “aq sorpa”, “kazan jappa”, “beef in pepper sauce”, and traditional desserts from Tary.

Kazakh cuisine
Kazakh cuisine.

From a personal perspective, is there anything in particular that you appreciate about living in Astana?

Amir: I appreciate the city’s modern infrastructure and architecture. As Astana is a dynamic and modern city that is constantly developing, it feels like there are many opportunities for personal and professional growth. I also appreciate Astana’s diversity, which is reflected in the city’s multicultural population, languages, cuisine and traditions.

Do you have any other tips for tourists visiting Astana?

Amir: We are very happy to welcome and respect every tourist. We also ask them to respect local customs and be prepared for fluctuating weather conditions, especially during winter. Whether you’re fascinated by history, architecture, or simply seeking new experiences, Astana has something for everyone.

Other than Astana, what other cities do you recommend a tourist to visit in Kazakhstan and why?

Amir: Other cities worth visiting include Almaty for its scenic beauty and vibrant nightlife, Shymkent for its rich cultural heritage and Turkistan for its historical and spiritual sides. Also Aktau, located on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, offers stunning natural beauty and unique geological formations. Each city offers a unique glimpse into Kazakhstan’s diverse landscape and culture.

Related Posts