Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia is much more than cold and desolation. With over 1.5 million inhabitants, Novosibirsk is the third most populous city in Russia, after Moscow and Saint Petersburg. It is located in South Central Russia, some 3,000 miles east of Moscow and is considered the Asian capital of Russia, which differentiates it from the more famous and cosmopolitan European cities in the country of the Czars.
Over 20 nationalities make up the city’s great diversity. This multicultural embrace has delivered emblematic additions to the region’s architectural landscape. Such contributions are reflected in the presence of cathedrals, mosques, Orthodox churches, synagogues, and Buddhist temples coexisting alongside the cold, grand state architecture of the Communist era. Modern buildings and shopping malls stand out among Novosibirsk’s grey urban spaces, bringing with them an eclectic style. Likewise, its 34 universities, 42 museums, and 78 libraries are evidence of its rich, active social and cultural life.
Novosibirsk is the third most populous city in Russia, after Moscow and Saint Petersburg. It is located in South Central Russia, some 3,000 miles east of Moscow and is considered the capital of Asian Russia.
A winter arrival in Novosibirsk will require something more than a good coat. The average winter temperature is –12ºC (10ºF), but it could plummet down to -35ºC (-31ºF), with frequent snowfall and blizzards. Summer tends to be more pleasant and mild, with an average of 15ºC (59ºF) and mostly sunny days that can reach 35ºC (95ºF).
Novosibirsk was always favored by domestic tourism, but in the last few years it has opened up to international travelers. To the foreign visitor, everything in Novosibirsk appears to have been built on a monumental scale, although not without its particular type of beauty. The Opera and Ballet Theater is a fine example of the area’s rich cultural offer and heritage. Soviet architecture is also well represented in the city with the impressive central train station located at the Nikolai Garin-Mijailovski Square, the largest station of the Trans-Siberian Railway Network. The Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky is nearly impossible to miss. The all brick structure is a perfect example of neo-Byzantine architecture that survived the Soviet era’s attacks on organized religion.
The Saint Nicholas Chapel—also known as the geographical center of Russia—emerges on Red Avenue with its white and gold dome. The small structure was built in 1915 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. During Stalin’s rule, in the 1930s, it was destroyed to make space for a Lenin memorial, and in 1993, the chapel was rebuilt to celebrate the city centennial.
Man does not live on architecture, beauty, and culture alone. The authentic regional cuisine also draws many visitors to Novosibirsk. Local dishes include smoked fish, blinis with caviar and Smetana, which is made with sour cream. And since we are already in Siberia, let’s not forget borscht, a high-calorie traditional soup, and stroganoff, with plump pieces of meat and mushrooms. The traditional drink is vodka, and for dessert, a slice of vatrushka—a kind of sweet hot tart—is often ordered.
One of the favorite haunts of Siberian high society is Salt restaurant, a hidden gem property of hotel magnate Denis Ivanov. Salt is famous for its exquisite dishes and presentation, but also for its irregular opening hours. Make sure to make reservations before going as Ivanov often closes the place to the public to entertain his friends and family. The restaurant’s decor is elegant and minimalist with a strong Nordic vibe. ■