8 secrets of Vladivostok for travelers to the world’s edge

TASS/Yury Smityuk
How to travel to the edge of the world and get it right: In honor of the local tourist bible, "Globus Vladivostoka" (The Globe of Vladivostok), RBTH has created our own spinning globe to uncover Russia's only oceanfront metropolis secrets and avoid its tourist traps.

Vladivostok is the first major city in Russia to greet the new day and the New Year: 9,000 kilometers and seven time zones lay between this city and Russia's capital. National Geographic lists this cosmopolitan city among the 10 most beautiful oceanfront cities in the world, on the streets of Vladivostok it is common to see sailors from all over the world, hear the yelps of seagulls and see foreign tourists get into the wrong side of Japanese-made cars.

Photo credit: Yulia Shandurenko, RBTHPhoto credit: Yulia Shandurenko, RBTH

1. The ultimate season to visit Vladivostok is from early August to the end of October. Seasons in Primorye are about one month off as compared to central Russia. In July Vladivostok hides its beautiful bridges in fogs thicker than those in London and locals wear waterproof parkas and don’t even think about going to the beach. However, in September the weather often allows for swimming in the ocean and sunbathing. In October, when trees in Moscow have almost lost all their leaves, Primorsky Territory experiences its annual peak in sunny days. Do not miss the fall colors in Vladivostok – they come out in the multicolored sopka hills against the backdrop of the ocean's blue. Winter is not a good season to visit. Springs are usually long and foggy.

Photo credit: Yury SmityukPhoto credit: Yury Smityuk

2. The best way to get to Vladivostok is a direct Aeroflot flight from Moscow: Only 8.5 hours on the plane and you arrive at the edge of the world. A flight from St. Petersburg takes nine hours and flights from Tokyo, Beijing or Seoul are a mere 2-3 hours. Vladivostok's international airport is located near the village of Knevichi, 38 kilometers away from the city. From there Aeroexpress trains (most frequent for morning arrivals) take passengers direct to the city center in 45 minutes – look out for the excellent view of the bridge over Zolotoy Rog (Golden Horn) Bay along the way. 

Photo credit: TASS/Yury SmityukPhoto credit: TASS/Yury Smityuk

3. Packing tips: to get off to a good start with the city take the most comfortable running shoes and boots you own – they will help you conquer the steep rises and slopes of the “Russian San Francisco.” Don't forget a knitted hat, thin thermal underwear (Uniqlo will do) and a waterproof and windproof jacket to withstand the penetrating ocean winds. Take your bathing suit just in case the local climate decides to surprise you with warm weather. Take some hiking or surfing equipment if that’s what you’re into. But leave the surfboard at home – they are easy to rent in Vladivostok.

4. Azimut Hotel Vladivostok is a good place to stay in the city center. Conveniently located close to the main city lighthouse at Egersheld is the Hotel Zhemchuzhina, a budget option that is popular among travelers. An interesting alternative for those that want to immerse themselves in local life is the Teplo Hostel. It has guests ranging from marine engineers to international adventure travelers who gather for dinners in the common living area, which features a fireplace and bar counter.

Photo credit: TASS/Yury SmityukPhoto credit: TASS/Yury Smityuk

5. Explore Russky Island by car? Before renting a car to explore the beaches of the Shamora district, hug forest deer and watch tigers in the Primorsky Safari Park, or take a look around the secret bays of Russky Island you should be aware of one of the city’s charming paradoxes – cars here drive on the right side of the road, and their steering wheels are on the right side as most cars are imported from Japan. This paradox is described in novels and is even the subject of a planned monument. Believe me, it is better to take a taxi. Taxi services can be reached at  8(4243)511115 and 8(4232)730073. Rides start at 250 rubles ($4); it is not common to tip to taxi drivers.

Photo credit: TASS/Yury SmityukPhoto credit: TASS/Yury Smityuk

6. The best things in life are free, including sea views. The majority of Vladivostok's sights are available free of charge. The pedestrian bridge over the Zolotoy Rog Bay and the lighthouse on Egersheld Peninsula are best to visit when the weather cooperates. Otherwise the heavy wind could blow you off the bridge and the lighthouse might not be reachable as the string of land connecting the peninsula to the city might be underwater. Other things you can do for free are borrow a few Russian literary classics from the public library in Sukhanov park, take a selfie with the monument to the deep-sea sailor wearing bell-bottomed trousers and holding the new Led Zeppelin album under his arm and sit on the favorite bench of Eleanor Prey, an American woman who was in love with Vladivostok.

Photo credit: Yulia Shandurenko, RBTHPhoto credit: Yulia Shandurenko, RBTH

An important part of every Vladivostok visitor's memories is the sea views. The beauty of the city's viewpoints and embankments defy easy description, but the best place in the city for breakfast or lunch with a sea view is the Green Cafe on the top floor of the Clover House shopping mall. Order a fresh fish sandwich and watch the Ferris wheel near the beach and ul. Admirala Fokina (the local Arbat) go around.

Photo credit: Yulia Shandurenko, RBTHPhoto credit: Yulia Shandurenko, RBTH

7. Noodles from the locals. Vladivostok has accumulated the most nourishing and flavorful parts of the different cultures that make up its whole. To dine on seafood, fine wine and affordable luxury go to Moloko i Med (Milk and Honey) near Sukhanov park. You can't leave Vladivostok without trying “pyanse” (steamed buns stuffed with cabbage and meat), a local street food take on a popular Korean traditional dish. It has become so popular here that this phenomenon has even reached Moscow. The best place to buy pyanse is at the stalls near Clover House shopping center, while travelers seeking the best noodles to go can find them at the New York Street Food stall near Sportivnaya Bay.

Photo credit: Yulia Shandurenko, RBTHPhoto credit: Yulia Shandurenko, RBTH

Few know that Vladivostok is a heaven for coffee lovers – coffee shops offering quality roasted drinks for reasonable price and accompanied by friendly service are to be found on almost every corner. Try Koffetoria located in a historic building near the bridge crossing Zolotoy Rog Bay and for a worthy local alternative to Starbucks try the Pirate Coffee chain featuring a sailor girl on its logo.

As for bars, the best bar-hopping route would be Rocks Bar – where the bar counter and not just the cocktail, is set ablaze when you order a B-52 (watch your hair), followed by Bar21 and then Whisky Bar. Bar Druzhba and Cuckoo Club are other decent options. Despite being the hometown of the famous rock band Mumiy Troll, most locals would not recommend stopping in the bar named in its honor.

8. Updated gift guide. The best souvenirs with the symbols of Vladivostok can be found in the Arsenyev Museum (note: They do not accept credit or bank cards). Get a rare vinyl record from the Kontrabanda store at 12A Aleutskaya ul. or a real navy uniform detail such as an anchor symbol from the military souvenir stalls on ul. Admirala Fokina. Be careful with edible gifts. It is probably best to buy seafood directly before your flight in special stores at the airport. When checked in your baggage this “souvenir” food can put your belongings over the weight limit, so it is better to put it in your carryon luggage. They make things easy for you at the airport’s stores: you will be given a special thermo bag for storing and carrying your purchase. 

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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