How to make the most of 48 hours in Novosibirsk in winter?

The bridge over the river Ob in Novosibirsk.

The bridge over the river Ob in Novosibirsk.

Legion Media
A city with the largest opera house in Russia, a scientific center in the middle of the taiga, as well as an unofficial capital of Siberia - Novosibirsk has a lot to offer during winter, even if you only have a couple of days in the city.

By foot and by metro

Novosibirsk was founded in 1893 to meet a civil engineering need. To continue the Trans-Siberian Railway, it was necessary to build a railway bridge across the Ob River. The engineers were looking for a spot on the river bank suitable for construction. The bridge gave birth to a settlement, which rapidly grew and soon proclaimed itself the unofficial capital of Siberia.

Today, it is the third most populated city in Russia, a major scientific and cultural center. The left bank of the Ob is where industrial and new residential areas are located. The historical part of the city is situated on the right bank, which is also the heart of Novosibirsk’s cultural scene and nightlife.

The city's main street, which runs straight from the Ob, is called Krasny Prospekt. On a long stretch of the avenue, the wide roadway is separated by a boulevard. A walk from the river to the central Lenin Square will take you about half an hour. Lenin Square can also be reached by metro. The most beautiful stations are Rechnoy Vokzal, with its stained-glass windows, and Sibirskaya, with mosaics made of Siberian gems.

What do you simply have to see and do in your two days in the city?

Day 1

Breakfast 8:00 - 10:00 AM (or 8:00 - 11:30 AM)

Excellent coffee can be found at 'Akademia Kofe’ (Eng: coffee academy) on Lenin Street in the very center of Novosibirsk, or in ‘Pitchii Coffee and Waffles’ on the same street, or at ‘Blackwood Coffee Roastery’. The latter has three coffee shops in the city, one on the left bank and two on the right, all located near metro stations.

‘Café Utrovechera’ (Eng: morning evening) at the Pobeda arts center on – you’ve guessed already – Lenin Street is open from 8:00 AM. It is a quiet and delicious place, ideal for a business meeting or a friends’ get-together. Furthermore, Pobeda also has a cinema theater that offers both arthouse and blockbuster movies, with many movies shown in their original language. So why not start the day catching a classic?

A walk through the Quiet Center 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

In winter, mornings are dark but by 10:00 - 11:30 AM, it is usually light. Winters in Novosibirsk can be pretty cold, with temperatures dropping to minus 30 degrees Celsius and lower, or quite mild, at just 10-15 degrees Celsius below zero. But there is always plenty of snow.

Take a walk around these neighborhoods. This area is called the ‘Quiet Center’: cozy narrow sidewalks, a couple of garden squares, snow-covered trees, with bullfinches perched on them on particularly cold days.

On Chaplygin Street, you will see a painted facade of an ordinary residential building - come inside! It houses a store called ‘Kollektsiya Pustyakov’ (Eng: collection of trivia) selling ethnic fashion and bric-a-brac and coffee shop ‘Kardamon’ (Russ: cardamom) offering Turkish coffee, an interesting menu with dishes from around the world, mulled wines and select liquors – it’s a great place to warm up from the cold and relax. Great Russian writer Anton Chekhov noted in his diary 150 years ago: “It is nice, having walked from the cold into a warm hut, to down a shot of vodka. And then another one, immediately afterwards.” Heed this recommendation! Also, it would make sense to have a bite to eat here, because next on the program are winter sports.

Skiing and more, or visit the zoo 12:30 – 3:30 PM

What would you like to do next? If you are ready for some physical activity, the choice is wide: skating, Nordic skiing, skiing, even sliding down ice slides onto the Ob embankment. Or, alternatively, if you’re not quite up for any exertion, you could visit the Novosibirsk Zoo, which made it onto the final shortlist of the Seven Wonders of Russia contest.

Novosibirsk Zoo.

The ‘Albatross’ skiing complex is open from 10:00 AM. Of course, with a slope length of just 270 meters and an elevation of about 50 meters, this place cannot compete with Alpine ski resorts. But it has the advantage of being situated right smack in the city. It has a ski rental and an actual ski lift. The slope itself is surrounded by a pine forest. This ski slope is also close to the city center. Not far away from it is another ski club called ‘Inya’. It has three slopes with a total length of 2,500 meters and an elevation from 85 to 100 meters, a 250-meter long snow tubing track, two ski lifts and a cafe. Both places can be reached by taxi. And yes, here too, you can order a taxi via any of the apps used in Russia, for example, Yandex Taxi or Uber Russia.

The ‘Lokomotiv’ ski center is located in ‘Zaeltsovsky Park’. Just recently, it was considered part of the taiga. It’s not far from the city center, but is easiest to reach by taxi, since the public transport route is not that straightforward. You can rent all the necessary gear for Nordic skiing, skating or tubing from 9:00 AM. In the evening, the complex is illuminated.

The zoo is located not far from the ski center, within a nature park. The ‘Novosibirsk Zoo’ houses 770 species of animals, including 350 that are on the IUCN International Red List. The zoo also boasts a diverse collection of felids. The Novosibirsk Zoo also has a snow leopard, a species that, in the wild, lives in mountains 5,000 meters high. Meanwhile, polar bears love showing off in front of audiences; they swim and dive and then occasionally bow to the spectators on the edge of their enclosure.

Additionally, every winter, an entire ice town is built on the Ob embankment: ice figures, slides, as well as an ice rink. And the ice is beautifully lit every evening.

Early dinner at #SibirSibir 4:00 - 6:00 PM

From 4:00 to 6:00 PM, have an early dinner at the ‘#SibirSibir’ restaurant, which is run by Denis Ivanov, the man who set up the first haute cuisine restaurant in Novosibirsk and now owns a restaurant chain both here and in Moscow. Its menu features dishes from traditional and modern Russian, northern and Soviet cuisines. The wine list also has a dedicated section with the best Russian wines. The menu is developed in collaboration with Andrey Makhov, who, in 2019, was recognized as the best Russian cuisine chef in Russia.

Time for the opera 6:30 - 10:30 PM

The Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater is famous not only for occupying the largest theater building in Russia. Its stage is so huge that a car can easily turn around on it. The ceiling is decorated with paintings of ancient Greek sculptures.

The Opera and Ballet Theater.

The theater’s company is just as famous as its building. Novosibirsk has its own ballet school, considered one of the best in Russia. If you can, try booking ballet tickets in advance. Getting a ticket for an opera is easier. We would recommend seeing the Peer Gynt ballet and the opera Prince Igor. By the way, we would also recommend getting tickets not in the stalls, but in the amphitheater or in the first tier. The acoustics there are just as good as in the stalls, but you will also have an excellent view of the entire stage.

If you don't feel like an opera, why not check out what is on at the ‘Arnold Katz’ State Concert Hall? If the Novosibirsk Symphony Orchestra is on, you should definitely go. The concert hall, named after maestro Katz, was built not so long ago. Its modern architecture and excellent acoustics will be a joy for your eyes and ears.

We would recommend finishing the evening at the bars ‘Le Pin’ or ‘Pardon my French’ in the Quiet Center. Both have an extensive drinks and food menu, good service, as well as excellent atmosphere – this is exactly what you need to unwind after such a packed day.

Day 2

Breakfast at familiar places, 9:00 - 10:00 AM

Novosibirsk cityscapes and roads.

You can start this day slightly later than the previous one, and you can choose a place for breakfast from those we recommended earlier. #SibirSibir serves breakfast from 9:00 AM, while the coffee shops where you tried coffee the previous day are open from 8:00 AM. Make sure to dress warm. Our recommendation for today is to check out Akademgorodok. On the way there, we’ll also check out a steam locomotive museum. Take a taxi. The journey will take an hour, so you will have time to read up on Akademgorodok.

Drive to Akademgorodok 10:00 - 11:00 AM

In the 1960s, a neighborhood for scientists to live and work in was built in a coniferous forest 30 km outside of Novosibirsk. Cottages and numerous research institutes were built right in the middle of the forest, which is why Akademgorodok turned out to be so leafy and cozy, and even the high-rise buildings that appeared later could not destroy this “scientific idyll”. Akademgorodok is officially listed as a historical and cultural heritage site in Russia.

Novosibirsk Academic Township.

The Novosibirsk State University is located here, so the place is full of students. In addition, Akademgorodok stands on the shores of a “sea”, as the locals call the Ob reservoir, a 200 km long area covering 1,070 square meters. The reservoir formed after the construction of the Novosibirsk hydroelectric power plant dam. And it freezes in winter. A walk across its ice expanses never fails to impress.

Imagine yourself a member of the Russian imperial family on a railway journey 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Novosibirsk Museum of railway equipment. N. A. Akulinin with retro exhibits.

A railway museum was established near Akademgorodok in 2000. Situated not far from the Seyatel’ (Eng: “Sower”) station, it displays railway trains and carriages from the mid-19th century to present day. You can inspect them both from the outside and within. Among the permanent exhibits, there is a World War II hospital train operating theater, as well as a railway compartment used by the Russian imperial family on display.

Sea, coffee, squirrels 12:30 - 4:00 PM (or 12:30 - 7:00 PM)

The museum is not far from the center of Akademgorodok. It’s time for lunch. Head to the Port Bru coffee house in Morskoy Prospekt, which offers excellent coffee and some very decent teas. Then, take a walk down Morskoy Prospekt to the forest, which is surrounded by snow-covered pine trees and packed with squirrels, who are not afraid of passersby, and in fact, expect to be treated to some seeds and nuts. And further ahead lies the sea.

A small tip: in order to avoid traffic jams on weekdays, the best time to leave Akademgorodok is either at 4:00 PM or after 7:00 PM. If you missed 4:00 PM, why not visit the private ‘Museum of Everyday Life’ in Akademgorodok? Here, the story of Akademgorodok comes to life in objects that visitors are encouraged to touch and feel. The museum staff offer tours in Russian and English, not only of the museum, but of the entire Akademgorodok. Perhaps a tour like this would be a good way to start your acquaintance with Akademgorodok. Book in advance by calling: +7 (913) 912-53-62.

Finally, time to relax 8:00 PM - 1:00 AM

When leaving Akademgorodok, make a detour to the Russian cuisine store called ‘Dobryanka’. Here you can buy honey, herbal and berry teas, painted gingerbread cookies and many other delicious “souvenirs”. You do need some souvenirs, don’t you?

Now is the time to choose where to stop, take stock of all the impressions of the past two days, eat and relax. One of the options could be the ‘Goodman Steak House’ restaurant - its menu is clear from the title. It has an extensive wine list, and the inhouse sommelier is always ready to help with your choice. Another option is the ‘Fenimore Cooper’ restaurant located on Sovetskaya Street: it can accommodate up to 180 people, offering American cuisine and more than 100 varieties of whiskey. ‘Syrovarnya’ (Eng: “cheese factory”) on Lenin Street is an upmarket place, where the cuisine, the wines and the hookahs are all of the highest quality. There is a lot of cheese on the menu, as the name of the place suggests. Then there is also ‘Bochkari’, a beer place with live music and a fun vibe.

If you want to finish your acquaintance with Novosibirsk with food not only for the body, but also for the soul, stop by at the ‘Brodyachaya Sobaka’ (Eng: “stray dog”) cabaret cafe on Kamenskaya Street. It’s a place where the main thing on the menu are new impressions. Each day, there is a different program on: musical, theatrical, literary. It also serves food and drink. The cafe is small, so book a table in advance!

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