Kazakhstan’s capital city, Astana - or to give it it’s new name since March of this year, Nur-Sultan - is a feast for the eyes. Its flood of new builds since it became the capital in 1997 have created a legacy of futuristic and striking buildings that will reward sightseers and architecture fans alike. Notable eye-catching landmarks include the pyramidal form of the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, the iconic Bayterek Tower, and recent additions like the Atyrau Bridge, which only opened in 2018 but is already proving a popular target for photographers. The city’s status as capital also guarantees an array of museums and important government buildings - including the complex that makes up the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the seat of the country’s political power, the Ak Orda Presidential Palace. There’s plenty to see during your trip. Read on for just some of the things to do in Astana, Kazakhstan.
1. Browse through the exhibits at the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan
This spectacular building complex, which was only opened as recently as 2014, occupies 74,000 sq metres (18.3 acres) and will keep you occupied for hours. Its 7 blocks, some of which rise as high as 9 storeys, feature around 14,000 sq metres (3.5 acres) of exhibit space and contain a large array of fascinating objects that highlight everything from the ancient and medieval history of Kazakhstan to modern art. The site is also home to a children’s museum and art centre for the little ones, as well as souvenir stalls in which to pick up some mementos.
National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Address: Tauelsizdik Ave 54, Nur-Sultan 010000, Kazakhstan
Opening hours: Tue - Fri: 10am - 6pm; Sat: 10am - 8pm; Sun: 10am - 6pm (closed on Mon)
2. Soothe your senses at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation
One of the iconic buildings of this modern city, the pyramidal form of the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation is one of the famous symbols of Astana. Designed by world-famous architect Norman Foster - the name behind London’s ‘Gherkin’ skyscraper, the Hearst Tower in New York and the restoration of Berlin’s Reichstag parliament building - it towers some 77 metres (253 ft) over the surrounding landscape. Opened in 2006, it was specially built to host the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions - which sits every three years. As well as accommodations for many of the world’s faiths it is also home to a museum of culture, a library, and large opera house that can seat 1,300 people.
Palace of Peace and Reconciliation
Address: Tauelsizdik Ave 57, Nur-Sultan 010000, Kazakhstan
Website: Palace of Peace and Reconciliation
Opening hours: 10am - 6pm (daily)
Price: Adult - 1,000 Tenge (2.65 USD); Ages 6 to 14 - 620 Tenge (1.38 USD); Individual tour in English - 2,300 Tenge (6.09 USD)
3. Appreciate the beautiful interiors of the Nur-Astana Mosque
This beautiful building is the third largest mosque in central Asia and is an iconic symbol of the city - its striking white-and-gold design proves to be an irresistible target for photographers and sightseers. Indeed, visitors of all faiths said they were “charmed” by the “excellent” interior and exterior design. Speaking of which, despite its traditional design it’s actually a modern building - having only opened in 2008 - and the height of the main dome and minarets symbolise key moments in the life of the Prophet Muhammad. A working mosque, it can house up to 5,000 worshippers.
Address: Qabanbay Batyr Ave 36, Nur-Sultan 010000, Kazakhstan
Website: Nur-Astana Mosque
4. Explore the Soviet military history at the Kazakhstan Military History Museum
Fans of military history may wish to spend a few hours exploring the Kazakhstan Military History Museum, which features an array of former Soviet hardwear, as well as equipment used by the Kazakhstan armed forces, some pieces from World War II and other items dating back to antiquity. Displays include everything from missile cross-sections and a jet fighter cockpit, to exhibits exploring gunpowder and historic rifles.
Kazakhstan Military History Museum
Address: Respublika Ave 2, Nur-Sultan 010000, Kazakhstan
Opening hours: 10am - 6pm (daily)
5. Witness a game of football at Astana Arena
One for soccer fans now. The impressive modern edifice of Astana Arena, which is only 10 years old, is Kazakhstan’s national stadium. As well as playing host to the national side, this 30,000 capacity stadium also serves as the home ground for two league sides - FC Astana from the country’s top flight and FC Bayterek from the second tier. This means you’ll have ample chance to catch a match during your stay - be it league or international action.
Address: Qabanbay Batyr Ave, Nur-Sultan 020000, Kazakhstan
Website: Astana Arena
Opening hours: Varies depending on time of match
Price: Varies depending on match
6. Catch a show at the Astana Opera
Another of the city’s new buildings, the Astana Opera only opened as recently as 2013, but its classic grand design would imply a much older building. Its lavish main hall, which can seat up to 1,250 people, plays host to the State Opera and Ballet Theatre, while the smaller 250-seat Chamber Hall hosts classical music recitals. Such famous works as Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet are just some of the lavish productions to have been performed at the site since it opened its doors. The site is also home to its own restaurant - have a romantic meal before a night of high culture.
Address: Dinmukhamed Qonayev St 12/1, Nur-Sultan 010000, Kazakhstan
Website: Astana Opera
Opening hours: Performance times vary
Price: Varies according to show (see website)
7. Pay homage to the victims of the Soviet Union political repression at Memorial Alzhir
The brutal depths to which the Soviet regime plunged under Stalin’s reign of terror are remembered at this moving memorial to some of his victims. It’s well-publicised that any dissenters were shipped off to Siberian gulags. But their families did not escape harsh treatment either, and ALZhIR, which stands for Akmol Labour Camp for Wives of Traitors of the Motherland, was where the children and wives of these men were brutally interred. This horrific fate is commemorated by this museum complex, which sits 17 kilometres (11 miles) west of Astana, and serves to document the history of the labour camp and remember those who fell.
Address: Nur-Sultan 020000, Kazakhstan
Website: Memorial Alzhir
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9am - 6pm (closed on Mon)
8. Discover the life of Kazakh writer Saken Seifullin at the Saken Seifullin Museum
A cultural hero of Kazakhstan, Saken Seifullin was a poet, writer, and activist who advocated greater independence for the country while it was under Soviet rule. He eventually paid the ultimate price for his passion, and was executed in 1939 after being branded a “threat to society”. In the years since then he has become celebrated as a martyr for freedom and regarded as a key figure in Kazakhstan’s history. His life and works are celebrated at this small home museum which features a number of artefacts, memorabilia, and photos.
Saken Seifullin Museum
Address: Mukhtar Auezov Street 20(78) Auezov Street, Nur-Sultan 010000, Kazakhstan
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 6pm (closed on Mon)
9. Spend an eventful day at Bayterek Tower
One of Astana’s and, indeed, Kazakhstan’s, most famous landmarks, the Bayterek Tower (also spelt as Baiterek) is a popular sightseeing spot, its 105 metre tall (345ft) frame serving as both a monument and observation deck from which to enjoy 360-degree views of the city. The structure itself, which is sure to prove a tempting camera target for photographers, is said to represent a Kazakh legend about the tree of life and the egg laid by a magic bird of happiness - with the observation deck located within the egg.
Address: Байтерек, Nur-Sultan 010000, Kazakhstan
Website: Bayterek Tower
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 10am - 9pm; Fri - Sat: 9am - 9pm
Price: 700 Tenge (1.85 USD)
10. Discover local history at the Ethno-memorial Complex Map of Kazakhstan Atameken
Welcome to Kazakhstan in miniatures! The Atameken Ethno-Memorial Complex seeks to recreate the entire country in one interesting site - right down to landscapes and key landmarks such as the Bayterek Tower, Nur-Sultan Mosque, and more. One of the world’s biggest countries, Kazakhstan may be too much to take on in one sightseeing holiday - but those who visit this complex can jokingly claim they travelled the entire country in less then a day! Where else could you say you walked right round the Caspian Sea in just a few moments?
Ethno-memorial Complex Map of Kazakhstan Atameken
Address: Qorghalzhyn Hwy 2/1, Nur-Sultan 020000, Kazakhstan
Opening hours: 9am - 9pm (daily). Cash desk closes at 8pm
Price: Admission - 400 Tenge (1.06 USD); tour in English - 500 Tenge (1.32 USD); fee for taking photos - 300 Tenge (0.79 USD)
11. Treat your shopaholic soul at the Asia Park Mall
Shopaholics looking to splash the cash on some souvenirs for themselves or loved ones will likely head to the Asia Park Mall at some point. Its stores feature everything from men’s, women’s and youth’s clothing to jewellery, perfumes and cosmetics, electrical goods, and fashion accessories. And, when you want to take a break from the spending spree there are 10 different eateries on site - from world-famous brands like KFC and Costa, to doner kebabs, burger bars, and a panoramic sit-down restaurant. There’s also a cinema and fitness centre.
Asia Park Mall
Address: Qabanbay Batyr Ave 21, Nur-Sultan 020000, Kazakhstan
Website: Asia Park Mall
Opening hours: 10am - 10pm (daily)
12. Interact with the locals over a cup of coffee at Couchsurfing community
Visiting landmarks and sightseeing spots may be fun, but they don’t always give a feel for a place or its people. Well, why not live the culture and meet up with some of the locals and/or fellow travellers for a social get-together with you and your friends and family. The couchsurfing community in Astana runs to several thousand, and there are usually dozens of people ready to meet up and hang out. Naturally, when meeting strangers you should take care, but if you take simple precautions you’ll be enjoying social gatherings and making new friends before you know it.
13. Taste the traditional beshbarmak at Farhi Restaurant
Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account
Visiting new countries is often a treat for the palate, exposing you to new and unique foods and tastes that delight not just your taste buds but the culture vulture inside as well. In this corner of Asia, beshbarmak is a popular traditional dish. Made with boiled meat, noodles, and onion sauce, you’ll likely want to seek it out at least once on your travels. And the Farhi Restaurant is one spot where you’ll find it on the menu. This highly rated restaurant enjoys a strong reputation for its quality of food, customer service, and the atmosphere in its traditionally decorated interior.
Address: Azerbaijan Mambetov St 3, Nur-Sultan 010000, Kazakhstan
Website: Farhi Restaurant
Opening hours: 11am - 2am (daily)
14. Sip local crafted beers at The Barley microbrewery
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
This trendy bar and restaurant will appeal to fans of an ale looking to unwind in good company. The Barley boasts a very good reputation for its atmosphere, thanks in part to its stylish American-themed decor and popularity as a classy hang-out. To reflect its international leanings, its alcohol selection features drinks from all four corners of the world. Its extensive ale list even extends to its own-brand beer - ‘Barley’ - which is brewed on site. And it is open from noon until the wee small hours every day - giving you ample chance to visit.
Address: Amangeldi Imanov Street 20, Nur-Sultan 020000, Kazakhstan
Website: The Barley
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 12pm - 2am; Fri - Sat: 12pm - 4am
15. Marvel at the modern architecture of the Atyrau Bridge on the Esil River
One of the city’s newest landmarks, the Atyrau Bridge is sometimes dubbed the Fish Bridge thanks to its outer shell, which consists of 2,450 panels that ape the look of scales. This pedestrian crossing stretches some 314 metres (1,030 ft), snaking its way over the Esil River and uniting the Left and Right Embankments to the north of the Qabanbay Batyr Avenue bridges. Only open since July 2018, it has already become an iconic part of the riverside, with its geometric patterns making for inviting camera targets in the ever-changing light.
Website: Atyrau Bridge
16. Explore the Astana waterfront at night
There are all manner of striking waterfront landmarks, from the already mentioned Atyrau Bridge to impressive modern tower blocks that are bathed in striking blue light at night, and imposing statues, such as the bronze monument for Kenesary Khan - Kenesary Kasymov - a 19th century Kazakh sultan who led a movement seeking independence from the Russian Empire. The latter dominates its waterside location from its 5 to 6 metre (16 to 20 ft) plinth and will be an inviting target for photos. Hit the riverside at night and the floodlit buildings and bridges will also make for a memorable snapshot or two.
Kenesary Khan statue
Address: Right Embankment, Nur-Sultan 020000, Kazakhstan
17. Visit the Ak Orda Presidential Palace
And, speaking of eye-catching waterfront buildings, the seat of power in Kazakhstan - the Ak Orda Presidential Palace - sits of the left bank of the Esil River. Opened in 2004 the official workplace of the president boasts towering walls and a blue-and-gold dome and a spire that, combined, make for a memorable and prominent waterfront landmark. Rising up seven floors, it houses everything from the president’s staff to meeting halls for the government, and a library.
Ak Orda Presidential Palace
Address: Ак орда, Левобережье, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Website: Ak Orda Presidential Palace
Opening hours: Tue - Sat: 7:30am - 8pm (closed on Sun & Mon)
18. Go hunting for Soviet mosaics
Astana’s glut of recent landmark building projects may have reinvented the city as a modern capital, but those seeking evidence of its Soviet past can still find some of the striking mosaic artworks that were once common across the former Eastern Bloc. Examples that still survive include mosaics of the working classes on the old Astana-1 railway station (not to be confused with the recently opened Astana Nurly Jol station). Intrepid visitors who venture a few blocks from the station will also be able to glimpse a decaying grain silo - a relic of the 1950s, which features a striking wheat-themed design that dominates one side of the building. What other Soviet-themed mosaic marvels will you uncover on your travels?
Astana-1/Nur-sultan-1 railway station
Address: Zheleznodorozhnyy Vokzal, P-37, Nurinsk 100000, Kazakhstan
So much to see on a tour of Astana
From its rich array of striking modern buildings and iconic landmarks like the Bayterek Tower, to relics of its Soviet and military past, there is plenty to see and do during a visit to Astana. What sights will you choose to see first?
Get Trip101 in your inbox