Ekaterinburg is a capital in the Ural region, with almost half a million citizens.
The city was founded in 1723 by the Russian chronographer Vasiliy Tatischev and was built on the banks of the Iset River. It is also known by the name Sverdlovsk, which was given to the city during the Soviet period and is still popular among the older generation. The city’s historical name– Ekaterinburg–was recently restored to the city in 1991.
Ekaterinburg is located on the east side of the Ural Mountains, on the border of Europe and Asia. It is the fourth most populated city in Russia, after the great cities of Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Novosibirsk. However, despite the statistics most of its citizens consider it the third most populated city. Ekaterinburg is known as one of the industrial centers of Russia because it was initially built around the largest Russian iron factories from the XVIII century.
Before starting to actively explore the city we suggest you visit The Viewing Point, where you can see the fascinating landscape of nearly the entire city of Ekaterinburg. This view point is situated in the one of the highest buildings of the city, the skyscraper Vysotsky. From the 52nd floor you can look out in every direction on the most popular sights of the city, including old and magnificent churches, the city center with the quay of the Iset River, or even take a look at the quiet outskirts of the city. To better understand the traditions, history, and special quirks of Ekaterinburg, the Viewing Point provides free audio guides in different languages. This can be an exciting experience, and a great way to first get to know the city.
One of the most popular sights in Ekaterinburg is a pillar that marks the border between two parts of Russia, where you can stand both in Europe and in Asia at the same time. Nowadays this pillar marks the official division between these two continents.
The first place to learn the history of Ekaterinburg should be the city’s biggest church: the Church of All Saints. The church was built at the same site as some of the most violent murders in Russian history. Before the church was built, the Ipatiev’s Estate stood on its spot, and it is where the last Emperor of Russia, Nikolay II, was killed with his family. After that the house was destroyed, and in its place the Church of All Saints was built, which is now not only an important place for prayer, but also has a museum. For anyone who is interested in learning about last few months of the Emperor’s life, there are always guides available guides for hire.
Another interesting place is a museum complex that is very unique in Russia. There is a part of the city called the Literature Quarte,r located in the city center, which includes 10 different museums with a lot of fascinating exhibits to see. You will need to take a long walk to explore all of them, but it is worth it. During your wandering, you will also get to see ancient manors owned by local feudal lords, or walk on a road paved in the XIX century, which will give you the true sense of Tsarist Russia.
After learning a bit of the history of Ekaterinburg, another way to explore the city is to take a walk down Vaynera Street, which is also known as ‘Arbat street of Ekaterinburg’. It is one of the most famous streets to visit not only for tourists but for citizens as well. There you will definitely find everything you need for a great time. Apart from the biggest shopping malls in Ekaterinburg, like Passage or Grinvich, both located here, along the street there are several metallic sculptures dedicated to different types of people. You will meet the inventor of the bicycle, a couple of lovers, and even Michael Jackson. Beside the street a good number of old buildings still stand, with memorial plaques from which you can learn to whom the house belonged.
Another popular place to pass the time is called Plotinka, and is located right in the city center on the banks of the Iset River. Plotinka is a dock with a dam in the middle. It is believed that it was the first construction in the city, and around it the whole city was built. That is the reason that a monument to the founding fathers of Ekaterinburg, Vasily Tatishchev and Wilhelm de Gennin, is set here. This is a place not only for walking; you can also try the a variety of activities, like renting a catamaran, riding a skateboard, or roller blading.
If you get tired of the vibrant streets, there is an escape in a quiet, isolated place like Kharitonov Garden. Ekaterinburg has a wide range of small parks with benches under the spreading crowns of trees that line the paths. Kharitonov Garden was created in keeping with the best traditions from English parks. It resembles a forest in the middle of the crowded town, and guides everyone towards unity with nature, even if it’s just for a moment. The most famous feature here is a snow white rotunda, which is built on a small islet in an artificial lake.
Close to the city center you can find one more unique monument of nature, the Shartash Stone Tents.. This is an enormous natural rock formation, which over time has been shaped into a spheroidal structure. It is located near lake Shartash. Their age is astonishing: some geologists believe the rocks are 300 million years old! After several diggings, archeologists found a number of ancient household items, jewelry, weapons, and other historically important artifacts. Nowadays, it is a place where many citizens and tourists enjoy resting, walking, climbing the rocks, or just enjoying the fresh air. In the summer, a sandy beach on the bank of the lake is open for anyone to have a picnic in the open air.
Ekaterinburg is truly fascinating, with rich and marvelous architecture worth seeing. For instance, on one of central streets of Ekaterinburg there is the Manor of Zheleznov, which stands out from the modern buildings around it. It stands out because the manor resembles a palace of fantasy, which looks from a distance to be made of wood. As you approach, you’ll see that it is made of red bricks, with breathtaking carving adorning them.
The next amazing building we recommend is the Sverdlovsk Railway Museum. A short while ago it was a functioning railway station, but after the completion of the new one it was turned into a museum. However, even after renovation its original appearance was kept, and the magnificently carved entrance was left the same as it was a decade ago.
An equally impressive building whose appearance has also stayed the same is The House of Sevasianov. Its features are a combination of several architecture styles. Imagine the main body of this building with a Classic style, flowing concurrently with Baroque-Gothic decorations that give a very chic impression. You will recognize this building at first sight, with its gorgeous mix of green, red and white colors.
It is nice to note that not only the government creates monuments, but the citizens also create the monuments themselves that make the appearance of Ekaterinburg famous around the world. One of Ekaterinburg’s citizens, after visiting a concert of a member of the legendary Beatles, was so inspired that he decided to pay tribute to them and constructed a monument, which is actually a wall with the shapes of the fabulous four engraved into it. With all this, there is a concert held every year on the same day as the celebration of the town’s anniversary. Hundreds of people join together to sing their favorite songs and chat about the fab four.
This is not the only local-created monument, however. There is another creation by the locals, which is humorous monument dedicated to a computer Keyboard, blown up to 30 times normal size. It has become a popular place to take a rest after a long walk, and many sit right on the keys. An interesting belief here is if you “type” your wish by jumping from key to key, it will very soon become true. Take a chance!
Lastly, it is worth mentioning a project to help tourists, called Red Line. It is a line drawn on the pavement of Ekaterinburg, and will lead you to the most historically and culturally important places in the city, as described above. This tourist’s route was entirely created by the citizens of the city, and will help you get acquainted with the town on your own. All of the sights you will see on the red circle around the city center are described on the official website of the route in Russian and English.
For our part, we invite you to visit Ekaterinburg and hope with this brief guide you will learn for yourself where you would most like to visit first.