Welcome to Sverdlovsk, Russia!
Many cities in Russia have undergone a lot of turmoil in the past 100 or so years and Sverdlovsk is not totally different. The city was founded by Peter the Great in 1723 and named Yekaterinburg after his wife. Founded as a metallurgical factory town, the city has since expanded to become the fourth biggest in Russia. During the Russian revolution, the last czar family was imprisoned and executed in a house here. Finally, after WWII, the city was renamed Sverdlovsk after a communist leader--until the fall of the Soviet Union, when it was renamed, again, Yekaterinburg. Still, the federal district is the Sverdlovsk Oblast, maintaining its Soviet Era name.
Sitting in the Ural mountains
The city is symbolic of the border between East and West and although a little more subdued than Moscow or St Petersburg, Sverdlovsk has a thriving culture, vibrant nightlife, and a wealth of history. A worldwide local knows that there is no shortage of things to explore when a city was founded in the 1700s, so here’s our guide to exploring Sverdlovsk.
Worldwide Local Tip: For those who don’t speak Russian, consider downloading a 2GIS app available for Android and IOS. It doesn’t require an internet connection once installed and it will list all city info once downloaded (like restaurants, stores, pharmacies, public transport, and a detailed city map in English).
Start with a Walking Tour of the City
Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with the city is to walk through it. Pack some good shoes and take the historic Red Line Tour. The tour is absolutely free and self-guided and brings guests all around the city to the most important landmarks. You’ll walk through 35 different attractions along a 3.5 mile loop that shows the best highlights, views and historical quirks of the city. As your guide to tell you about the Sverdlovsk explosion when in 1979, there was an accident at a nearby medical laboratory that caused a disaster often referred to as “biological Chernobyl.” Thanks to a few passionate locals, you can check out the city at your own pace and scope out some of the best spots around town that you can always return to later.
Worldwide Local Tip: One of the weirdest and easiest to miss quirks in town is the odd monument to The Beatles. Despite the fact that their music was banned in the USSR, the fab four’s legacy on the underground music scene here was immense. There are a wall sculpture and mural here. Head below Gorkogo Street and look towards the river.
Eating and Drinking in the City
As a worldwide local, you’ll want to eat like a local and try out the many different dishes of Russian and Ural cuisine. Because the city is located between two borders, the dishes here are always influenced by both the West and the East. The Pelmeni Club is a perfect place to experience cheap and delicious authentic Russian cuisine. The restaurant offers Russian style dumplings that use local ingredients and flavors and you can even make your own. It might be hard to work out the Sverdlovsk pronunciation, so English menus are available.
Worldwide Local Tip: For those looking for a little more upscale dining experience, there is the Vertikal restaurant located in Vysotsky tower. Located on the 51st floor, not only will you have some amazing Russian and Asian food but you’ll also have one of the best views in the city. Dress accordingly and reserve a spot ahead of time.
Relax in Victory Park
A worldwide local knows that getting out of the hustle and bustle of the city is often important. For those looking to relax a little check out Victory Park. The park is a favorite for locals and is a sort of Oasis in the city where you can come to relax, have a picnic, hang out in a semi-private gazebo or head to one of the nearby cafes and just do a little people watching. You can also bike through the park or horseback ride through the park. Locals are here daily and there’s also paintball and trampolines for kids.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re looking for something a little more low-key but more interesting, the nearby Church Upon the Blood is a gorgeous chapel that is relatively not known by most visitors. What makes it so interesting is that it is here that the last Czar and his family were executed in the basement. In 2000, the chapel was built to memorialize the fallen family but the basement remains the same.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Many things might have changed here over the years but as a worldwide local that just means there are tons of things to learn and discover. Discover where the east and west meet and lose yourself in the immense amount of history and culture Sverdlovsk has to offer.