The remaining history of the last Tsar
Yekaterinburg, is the fourth largest city in Russia, with a population of 1.3 Million. Yekaterinburg was founded in 1723, and was named after Peter the Great's wife Catherine I. From 1924 to 1991, Yekaterinburg was known as Sverdlovsks (Свердло́вск) , which was named after the Bolshevik leader Yakov Sverdlov.
The train stop along the Transiberia Railway is still sometimes known as Sverdlovsk instead of Yekaterinburg, and this often causes confusion amongst foreign tourists. The time difference between Yekaterinburg and Moscow is +2 Hours from Moscow time.
Yekaterinburg is situated on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains, and it is the main industrial and cultural center of the Ural region. Yekaterinburg's geographic location is very special, as it is situated at the border between Europe and Asia, and that border has become a major tourists spot in Yekaterinburg.
This picture was taken at the bell tower of the Church of Spilled blood
General Information of Yekaterinburg
Official Website of Yekaterinburg :
ekavery.ru/eng/ (english accessible, highly informative)
Climate in Yekaterinburg :
The winter lasts for about 5 months, from November until the middle of April. The temperature rarely goes lower than minus 20 to minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 4 to minus 13 Fahrenheit). During summer, the average temperature during the day goes between 21-24 degrees, and 11-14 degrees during the night. The city's location behind the mountain range and highly variable winds mean that the weather is quite changeable from one day to the next and from year to year.
How long should I spend in Yekaterinburg :
2-3 full days should be enough.
I would recommend such an itienary:
Day 1 : Arrival to Yekaterinburg, check in to hotel. Slow relaxing walks around the city. Visit the Church of Spilled blood, and hire the english guide for a small contribution to the church.
Day 2 : Day excursion to Europe-Asia border & Ganina Yama (The site where they buried Tsar Nicholas II).
*Hiking in Olena Ruchi (nature reserve in the Urals) is a full day program, and a good option for day 3.
Arriving in Yekaterinburg
Arriving in Yekaterinburg via the Trans-Siberian Railway
Yekaterinburg is situated on the border of Europe and Asia, 1,667 km (1,036 miles) east of Moscow. Yekaterinburg is one of the major stops of the Trans-Siberian railway, and it departs from Moscow Yaroslavski Train Station. A train ride from Moscow would take around 28-30 hours, (with various arrival times), and the cheapest ticket (3rd Class) would cost around 2300 Roubles to 3500 Rouble. It would be advisable to prepare 4 meals (2 breakfast, lunch and dinner) for your train ride to Yekaterinburg, if you are leaving from Moscow. Yekaterinburg is an overnight train ride away from Perm, which is another popular city of the Trans-Siberian railway.
While planning your trip, it would be wise to choose an appropriate arrival time to Yekaterinburg. It is important to note that all train stations follow Moscow time. The time difference in Perm is +2 hours, which means if your train was scheduled to arrive in Yekaterinburg at 6 AM (Moscow time), in actual fact, you will arrive at 8 AM local time in Yekaterinburg.
This information is particularly important, as many tourists often arrive at the train station at the wrong time.
Yekaterinburg Train Station
Arriving in Yekaterinburg Koltsovo Airport (IATA Airport Code : SVX)
Yekaterinburg's Koltsovo Airport is located 16 Kilometers southeast of the city, and serves as an important hub for their local Ural Airlines.
Airport Website : koltsovo.ru/ (English Accessible)
How to reach Yekaterinburg Koltsovo Airport :
- By airport express train from Sverdlovsk-Passazhirski railway station. Most efficient way of reaching the airport. 40 mins, cost around 40 roubles.
- By bus / Minivans from train station. Takes about an hour.
Getting Around Yekaterinburg
There are a wide network of busses, minivans, trolleybus and trams within the city, which are inexpensive (18 Roubles per ride- as of 2011). They come very often, making the public transportation system very reliable.
There is a small Metro system in the city, with easy connections to the suburban regions. The most important stations are 1905 square and Geologicheskaya stations. The stations are impressive, decorated with native Ural stones, granite and marble. Each metro ride is 18 Roubles (2011)
Metro working hours: 06:00 – 24:00
Tourist Information Center in Yekaterinburg
If this is your first time in Yekaterinburg, you should visit the Tourist Information Center first thing upon arrival. The tourist information center is located on Ulitsa 8 Marta, Dom 21.
Phone Number : +7(343)2222445
Website : www.its.ekburg.ru (This is the official website of the tourist info center. For a better resource of Yekaterinburg, check the website above @ General Information section.)
Inside the tourist information center, they speak english, and they offer various tours around Yekaterinburg, including tours to the Europe-Asia border, city tours, tours to Ganina Yama, and hiking tours to the nature reserve Olena Rutchi. You can also call up to reserve your tour in advanced. The english speaking tours is only slightly little more expensive than the Russian speaking tours.
The price for a all in one tour (Europe-Asia border, Ganina Yama and city tour) lasting 8 hours with an english guide cost around 1500 Roubles if you have 3 people in your group.
Yekaterinburg Tours & Excursions (out of the city)
Excursion to the Europe-Asia Border
This half day tour takes you to the border between Europe and Asia. The Europe Asia border is a line along the Ural mountainous range, with various tower like monuments along this border. There are 2 Europe-Asia border known amongst tourists, the Old Europe Asia border and the New Europe Asia border. Both of these borders are located along the same highway known as the "New Moskovsky tract".
The new Europe-Asia border (not as beautiful) lies 17 KM away from the city of Yekaterinburg, and lies beside a highway road. The monument is moderately small, with a white line drawn separating the East and the West. The basement of the monument consists of two stones, one from the extreme westpoint of Europe, at Cape Roca of Portugal, and the other at the extreme eastpoint of Asia, Cape Dezhnev or Russia. It is a very popular place amongst Russian newlyweds to take their wedding shots here during the weekends. If you follow the tour, you will also receive a certificate of "Passing the Border", and you will also get to tie a ribbon on the trees near the border for luck.
The new Europe Asia Border
Hang a ribbon on the trees nearby for good luck
The old Europe-Asia border, lies 47 KM away from the city of Yekaterinburg, located near a small village known as Pervouralsk. This more imposing and majestic old border is the original, and the oldest border symbolising the border of the two parts of the world. At the base of the tall monument, there are huge Europe and Asia words written on the base of the monument. I would highly recommend you to visit this old Europe-Asia border, if your tour doesnt include it (It's not far from the new border). There is a nice garden surrounding the monument, with beautifully made artwork for lovers. You can also bring some food over there for a picnic.
The old Europe-Asia border
Beautiful artworks at the nearby park at the Original Europe Asia Border
This tour takes approximately 4 hours, and cost around 1200 Roubles (with a group of 4-6). Be sure to ask if you will be visiting the old border as well. Alternatively, you can take a taxi there, which usually charges a "per hour fee" , and they bring you to some other non touristy sights along the way, such as the Goulag memorial and the Museum of heavy artillery. To get there on your own, take bus number 150 from the northern Bus station of Yekaterinburg city, and tell the driver to stop at the Europe-Asia border. This bus number 150 reaches both the old and new Europe Asia border.
Excursion to Ganina Yama
Ganina Yama, also known as Ganya's pit, is an abandoned 9 feet deep mine located approximately 17 kilometers north from the city of Yekaterinburg. Ganina Yama is one of Russia's most sacred places, as it carries the mournful history the last emperor of Russia Tsar Nicholas II & his whole family.
During the dark summer of 1918, the last emperor Tsar Nicholas II and his whole family were murdered, and their bodies were secretly transported to Ganina Yama and thrown into this pit, and was subsequently cremated.
Only after 61 years later, on the 29th of May 1979, where this sacred burial place was discovered by geologists.
The royal family had been canonized, and the grounds of Ganina Yama had been dedicated in honor of the last Russian emperor Tsar Nicholas II. Seven Chapels of various architectural design features were later constructed in this compound, each chapel representing every member of the royal family.
Within the compounds of Ganina Yama, there are various statues of the Tsar, as well as exhibition pictures of Tsar Nicholas II & his family's lives as royals during his reign up till his imprisonment by the Bolsheviks in Yekaterinburg.
Tours to Ganina Yama alone cost approximately 1200 Roubles, but are usually done together with the Europe-Asia border for a discounted price of 1600 Roubles.
Sights within Yekaterinburg city
Church on Spilled Blood
The last Romanov family were deported to Yekaterinburg following their arrest in Alexander Palace in Saint Petersburg, and under the orders of a Bolshevik leader Yakov Sverdlov, they were eventually shot dead in the basement of the Ipatiev House (Where the Church on Spilled Blood was build upon). Their bodies were then subsequently dumped and cremated in Ganina Yama.
52 years later, under Boris Yeltsin's political influence, the assasination site of the Romanovs (Ipatiev House) was demolished. From year 2000 to 2003, this church known as the Church on Spilled Blood, was build to commemorate the Romanovs. Some people also relate it as a sign of apology towards the murder of the Romanovs.
Excursions for foreign tourists throughout the church (some speak excellent english) can be arranged for a small donation to the church. We were fortunate enough to be allowed up the bell tower, where we could see a panoramic view of the city.
Outside the church are some small souvenir stalls, selling Russian nesting dolls, some Ural gemstones and icons of the canonized Romanov family. During winter, there would be many ice scuptures built at the entrance of the church.
The Little Dam of Yekaterinburg
The oldest object of the city, this working drain of the dam was launched on November of 1723, which was also considered to be the birthday of Yekaterinburg.
Before 1962, this area remained an industrial zone, which was subsequently reconstructed and panelled with granite. A group of architects created the modern park area.
Yekaterinburg's Opera and Ballet Theatre
This opera and ballet theatre is one of Russia's oldest theatres. During the soviet rule, this opera and ballet theatre was one of Russia's best! It was built in 1903, and since then, the square around the theater was known as Theatre Square.
Throughout the years, many outstanding masters have worked here. Many singers, including Sergei Lemeshev, Ivan Kozlovsky, Irina Arkhipova, Boris Shtokolov, Yuri Gulyaev and others, who later made the glory of the Russian stage, started in Ekaterinburg.
Examples of various operas played in this theatre are:
- The Tzar’s Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov
- Prince Igor by Borodin
- The Magic Flute by Mozart
- Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Rigoletto and Falstaff by Verdi
- Madama Butterfly and La Bohème by Puccini
- La Fille du Régiment by Donizetti
- Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Rossini
- Rusalka by Dvořák
Examples of various ballets played here are
- Swan Lake and The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky
- Sheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov
- Creation of the World by Petrov
- One Thousand and One Night by Amirov
- Don Quixote by Minkus
- The Great Waltz by Strauss.
- During summer, many young Russian couples take romantic walks around this square, and beautiful flowers are planted all over the park surrounding this theatre.
Yekaterinburg's Monuments of City Founders
The monuments of the city founders was made by P.CHusovitinov, representing images of Yekaterinburg's founders Vassily Tatischev and Willem Hennin. They were also known as the "Fledglings of Peter's nest" during the times of Peter the Great, who established this city in 1723, by the order of Peter the Great, as a metallurgical plant on the Iset River bank.
This monument is found at the left bank of Iset River, where the main city road Lenin Avenue, passes through the city dam.
During summer, this place is a popular meeting spot for the city youngsters, and it also is a very popular photography spot for newly weds.
Accomodations in Yekaterinburg
Yekaterinburg Budget Hostels
EUROPE ASIA YEKATERINBURG HOSTEL
It's a 2 room apartment made into a hostel, with one room occupied by the owner and the rest of the tourists are placed into 3 double decker beds in the other room + 1 sofabed. Beds are from Ikea, quite comfortable. Owner is nice, makes nice breakfast. Location is slightly out of town.Only downside is, when overbooked, the place may seem like a concentration camp.
Yekaterinburg Meeting Point Hostel
Good location, the hostel owner Katya is very helpful with everything you need during your stay. Can be a little cramped, with 2 small rooms. Clean and cosy.
Novotel offers modern rooms with free WiFi and a flat-screen TV. All rooms are equipped with air conditioning, satellite TV and a minibar. Some of the rooms have a seating area. Has fitness center and massage rooms.
Located in city centre, rooms at the UralHotel has air conditioning, satellite TV, minibar, laptop-size safe, and bathroom with heated floor. UralHotel offers an indoor swimming pool, a 24-hour restaurant and free Wi-Fi in all areas.
3 star hotel in center, 300 meters from Geologicheskaya Metro Station. Room are soundproofed, and equipped with air conditioning, flat-screen TVs and DVD player, and Free Wi-Fi. The private bathrooms include a bathtub.
5 Star Hotels in Yekaterinburg
This luxurious 5-star hotel offers modern accommodation fitted with elegant furnishings in the centre of Ekaterinburg. It features a Turkish steam bath and a solarium. All rooms are air conditioned and have balconies. Hotel offers free Wi-Fi access as well as a sauna, massage treatment room and well-equipped gym. The hotel’s restaurant, La Ronde, serves local and international meals made with fresh, seasonal products.
A new Hyatt branch, food is excellent. Have amazing spa, and great views of the river. Rooms are huge with super comfy beds. Great breakfast. Superb swimming pool. Hotel standards much higher than any other hotels in Russia.
Tours and Excursions in Yekaterinburg
Most tour packages can be booked from your hostel or from the tourists information center in Yekaterinburg.
They offer excursions in Russian and english, with a personal tour guide and a minivan. Prices are negotiable. You pay less if there are many people in the group. If you arrive in the morning, you reserve a tour for the afternoon.
Prices for a whole day tour to the Europe Asia border (new + old) and Ganina Yama cost around 1600 Roubles per person, for a group of 2-4. Cost could be reduced if there are more people in the group. Sometimes it is also possible to negotiate the price with the tour guide or add in a city tour for a small additional fee.