Two summer months have already passed, but you still have a chance to visit the main Kazakhstani event of the year. In cooperation with Uber, we have prepared the ultimate guide to Astana, so you won’t have to wander around the capital, seeking for good food, cultural entertainment, or a place to dance. You’re welcome!
Photo: Nurlan Baitokov
How to move around?
Public transportation in Astana consists of an impressively developed system of bus routes, which can transfer you to any location in town. Buses work from 6am to 10pm, and you can catch some of them working even until midnight, if you’re lucky. You should download the Astra Bus mobile application, so that you won’t miss your bus or wait at the stop for too long for no reason. Using the app will not only help you get acquainted with all the routes, but will also allow to track the location of all the buses in the city at any given moment.
The №10 and №12 will get you to town from the airport. Those who travel by train have more options, as buses №2, 14, 32, 48, 50, 57, 201, 202, 500, 505 can help you get to the city from the Nurly Zhol train station.
The price of one standard bus ticket is 0.27$. If you choose to take a faster express-bus route, that will cost you 0,45$. You can buy the ticket from the conductor by cash, or you can use the Astra Plat payment card, which is available for 1$.
One of the pleasant surprises for tourists is the presence of enclosed bus stops, which will protect you from merciless cold in the winter and the hot wind in the summer. The stops are equipped with free Wi-Fi and a map of all the bus routes.
Photo: Ruslan Karsamov
Taxi. There are plenty of call-services for ordering a taxi, which charge around 0,12$ per a kilometer. It is likely that finding a cab through applications like “Uber” will cost you less. For instance, a trip from the airport to the center of the left bank, where most sightseeing locations are, will cost you 4,5$.
In the summer it is convenient to move around on a bicycle. The Astana Bike system provides automatic renting stations all around the city. To be able to use them, you should either purchase a club card for the whole season for 30$, or buy a subscription online (one day - 1,5$, three days - 3$, a week - 4,5$). After that you are granted access to a bike at any renting station, and you can ride for free for up to thirty minutes. Taking longer trips will cost you additional small payment. However, to avoid unnecessary expenses, you can always stop at another station every half an hour and change your bike.
Where to grab a breakfast?
So, you've arrived in the capital of Kazakhstan. Of course, to start off your day, you need a hearty breakfast and a cup of hot coffee. Here's a list of places where you can find that, and even more:
“Hot Spot Coffee”(Kenesary st. 63) is a local coffeehouse located on the right bank, which will satisfy the taste of even the most picky hipsters. You may order the spicy Tom Yum soup, the specialty burger, one of the breakfast sets (that are served all day long), or the chef’s specialty - either way, you won’t be disappointed. It should also be mentioned that the place organizes frequent activities and events like games, acoustic nights, and master classes, which will ensure that you’ll have fun.
“Ministerstvo Kofe”(Kunayeva st. 35) - a personal project of Kamila Islamova. It’s peculiar that a coffeehouse named “MInistry of Coffee” is located right by the Astana House of Ministries. Aeropress, chemex, Australian lungo, pour over, french press - these are not indie rock band names, but unconventional methods of coffee brewing that are practiced at this place. The staff members proudly call themselves “public servants”, whose goal is to ensure the best coffee experience for the people who come here. We may assure you, that in this “Ministry”, the workers take their mission seriously, which does not always happen in other ministries in Kazakhstan.
Photo: Sultan Kuanyshbayev
“Ferrum Café”(Koshkarbayeva st. 8, “Highvill” housing complex, block E1) is one of the few places in Kazakhstan created in the steampunk style. If you’re not familiar with this term, then you should definitely visit this concept café for the new discoveries. Steampunk shows a universe where the 19th century Victorian era world is filled with fascinating fictitious steam-powered and mechanical machinery. In Ferrum you will experience the atmosphere of Jules Verne books, and feel as if you’re in the lab of Tesla or Edison.
«Sunday»(Kunayeva st. 12/1) - a conveniently located café that is a perfect place for those who need a rest after a walk on the Nurzhol pedestrian boulevard. A nice view on Astana’s central walking zone, decent prices for delicious food, and a collection of books available for everyone will make your visit here more than a simple snack.
«Crepe Café»(Kunayeva st. 12/1) - another coffeehouse on the Nurzhol boulevard that is famous for its concept menu, which consists almost entirely of different variations of crepes. Here you may find any crepe meal you need, some are sweet desserts, while others serve as a hearty lunch. There are even crepe-rolls for the lovers of Japanese cuisine.
«Rafe coffee» - an Astana coffeehouse chain that consists of six cafés all over the town. Cozy design and a variety of meals on the menu make Rafe a great place to not only grab a cup of coffee, but have a snack with friends or family, which will not cost you too much. However, if you’re not in the mood to leave your house, Rafe has a delivery option that works on both banks of the river.
«Books & Coffee» (Kenesary st. 61/1). The owner Martha Peake has come all the way from the US to open this coffee shop for those who believe that a book in one hand and a cup of freshly-made coffee in the other make a perfect combination. More than 5000 books, most of which are in English, are available for customers. For those who feel frustrated while trying to understand a word in the foreign books, the coffeehouse provides English language classes, which cost 6$ for a course. Indeed, studying with a cup of hot latte is much easier.
What to sightsee?
After having a nice morning meal, you're full of energy for discovering the capital's sightseeing places. You can visit a couple of museums or the oceanarium, take a walk on the quay, have fun at the park, or go see the local architecture.
Photo: Sultan Kuanyshbayev
National museum of Kazakhstan (Tauyelsyzdyk Ave. 54) - a newly built museum that consists of seven large sections, one of which is dedicated entirely to contemporary art. Prices: standard ticket - 1,5$, student ticket - 0,9$, senior citizen ticket - 0,9$, child ticket - 0,6$. Apart from own vast collection, this summer the museum hosts several exhibitions listed below.
“PHOTOfest.KZ” - one of the largest photo exhibitions in the country, which shows over 100 works of the best photographers from around the globe. Once you’ve purchased the ticket to the museum, visiting the PHOTOfest will be free.
The exhibition of the Terracotta Army of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Here you will be able to see all 8099 terracotta statues of warriors and their horses, which are included in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage. To view the wonderful statues from China you’ll have to pay additional 3$.
«Bridges of Eurasia - bridges of peace” - an exhibition of the works of the famous Italian glassblower Pino Signoretto, the creative artist Svetlana Costa, the American glassblower Carina Cecilia, the Kazakhstani fashion designer and the founder of Neo-folklore style Aydarkhan Kaliyev. Entering the exhibition will not require extra payment.
Has Sanat (Kunayeva st. 14, “Nursaya-1” housing complex) - is an art gallery that, since its opening in 2003, has become home to paintings of a variety of genre. Here you may find the works of Kazaryan, Rahmanov, Kystaubayev, and many other masters.
Ethno-memorial complex "Atameken" (Kurgalzhinskoe highway 2/1) is a place where you can walk around the whole country in a couple of hours. It is a map of Kazakhstan with an area of 2 hectares, where you can witness over 200 small-sized models of various sightseeing attractions. Here you may find miniature cotton and rice fields of Kyzylkum, the lake Burabay, ancient temples, the Astana pyramid, the raging rivers of Alatau, the coal of Karagandy, and the oil of the Caspian sea.
“Mangilik El” triumphal arch (Mangilik El st. 20) - is a sightseeing place for those who enjoy architecture. There is an observation deck on the top of this 21.5 meter tall structure, from where you may enjoy the view of the newest part of Astana through telescopes. You may also gain some knowledge about the history of Kazakhstan, as the deck is equipped with educational multimedia stands. Apart from that, you will see a collection of contemporary art on your way up.
Photo: Dulat Esnazar
The quay. The best place for walks by the river is the section of the right bank between the Kabanbay Batyr Ave bridge (Ramstore shopping mall) and the Saryarka Ave. bridge (Radisson hotel). Getting here from the left bank's city centre on an Uber will cost you around 1,5$. The quay walking area is a promenade with benches, ice cream stands, and an impressive view of the Ishim river. From here you may take a trip on the pleasure barge, where you will take a rest from waking, while enjoying the local architecture.
Photo: Darkhan Zhagiparov
Apart from that, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday you may view a musical laser show from the quay, which happens every half an hour from 9pm until 10:30 pm. You may easily recognize where the show takes place, as you will notice a large circular structure looking like a ferris wheel on the other side of the river. That is the Sun fountain, which contains numerous multicolored lights, water pumps, and even gas sprayers for fire effects. Inside the circular fountain a “wall” of falling water is created, on which images are projected. In addition to that, water jets 80 meters high are shot in the air in sync with the music. In short, this is a show worth seeing.
Central park. Right from the quay you may enter the Central park through a pedestrian bridge. There you will find amusement rides for all ages, trampolines, a ropes course, shooting galleries, and other forms of entertainment. There are concerts and game events organized for children. Those who are into sports will be glad to find a crossfit area and a bike path here. The city sand beach is located right by the park. The Central park is the most popular place to spend quality time with family.
Photo: Ruslan Karsamov
Where to have a lunch?
You've been sightseeing all morning and it's almost lunch time, so you must be getting hungry. But don't make the rookie mistake and pop into the first eatery you see. You better trust our choice and visit one of the places from the list below:
«Zapravka gastrobar» (Saraishyk st. 11). The place recreates the atmosphere of an American diner, taking inspiration from famous movies and TV series. The menu consists of American classics - burgers, chicken wings, pancakes, and other meals that are loved by the truckers of US. You should visit this place if not for the food, then for an experience of being in a diner by the highway, as if you’re one of Pulp Fiction characters.
Photo: Darkhan Zhagiparov
«Cafe Tselinnikov» (Kenesary st. 32). Abhazura, chackondrili, adjapsandali. In this place you’ll hear many peculiar words, and each represents a delicious meal of Georgian cuisine. There’s plenty of wine and chacha (Georgian pomace brandy) as well. Moreover, this is a truly Astana establishment, as the design is inspired by the era of Virgin Lands Campaign - the time when the future Kazakhstani capital was formed. Authentic bread furnace, bright Soviet posters, and a lot of flowerpots - it seems like this place has accumulated the most positive memories of those, who have come to the steppe in 1950s to build Tselinograd, future Astana.
«Burger Street» (Kabanbay Batyr Ave. 20) offers numerous discounts and special offers, so here you may have a hearty and inexpensive lunch. You also shouldn’t worry about the quality of food. The place makes craft burgers, because how else could one attract hipsters nowadays? Ascetic design, combined with neon installations and numerous graffiti, creates an atmosphere of an underground food joint. The owners of the place proudly pronounce their burgers the best in town. You should check for yourself, if that's true or not.
«Favorite Cafe»(Abaya st. 67) - a place that may also compete for the status of the best burger of Astana. There's even a veggie burger in the recently updated menu. That's unusual, as often burger places of Kazakhstan are for carnivores only. Also, in the summer you may order freshly boiled corn instead of usual fries. The desserts here are made by the local cook, each item in the menu is unique and made with soul and imagination, so the cakes look and taste magnificent. The place is famous for its freakshakes - milkshakes with multiple layers of various sweet ingredients like marshmallows, cookies and candies.
«Kakao Dak»(Baitursynova st. 5, Block D) is an eatery that welcomes all those who are hungry for Korean cuisine. You'll be glad to know that you'll get your stomach full without having to spend a fortune, as the average receipt here is 6$ per person. The place differs from many other similar ones because it offers authentic Korean meals, not the localized Kazakh versions.
«Focaccia»(Kunayeva st. 35). Yes, this place is tiny, and the design is far from glamorous. But who cares, because here you will find one of the best pizzas in Astana. They are cooked by Riccardo, who states that when he came to Kazakhstan from Naples he couldn't find a single place that serves pizza remotely similar to the ones back home. Luckily for us, he decided to take the matter into own hands. Unfortunately, at the moment he cannot afford renting a bigger place, as all the funds are spent on buying the best ingredients and providing the customers with a variety of foreign brands of quality beer.
Photo: Dulat Esnazar
Where to shop?
If after lunch you have no intention of going back under the unforgiving Astana sun, it does not mean that you should spend your precious time in the hotel room. Instead, let's go to the mall (wink wink, Robin Sparkles fans)! No wonder that malls are the favorite place to spend a hot summer day for the locals, as here you may not only buy some trendy clothes, grab a snack, or watch a movie, but even jump into a swimming pool. Here's some of the most popular malls:
Khan Shatyr (Turan Ave. 37). An architectural project of Norman Foster, this mall is the Khan of all marquees (a record recognized by the Guinness World Records), open to customers from 10 am to 10 pm. 199 shops of both mass giants and luxurious brands, a food court consisting of 36 establishments, including restaurants, coffee shops, and fast food restaurants. However, the main attraction of the mall is a swimming pool with a “beach”, where you may lay down on the sand brought from Maldives even during the cold winter.
Photo: Ruslan Karsamov
Mega SilkWay(Kabanbay Batyr Ave. 62). It is the largest mall in the city, with the area of 140 thousand square meters and designed by the architects of the Chapman Taylor company. Here you may not only buy the products of international brands and find fine food and coffee, but also spend quality time with family in numerous entertainment zones. We should also mention a brand new cinema with 11 screening auditoriums and the largest movie screen in Astana. Unfortunately, this mall is located right by the EXPO, which is pretty far from the city centre, so you'll need to take a taxi. An Uber drive will cost about 1,8$.
Keruen (Dostyk st. 9) - a mall conveniently located right on the Nurzhol pedestrian boulevard. The design reflects the topic of the Silk Road. Although it does not differ with grand size, it is the favorite place of “it girls” and the local nouveau riche. Keruen must be the most suitable place for buying a stylish piece of clothing of foreign and local brands.
Where to get a dinner and a drink?
Your busy day at the Kazakhstani capital must finish with a tasty dinner and a fine drink in your hand. We have prepared a list of places that will satisfy your needs, no matter if you want a cozy restaurant or a loud bar with a live band. Just keep in mind that buses stop functioning at night, so it will be easier and safer to order an Uber, rather than to wander around by yourself.
Photo: Ruslan Karsamov
«O’HARA Irish Pub & Brewery»(Zheltoksana st. 2/2) - an establishment designed in the style of classic Irish pubs. Of course, it offers a long list of beers to choose from, including the universally loved Guiness, and also brews its own. A live band plays popular songs on the weekends, and the dancefloor is full. Unfortunately, the live music and Irish atmosphere is pricy, as the receipt on average is 30$ per person. The pub is a foreigners' favorite place to hang out.
«Corner ‘57»(Nazhimedinova st. 14). During the day it is a quite expensive restaurant (20-30$ per person), but with food worth paying for. Yet at night Corner '57 becomes one of the most trendy bars of Astana. The design here is so fashionable, that you might mistake the place for a contemporary art museum. The DJ doesn't play the infamous "Despacito", the design is too weird for the older crowd, and the drinks price list frightens away the commoners. Of course, the bar became the gathering place for hipsters. They made a good choice, because Corner '57 is indeed a nice place to dance and have a drink in a glamorous way.
Photo: Ruslan Karsamov
«Restobar Terrace Martin»(Momyshuly Ave. 2/5) - a place to spend a warm summer evening outside without having to pay too much, as on average a person spends around 10$ here. To keep yourself warm, you should go to the dancefloor, where a live band is performing. Several grand parties have already taken place in Terrace Martin this summer.
«The Shoreditch Burger & Wok»(Kabanbay Batyr Ave. 7). The guys who created this place have been inspired by the new restaurant trends of London. Just like the British capital, The Shoreditch is an amazing combination of different influences. The design mixes traditional wood elements with brick walls and graffities. And the menu represents a Grand cuisine approach to street food - burgers and wok.
Photo: Ilyas Issatayev
«Na Kryshe»(Zhalaiyry st. 2) - a high-class restaurant on the top floor of a building. From the terrace you may witness a great view of the river and the impressive new buildings of the left bank. Of course, such a location is not cheap, and the average receipt per person is around 24$ tenge. However, we assure you that a dinner in this restaurant is worth the cost. Here you will indeed feel above the rest. Not only because you're on the top floor, but also because the place has the atmosphere of a refined bourgeois establishment.
«Hungry Rabbit»(Seifullina st. 38)- is a place to visit for a fun night with a bunch of friends. It is a complex that includes a bowling place, a summer terrace, and a restaurant with a dancefloor. The menu is quite ordinary, but why seek for something exquisite, when you've come to dance and have a drink with pals in a cozy atmosphere.