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Astana is the darling capital of the rapidly developing Kazakhstan. Big oil imports and the new carry trade with Russia have boosted Kazakhstan’s GDP by more than 10% in the last 15 years. The rather sleepy town of Astana has gotten a lot of new buildings and contemporary architecture that underlines the president’s efforts to project Astana as a modern (and global) destination.
Well, no surprise there – the city’s new and vibrant new architecture is not met with the same ‘software’ in town. It’s like Dubai 30 years ago, but without people.
Astana is split into a new town and an old town. The older part of the town is the original Astana, which is full of traditional Soviet architecture.
Table of Contents
Things to Do in Astana
Here is my list of things to do in Astana.
A good way to see (some) people in Astana is to wander along the river walkway on a weekend afternoon.
The new part of town features a completely new developed axis of buildings that are nothing short of impressive.
The Bayterek is Astana’s new symbol of modernity. It looks stunning and, if the stars align, it’s also accessible all the way to the roof (it was closed when I was there).
The axis also features a shopping mall, many office buildings and the opera house on the other side.
Things to Do in Astana – Food & Drink
The downtown Line Brew is a world-class restaurant inside a historic building, that serves delicious beer. It’s also very expensive – so not a place for a cheap meal.
This somewhat conspicuously-named Espresso Bar serves up quality coffee in a cozy (and windproof) atmosphere.
The Radisson Blu hotel features a secret bar call Barkhat, which you can only find by asking the Radisson staff. There is no signage near the entrance and there are no lights. Once inside, the bar is as good as any bar in New York City (if not better!) but also charges $22 for a cocktail – not something you would expect in Kazakhstan. It is more of a Russian experience.
Things to Do in Astana – Conclusion
In conclusion, Astana impresses with modern architecture and is an architect’s dream, but it does not have much to offer travelers. However, this remote, windswept place certainly shows character and is a great place for a layover.
The people are friendly, but spoken English is not something you should expect. Astanaians are rather stoic and accustomed to the rough life in town. Astana also features the coldest temperatures ever recorded on earth. This is before the windchill that makes temperatures feel much colder.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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