Trip Index (what we have published so far):
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is a rapidly growing city in Central Asia that is finally modernizing. It’s halfway between Asia and Europe and its location makes it an ideal airline hub.
So far, only Turkish Airlines and Pegasus have understood that. The Pegasus subsidiary Pegasus Asia uses Bishkek and Osh as hubs.
Table of Contents
Things to Do in Bishkek – The city of Bishkek
There are precious few annoyances and safety issues in the city. Some back alleys are not illuminated and should be avoided at night. Besides that, I felt safe in Bishkek at any time.
Traffic is pretty orderly and taxi drivers negotiate, but usually settle on the standard 100 Som ($1.80) for a trip within the city center.
On a clear day, the views towards the mountains are magnificent – too bad there aren’t a lot of high buildings to capture this view properly.
Things to Do in Bishkek – Food and Drink
Probably my favorite thing to do while in Bishkek. This retro-Soviet bar has awesome food, cheap drinks and very hospitable service. It’s a surprising combination, but it works and you may just get your free shot of tequila.
Sierra Coffee is THE place in Bishkek to grab a delicious coffee, use the fast WiFi and eat good food. It is cheap too and located right off the city center. A great place for me every morning – as you could have probably guessed.
Bakery at Beta Stores
Finding a good bakery in Bishkek is hard; the Beta Stores, a gourmet food supermarket, is a as good as it gets. The store has a good number of delicious-looking breads. It’s cheap too, but I found the taste to be lacking – but, hey, ‘beggars can’t be choosers’.
Faiza is a great way to experience traditional Kyrgyz cuisine. While many options include mutton, there are plenty of other meats and vegetarian options around as well.
Chusur Turkish Restaurant
Chusur was probably my favorite place to eat while in Bishkek. The Turkish kebabs were as good as I ever had in Turkey and tasted excellent. The meat is fresh and of high quality. Given the rather sad state of quality cuisine in Bishkek, this place was a godsend.
There is no Foursquare listing – wander along Kiev Street and when you see the big fighter plane, you are within 50 meters of it. Ask!
Fresco Ice Cream is for sale in several locations in Bishkek – and for good reason. It is very yummy and affordable.
The Navigator and Bar 12 across the street are two great places to have a drink and wind down in Bishkek. Both have lots of outdoor space and a well-designed interior. It’s a bit pricey for Bishkek, but a beer will set you back less than $2.50.
I tried twice to get in here – it was closed one day and just too crowded anther time. A reservation is necessary for this highly-rated and seemingly very original Japanese restaurant in town.
Prego offers a high quality Italian dining experience. The ambiance and service are great, though it’s also a bit outdated. The food is just OK – it is certainly edible, but you will not leave there impressed.
This new eatery serves fried chicken (Korean-style) and beer. It’s a bit hidden, but looks great and if the food improves a tad, it could be really great.
Things to do in Bishkek – Sightseeing
Chuy Prospekt is the main wide road in Bishkek. It feels very Soviet – because, well, it is. This is where the big parades happen. There are a couple of gastronomic highlights along the road and it makes for a good stroll to take in the city.
This fountain-filled square is another (bad) example of Soviet-style architecture in town. After sunset, the fountains come to life, with Kyrgyz music playing from the speakers and kids playing in the water.
Bishkek Old Airport
The old Bishkek Airport is located just about 2.5 miles from the city center. It’s been 40+ years since the last flight took off from the airport, though. The airport terminal building now serves as a public administration building. The old runway is now partially overgrown. In typical post-Soviet treatment, the area hasn’t seen any major development in the last 40 years, so this makes for pretty pictures of decay.
Since not all taxi drivers know it, head for the Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University instead and walk over from there.
Hyatt Regency pool
The Hyatt Regency saw enormous occupancy during the days of the American Air Force Base, when it was in town. It now seems a shadow of its former self, but on a hot day it still offers a cool drink near the hotel pool as a great way to escape the heat.
Bishkek Art Museum
Kinda by accident, I stumbled into the art museum just opposite the Hyatt. The locals refer to it as the library, but I could not find any books. The art and the presentation are exceptionally drab and grey. If you make any art – why make it so boring? However, it’s a great way to look at Soviet art and relive the 1980s in a Soviet environment.
Play table tennis in the Oak Park
The people of Bishkek are a patient folk and just hanging out in the park is seemingly everyone’s favorite past-time on a warm afternoon day.
The Oak Park next to Ala-Too Square offers a lot of entertainment, including a casual round of table tennis.
Supara is a themed dining area, a bit outside the main Bishkek valley. It overlooks the city and displays the way Kyrgyz used to live. It’s well done and the food looked delicious (especially the meats), though I did not have time to eat.
Things to do Bishkek – Day Trips
Ala-Archa is a valley that goes through the mountain range that is visible from Bishkek. It’s about 90 minutes from downtown Bishkek and allows for some close-up views of the snow-capped peaks. There are a number of hiking trails that start right in the city. You will need to hike up (far up) for decent views, though.
Osh is a small town (with lots of flights there), that is right on the border with Uzbekistan.
The Bishkek locals swear by this mountain lake and I was recommended a trip up to the mountain range several times. It needs some time, though – it is a 6-8 hour bus ride from Bishkek (on not very good roads). I did not have the stomach for it, but you may love the experience.
Picture courtesy of Travelbrochures
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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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