My Favorite 20 Things to do Tashkent - Understand
Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan - a modern, spread-out city with many tree-lined alleys. It's one of the safest and cleanest cities in the region and beyond. Tashkent is also home to the totalitarian regime of the late President Islam Karimov and it requires perfect submission by its citizens. Tourists are largely exempt and get a good amount of leeway if they play by the rules.
Tashkent is often just a gateway to Samarkand
and Bukhara but it is a fascinating city. Uzbeks are some of the world's friendliest people.
My Favorite 20 Things to do Tashkent - Safety
The flip side of a totalitarian police state is that it's extremely safe
. As long as you don't offend the government (which could easily happen) you will be perfectly safe. Getting into a stranger's car alone at 3AM, exchanging huge stacks of money in a crowded bazaar, walking alone through a poor neighborhood at 4AM - all the things that sound scary in other cities are perfectly safe in Tashkent. In fact, as long as you don't become a victim of government crime or the rare act of terrorism, this city seems impossible to harm anyone. Police are not corrupt here and in most instances they will help you without hesitation should you ever get in trouble with a non-police offender.
Follow the rules and AVOID trouble with the government
My Favorite 20 Things to do Tashkent - Get Around
Tashkent takes the 'every car is an Uber
' to extremes. It's really like that here and every car is either an UberPOOL or a regular Uber.
Fares are usually a 5,000 SOM flat rate (you need some basic Russian or you'll pay a bit more). If you wait more than 60 seconds for a car to whisk you away, you are doing something wrong. Traffic always flows and it's perfectly policed (what else would you expect?) and it's rare to drive more than 30 minutes anywhere in this widespread city.
My Favorite 20 Things to do Tashkent - Sights
Tashkent does not have a lot of historic sights, but has a good amount of more modern ones.
The TV Tower hovers over the northern Tashkent skyline. Access to the visitor platform comes at 100,000 SOM (about $15).
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Picture courtesy of Mapio
This brand new mosque is the little brother of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque
in Abu Dhabi
. The style is a fusion between the design elements seen in Samarkand and Bukhara and newer Arabic mosques.
Mustakillik Square (Independence Square) is the main city square with lots of fountains, monuments and flower beds. It makes for a great stroll on a sunny day and there's a number of great perspectives for photos. There were so many police when I was there, I was convinced that photography was not allowed - but it is!
Amir Temur Square
These beautifully landscaped gardens inside a traffic roundabout have statues, fountains, benches and more. The surrounding buildings like the Palace of International Forums make for great photo opportunities.
Uspensky Holy Assumption Cathedral
This Russian orthodox cathedral began as a small church in 1879 and has been the cathedral of the Tashkent Diocese since 1945. It is as pretty as churches get in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Tashkent has a number of open markets (bazaars) and this is the city's biggest and oldest. Don't expect as many cheap items as in India, but the ceramics and embroidery are still fun to stroll through. While crowded, it's safe and filled with people who show some respect (they don't constantly bump into you or yell at you).
Khoja Akhrar Mosque and Kukeldash Madrasah
Right next to the market is this interesting mosque and opposite is the madrasah. They're great oases of calm and cleanliness after all the bazaar time.
Tashkent Old Town Tour
The old town in Tashkent has retained much of its charm. Start the tour from the Chorsu Bazaar and follow the walking tour directions
Babur Park is a bit of an anti-sight; this inner city park saw its last renovation decades ago. It's a great display of weathering decay now and reminded me of the ruins of Chernobyl
Art Gallery of Uzbekistan
I was not able to see this modern art gallery from the inside, but it's rated highly and has a cheap entry fee, so it seems a good way to spend an hour or so.
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Picture courtesy of TripAdvisor
My Favorite 20 Things to do Tashkent - Eat & Drink
Given the many restrictions in this country, it is amazing how many small businesses are here to serve you quality drinks and coffee. While this is not the 'Paris of Central Asia'
, there are still a lot of options to explore. The trouble is, like in other Central Asian countries, most experiences will be decidedly average. There are so many places and none will be too terrible and few will be really memorable besides being cheap and decent. Maybe standing out a lot is more an American trait?
This cafe has a lovely outdoor terrace in a quiet neighborhood street. It has very yummy pies and makes pretty decent espresso drinks. It's also really cheap and the WiFi is somewhat fast.
The Book Cafe has a strategic location next to the Palace of International Forums. It brews excellent coffee and tea and has delicious desserts on offer. Unlike most 'cafes' in the region, it serves no food other than desserts. There are so many free books (unsurprisingly with the name) that you could spend a few years reading here.
This is in a great looking location and in line with the Uzbek concept of cafe it also doubles as an eatery. When I visited on a Monday at 3PM it was deserted and the staff kept playing on their phones...
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Picture courtesy of Turizm
La Terrasse Pub
This is supposedly a great lounge in the city. Too bad I was not able to make it during my time in Tashkent.
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Picture courtesy of Abdurashid I
The Caravan group owns a number of upscale restaurants in the city. The flagship Caravan serves Uzbek food and it does a great job at this. Every single dish was delicious and seemed fresh. It's also rather inexpensive.
Ye Olde Chelsea Arms Pub
Right next to Caravan is this building that really does not fit in with the low-rise upscale residential buildings in the neighborhood. It's still a great place to grab a refreshing beer after work.
Shedevr Garden is far outside the city, all the way to the west and is best combined with a visit to the Old Town. It features jumbo-sized cabanas, live music, great German food and beer and is a good choice for big groups.
This 'bar' is both a subterranean bar with a dance-floor and a good restaurant in the back. You can choose what you'd like most.
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Picture courtesy of myday
Gasthaus is an original German beer garden with excellent draft beer and decent German cuisine. It's located in an industrial area near the train station.
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Picture courtesy of Valeria S
Bon! looks delicious (especially the croissants) but the two locations I went to had bitter coffee and very average-looking snacks. Maybe I missed something?
In line with the theme in many CIS countries, this cafe does much more than focus on coffee and milk. There is a full food menu, including many desserts. The indoor and outdoors both look magnificent, though this is reflected in the prices; it's rather pricey by Tashkent standards.
My Favorite 20 Things to do Tashkent - Day Trips
Tashkent is often the main gateway to the ancients cities of Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand. I really liked Samarkand
and it is easy to reach on Uzbekistan Airways
or via the Samarkand to Tashkent train service
Bukhara is just a little further from Samarkand and has so much to see that you could easily spend a few days there to work your way down the list.
Khiva is far west near the modern city of Urgench. You will need to fly there and it's more expensive than both Samarkand and Bukhara.
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Picture courtesy of Telegraph