The main sights, museums and outdoor options in Almaty. You can follow the trail of our self-guided walking tour of Almaty for an introduction. Beyond what is mentioned in the walking tour, here are the main sights of Almaty. Below, find a list of active recreation options.
Things to see
Medeu: the world’s highest skating rink, embedded in the mountains, is a delight both for its location and design. A must if you are coming in winter.
Republic Square: A real capital square, with national symbols and the old parliament set against the stunning backdrop of the Tien Shan (come early to get a smog-free picture).
Panfilov Park: The city’s central park, it houses the large, colourful and completely wooden Zenkov Cathedral, the Folk Instruments museum, 2 disco’s and a spectacular war memorial. Great for people watching and eating ice cream in the sun (try Plombir if you want to lick something truly Soviet).
Green Bazaar: Almaty’s Central Bazaar in the heart of town, with an excellent meat and dairy section.
Shymbulak: the city’s premier ski resort (there are a few others, see skiing in Almaty) a stone’s throw from the city. In summer, it’s a good jump-off towards the peaks of Ili-Alatau.
Kok-Tobe: Probably the most overrated place in Almaty: this is where young couples go to smooch. Lots of entertainment for kids, though, and it does give inspiration.
For those willing to delve deep, inspiration comes in the form of Walking Almaty, an encyclopedia of the city’s less-appreciated sights which lists 10 great walks. Dennis Keen’s Almaty walking tours are a great way of seeing the city from another side.
Things to do
Almaty has a bewildering amount of tiny house museums fanatics can seek out, but a few larger museums are worthy of everyone’s attention. Shopping enthusiasts will find Almaty has lost many of its bazaars, but is now well-stocked with upmarket shopping malls for clothes shopping or souvenir hunting.
The Arasan Baths are a great way to relax and live like a local, the tasteful restoration of the Orientalist-Soviet Arasan Baths offers luxury at affordable prices (1000 tenge/hour) in the center of town. Hop in the saunas and get a massage to relax those traveler’s bones, and strike up a conversation with your neighbour. Oak leaves available from babooshkas outside.
You need a basic level of fitness and adventure spirit to cycle Almaty. Plenty of shops in Almaty rent and repair bicycles. A good guide for those looking for longer routes is the VeloAlmaty cycle guide (in Russian) or these gps routes. With above average fitness level, the road to Medeu and the road to Big Almaty Lake are 2 of the nicest cycle routes.
The Ili-Alatau national park is a hiker’s dream. We put together a hiking guide to the mountains just above Almaty. Plenty of destinations can be reached in a day, but you can make interesting treks of 2-5 days as well. Sport shops rent or sell equipment in case you need it. Horse riding around Almaty is not so well-developed; better places are South Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. But, if you’re here anyway, you can read our suggestions.
Ice skating on Medeu, the world’s highest skating rink, is a must if you’re coming in winter. It’s usually sunny and the surroundings are magnificent. Cheesy pop songs are a bonus. Skiing is another must, there are plenty of resorts around Almaty outside of the crown jewel, Shymbulak. Plenty of shops rent out ski and snowboard equipment.