Restaurants and coffee places
For many travelers, stuffing themselves with pizza is one of the main delights of coming to Bishkek after a longer period trekking or traveling in smaller places. Bishkek also offers high-quality Japanese, Chinese and Korean cuisine. Good coffee can be had in Bishkek, a welcome respite for caffeine addicts emerging from the wild.
No one can keep up with all the openings and closings in Bishkek. The Spektator has the best restaurant guide (2014).
If you haven’t heard of Sierra Coffee you haven’t been in Bishkek for very long. It’s the local Starbucks. If throngs of foreigners and hip Bishkekians are not your thing, good cafes for book reading and conversation are Coffee Cafe (Mira-Chokmorova), Cave Coffee (Gorky-Elebaev) and La Vita Cafe (Kiev-Isanova).
Bars & nightlife
It’s a lot like a small university town: the quality is low but the fun factor is high. Lots of young people that speak a bit of English (and plenty of cheap booze) will make up for lousy music. There is also lots of karaoke.
In any case, if you feel like partying and you are not passing Almaty anymore, this is (more or less) your last chance. Shady people out to rob you are an issue, though, see the safety chapter at the bottom.
- Fire and Ice – (cnr Chui – Erkindik) Eternally popular disco spinning hits.
- Retro Metro – (cnr Mira – Novaya Ulitsa)Bright, happy, 80’s kitsch bar, the DJ spins his records from inside the front of a VW camper van. One of the most popular places for post-2am partying.
- Promzona – (16, Cholponatinskaya st.) One safe fallback is Promzona on the eastern edge of the city – live music (though the band hasn’t changed its tunes for over a year), enough security to be safe, neatly-lined tables and an always-crowded bar, a clientele that pours forth on the dance floor to dance to those ever-same songs with ever-undying enthusiasm. However, the music is the same each time (Nickelback).
- Putin Pub – (Isanova – Bokonbayeva) Great live music and lots of Putin paraphernalia coupled with cheap grub, decent service and large pints of beer make this a winner.
- Sweet 60s – (Molodaya Gvardia and Kievskaya; near cinema Oktyabr) Live music everyday, with jazz evenings on Wednesday and Sunday.
- 12 Bar (Razakova Str. 32) – Pricey drinks, chique decor, posh guests and a great panorama view over Bishkek. Strict dress code. Best place to go if you are looking to get lucky, apparently.
- Black Rabbit I & II (3rd floor of Kosmopark in Microraion 7), Free entry. There’s another Black Rabbit on Kievskaya that’s more of a restaurant. Touting a by-line of ‘discount bar’, it’s definitely the place to go if you’re interested in throwing back a few cheap promotional drinks in a clean venue, while listening to Russian and American pop remixed.
- Bar Kvartira (corner of Frunze and Shopokov). Located across from Victory Square in the basement of the Circus complex, Bar Kvartira is done up like a ‘typical’ Russian apartment. Drinks are mid-range in price for Bishkek but the food is a little on the expensive side. Dance floor opens around 21:00, and goes all night if the party can keep up. Bar games on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Mayak (55 Razzakova St) $$ Free entry – As Bishkek’s oldest gay club, Mayak is a local underground institution. Given traditional Kyrgyz society’s approach to homosexuality it comes as little surprise that Mayak, as Bishek’s primary out and proud venue, rarely gets crowded. That being said, it serves as a great location to meet locals if you’re new in town.
- Brooklyn Dance Bar & Karaoke (East side of the Philharmonic Hall) $$ Free entry – The Brooklyn basement is split between a cosy karaoke bar and an equally small bar. Fantastic if you’re looking for that underground packed-club scene, definitely not advisable for the claustrophobic. Playing hip-hop and pop, the self-styled ‘Old School RnB’ club is a welcomed change to the usual Bishkek techno clubs. With stripper poles lining the bar and a young team of staff, Brooklyn has an incredible vibe. Happy Hour Mon-Wed, 8-11pm.