What Asian city effortlessly mixes Far Eastern, Central Asian and European cultures within a comfortable package beautifully located in a dramatic landscape? I hope you named Vladivostok on Russia’s eastern coast. Located a whopping 9,000km (5,625 miles) and five time zones from Moscow, in Vladivostok you are much closer to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul than Russia’s capital.
You can literally cruise into town
The town of Vladivostok, aptly named ‘Lord of the East’ was originally founded in 1860 as a Russian military outpost. Vladivostok quickly became a major port and naval base and, as such, the town began to grow rapidly. By 1880 Vladivostok was declared a city, and by 1903, with the completion of the Chinese Eastern Railway, Vladivostok was a bustling port city. During World War I, the port became strategically important. It is little known (outside of Russia) that US Army troops occupied the city following the end of World War I until 1922. While I doubt our American friends know this fact, every Russian over a certain age will have studied this in school. Yul Brynner, the handsomely bald Hollywood actor was a native of Vladivostok and his exotic good looks are representative of the region. Today, Vladivostok remains the home of the Russian Pacific Fleet and is noted as the Russian Far East’s chief educational and cultural centre.
Here’s a Pro Tip: The currency used is the Russian Ruble. About 100 Russian Rubles are equal to one British Pound, though the rate regularly fluctuates.
Most travellers touch down at Vladivostok International Airport, which sits 45km north of the city. You can take a bus, taxi, electric train or private car to the city in under an hour from the airport. My preferred mode of transport is the high-speed electric train which takes just 51-minutes and costs roughly 230 Russian Rubles (about £2.50) one-way.
Here’s Another Pro Tip: Vladivostok is best visited from Asian gateways or by ferry from Japan. The summer is absolutely gorgeous in the entire region. If you’re visiting in winter, I’d recommend staying a few days at the very least to acclimatise to the Siberian winds that roll in from Yakutia.
Here are some great things to see in Vladivostok:
- Russian Opera House: The Russian Opera House could very well be Vladivostok’s most contemporary building, and it stands out amongst the city’s other architecture. The cubic building boasts glass walls, three stages and multiple live symphonies throughout the year.
The Opera House is a modern glassic!
- Primorsky State Art Galleries cand Museums: Vladivostok’s museums and art galleries were actively developed in the 1950s under the Soviet regime. Now there are more than ten different art museums in a set that celebrate many genres of art and eras of history.
- Sportvnaya Market: This is Vladivostok’s best market, and it’s here that residents gather to sell all manner of goods. Expect everything from fresh fish to handmade gifts. Buy a pot of cooked Kamchatka crab and enjoy the views from the waterfront.
- Eagles Nest Hill: An absolute must-do activity when in Vladivostok is riding the funicular to the top of Eagle’s Nest Hill. The ride is quick, affordable and provides some of the best views of the city and surrounding mountains.
Only deep subjects at the Sub Museum!
- S-56 Submarine Museum: There’s no escaping Vladivostok’s naval history, and I’d suggest you embrace it with a visit to the S-56 Submarine Museum. This small museum sits inside an 80-year-old submarine next to the port.
- Sukhanov Park: Take a stroll around Sukhanov Park, one of Vladivostok’s most popular green spaces. Keep your eyes peeled for the ‘Art-Object Bookshelf’, a recent art installation that encourages passers-by to stop, pick up a book and take a seat on a nearby bench.
Vladivostok boasts a unique blend of Russian, Korean and Japanese cuisine and seafood is a staple at most restaurants. Don’t be surprised to find Georgian, Chinese, Italian and North Korean cuisine on the menu too. Here are my favourites:
- Restaurant Ogonek: This venue serves a blend of European and Russian dishes. The restaurant’s speciality is seafood so make sure you try the Kamchatka Crab. I also love the seafood bisque and grilled venison.
- Supra More: Shake up your diet with a trip to Supra More where you can enjoy delicious Georgian cuisine. If you’re lucky, you might be invited to make your own Khachapuri Adjaruli, a bread-based dish filled with egg and cheese.
- Zuma: While not associated with my favourite restaurant in Abu Dhabi, Zuma in Vladivostok encapsulates the city’s quirky edge and multi-ethnicity. Here you can enjoy pan-Asian fusion food including sea urchin sashimi and Tom Kha Soup.
Yum! Pass the urchin please, mum!
Being a navy port, you’d expect Vladivostok to have a lively nightlife and it doesn’t disappoint. Vladivostok buzzes with cocktail bars, waterfront pubs and late night venues where live music plays late into the night. Below are my three favourite places to drink in the city:
- Moonshine: This is a relatively new bar, and you’ll find it in the Wanhua neighbourhood. The atmosphere here is intimate, and it’s a great place to spend the evening sampling creative cocktail concoctions.
- Holy Pop: This is Vladivostok’s only ‘beer hall’ and it’s here that you’ll find some of the regions funkiest flavoured hops. The moody, urban decor makes for a sophisticated night of imbibing.
- Syncopa Jazz Bar: For an evening of live music, head down to Syncopa Jazz Bar. This dimly lit bar hosts local jazz musicians most nights of the week, but try to visit on the weekend to enjoy the buzz of a packed room.
Vladivostok has a nice range of hotels to suit all budgets from affordable 3-star hotels to lavish 5-star accommodation. I’ve listed them below in order of rating:
- Lotte Hotel: This is a 5-star hotel and arguably one of Vladivostok’s best accommodation options. Onsite facilities include a large swimming pool, two-restaurants and sauna.
- Bay Garden Hotel: The Bay Garden Hotel is a 4-star hotel located in central Vladivostok. Make use of the hotel’s airport shuttle and city shuttle service when it comes to making your way around town!
- Eagle House Inn: This property is a 3-star hotel located just 1km from Eagle’s Nest Hill. This affordable hotel is perfect for those traveling on a budget with an unbeatable view.
You’d be dome to miss Vladivostok!
You can’t tick the Trans-Siberian railway off your bucket list without visiting Vladivostok, and this port-city is well worth a visit. Vladivostok is one of the most dynamic destinations in the Far East and an unexpected gem to visit!