Ekaterinburg is the capital of the Russian Ural Mountains, located almost on the border between Europe and Asia. Although it is more in Europe than in Asia, there is much debate on which of these two continents it is really situated.
Ekaterinburg will never cease to amaze tourists, and the reason for that lies not only in the incredible architecture and its charming nature, but also in its citizens, who are passionate about decorating their city with art exhibitions, monuments, and sculptures. Art objects abound in the city, and that is why it’s really easy to forget that you are not in Moscow, but in the heart of the Ural Mountains, several thousand kilometers away from the Russian capital.
Here you can find historic attractions of the 18th century, art objects and Soviet architecture – all in one place. Recently the city has become a host for important high level meetings, summits and forums. It contributed to the Ural’s infrastructural development and eventually turned Ekaterinburg into a more attractive tourist destination.
A brief tour into the history of Ekaterinburg
Ekaterinburg received its name in honor of the Russian Empress Ekaterina I. However, in the Soviet period its name was changed to Sverdlovsk in honor of a revolutionary, just like many other cities in the USSR. In the 21st century the city regained its original name, and among the people it’s also called Eburg, E-kat, Kater, Kat, and Ekb.
In the beginning of the 20th century Ekaterinburg was one of the revolutionary movement centers in the Ural. But a bit later it became one of the most tragic and important locations of that time, when in April 1918 the last Russian Emperor Nikolai II and his family were brought there. The whole Emperor’s family was shot on orders of the revolutionary administration in the basement of Ipatiev House on the night from the 16th to the 17th of July 1918.
Thus Ekaterinburg was a city where the reign of the Romanov dynasty finished and where the Soviet period of Russian history began. Of course, the Russian Revolution itself took place a year before, and by that time the Emperor had already abdicated. Nevertheless, before the bloody end there had been a hope for an alternative scenario. This hope was killed in line with the lives of the Emperor’s family members.
How to recognize Ekaterinburg
It’s high time to get to know Ekaterinburg of the 21st century. The best place to start your adventure in the city is the city center, namely, the red line. This tourist route includes almost all of the prominent attractions of the city.
It’s easy to get to the Red lines by the underground, the nearest station is Ploshad 1905 goda.
The first attraction is Viner street. On this pedestrian street you can admire interesting architecture, sculptures and monuments. Here you will also find cozy two-story buildings from the pre-revolutionary period mixed with modern shopping malls. One of the most extraordinary art objects on the street is a sculpture of a loving couple, who sit peacefully and blissfully on a parapet.
A bit further you will see a sculpture of two Berlin bears. One of the bears was really brought from Berlin, but another one was made by Ekaterinburg artists. It’s quite easy to guess which them is the “Ural bear”.
A sculpture of Michael Jackson is most unexpected here. It’s hard to pass by without noticing it as Michael has literally frozen during his eccentric dance and is about to start moving again.
If you traipse around the city a little bit more, you will see a number of unusual sculptures.
Unusual sculptures in Ekaterinburg
This really interesting installation is devoted to the hottest summer, in 2012, when the temperature in Ekaterinburg was 37 degrees above zero (Celsius) at its highest point. Although this temperature may not seem really high for summer, it is extraordinary for the Ural.
It is more than 3 meters high, made of steel, and its blades are colored orange. This sculpture is situated near the Manhattan business center a 20-minute walk from the Dynamo underground station.
The Giant Shredder
This kitchen shredder (“Terka” in Russian) weighs 150 kg and is 4 meters high. The idea of this art object is connected not with kitchen utensils, but with an opportunity to “shred” (“Pereteret” in Russian) with someone, which means to talk about something in Russian slang.
Now Ekaterinburg citizens have an opportunity to meet near the Shredder and shred. It is situated on Malysheva street 44 opposite the Bolshoy Zlatoust cathedral.
This installation is a graveyard, where gravestone pedestals present the history of monuments and architecture compositions that were demolished to make space for new buildings. The art object, situated in Kharitonov park, clearly demonstrates all of the consequences of the careless decisions.
Let’s continue our journey along the Red line
The next stop on Vainer street is “Plotinka”.
“Plotinka” is what citizens call a little dam on the Iset river. Water that flows from the river forms a pond. Here people like to arrange meetings or hold different celebrations.
Not far from this place is the Museum of Arts, where you can find the Kasli iron sculpture pavilion. This two-story construction is made of cast metal, and it reflects all of the Russian originality. This Kasli masterpiece was presented at The Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris.
The Architecture and Design Museum is situated opposite the Museum of Arts. Different exhibitions and interesting workshops are often held there.
If you continue your tour along the Iset river, you will find a bizarre Keyboard monument.
Practically it is a standard computer keyboard, but the keys are so big that you can use them as benches! This land art object was placed on the riverfront in 2005, and since then visitors have had an opportunity to relax on a keyboard.
The next stop at the Red line is Doctor Syano’s house, a clear example of modern style of architecture of the 20th century. The first floor is made of stone, the second, of wood.
You can find another example of this architectural style in the Literature district, which is also a part of the Red line. This district is a unique place, where museums dedicated to Ural writers are situated.
The infamous Church of All Saints is located not far from the Literature district. It is built on the place where the last Emperor of Russia and his family were executed. Previously the Ipatiev House was situated here, where they spent last days of their lives.
The Red line is a wonderful road, because it is practically a circle, where the starting and ending points are the same place. Thus, you can observe all of the important attractions without missing any of them.
Apart from the attractions of the Red line of Ekaterinburg, Yeltsin Center, situated in the downtown on the Iset river, is also worth seeing.
The first president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, was born here in Ekaterinburg. Yeltsin Center was built in his honor. It is a huge complex with different expositions and exhibition halls. This modern high-tech building also amazes with its interior and exterior design.
On the 9th floor of the Yeltsin Center you can find the “Residence” hotel.
High-level guests of the city stay at this five-star hotel during their visit to Ekaterinburg. A museum, art gallery, cinema, and a number of restaurants and cafes are also situated here. Residence hotel is the perfect option if you want to find accommodation with good service not far from the city center.
Vysotsky Skyscraper is situated near the Yeltsin Center. This is the tallest building in Ekaterinburg with an observation deck on top of it. You can enjoy wonderful views of the city from this place.
If you like panoramic views of the city, Vysotsky hotel, situated in this skyscraper, is a good choice for you. It is located on the 37th floor. Spacious rooms with classic interiors have panoramic windows. In this five-star hotel you will find a sauna, SPA, hammam, a swimming pool and much more. It is another premium-class hotel, where you can stay during your visit.
Generally, you can easily find accommodation of any class in Ekaterinburg.
Constructivist architecture of the city
Constructivism is an architectural style that was founded in the 1920s. Its distinguishing features are geometrical forms and monolithic aesthetics.
You can see four buildings of this style in the city center. They are situated not far from the Geologicheskaya underground station, and to get there from the station you should walk along the Lenin prospect.
Initially this building was supposed to be a dormitory for the NKVD (The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) officers, but later it was turned into a hotel.
Thanks to the curved form of the building, which resembles a sickle, all of the rooms have enough light.
The whole apartment complex was built for the Soviet Checkists (Soviet secret police organization officers). In the Soviet period this area was guarded, and you could get here only with a permit card. Buildings form a zigzag and there are a lot of acute angles and bizarre windows.
Museum of Ural history and archeology
The former building of Dzerzhinsky house of culture is also a place of interest because of its spiral staircase and constructivist exterior.
Previously a builders’ club, it is now a shopping mall. An excellent example of a club building from the 1920s. The club is shaped like a tractor.
The main post office building
The main post office was built in full conformity with constructivist rules and style. It has the shape of a tractor, but unlike the City center, it resembles a tractor from any direction.
Snail house, located at Malysheva Street 2b
You may not recognize a snail in this former kindergarten building with a very unique shape, but you should keep in mind that architects have their own unique fantasies.
Walks around the city are wonderful! You can enjoy museums, fancy monuments and buildings as well as carry out your craziest dreams about getting up into the skies.
Active recreation in Ekaterinburg
During winter, local ski slopes – Pilnaya, Ezhovaya and Volchicha mountains – welcome you to experience one of the best riding sessions in Russia. Usually they are open until April.
At the end of summer and in the beginning of spring it is always nice to traipse around a forest and pick some mushrooms and berries. You can also go hunting if you prepare in advance.
There is a wide range of different activities in the city. For example, if you have wanted to “conquer the sky” for a long time, you should definitely visit a trampoline arena. There are a number of areas for jumping and a special landing zone. By the way, you might find landing more pleasing than jumping.
The “Vyshe tolko Kryshi” (“Only roofs are higher”) trampoline arena is located at Frontovikh Brigad Street 15, near Mashinostroitelnoe underground station.
It is high time to try out the Aerotube after the trampoline hall!
This machine was constructed specially for skydiver training. Nowadays, however, anybody can try it out without any special training or skill.
After these activities you are ready to go up into the skies! The best way to do that is to take a hot air balloon ride or an aerostat ride. What makes this adventure unforgettable is the beauty of the surrounding scenery and chill atmosphere. A hot air balloon calmly floats in the air not far from the ground.
Automobile and military equipment museum complex in Verkhnyaya Pyshma
In the town of Verkhnyaya Pyshma, not far from Ekaterinburg, you have an opportunity to visit two unique museum complexes. One is mainly devoted to military equipment, the other one – to automobiles.
In the military equipment museum you can observe tanks, aircrafts, artillery and much more. The most interesting part of the museum is a unique exhibition devoted to railway troops. Rolling stocks and railway scout cars are dispersed within the space of 2 hectares. And a real armored train forms the center of the exposition.
You can also book a guided tour to make your stroll around the 6-hectare museum more interesting.
In the automobile museum you can see examples of national motor-vehicle construction, foreign retro-automobiles, motorcycles and sport vehicles. The museum is located indoors, which means that you can visit it no matter the weather.
Shartash lake is worth a visit for everybody who loves nature and fresh air.
Shartash forest park and Shartash lake are situated in a wonderfully picturesque place in the city. Here you can enjoy the nature, wander around the park and take a dip in the lake. Not far from the lake you can find so called stone tents, granite walls with bizarre shapes. Previously they served as a camping area for primitive tribes. According to archeologists, primitive people lived here five thousand years ago! There is some evidence in favor of this opinion, for example, cooking utensils that are regularly found by scientists not far from the granite walls.
The walls resemble large carefully piled pillows and mattresses made of stone.
You can explore the lake on a boat, which you can rent on the lakeshore. It’s also nice to walk around the forest on foot or by bicycle.
How to spend your evening
In the evening you can visit the “Ever Jazz” Jazz Club. Live music played by professional jazz musicians and a chef’s special menu make this club popular among locals.
In the restaurant you can find an original interior that makes you feel as if you were in Russia of the 19th century. Russian traditional cuisine intertwines with classic French cuisine. This is a reminder of the times when French culture was especially popular and people spoke French better than Russian. Here you can try exquisite carp and rabbit dishes.