Astana is a new capital with a long history. Although the city was founded in 1830, it did not become the capital of Kazakhstan until 1997. Its skyline continues to grow each year as foreign embassies and government offices trickle in, creating an interesting mix of modern designs and old Soviet architecture.
Start your visit with an introduction to the country’s history at the President’s Museum of Kazakhstan. The interesting building is built like a traditional yurt but topped with a mosque-like dome. Exhibitions detail Kazakhstan’s rich history and the struggle for independence, but the main attraction is the shining Golden Man costume. Found in a tomb on the eastern side of the country, the suit was worn by a warrior and is decorated with over 4,000 gold pieces. The ground floor features traditional Kazakh items, including elaborate carpets, handmade clothing, brightly colored yurts and models of some of the country’s oldest buildings. Another interesting exhibit showcases gifts given to Nazarbayev by foreign leaders, and the entire top floor is dedicated to photographs of Yeltsin.
Visit the Atameken Map of Kazakhstan to explore the entire country without ever leaving the capital. The outdoor museum recreates cities throughout the country in miniature. English guides are available to walk you through the over 200 mock-up pieces that detail life around Kazakhstan and highlight historical moments.
The country’s first president is memorialized at the Kazakh Eli monument. The 100-meter statue is topped with a ìsamryk,î or mythical golden bird, and is surrounded by lovely fountains and gardens. The monument is hugged by the Shabyt Palace, now an art gallery, and the Palace of Independence, which has hosted leaders from all over the world for environmental and political summits.
The newborn city’s future is symbolized in the Baiterek Tower. The futuristic tower looks like a giant lollipop, earning the nickname ìChupa Chupsî by locals. The view from the top floor is astounding, and at the center of the 97-meter high viewing platform is a golden palm print left by President Nazarbayev. Visitors line up each day to rest their own hands on the print, and the tower also houses restaurants, an aquarium and an art gallery.
Astana is one of the coldest capitals in the world, but that does not stop locals from having a good time. When the temperature drops below zero, they head to Khan Shatyry, a huge tent that covers an area bigger than ten football stadiums. Inside is a shopping area complete with cobbled streets and squares, a mini golf course, boating river and even an indoor beach resort. The temperatures inside are comfortable year-round thanks to the transparent material that lets in sunshine.
The nightlife in Astana revolves largely around eating and dancing. Turan Street is loaded with inexpensive but good restaurants serving up traditional dishes like sausages, horse meat and vegetable stews, and there is also a small selection of international restaurants in the area. After dinner, locals crowd the city’s discos where they take shots of vodka and dance the night away to the latest techno and electronic hits.
Astana Geographical Location
Astana is located in the northeast of Kazakhstan near its center and the Ishim River.
Astana is the second-largest city in Kazakhstan and has a population of 709,000 people.
Russian is the official language of Kazakhstan and is used to conduct business while Kazakh is the state language.
Astana Predominant Religion
- 70% Muslim
- 27% Christian
- 3% Other
The majority of Christians in Kazakhstan are Russian Orthodox Christians. There has been religious freedom since Kazakhstan gained independence from the Soviet Union.
The official currency of Kazakhstan is the Tenge.
Astana experiences pleasant and warm summers with frigidly cold winters. The summer receives the most rain but it does rain consistently throughout the year.
Astana Main Attractions
- Bayterek Tower
- Palace of Peace and Reconciliation
- Khan Shatyr
Other Attractions in Astana
- President’s Culture Centre