Snag a $40 flight over to Yekaterinburg to pay your respects to the Romanov family in a city that was started by Peter The Great.
There's a lot to see in Russia, and we definitely have our favorite cities. Places like Moscow and St. Petersburg are typically found on most tourists' itineraries, but for some travelers, it's worth the trek out to Yekaterinburg.
If you're a traveler who's particularly interested in the Romanovs, a visit to Yeterinburg is kind of a must-see. It's also a jumping-off point to hiking the Ural mountains if you're the kind of tourist who wants to experience the soaring Russian peaks. With affordable flights here from a few major Russian cities, you may be able to easily slip in a quick visit to this historic city.
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We've pulled the highlights of Yetarinburg here in one spot, and also have all the travel resources you need to plan your own trip here (along with a few tips to make things even easier). It's all found below:
A Bit About The City
About The Name
Yekaterinburg has roots that are deeply embedded in Russia's past, first established by Peter The Great, the first Russian emperor. The city was named after his wife (Yekaterina), though you'll see a few different spellings or even names of the same place.
It's often called Ekaterinburg, though more traditionally, the city is spelled with a "Y". You may even see old train stations and schedules with routes to Sverdlovsk, which was the name of the city during the ruling of the Bolsheviks (named after the leader Yakov Sverdlov).
But whether you see Ekaterinburg or Yekaterinburg, we're talking about the same place.
What To Expect In Yekaterinburg
With hundreds of years of history, you can imagine the blend of new and old found in Yekaterinburg. The metropolis has always been an important point of industry and administration, plus, it's on the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway, which creates a link from east to west. The city is a mix of some of the country's tallest skyscrapers in all of Russia plus an old town center with historic buildings and churches that commemorate scenes from history books.
It's not one of the most often visited cities by tourists, but Yekaterinburg lends plenty to do, see, experience, and learn about, particularly if you're interested in the Romanov family. We have information about nearby adventures too, which pull in their fair share of visitors if you keep an eye out for that below.
The Romanov Connection
Yekaterinburg's ties to the Romanov family are grisly — the city where the royal family spent their last days in exile and were later executed via firing squad.
If you need a quick refresher, the Romanov family was the last imperial family to rule Russia (back in 1613) before being overthrown during the Russian Revolution in 1917. The Bolshevik revolutionaries attacked the monarchy which at the time was Czar Nicholas II and his family — his wife, four daughters, and son. The family's story is fascinating, with chapters involving a mystic man named Rasputin and the rumors that the youngest daughter, Anatasia, somehow survived the brutal execution. You can get a more in-depth overview here (which I would recommend reading).
As one of the main tourist attractions in Yekaterinburg, visitors pay their respects to the church that was built where the families were executed (formerly the Ipatiev House). You can also visit the site where the bodies were buried, though it's a little outside of the city. We have more information about these sites in detail below but wanted to give you this background before diving into the specifics.
Highlights Of Yekaterinburg
Visit The Church Of The Blood
This stunning church was built in 2003, at the site of where the Czar and his family were executed. The family was held in exile at the Ipatiev House until being ordered down to the basement where the murders occurred. The home was demolished in 1977, but the basement is now part of the structure of the church. The chapel is beautiful, with detailed gates and alters that depict saints to watch over the royal family and a unique mosaic panel of the Romanov family as a way to remember them.
Address: Ulitsa Tsarskaya, 10, Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, 620075 (It's near the Dinamo metro station)
Photograph This Colorful Building
One of the most eye-catching buildings in Yekaterinburg is easily the Sevastyanov's House — how can you miss the bright terracotta-red paint and intricate white molding? The whole effect of the bright colors and detailed flourishes makes for quite the showstopping effect. The home belonged to a wealthy clerk in the mining departure (Yekaterinburg is a strong base for metalwork and mining). While it was owned by Nikolai Ivanovich Sevastiyanov, supposedly he never lived in this palace, but instead lent it out to the state.
You can't enter the house (supposedly you can arrange tours, but no phone number is available online), so walking by or renting bikes for a ride by is what a visit to the Sevastyanov's House entails. The palace is nicely situated by a river that curves through the city, and is framed by blossoming trees in the springtime.
Find it: Prospekt Lenina, 35, Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, 620075
Get A Panoramic View
See the city from above in the Vysotsky Skyscraper. Outside of the capital city of Moscow, it's the tallest building in Russia. After making your way up to the observation deck on the 52nd floor (that's 610 feet up!) you can see the whole metropolis of Yekaterinburg spilling out below.
Address: Ulitsa Malysheva, 51, Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovskaya oblast, Russia, 620075
Find This Giant Keyboard
Turns out the city of Yekaterinburg has a few more things to admire besides towering skyscrapers and contemplative cathedrals — one of which is a gigantic keyboard monument in the city. You'll see huge white stones nestled in the grass, all engraved with the numbers, letters, and commands on a typical keyboard, like "Q", "SHIFT", "F", etc. It's a quirky little side trip (with over 1,700 Google Reviews) if you have some extra time.
Find it: See the QWERTY keyboard monument on the riverbank near the Ploshad metro station. Here's the address: Ulitsa Gor'kogo, Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, 620075
See The Mafia Graveyard
Another unique element to the city is the "Mafia Graveyard", where there are a series of elaborate tombstones that depict larger than life-sized engravings of mafia members. You'll see members in expensive suits wearing gold chains, holding cigarettes or keys to luxury sports cars in these photorealistic engravings as a way to honor the memory of the gangsters who died violent deaths in the '90s. You can read more about the cemetery and see dozens of pictures here.
Find it: The real name of the site is the Shirokorechenskoye Kladbishche Cemetery (Широкореченское Кладбище). Supposedly buses 14, 22, 24, 37K, 048, and 69 that go to Kontrol'naya take you there, or you can taxi.
+ A Few More Adventures
This blogger lives in and writes about Yekaterinburg, and has quite the list of things to do in the city that incorporate a few things on this post plus several more ideas. You'll also get some insider tips, like how Yekaterinburg is supposedly the city that consumes the most mayonnaise (per person) in the entire world. Individuals in Europe chow down on about 3-4 kilos of mayo each year, but in Yekaterinburg, that number is eleven. Eleven kilos! That shakes out to be about 24 pounds of the thick and creamy spread.
What used to be a pit in the forest where the Romanov family and their loyal servants were buried after their brutal execution, is now a series of wooden churches. In the early morning of July 17th, the family and servants were shot and transported to the woods to be buried, then later relocated after an investigation of the family's deaths threatened to expose the murders by the Bolshevik's. At that time, the remains were moved to another burial site around four miles from the first — a fact that was only recently discovered after the secret burial site of the royal family was uncovered.
Upon the confirmation of the burial site, the Russian Orthodox Church has declared the entire area a holy site and built seven chapels on the grounds, one for each member of the family. You'll find some information boards (in Russian), portraits of the family, a small museum at the base of the main chapel, and public toilets. When visiting, women should wear skirts and a headscarf, just as a heads up.
Getting Here: Ganina Yama (Га́нина Я́ма) is about 10 minutes away from the city of Yekaterinburg and has a regular bus route that shuttles tourists to and fro (catch bus 223 to Ganima Yama — you can get to the bus stop from the Mashinostroiteley stop off the metro). You'll find the site near the small village of Koptyaki if that's helpful. From Yekaterinburg to the site, plan on a one-way taxi fare of about 1,000 rubles.
In the summer, you'll likely find tour guides offering to take you to the site (the Yekaterinburg tourist center is a good place to check for info about this). You'll get way more out of the experience with a tour if you're interested, or I'd recommend studying the history before your visit.
Stand In Europe And Asia
The giant country of Russia spans both Europe and Asia, but in Yekaterinburg, you can stand in two continents at once at this monument. The Ural mountain range splits Europe and Asia, but tourists love visiting the series of obelisks that were placed along the border, back in the 19th century.
There are a couple of obelisks you can visit, but tourists typically visit the closest one to the city, found around 17 kilometers from Yekaterinburg. At this site, you'll notice an "Eiffel Tower-esque" type of monument, with a line on the ground diving the two continents, and making it easy to put one foot in Europe and one foot in Asia while you snap a picture. There is also another monument around 40 kilometers from the city, near Pervouralsk. Find it on Beryozavaya Gorka (Birch Hill).
Getting Here: Best to take a taxi (Note, some visitors taxi to this location and have their driver also take them to Ganina Yama since both are outside of the city limits).
The Ural Mountains + Other Hiking
How about the chance to hike in Siberia? The Ural mountains tower of this area and are just a 4ish hour bus ride from Yekaterinburg if you head to the Taganay National Park. There are some treks for very serious (and prepared hikers) or you can opt to do a day hike and see the stunning views before returning to a cozy mountain cabin for the rest of the weekend.
This blogger has an excellent outline of how to get to Taganay National Park from Yekaterinburg and other information that'll be vital to planning your trip here (along with beautiful pictures).
If you want to experience the mountains and nature, but don't have time to trek out to Taganay, Deer Springs National Park is found 120 kilometers from the city. You'll find sweeping mountain views, snow-filled caves (even in the summer), and glimmering rivers — it's a gorgeous part of Russia and can be done on a day trip.
Getting To Yekaterinburg
Snag A Cheap Flight
Yekaterinburg has been a transportation hub between Europe and Asia for centuries — it's always a stop on the Trans-Siberian express if you have the dream of riding a train through Russia to get to China. The train rides are very long (from Moscow, it's about 30 hours). But you can also get very affordable and quick flights to this city from all over Russia.
Just hopping on Skyscanner brought me to a few example fares to give you an idea of what's out there. Note: Skyscanner (and other sites/resources) will reference Yekaterinburg as Ekaterinburg — both are the same city.
- From Moscow: $42ish on Pegas Fly (or Pobeda). It's a 2.5-hour flight
- From St. Petersburg: $75ish on Ural Airlines or Pobeda. It's a 3-hour flight.
- From Voronezh: $99ish on S7 Airlines or Aeroflot. It's a 5ish-hour flight.
- From Kazan: $96ish on Ruseline or Pobeda. It's a 1.5-hour flight.
Ural Airlines is based in Yekaterinburg, so you can sometimes find good deals on that airline. Ural Airlines does fly to other locations in Europe, so consider heading to Yekaterinburg for a couple of days, then getting on a plan to see somewhere like Crete or Cyprus — the airlines has direct flights to several cities we love for vacations.
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