Vladivostok is the the largest city in the southern Russian far east province. Being an important military harbor for the Russian fleet, the town still was not accessible to foreigners for ten years after the Cold War ended. Today, Vladivostok transforms into a business, conference, tourism and administration town where the neigbors China (50km), North Korea (100km) and Japan (450km over the sea) meet. Many foreigners know Vladivostok as the end point of the Transsiberian railway line.
With its rich history in pacific trade, warfare and naval business, Vladivostok today hosts public and private universities, trade companies, and car resellers. Until recently, virtually the whole used card output of Japan was sold into far-eastern Russia – where, as a consequence, you’ll find nearly no car with the wheel on the left side.
Current construction work connects Russky island to the main land with a huge bridge. On the island, the Far Eastern University campus is supposed to be built, used first as a congress center to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in 2012. More international congress and conference activiteis are to be expected.
Vladivostok offers a peculiar mix of waterfronts, green hills, islands, Soviet concrete blocks, small shops, modern shopping malls, and a bazar dominated by the Chinese. Fashion chains, mobile phone franchise shops, cosmetics and sushi bars at western prices are turning up at the same speed as hamburger restaurants, Toyota jeeps, and Pick-up trucks. It is a fascinating place to observe globalization and societal change in Russia, where Vodka bottles at penny rates coexist with French Cognac and Sushi.
What to do
- If you happen to stay around in August, you should not miss the Fleet holiday. A national holiday honors the Russian fleet, with big celebrations being performed in all Russian bases (Petropavlovsk, Murmansk, Kaliningrad and Vladivostok). A honor ceremony at the submarine memorial will be performed, followed by a ship parade on the water in front of the promenade and downtown beach area. Each year’s highlight is the boat of Neptun, with the marine god and several mermaids appearing as special honorary guests at the military’s VIP seating area. Following Neptun’s arrival, the navy shows off demo battles with ship missile firings, anti-pirate action, and a sea-to-land landing maneuver with a fully equipped landing mother ship. The locals enjoy, and use the opportunity to eat & drink on the promenade.
- Hike up to the summit of the Burachok rock. The red rock in the Perwomaisky district is accessible from Zaboroschskaya ul. on a path between a small Baptist church and a few appartment blocks. Sunset is particularly nice, providing a scenic overiew of the whole town, ranging from the inner harbor to Russky island.
- Visit the aquarium (Океананиум) near the beach promenade. Focusing on local sea wildlife and Primorye river fish, the aquarium offers a huge cylindrical tank with large Belugas racing in it. 4, Batareinaya Street, Vladivostok.
- Go to the beach! Either on the busy downtown promenade, or at the southern beach near Patrokl bay (on the other side of the radar dome). The latter is worth a diving mask & a snorkel, you will see sea stars, mussels and schools of fish!
Where to stay
Vladivostock offers a number of hotels in the downtown area.
We need hotel recommendations! Please comment! Until then, use the hotel booking web pages & check the comments there!
- Getting there: You can arrive by plane to the Vladivostok airport (Check Aeroflot, Siberian Airlines, and Vladivostok Air. The airport lies 50km north, out of town at the base of the peninsula). Or come by ferry from Japan, or by train with the Transsiberian railway from Khabarowsk and Irkutsk. Buses come in from China. The taxi ride from the airport (ca. 1 hour) might get you by one of the first sights of the town – the burning, open city trash dump on the cliff on the southeastern edge of the peninsula.
- Getting around: Within the city, you can use the buses and the tram lines. During rush hour, the buses get regularly stuck on the main roads around the harbor. It might be faster to walk around the bay at these times. Otherwise, use taxi cabs – but make sure to negotiate prices before you enter!
Where to eat
- The restaurant and micro brewery Republic (Републик) has several locations in town. The original location is in Ul. Borisenko, 52, while several new branches around the center offer various flavors of beer andAmerican-Style finger food closer to the city center (check this map).
Try the “München restaurant” (Мюнхен) – German-style cuisine and microbrewery, with an authentic “Weizen” beer, “Helles” and “Dunkles”, brewed in the Russian far east. Location: City center, ul. Swetlanskaya, 3, Tel. 8 (4232) 41 34 54, email@example.com.
- Fish and Grill food on the beach promenade!
- Posh, and western-priced, is the “Seven feet” (Семъ Футов) restaurant in Vladivostok’s new marina and yacht harbor. Dine with the Rich and Famous, and pay for it! Surrounded by rather new living quarters, the restaurant offers both a view on post-socialist appartment block architecture, and the sea. Reservation recommended! Location: Ul. Leitenanta Shmidta, 17A. Tel. 53 12 88.
What to bring home
- Ussurisky Balsam’s regional Vodkas. The vodka factory in Ussurisk, approx.200 km north of Vladivostok, produces a number of Vodkas. Their logo is the Siberian Tiger.
- Take a look at the bazar-style market at Ul. Sportivnaya. Dominated by Chinese and Chinese goods, you can find rather cheap clothing, leather products and fashion items at varying degrees of quality and authenticity. The market has a food section, where local produce is offered. Take note that one of the butchery booths sells “Münchener Weisswurst” – to our knowledge the best one east of Moscow!
- Dried fish snacks and salmon caviar. What potato chips are to a westerner, are dried fish bits to Russians. They get eaten while watching TV sports and drinking beer. Rich in proteine and low-fat, these snacks are much healthier than potato-fat-bits. Food stores sell dry fish in small packets, while the two fish stores at the beach promenade offer a large selection in open boxes. Recommendarion: try Kalmar, dried strips of squid! The red salmon caviar is sold in glasses and cans.
- The ferry terminal shopping mall (right behind the railway station) has a number of interesting shops with souvenirs. Metal hunter’s spirit flasks, night sights and night goggles, telescopes and other Russian optics are on sale in the shops. Optionally with Soviet red stars, and other Soviet Union memorabilia.
- Fancy shoes. Boots or high heels. Russian women are crazy about shoe fashion. Well, you’ve noticed anyway.
Maps & other information
- Yahoo Map of Vladivostok (no roads)
- The internet newspaper Vladivostok Times provides news, reports and culture events in English.