From food to culture to nature, Shymkent has it all. Founded in the 12th century to protect a Silk Road trade town – and destroyed multiple times as a result – it has since blossomed into one of the most vibrant cities in south Kazakhstan.
Make the most of your time in Shymkent with our handy guide.
Go café hopping
Star your day at Baytursynov Street, offers options galore for breakfast and lunch. Grab a traditional pancake at Blinchik, or head to the popular Madlen chain for Western-inspired fare like pizza and pasta.
For lunch, Chas-Pik comes highly recommended for its barbecue selection.
Catch a cultural performance
Don’t miss the Shymkent’s Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Catch performances of traditional Russian tales like “Aybolit” or classics like “The Snow Queen” in this cultural attraction that opened in 2008. While you are there, make time to stroll the expansive courtyard and admire the architectural details.
Visit the grand Sheikh Khalifa Mosque
The grand Sheikh Khalifa Mosque in Shymkent is built on a total area of 8,000sqm, and can accommodate up to 6,000 worshippers. The mosque was built by the United Arab Emirate’s Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, and took three years to complete. One of the largest mosques in Kazakhstan, it also houses a public library that holds a substantial collection of Islamic works.
Browse handicrafts and more
Be sure to visit Altyn Orda, an art gallery and gift shop run by a family of artisans. Several of the craftsmen are members of the Kazakhstan Craftsmen Union, and they work with various materials such as wood, leather and silver to make intricately patterned umbrellas, felt carpets, clothes and jewellery.
Visit a famous park
The 52-ha Abay Park is home not just to various nature trails, but also several important monuments. Named after the great Kazakh thinker Abay Kunanbayuly, the park commemorates the various wars Kazakhstan had been involved in.
Housed in the park is Alleya Slavy a war memorial dedicated to the more than 140,000 lives lost in southern Kazakhstan during WWII. It also hosts a few museums, such as the Museum of Victims of Political Repression.
Do stop by the acclaimed Bar Villa at the southern edge of the park for a meal too. The restaurant has a garden terrace for al fresco dining in the summer and serves a wide variety of dishes from various cultures, from Italian to Japanese.
Go for a stroll
Arbat Shymkent, an enchanting pedestrian street, is also known as the heart of Shymkent. It comes alive at night with colourful lighting displays and bustling cafés.
Pop by Park Avenue or Kafe “Chelsi”, visit the World of Fantasy, a small amusement park, or catch a show at the Regional Russian Drama Theatre.
Check out the nightlife
Most restaurants and bars serve drinks and finger food too, and are great places for hanging out at night with friends. There are also a number of lively bars and cafés around the theatre such as the popular Nash Bar, which dishes up local cuisine and music.
The two-storey Pride Pub, which a dance floor as well as karaoke rooms and booths, is another popular option for nightlife revelers.