Bishkek - Capital of Kyrgyzstan
Tours, Attractions and Things To Do in Bishkek
Bishkek Travel Guide
Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan and the largest city in the country by the number of population (more than 1 million).
Bishkek is located in the center of the Chui Valley at the foot of one of the mountain ranges of the Tien Shan - Kyrgyz Ala-Too. Its length is 375 kilometers and extends from the Boomsky Gorge to the Talas region. The highest point of the ridge (4875 meters) is the peak of Semenov-Tyan-Shansky.
Bishkek residents divide the city into up and down. The upper part (south) is closest to the mountains, the lower (north) – to the border with Kazakhstan. The upper part of the city is considered cleaner in terms of ecology. But almost all "life" is concentrated at the bottom. It is there that the main attractions, markets and much more are located. How to determine the top and bottom? It's very simple: the top is where the mountains are.
Bishkek is a square city. In it you will find almost no winding streets. That is why it is almost impossible to get lost here. Residents of the city are guided by the intersections of streets. For example, they rarely make appointments just in a restaurant, but necessarily add that it is located at the intersection of Chui / Isanova or Togolok Moldo/Kievskaya.
It was in Bishkek that the popular group "City 312" was formed (312 is the telephone code of Bishkek). And there is also a huge monument to Lenin in Bishkek, and not somewhere in the backyard, but in the city center.
Bishkek is a very green city. There are many parks, boulevards and squares here. Not far from the capital are the green mountains and the Ala-Archa National Park. It occupies more than 2,200 hectares and is the most popular holiday destination for Bishkek residents who are tired of the hustle and bustle of the city.
History of Bishkek
Archaeological excavations confirm that the sites of primitive people were located on the site of present-day Bishkek in the V-IV centuries BC. Caravans of the Great Silk Road also passed through Bishkek. In the VII-XII centuries, the site of the Kyrgyz capital was the settlement of Jul.
In 1825, the Kokand fortress of Pishpek was founded on the territory of the modern city, which became a garrison. After 30 years, the first Russian settlers began to appear here. Then the Uzbeks joined them. In 1878, Pishpek received the status of a city.
In 1926, Pishpek was renamed Frunze in honor of the military figure M. V. Frunze, who was born in this city. 10 years later Frunze became the capital of the Kyrgyz SSR. In 1991, the city was renamed Bishkek (close to "pishpek"), which in Kyrgyz means "a stick with which kumis (mare's milk) is shaken".
If in 1897 about 6.5 thousand people lived in Pishpek, then in 2021 the number of inhabitants reached 1.1 million people.
What to do in Bishkek
St. Nicholas Church of Bishkek is the oldest building in the city – built in 1886. However, only the name of the temple remains. The domes and crosses were removed long ago, because since 1934 the building housed an exhibition hall. Today there is an art gallery of the Union of Artists of Kyrgyzstan.
Thanks to the attractions of Bishkek, you can feel yourself at the end of the XX century. There are many places here that will remind you of Soviet times. Therefore, a trip to Bishkek may well become a trip to the past on a time machine. For example, you will be surprised by the buildings of the Soviet era, which are not only perfectly preserved, but are still in operation: the Philharmonic Hall, the White House (government building), the city hall, the building of the International University of Kyrgyzstan (IUK) and others.
Crossroad Chui/Manas, where the Mayor's office, the Philharmonic Hall and the IUK are located, is considered one of the most beautiful in Bishkek. The IUK building was built in 1953 in the Stalinist Empire style, the city hall with its tall columns looks more like a theater building, and the Philharmonic balances the composition with its massiveness.
The main Soviet attraction of Bishkek is the monument to Lenin, which stands at the northern wall of the Kyrgyz State Historical Museum. Why are we focusing on this? Because the southern wall of this museum overlooks the main square of the city – Ala-Too (translated from Kyrgyz – motley mountains). That is, the monument was simply moved from the central square, but still left in the center.
The national flag of Kyrgyzstan rises above the Ala-Too Square, on a 45-meter flagpole. Nearby is post No. 1, where there is an honor guard. Every day, in any weather, the guard is carried by two employees of the National Guard. The changing of the guard of honor takes place several times a day and attracts the attention of not only foreign guests, but also residents of the capital.
Not far from Ala-Too Square there is a black and white monument in memory of the April 2010 events and the 2002 demonstration. On the south side of the square there is a monument to the famous writer who lived and worked in Kyrgyzstan – Chingiz Aitmatov.
There is also a monument to Manas the Magnanimous, the hero of the folk epic "Manas", on Ala-Too Square. About the latter it is necessary to say separately. The epic "Manas" is included in the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List and in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest epic in the world. The most famous manaschi is the storyteller Sayakbai Karalaev. For example, he could say an epic continuously for 72 hours. We want to focus attention on this – continuously. Do you know what the secret is? Manaschi was going into a trance. Other storytellers of "Manas" also enter the trance. For example, even small children can be manaschi – they cannot know the text of the epic in any way, and when entering a trance, they can say it for several hours. A monument to Manaschi Karalaev can also be found in Bishkek. There is also a sculpture complex of Manas near the Philharmonic Hall. Manas is a dragon-slaying horseman, and Kanykey's wife and advisor Bakai are standing next to him. Not far from this sculpture there are busts of famous manaschi of the XX century.
To be fair, Bishkek is also a modern city. There are many installations here. For example, the "Point of View" glasses installed on the Alley of Youth, and the "Air Quality Index Scale" in the botanical garden.
Also, the spirit of modernity is given to the city by murals (monumental art on the walls of buildings). The most famous of them are: I-Gul – a modern reading of the famous painting "The Daughter of Soviet Kyrgyzstan" (Chui/Gogol), a little girl (Chui/ Logvinenko), "White Steamboat" – the dedication of the story of Chingiz Aitmatov (Moscow/Manas) and Aisuluu Tynybekova – two-time world champion in freestyle wrestling (Abdrakhmanova/Toktogula). There are also social murals in Bishkek: dedicated to doctors "Burning yourself, shine to others" (Logvinenko/Bokonbayeva), urging not to litter "I love Bishkek" and warning reckless drivers "Dangerous driving" (Abdrakhmanova/Tugolbai Ata).
The central Mosque of Bishkek (borborduk mosque), opened in 2018, impresses with its grandeur. It is the largest mosque in Central Asia. It is built in the style of architecture of the Ottoman period and is similar to the mosque in the Kocatepe district in Ankara.
Vladimir Cathedral, located in the 12th microdistrict of the Kyrgyz capital, is the largest Orthodox church in Central Asia.
It is also worth seeing the Victory Monument and the monument to Kurmanzhan Datka, the ruler of the Alai Kirghiz. By the way, there is a so-called "zero kilometer" near the monument to the Alai Queen. The distance between Bishkek and major cities of Kyrgyzstan is indicated here.
The clock tower at the Bishkek Post Office is not only a city landmark, but also a meeting place for couples in love.
Not far from Bishkek there are natural attractions: the gorges of Chon-Kurchak (Chunkurchak) and Issyk-Ata (Issyk-Ata). They are considered one of the most beautiful in Kyrgyzstan.
One of the main attractions of any eastern country is the bazaar. There are two of them in Bishkek. At the Osh Bazaar, located near the city center, life is in full swing from early morning until late evening. There you can buy vegetables, fruits, bread and spices. If you want oriental exoticism, this is the place for you.
And the second bazaar is famous throughout Central Asia. This is the Dordoi clothing market, located on the outskirts of the city. It is said that it is here that wholesalers of Kyrgyzstan and neighboring countries are bought. To buy clothes at attractive prices, you need, as they say, to know the places. Usually only locals know them, but Kyrgyzstanis are always ready to help and tell about secret points.
The panorama completes the list of attractions. This is the name of a place on Mount Boz-Boltok. It is from here that the most beautiful view of Bishkek opens. It is here that many guys make marriage proposals to their girls. And it is here that the highest flagpole of Kyrgyzstan is located. With a 75-meter height, it ranks 12th in the world.
The most frequent visitors to Bishkek museums are tourists and residents of other cities of Kyrgyzstan.
The main museum of the country is the Kyrgyz State Historical Museum, which is located on Ala–Too Square. This is a traditional museum, which presents exhibits of the Stone and Bronze Ages, household items of the nomadic Kyrgyz people, and also shows the formation of independent Kyrgyzstan.
In the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts named after Gapar Aitiev, you can get acquainted with applied Kyrgyz art and paintings by Soviet and modern artists. There are about 18 thousand exhibits in the museum's collection.
Not far from the Museum of Art is the museum-workshop of Gapar Aitiev. The artist lived and worked in Kyrgyzstan and left a rich cultural heritage.
Great attention is drawn to the Museum of the Great Emptiness – an unusual art space dedicated to contemporary art. It is located near the upper border of Bishkek. The museum was founded by artist Alexey Skriplev. All the exhibits of the museum were created personally by the founder. The museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from dusk to dawn. The cost of the visit is not fixed – it is determined solely by the desire of the guests.
The house-Museum of Chingiz Aitmatov is one of the favorite museums of Bishkek residents. It was here that the great writer spent the last 20 years of his life. The environment in which Aitmatov lived, his personal belongings and manuscripts are preserved here.
The Memorial House-Museum of M.V. Frunze will attract lovers of history and military affairs. On the ground floor of the museum there is an adobe brick house with a reed roof, in which Mikhail Vasilyevich was born and spent his childhood. The museum was actually built around the house. The house is a typical setting of the first Russian settlers, as well as Frunze's personal belongings and weapons. In addition, the museum has many other exhibits related to the man after whom Bishkek was once named.
Also in Bishkek there is the Central Museum of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Zoological Museum, the Museum of Literature and Art, the Museum of N. K. Roerich and others.
There are several theaters in the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The most visited is the Kyrgyz National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater. Performances of world classics are staged here, and the hall is often sold out. And the theater building is one of the most photographed in the city. Newlyweds and guests of the capital like to come here.
Russian Drama Theater named after Chingiz Aitmatov puts on works of Russian classics and comedies (including those with elements of black humor).
Also in Bishkek there is the Kyrygz State Puppet Theater, the Bishkek City Drama Theater, Taberik – children's musical theater and the Theater of the Young Spectator.
Entertainment, Parks and Shopping in Bishkek
Bishkek is the main city of Kyrgyzstan for entertainment and shopping.
Oak Park, which was founded in 1890, still exists. This is the first park in Bishkek. It was once called the oak garden. Today there is not only a green zone, but also sculptures symbolizing the idea of peace, mind, and goodness, as well as Eternal Flame and a stella to the fighters of the revolution.
The most famous park in Bishkek is Panfilov Park. It is located in the city center. Families with children come here to ride the attractions, lovers stroll through the shady alleys, and pensioners have leisurely conversations on numerous benches.
Karagach Grove is one of the favorite places of Bishkek residents for walking. Several thousand trees grow on 143 hectares.
The Botanical Garden and Victory Park are places for quiet walks. Fuchik, Ataturk, Gandhi and Youth Parks are green areas with lots of benches.
There are also boulevards in Bishkek that are pleasant to walk along even in the summer heat, because they are buried in the greenery of trees. These are Erkindik Boulevard and the Boulevard of the Young Guard.
Shopping in Bishkek
To this day, the most popular shopping destination is the Dordoi clothing market, located on the outskirts of Bishkek. There are no branded clothes here. But there is an abundance of clothing from Turkish, Chinese and Kyrgyz manufacturers. For Bishkek residents and guests of the capital, "Dordoi" is more like entertainment, when you can spend a few hours walking around the covered rows, haggling or finding clothes at low prices.
The most famous shopping and entertainment complex where you can buy branded clothes and relax with your family is Bishkek Park. Products of the Kyrgyz jewelry brand "Keldike" are also sold here. The shopping center has children's areas, a cinema, a food court and much more.
Asia Mall is the first mall in the country. It opened a few years ago and has already managed to fall in love with Bishkek residents. In addition to branded stores, there are restaurants, beauty salons, attractions, a cinema and even a public service center where you can get a passport and other documents.
TSUM, GUM "Chynar", Vefa Center, "Tash-Rabat", Dordoi Plaza, Cosmopark and Beta Stores will also please those who want to buy branded clothes or relax with their family. Almost all of these shopping centers have playgrounds and food courts.
You can eat in the capital of Kyrgyzstan at almost every step. Cafes and restaurants offer dishes of Dungan, Uighur, Russian, Italian, Japanese, French, American and Caucasian cuisines
Perhaps the most famous place of Kyrgyz and Oriental cuisine in Bishkek is the Fayza cafe. It has two branches, and in each of them, firstly, it is impossible to book a table in advance, and secondly, the cafe is so popular that guests will have to wait in line for 5-10 minutes before sitting down at an empty table. There are few people here except in the morning hours. Any guest of the capital will sooner or later be brought to the "Fayza". Because it is one of the business cards of Bishkek. Prices are low here, and the food is very tasty. Try the fried lagman and be sure to add the spicy lazo (lazjan) seasoning to the dish.
Other Kyrgyz food can be tasted at Supra Ethnocomplex, Dasmia Ethnocomplex, Arzu Cafe and Navat Teahouse.
Food for Vegetarians
There are no special vegetarian cafes and restaurants in Bishkek, but there are many establishments that serve healthy food. Vegetarian dishes can also be tasted in Indian and Japanese restaurants.
There are quite a lot of coffee shops in Bishkek, because residents of the capital like not only to talk over a cup of good coffee, but also to work outside the house. Foreigners prefer to drink coffee in Adriano and Sierra chain coffee shops. Bishkek residents love the Coffeeshop Company, Vanilla Sky and the Bagel chain.
Public Transport in Bishkek
Bishkek residents and guests of the capital have the opportunity to use several types of transport.
Buses and Trolleybuses
There are only 18 bus routes in Bishkek. Most of them cross the whole city, so it's quite convenient to drive in them. Moreover, Bishkek buses are almost always empty.
There are 11 trolleybus routes in the Kyrgyz capital, and Bishkek residents love them very much. The trolleybus fleet is quite large, so the waiting time for the desired route is short.
The fare in buses and trolleybuses is 11 soms. These modes of transport operate from 6:00 to 20:00.
Minibuses are the kings of Bishkek roads. The number of routes exceeds one hundred. Minibuses are a monopolist of public passenger transportation. Bishkek residents do not like minibuses – sometimes it is difficult to get into them because they are crowded, drivers do not always drive carefully – but there is no other choice.
The fare in the minibus is 15 soms.
It is not customary to catch a taxi from the road in Bishkek. If you try to do this, no one will stop. But taxi services in Bishkek are well developed. There are several well-known applications through which you can call an economy, comfort and business class car. You can also use the services of some taxi companies by calling.
There are several car rental companies in Bishkek. You can rent both standard and luxury cars. To rent a car, most often you need to book it in advance. But there are also companies that give out the car they like immediately after signing the contract.
In Bishkek there are several places to rent bicycles and electric scooters.
How to Get to Bishkek
The most convenient way to get to Bishkek is to fly by plane. There is an international airport "Manas" near the Kyrgyz capital, which accepts many international flights. Asiana Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Red Wings, Flydubai, Air Arabia, Nordwind, Air Astana, Uzbekistan Airlines, Pegasus, Ural Airlines, Aeroflot, S7 Airlines and Azimut fly to Bishkek.
Bishkek airlines Avia Traffic Company, Air Mana and Tez Jet operate regular flights to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Istanbul, Antalya, Jeddah, Sharm el-Sheikh, Grozny, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Krasnodar, Novosibirsk, Kazan, Minsk, Osh, Batken, Jalal-Abad and Isfana.
You can also come to Bishkek by car from Almaty (Kazakhstan). The journey will take about 4 hours.
What Languages are Spoken in Bishkek
Kyrgyz is the national language of the country. Russian is the official language; it is enshrined in the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan. They speak mostly Russian in Bishkek.
In English in the Kyrgyz capital, you will be spoken to in hotels and tourist places.
The national currency of Kyrgyzstan is som. All calculations are carried out in soms. Cash is most often used in markets and on public transport.
Visa and MasterCard cards from any bank in the world are accepted in supermarkets, shops, beauty salons, restaurants and cafes, gas stations and other places.
The US dollar is the second most popular currency of Kyrgyzstan. The Kazakh tenge is in third place, the Russian ruble is in fourth place.
You can exchange foreign currency at any bank branch, as well as at numerous exchange offices.
Safety in Bishkek
In Bishkek, you can safely walk in the morning and afternoon, and after dark it is better not to walk. The Bishkek police is doing its job well, but there is nothing better than to be safe.