Planning a visit to Vladivostok? A little edgier and a touch more mysterious than the European centres of Moscow and St. Petersburg, it’s well worth the trip. My Vladivostok guide is full of things to do and see, and suggestions for food, drink and accommodation.
A CURATED VLADIVOSTOK CITY GUIDE
To me, Vladivostok feels like the city that time forgot.
Tsar Nikolai II chose the city as the Eastern Terminus of his grand Trans-Siberian Railway project (so anyone who has dreamed of that trip owes him a thank-you) and, as a result, Vladivostok flourished. The streets are full of evidence of the glory of Russia’s past, but look a little closer, and you’ll also find the scars left by a crumbling empire.
Flaking plaster and peeling paint tell the story of a once-thriving seaport that slowly decayed during a decades-long lockdown as the headquarters of the Soviet Union’s Pacific Fleet. It’s like a bite-sized piece of the entire history of Russia, perched precariously on its Far Eastern seaboard.
When Vladivostok finally opened up to the world in the early 90s, the mafia took over, earning the city the title of the world’s most dangerous seaport. Speak to any local though, and they’ll tell you that those times are well and truly past. Vladivostok is rising from the ashes.
Students fill hip coffee shops and cute little cafes. Golden Horn Bay, which used to split the city in two, is now dominated by the sweep of the impressively photogenic Golden (Zolotoy) Bridge. New art projects fill public spaces, the Hermitage has plans to open a branch here, and there’s a burgeoning foodie scene.
I visited Vladivostok in the depths of winter, arriving to the howl of icy winds whipping snow horizontally through the streets in subzero temperatures. Despite the weather, or maybe because of it, I fell hard for this little city in Russia’s Far East.
Locals tell me that it’s even better here in the summer when you can explore a coastline dotted with beautiful beaches and forests perfect for hiking. Venture a little further and you’ll find a stunning national park, home to a wide variety of species, including the Siberian tiger and leopard.
3 days is just about enough time to get a taste of the city, but you could easily spend a couple of weeks exploring the area without getting bored. Vladivostok was easily one of my favourite cities in Russia, and I’m already planning a return.
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan the perfect trip to the city. From the sights you can’t miss to day-trips, where to eat, where to stay and the very best things to do in Vladivostok, it’s all here.
THINGS TO DO IN VLADIVOSTOK
Visit the Start of the Trans-Siberian Railway
Ok, so maybe it’s the end of the line for some people (that sounds more threatening than I intended), but this is Vladivostok’s chance to shine. For those travelling East to West, this station marks the beginning of the long ride to Moscow. As it was for me, since I started my 3-week Trans-Siberian trip here.
Vladivostok Station was founded in 1891, but the building you see there now has changed a lot from the original. When Moscow’s Yaroslavsky Station was upgraded in the early 1900s, Vladivostok got a makeover so that it would look the same. The idea was a rather romantic notion of Tsar Nikolai II that the railway stations would represent a portal connecting the East and West of the impressive Russian Empire.
Whilst the outside of the station is pure Russian Revival, the interior is more like an Orthodox Church, all high ceilings and frescoes. Be sure to check out the ceiling mural in the main waiting room, representing the Tsar’s journey across the country from Moscow to Vladivostok.
Downstairs, by the tracks, you’ll find an old train that was gifted to Russia by the US after the Great Patriotic War (the Russian name for World War II). During the war the Americans needed to resupply their troops in the Pacific and wanted to use Russia’s railways to do so. Since the tracks in Russia were different sizes to those in America, trains had to be specially built and this is one of them.
Where | 2 Ulitsa Aleutskaya
Open | 24/7
Cost | Free
Good to Know | To enter the station (as with most stations in Russia) you need to pass through a security checkpoint, similar to what you’d find at the airport. You don’t need to remove your shoes or take your laptop and liquids out of your bags, but remember to empty your pockets!
Marvel at the Bridge They Said Would Never be Built
Golden Horn Bay splits Vladivostok in two, separating the historic northern centre from the shipbuilding districts in the south. It used to take an hour and a half to travel around the bay to get from one side of the city to the other.
Almost since the city was founded, residents dreamed of a bridge spanning the bay. In 2009, the Russian government announced that they were going to build not one, but three bridges in time for the APEC summit in 2012.
City residents were divided over whether the bridges would be built at all, let alone in the three-year time limit given to them. Although there were various issues along the way, all bridges were completed on time, and they’re impossible to miss.
The Golden Bridge is the one you’ve likely seen in photos of the city, with its V-shaped pylons reaching to the sky. You can get up close to the base of the bridge by taking a walk along Uliltsa Svetlanskaya but the best views are to be had from the Eagle’s Nest observation deck.
How to get to Eagle’s Nest Viewpoint | You might think that this would be easy, since it’s clearly labelled on Google Maps. Twice.
Unfortunately, as with many locations in Russia, Google doesn’t work so well, and you actually need to use the “Vidovaya Ploshchadka Orlinoye Gnezdo” marker here. If you’re using Yandex Maps (highly recommended) then typing Vidovaya will give you an option “видовая площадка ДВГТУ” which is what you’re looking for!
I walked to the viewpoint by heading along Ulitsa Sukhanova to the big roundabout. Once here, you take the pedestrian underpass and then head towards the left. Back on the street take the bridge across the road and simply follow the path around to the left where you’ll find the view!
An alternative if you don’t want to walk is the funicular which runs between Ulitsas Pushkinskaya and Sukhanova. The funicular leaves every 3-5 minutes between 07:00 and 20:00 and costs ₽20. The upper station is at the large roundabout, so you can then follow the directions above.
If you’re on Ulitsa Pushkinskaya and you fancy a rather steep uphill climb then there’s also a flight of stairs running alongside the funicular. They’re not in the best state of repair, you have been warned. Coming downhill, the same stairs connect with Ulitsa Svetlanskkaya, bringing you out on the embankment near the base of the bridge.
Where | Vidovaya Ploshchadka Orlinoye Gnezdo
Open | 24/7, but best at sunset and blue hour for the city lights
Cost | Free
Tip | I really recommend downloading Yandex Navigator for your trip to Russia. I found that Google often couldn’t find the address that I was looking for, or suggested insane routes to get there.
Fall in Love with the Architecture
The thing with Vladivostok is that it refuses to conform. Nowhere is that more easy to see than on its streets, where you’ll find almost every architectural style there is.
Whilst I’m not an expert, falling more in the ‘cool shape, pretty colour’ group, I think that Vladivostok is a pretty fabulous introduction to the variety of architectural styles you’ll see as you travel across Russia. The great thing about Vladivostok is that most of these buildings are packed into a relatively small city centre, so it’s very walkable.
Here are the main buildings not to miss:
The Post Office | Now that I think about it, there are a remarkable number of beautiful post office buildings in the world, and this is definitely one of them. Given how far from the capital city Vladivostok is, the postal and telegram services were seen as a huge priority in the early days of the city. That importance is reflected in the gorgeous Russian Revival style building that still houses the local branch of Russian Post.
Where | 41 Ulitsa Svetlanskaya
The Kunst and Albers Trading House | Now Vladivostok’s Universal Department Store (GUM), this was the first trading store in Vladivostok. Kunst and Albers were merchants from Hamburg who saw an untapped opportunity in the newly founded military port back in the 1870s. The current building, appropriately in German Art Nouveau style, dates from 1884 and was the first in the city to have heating, private electrical lighting and an elevator. The materials for the building were shipped to the site from Hamburg, for that true taste of authenticity!
Where | 35 Ulitsa Svetlanskaya
Open | 10:00-20:00 every day
St Paul’s Church | This is Vladivostok’s oldest surviving religious building and was designed by the same architect as the GUM building. Built in the Northern Gothic style, and funded largely by Kunst and Albers, the church would look right at home in the German countryside.
Where | 14 Ulitsa Pushkinskaya
The Grey Horse Apartment Buildings | These Stalin Empire style buildings were built towards the end of the 1930s. One has statues of Soviet symbols on the roof – a Red Army soldier, a farmer, a pilot and a miner. One of the buildings was intended to house railway workers, and the other was for police and the military. There’s now a chocolate shop in one of them – you’re welcome.
Where | 19 Ulitsa Aleutskaya
Nikolaevsky Triumphal Arch | Built in 1891 to commemorate the visit of then Crown Prince Nikolai Romanov, the original arch was actually blown up in 1927. The idea behind its destruction was to get rid of any reminders of Tsarist rule in Russia at the dawn of the Soviet Union. This is an exact replica, built in 2003, on the site of the original.
Where | 6 Ulitsa Petra Velikogo
Versailles Hotel | This Art Nouveau building from 1909 used to be decorated in such realistic sculptures of Greek Gods and Godesses that, legend has it, female students were banned from walking down this part of the street. Although they’re long gone, the hotel still has a fascinating history, having hosted a host of famous figures including Somerset Maugham and Ho Chi Minh
Where | 10 Ulitsa Svetlayanska
The Brynner House | Did you know that Yul Brynner was born in Vladivostok? Neither did I until I randomly found a statue of him outside a lovely yellow house in the city. The Brynner House was designed for Yul’s grandfather by the same architect as the GUM building and is another Art Nouveau gem. If you’re a fan of the movie ‘The King & I’ then you’ll find a statue of Yul as the King of Siam right in front of the house. This is one you’ll have to admire from the outside though.
Where | 15 Ulitsa Aleutskaya
Russian Opera House | In a city that’s all about history, the Opera House, built for the APEC 2012 summit, is one of the few modern buildings. Home to the Primorsky branch of the Mariinsky Theatre, you can come here to see one of Russia’s best performers. Be sure to check the schedule and see what’s playing when you visit.
Where | 20 Ulitsa Fastovskaya
Millionka | One of the oldest parts of town, this area was the thriving heart of Chinatown prior to the Bolshevik Revolution, following which many ethic populations were purged. Koreatown sat on the other side of the railway tracks but little remains after it was destroyed by fires. There are stories of gangster kings, theatres, gambling dens and hidden treasures beneath the city. It’s a cool area to wander around and imagine the Vladivostok of times past.
Where | Situated between the triangle formed by Ultisa Pogranichnaya, Ulitsa Semenovskyay and the railway line
TIP | Getting a feel for Vladivostok’s past is a million times better with a local. If you book a tour of the city then your transport (and often at least one meal) will be included. I wholeheartedly recommend Serj at Explore Primorye who took me to secret spots, generally entertained me and made sure I found all the best places for photos! Tell him I sent you – I get nothing but his eternal gratitude but, in Russia, that’s priceless.
Get Blown Away at Tokarevskiy Lighthouse
And yes, I do mean that quite literally.
Standing proud on the furthest tip of the peninsula, the lighthouse, also known as Tokarevskaya Cat Lighthouse, was founded in 1876. The original wooden structure no longer exists, but the current lighthouse dates from 1910 and proudly stands as a guide for ships entering the Port of Vladivostok.
You’re likely to encounter pretty strong winds down here, especially in the winter. In summer, high tides cover the access path to the lighthouse itself so you’ll get your feet wet if you turn up at the wrong time!
In winter you can easily walk to the lighthouse if you can withstand the winds, and you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the seals that call the area home. You’ll also get an impressive view of the Russky Bridge, which connects Vladivostok to Russky Island.
In the summer there’s a café and paid toilet here, along with plenty of sunbathers (swimming is prohibited), but in the winter everything gets locked up for the off-season.
Where | The lighthouse sits at the far end of Ultisa Tokarevskaya Koshka, about 6km from the city centre.
How to get there | To get there on public transport take bus #59/60/62/81 or marshrutka #63 from stop 634 on Ulitsa Aleutskaya (opposite the railway station) to Mayak, which is the last stop. The bus ride takes about 15 minutes. You’ll then have a 2km (20-30 minute depending on your speed and whether the wind’s behind you) walk to the lighthouse itself. The bus ride costs ₽28 each way. Your other option is to take a taxi (I recommend using Yandex Go) which will cost about ₽250 each way and take 20 minutes.
Open | 24/7. Be aware of tide times if you want to walk to the lighthouse itself since the isthmus is covered at high tide.
Cost | Free
Get your Geek on at Vladivostok’s Museums
Like so many places in Russia, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to museums in Vladivostok. No matter your interests, there’s bound to be a place for you. Here are just a few of the city’s most popular:
This is definitely one for the World War II history buffs. The museum is located inside the S-56 submarine that saw active service during the Great Patriotic War and was one of the most successful at sinking enemy ships. The first part of the museum is entirely in Russian, so may not be that interesting if you don’t understand the language. The second half is, however, a walk through the submarine exactly as it was set up during active duty. It’s a pretty unique experience as far as museums go!
Where | Between Admiralskiy Square and Ulitsa Korabelnaya Naberezhnaya
Open | 9am-8pm
Cost | ₽100 and an extra ₽50 for photography
Arseniev Museum of Far East History
This is the main museum of the city, containing exhibits celebrating Vladivostok’s position in the Far East. You’ll find folk crafts, 18th and 19th century clothing, old statues and stained glass windows. There’s a section dedicated to the Indigenous people of the region, and an interesting photography exhibit on the 3rd floor. Be aware that most of the signage is in Russian.
Where | 20 Ulitsa Svetlanskaya
Open | 10am-7pm
Cost | ₽400
Zaraya Museum of Contemporary Art
This cool modern art venue is located in an old garment factory and is an awesome place to visit. With revolving exhibitions, there’s always something new to see. A lot of the artworks that you’ll see when wandering around the city have been commissioned from artists who got their start here.
Where | 155 Prospekt 100 Let Vladivostok. Check what’s showing here.
Open | 12pm-8pm
Cost | Free
Tip | There’s a beautiful reading room here with fast wi-fi, a coffee shop and plenty of charging points.
Search Out the Street Art
Wandering the streets of a new city is my favourite way of exploring, and Vladivostok is no exception. Not surprising, given its up and coming vibe, the city is full of cool art installations and street art is constantly popping up all over the city. Here are some art pieces to look out for.
Blue Sky Light Installation | Obviously this is best seen once it’s dark! Sparkling lights hanging over Arbat, the pedestrianised portion of Ulitsa Admirala Fokina, make this a favourite Instagram spot after dark. It’s also where you’ll find lots of places to eat and drink.
Tiger statues | There’s tiger-themed art all over the city, since the Amur Tiger is the official symbol of both Vladivostok and the region of Primorye. These cute tiger cub statues are worth seeking out, and you can also enjoy a walk along Vladivostok’s pretty seafront at the same time.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Monument | You’ll find this statue commemorating Russia’s Nobel Prize winning author down on the water front. A rather controversial figure both in Russia and overseas, he was an outspoken critic of Communism. His novel, The Gulag Archipelago, is credited with revealing what life was like in the prison camps of soviet times.
Memories of the Foreign Sailor | Harking back to Vladivostok’s maritime past, this artwork is full of symbolism. Representing a Soviet sailor returned from overseas in the 60s-70s, the figure carries with him everything that was forbidden in the then Soviet Union. From his sunglasses and cigarettes to the Led Zeppelin record tucked under his arm, this statue is full of surprises. Depending on when you visit he might even be dressed up for the occasion! Look out for him on Ulitsa Aleutskaya.
Eleanor Pray | Near the post office on Ulitsa Svetlankaya you’ll find the statue commemorating an American woman who fell in love with Vladivostok. Living here for 30 years at the start of the 20th Century, she chronicled life in the city. Her letters and photographs have been published in several books, and she’s fondly referred to as Vladivostok’s first blogger!
Gorodov-Pobratimov Square | This translates to “Twin Cities Square” from Russian. You can’t miss the arches inscribed with all the names of the cities that Vladivostok is twinned with, but the real attraction here is the art. On the walls that make up two sides of the square you’ll find a variety of cool murals – the tiger and whale were my favourites!
Take a Trip to Russky Island
Russky Island was only accessible by sea until the building of the bridge for the APEC summit. Now it’s an easy trip from the city centre, and definitely worth a visit. There are plenty of places to go hiking and lots of little bays and beaches to explore. You should be aware, however, that there aren’t any toilets. Plenty of trees though…
Russky Bridge is one of the three built for APEC 2020 and it’s a very impressive sight with its world record breaking pylons stretching to the sky. On the island itself, you can explore the old fortifications that dot the landscape, each of which had a saint and a shrine to protect it. I would suggest that you consider getting a guide to take you out to the island since you’ll certainly get more out of it with a local who knows where to take you.
The guides also know where the (to be honest, virtually tame and probably nuisance to the locals) cute foxes are…
How to get to Russky Island
To see Russky Bridge you’ll need to get out to Russky Island. From the city centre you can take several busses, all of which terminate at the Far Eastern Federal University campus – check the routes here.
It’ll take about an hour to get out to the island from the centre on the bus. A taxi will take you about 30 minutes at a cost of around ₽350 one way. Once you’re at the University you can take bus 29 to get to Voyevoda Bay on the far side of the island.
You can, obviously take a taxi out and then public transport back, but be aware that it might be tricky trying to get a taxi back to the city as they simply won’t be hanging about on Russky Island. The other alternative, as mentioned above, is to take a tour.
Note | Whilst there is an aquarium on Russky Island that’s supposed to be amazing, they still have a dolphin show, and I would therefore encourage you to skip this venue.
Shop Til You Drop
Sportivnaya Market | This is one of those places that you’ll either love or hate. Situated in an old stadium, you can find literally anything in this market. Even if you have no intention of buying something, I’m pretty sure you’ll find an item that will change your mind. Everything’s divided into sections – meat and fish in one area, utensils in another, clothing in yet another. You get the idea. I’d wholeheartedly recommend buying food here if you’re self-catering or heading off on the train since you’ll be getting it straight from the farmer in many cases! Take the bus to Ulitsa Sportivnaya.
Central Square Market | Located, unsurprisingly enough, in Central Square, this market is only open in the warmer months at the weekends. You’ll find local farmers selling fruits, veggies, berries, honey, bread and fish. For locally sourced produce you won’t get any better than this in the heart of the city. Once you’ve done with your shopping you can pop into the nearby Orthodox Church or take a selfie with the monuments!
Sunduk | This is a cute little place with a variety of locally produced souvenirs. Worth a look if you’re walking past. Located at 10A Ulitsa Fokina
Luna I Grosh | The name of this bookstore come souvenir shop translates to the Moon and Sixpence. Honestly I love bookstores even if I can’t read a thing, so the fact that it sells books was enough to get me inside. Maybe next time I’ll feel confident enough with my Russian to pick up a book for the 3-5 age group… A girl can dream. Find it at 26 Ulitsa Aleutskaya
Nevelskoy Book Club | In the same place as Sunduk, another cute bookstore. Yes, ok, I know. I have a book problem. There are worse vices, right? Find this one also at 10A Ulitsa Admirala Fokina
Primorsky Konditer | This confectionary store is pretty famous in Vladivostok. You should try their chocolate with seasalt (morskaya sol) or seaweed (morskaya kapusta) or the popular Bird’s Milk (ptichye moloko) sweets made with agar. There are a couple of branches, but the most central is at 52 Ulitsa Aleutskaya.
Celebrate Tiger Day
Every year, on the last Sunday in September, Vladivostok gets together to celebrate the Amur Tiger.
There are only about 350-400 adult Amur tigers left in the wild, and 95% of them live in the forests of Russia’s Far East. As with so many species, poaching, hunting, and human encroachment on their territory has led to a massive decline in species numbers. Tiger Day is a holiday promoting education and wildlife conservation.
Although you may not enjoy the educational component if you don’t speak Russian, I think we can all agree that watching a tiger-themed parade is entertainment at its finest. Not only will you find crowds of people dressed as tigers, but even cars decorated with tiger stripes.
I could make this all about how worthy the environmental cause is (because it is), but honestly? Nobody throws a party like the Russians do.
Where | Central Vladivostok
When | last Sunday in September
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN VLADIVOSTOK
Kafema | Knowledgable staff who speak good English. They’ll help you find a coffee that will suit your tastes. If you, like me, cannot survive without your morning coffee then this is a great place to stock up before heading off on the train. They’ll even grind your purchase for you! There are 3 branches in the city – I went to the one at 17 Ulitsa Svetlanskaya.
Milk and Honey (Moloko I Med) | Situated on one of Vladivostok’s famous hills, this is a spot that’s well worth the walk. The food is delicious, the staff speak good English, and the restaurant itself is a beautiful space. There are a few vegetarian dishes on the menu, but otherwise this is very seafood and meat oriented | 6A Ulitsa Sukhanova
Supra | I honestly can’t recommend this Georgian Restaurant enough – I have the word ‘amazing’ underlined 3 times in my notes! The staff are wonderful, friendly and English speaking if you’ve not quite managed to get a grasp of Russian. The food is excellent and great value. If you’re on your own then you’ll probably get lucky enough to sit at the bar where you can watch the kitchen produce the dishes with flair. This restaurant basically convinced me that I have to go to Georgia | 1B Ulitsa Admirala Fokina
Horoshee Mesto (Veggie/Vegan) | The name means Good Place in Russian, and this is a good place for those who eat plant based! The staff speak English and will be happy to help you out with the menu. There’s a set lunch which is good value, and they also have a variety of pelmini, which you don’t often find in veggie form! | 7 Ulitsa Fontannaya
Steam & Dream (Veggie/Vegan) | With a cool steampunk inspired interior, this is your best bet for vegetarian and vegan pizza, burgers and wraps amongst other things. At the time of writing there was no English menu so, although the staff will do their best, Yandex Translate will be your best friend here! | 69 Okeanskiy Prospekt
Kofetoriya | A nice place near the base of Golden Bridge where you can pop in for coffee, cake or cocktails depending on the time of day and what you fancy! They have an extensive European-style menu but again, you may struggle as a veggie/vegan | 61 Ulitsa Svetlanskaya
Shonkel | This one’s for the meat lovers. It’s supposed to be the best burger joint in the whole of Vladivostok. They’re definitely the prettiest! | 33 Ulitsa Svetlanskaya (Old GUM Courtyard)
Fifth Ocean | One of the most popular seafood restaurants in the city, with a lovely view over the ocean. As you’d expect, there’s not a lot on the menu for those who don’t eat meat or fish. Make sure you let them know if you’d like English-speaking wait-staff. | 2B Ulitsa Batareinaya
Zuma | Famous for their seafood, particularly Kamchatka crab, this is one of the more high-end (and famous) restaurants in Vladivostok. Best described as Asian Fusion, they’ve also recently opened a karaoke bar! You should consider booking in advance as it’s usually very busy. They also organise Scallop Fest, which happens every July, and Hold the Crab! Which, unsurprisingly, is the Kamchatka crab festival, held in October. | 2 Ulitsa Fontannaya
Café Tree | Located at the Zarya Centre for Contemporary Art, this is a lovely spot with high ceilings and huge windows. The food not only looks beautiful but tastes great too. The emphasis here is primarily seafood, although you will find a couple of veggie options on the menu. | 155 Prospekt 100 Let Vladivostok
Michel Bakery | This is heaven for pastry lovers. With a definite emphasis on French cuisine, this is the perfect spot for a coffee and cake! They also do sandwiches, quiche and various hot dishes, with some veggie options. You’ll find them in the GUM department store. | 6A Ulitsa Sukhanova
WHERE TO STAY IN VLADIVOSTOK
The centre of Vladivostok is small and everything is within easy walking distance, so the chances are good that you’ll pick a place that’s convenient. I’d recommend staying within a 10 minute walk of the train station.
Hostel IZBA | A clean and comfortable hostel with a lovely shared lounge and kitchen area. The location is really good for exploring the old part of the city. Good wifi throughout. Check cost and availability here.
Luna Hostel | Another nice, centrally located hostel. There’s a shared lounge and kitchen with good wifi throughout the property. Guests rate the cleanliness and location very highly. Check cost and availability here.
History Hotel | Situated in one of the oldest buildings in the city, this is in the heart of the action and only a short distance from the Railway Station. The rooms are beautiful, the bathrooms cute, and the breakfasts delicious (I sampled them extensively!). They also offer an airport pick-up and drop-off service. Free wifi and English speaking staff, but no gym (you’ll get plenty of exercise walking the city anyway). Check cost and availability here.
Hotel Vladpoint | This Is one of the closest hotels to the railway station. Offering free breakfast delivered to your room and an elevator to the location on the 5th floor, this is good for a night or two prior to (or after) a Trans Siberian railway trip. Check cost and availability here.
Apartments on 51 | If you prefer self-catering then these apartments come highly rated. They’re located near the Zoloty Bridge on Ulitsa Svetlanskaya, but an easy walk to the central sights. The kitchens get good reviews and the apartments are clean and spacious. Check cost and availability here.
Hotel Bay Garden | This 4* hotel gets great reviews from travellers. The rooms are large, many with ocean views, and there’s a highly rated buffet breakfast. Staff speak good English. Wifi here is free and fast and they offer an airport shuttle service. Check cost and availability here.
Azimut Hotel | With free wifi and a good breakfast included, this is a popular hotel in Vladivostok. It’s fairly close to the waterfront and about a 10 minute walk from the station. Some people found the rooms to be a little small. Check cost and availability here.
V Hotel & Rooftop Lounge | This is a new hotel at a great location in the heart of the old city. There are apartments with a kitchenette available as well as standard hotel rooms. The hotel has had great reviews for location, wifi and standard of service. They offer airport transfers and have a 24h front desk. Check cost and availability here.
Sea View Apartments on Stanyukovicha | Offering an airport shuttle, 24 hour front desk and bike hire along with sea views, these self-catering apartments have beautiful sea views. They’re a little further from the city centre, but quieter as a result. The owners speak fluent English. Check cost and availability here.
Lotte Hotel | This is one of the higher end hotels in Vladivostok. With a swimming pool, sauna and gym you’ll be sorted if the weather’s against you! They’ve got a couple of in-house restaurants and guests rate the views from the upper floors highly. Check cost and availability here.
HOW TO GET TO VLADIVOSTOK
Vladivostok has an international airport and is well-served from the Asia-Pacific region with multiple flights daily. There is a reduced service in the winter months. From Europe and North America you’ll find that many flights connect through Moscow or the Middle East depending on your origin.
If you’re starting your trip here then you’re likely to be flying to Vladivostok. The new airport opened for the APEC summit in 2012, and is about 38km north of the city. You will need to get either a taxi, bus or train to get to the city centre from here.
How to get to Vladivostok from the airport
You might be interested to know that there’s also a ferry connecting Vladivostok with South Korea and Japan. At the time of writing (mid-COVID!) the service is suspended, but you can check here to see if it’s up and running again.
WHEN TO VISIT VLADIVOSTOK
Seasons come a little later here than the rest of the country, but you can use that to your advantage to chase the good weather across the country! Summer doesn’t really turn up properly until August. With warm, sunny days and settled weather, early August to late October are the most popular (and busiest) months to visit. The Autumn colours in October are famous.
Winter is very cold and snow is common from December to March. It’s an entirely different experience, and you’ll have the streets mostly to yourself. For me, Russia always conjured up images of a snow-covered wonderland and I loved my trip to Vladivostok in February. Despite the snowstorm on the day of my arrival.
April brings spring fog which is cool for bridge shots, but may prevent you from seeing much of the scenery that the city is famous for. I’m sure the fog is part of the reason why Vladivostok has earned itself the nickname “San Francisco of Russia” – it’s truly not the hills I swear!
May to July is more settled and somewhat warmer from a weather point of view. Honestly, though, there’s always something cool to see or fun to do whatever the weather in Vladivostok.
GETTING AROUND VLADIVOSTOK
Whilst I’m a massive fan of having your own wheels, parking in Vladivostok is a nightmare and, if you’re here in winter, the streets are terrifying. Many of the cars here are Japanese imports which means the driver sits on the right (like the UK). Russia, however, is a country where everyone drives on the right side of the road (like the US and Europe). It’s utterly confusing, and driving here is not for the faint of heart.
Taxis are your best option if you want to go somewhere that doesn’t have reliable public transport, such as the lighthouse. I’d recommend downloading the Yandex Go app (basically Uber for Russia) and using this. You can hail taxis in the street, but unless you have a grasp of Russian, you may struggle to make yourself understood.
TIP | Be aware that none of the apps in Russia will accept internationally issued credit cards, and you usually need a locally issued SIM to activate them (these can be easily purchased at the airport). There’s always a ‘pay by cash’ option in the apps, so just be sure to tick that.
There is a good bus system in much of Russia, and Valdivostok is no exception. Yandex maps is the equivalent of Google in Russia, and likely to give you more accurate information about routes and times.
Vladivostok is at the start (or end) of the trans Siberian railway route, and has great connections to other parts of Russia. In the city itself, however, there are few train stations.
HOW MUCH DO THINGS COST IN VLADIVOSTOK
Vladivostok is such an easy city to walk around that it’s easy to have a very cheap couple of days here. Equally, if you’d like to get out and see some of the surrounding countryside or do something a little more unique like a local cooking class, you’ll be looking at spending a little more.
Budget accommodation eg dorm bed in a hostel: ₽750 (€8)
Inexpensive meal: ₽600
Mid range accommodation: ₽4000 (€46)
Mid range meal: ₽2000
Luxury accommodation: ₽8000 (€87)
Luxury meal: ₽5000
Half day tour: ₽5500
Full day tour: ₽8000
USEFUL THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU VISIT VLADIVOSTOK
Visas for Vladivostok
You’ll need a visa to visit Vladivostok unless you’re from a country that doesn’t require a visa for travel to Russia. From January 2021, citizens of 52 countries will be able to apply for e-visas to Russia. This includes most of Europe, but not the UK, USA, Australia or New Zealand. The e-visa will entitle you to a single entry stay of up to 16 days.
Everyone else will need to go through the usual process of applying for a Russian visa, which can be a little time consuming. It isn’t actually as daunting as it can sometimes sound, and you can read more about getting a visa here.
You need to register your visa within 7 days of arrival in Russia, and most accommodation will organise this for a small fee. If you’re staying in an Airbnb or similar then check with your host that they’ll be happy to do this for you.
Phone and Wi-Fi in Vladivostok
If you have an unlocked phone then you can purchase a local SIM card when you arrive at the airport. I would definitely recommend this over roaming, since you can get an unlimited data card for 30 days for ₽500. Many cafés and restaurants have free wifi which is pretty reliable.
Power and Plugs in Russia
Russia runs on 220V electricity and uses European style 2-pin plugs (type C).
Packing Essentials for Vladivostok
To some degree this depends on what time of year you’ll be coming, but since Vladivostok is a city surrounded by water, it’s very much one of those ‘4 seasons in a day’ places. Be prepared for all eventualities!
In winter, you’re looking at sub-zero temperatures, and you’ll need to dress accordingly. Layers are your friend, and I would strongly recommend merino or synthetic fibers. Cotton will just get wet and make you cold.
Bring a down jacket, good gloves, a beanie hat and waterproof boots. Day 1 snow is beautiful, but day 2 is a dirty slushy mess. Find my complete winter packing list here.
In summer you may well get beach weather, so bring your swimsuit. Shorts and sleeveless tops are totally fine, but if you’re planning on going into any of the churches you’ll need to bring something to cover up. Some of them may provide a longer skirt and headscarf, but don’t count on it.
No matter what time of year you come, you’ll want to bring comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll be doing a lot of steps, many of them up and down fairly steep hills!
Street photography here is really fun, so I’d recommend a camera with a wide angle lens as well as a portrait lens if that’s your thing. Find my full gear guide here.
Read | My complete guide to photography for travellers
Health and Safety Essentials in Russia
Other than staying well hydrated and putting on the sunscreen in summer and bringing warm clothes for the winter, there’s not really anything specific that’s needed here. Tap water is supposedly safe to drink, but none of the Russians I know would recommend doing so without treating it first. I used my Steripen Ultra. Hospitals here are modern and the care excellent.
As always, I recommend good travel insurance, and I use World Nomads.
Although Vladivostok was once the most dangerous seaport in the world, times have changed. I felt absolutely safe walking around on my own, even after dark. Be sensible, and don’t have anything valuable on obvious display. I tend to wear my bag across my body since it’s harder to grab that way.
You do need to have some form of ID on you at all times, just in case you’re asked for it by the police. For most people this will be their passport. and I would carry this in an inside pocket and make sure that you have copies back at your accommodation.
Hopefully, you now have all the information you need to plan an epic trip to Vladivostok! Get in touch on social media or leave a comment below if you’ve got any questions at all.