Almaty airport is located north-east of the city. You have a couple of options of getting to the city center. The airport has Wi-Fi so you can get Uber with which the price is far better than with the official taxis. You also have another app, Yandex Taxi, but I don’t trust it and we went for Uber. Another option is the bus. There is supposed to be a 24 hour bus #3, but we didn’t find it, #32 works from 6am and goes close to the city center.
The city has really huge streets and whatever looks quite close on Google Maps, may not end up as easy to walk to.
- See the Zenkov Cathedral and Park of 28 Panfilovs’ – coming from the airport, get off the bus near the cathedral and walk around the park.
- Have coffee at one of the numerous cafes in the city: We really loved the Nedelka Café, the staff was very welcoming, the coffee was great. We were not very impressed with the food though, as the toasts were cold and not well toasted. But do go for the coffee and the atmosphere. Other nice coffee places are Traveler’s coffee, United Coffee and Social coffee.
- Walk around the huge streets of the city and have a look at its huge buildings, like the Kazakhstan Hotel, Republic Palace, or Independence Monument.
- Take Uber or Yandex Taxi to the Big Almaty Lake. If you are there in summer or don’t mind the cold in winter, try to see the lake. It is about an hour drive from the city center or about an hour and a half from the airport. Do get the taxi to wait for you there, otherwise you will have problems finding the ride back. It will cost you about 35-50 dollars for the round trip though, depending where you go from.
- Eat horse meat for lunch or dinner at one of the traditional pubs, like Line Brew Almaty. It was not cheap, but had great food. We ordered horse steak and mushrooms, they were really tasty. They fry meat in front of you on a hot stone, which gives it a nice touch. The place looks like an old pub, everything is decorated in wood.
- Take a cable car up to Kok Tobe, a hill next to the city. The cable car is rather expensive, but it’s worth it for nice views. The Kok Tobe park is well maintained, it has a number of attractions for the kids, as well as adults. I would suggest going there towards evening, watch the sunset and enjoy the vibe. You also find a number of restaurants and cafes. We had coffee at the Monteverde Café, it is cute, has great views and good coffee.
- Go out in the evening near the Zhibek Zholy metro area. It is rather crowded in the evenings with young people hanging out and drinking. If you need it, you will find a 24 hour supermarket Yubileynyy nearby.