Tashkent – a capital and a gateway to other cities in Uzbekistan – has its own charm. You won’t find fascinating architecture here, like in Samarkand, or cute streets and amazing history, like in Bukhara. However, Tashkent definitely creates a great vibe and is worth at least a day stop on your itinerary.
The city dates back 2200 years, but hardly anything remains from its long history. the 1966 earthquake wiped out a lot of historical buildings. Nowadays, when you walk around the city, you still its Islamic and Soviet past, but also the modernity. There are various events going on, you can have a lot of fun at the outside concerts and festivals. People are less traditional than in other cities, you can also easily dress as you like here.
If you arrive by plane, you will probably come to Tashkent first. We took AirAstana and arrived in the afternoon. From here buses #40 and 67 go directly from the airport to the train station. There are also a number of other buses, but we needed to go there and we didn’t check. But you will definitely easily manage to find one for your needs. Alternatively, from the train station you can take metro to wherever you are heading. Taxis are quite a hassle and I don’t suggest them, when there is no need. Check my post on transport in Uzbekistan to learn, how to be prepared.
If you have a morning in Tashkent, your first stop and a must, should be the Plov Center. Plov is a national dish – it’s a sticky rice dish usually with meat (it can also be other things nowadays). The thing is, they usually eat plov in the morning and if you show up later in the day, it will all just be gone. The plov center is said to be the best place to try plov, but it is not centrally located, so you can skip it, if you are lazy to go all the way 😊
Nearby is a Tashkent tower, which you may wanna look at.
After this, you may head to the Minor mosque. This is another thing you could skip, if you would like. This mosque was built only a few years ago. It is white in appearance and also not too close to the nearest metro station.
Visit the Hazrati Imam Complex
Next on is the part not to be missed, the Hazrati Imam complex (or Hast Imam). You can get here by walking about 15 mins from the Gafur Golum metro station. Most of the complex can be visited for free, only the library costs 5,000 sums.
The complex was built to replicate Registan in a way, however, of course, it’s not as magnificent. Parts of it were built in the XVI century, parts – in the XIX. A lot of the complex is heavily renovated in the XX century, but the architects tried to preserve the original style. While the Hazrati Imam mosque itself was built in 2007.
The complex is known for a few things though. It includes the Hazrati Imam mosque, the Tillya Sheikh mosque, Barakhan Madrassah, Muji Mubarak Madrassah and Mausoleum Kafar Shoshii (also known as Hazrati Imam). The Imam lived in the X century. He was an Islamic scholar.
Like in the case of Registan, most buildings in the complex house the souvenir and handicraft shops, however, the Hazrati Imam mosque serves as a mosque.
Besides, the Muji Mubarak Madrassah houses an Islamic library with thousands of books. You can visit it and see some of the books displayed. Around here you will find the VII century Quran of Caliph Uthman, which according to some scientists is the oldest quran. However, others disagree.
From the complex you can walk to the Chorsu bazaar and nearby Kokaldosh Madrasa. To be honest I am not a fan of the bazaars, so we only looked at Chorsu from outside. There are a lot of vendors here selling not only raw, but also cooked food, so you can try, if you like.
The Kokaldosh is the traditional madrasah (the religious educational institution). It was built in the XVII century. in the XVIII century it became a caravanserai (a sort of an inn). During the Soviet times, it was a museum of atheism. Nowadays, it was again converted to a madrasah. When we visited, we hardly saw anyone there.
Explore the Tashkent metro stations
Yes, you read that right 😊 Metro stations in Tashkent are a sight in themselves. The metro works from 5am till midnight. In the afternoon, if it’s too hot, or in the evening, when you are done with sightseeing, take metro just for fun. If you can, avoid the rush hour, as it can get very crowded and then, you won’t have the best setting for photos and will get tired. So afternoon would be your best bet for this.
To enter the metro, you will need to pay 1400 sums for sort of a token, a round coin, which is swallowed by the machine, when you enter. Inside the metro no one stop you to ask for a ticket, and you can spend as much time, as you like there. While entering, you may need to undergo a security check, which is a common procedure.
Tashkent metro was built in 1966. It was the 7th metro system across the Soviet Union. The first line was finished in 1977. Apparently, you couldn’t take photos of metro stops until 2018. But nowadays you are free to do so. This restriction was due to the fact that the metro serves for military needs. It is built in a way to provide shelter during nuclear attack (like many other Soviet metros).
These metro stations showcase not only Soviet past, but also the Islamic culture. In combination, they create a beautiful system.
The metro has 3 lines and 29 stations. Not all of them are interesting though (see the list below). We just took the metro map and were alighting at the pinpointed stations, checking them and getting back on a train to see the next one 😊
If you want to check all of the stations that are interesting, try the following list on the red line (this was the first line): start with Chilonzor, then Novza, Pakhtakor (Alisher Navoy on the blue line side), Mustaqillik maydoni, Amir Timur Hioboni (on the green line side, it’s the Yunus Rajabiy). On the blue line start with Toshkent, then go for Oybek, onwards to Kosmonavtlar, Ozbekiston, Alisher Navoy, Gafur Gulom, Tinchlik, Beruniy. This way you will have covered all the interesting ones.
If you don’t want to see them all, these ones are most magnificent:
- Kosmonavtlar (my favourate) – as the name says it is dedicated to the cosmonauts and the space travel,
- Alisher Navoy – has a name of the 15th century poet and has beautiful domes with intricate murals. There are also scenes from his poems depicted,
- Mustakillik maydoni – having a name of the Independence square, this station has beautiful columns and chandeliers,
- Toshkent – depicting the 2200 year history of the city and of Uzbekistan.
If you are hungry by now, go to Afsona restaurant, it is near metro station Ming Orik. Caravan restaurant is quite popular, but it’s a bit out of the way, so we didn’t try it. You can also choose from Efendi Turkish restaurant and Sal Sal restaurant.
Visit Amir Timur Square
Towards evening visit the Amir Timur square, you will just have to alight at the Amir Timur Meydoni metro station. In the middle of the square you will find Timur’s statue. Interestingly, during the Soviet times this spot was occupied by the statues of Karl Marx and Lenin. The square is surrounded by different well-known buildings:
- The Amir Timur museum has an interesting round construction. The museum holds artefacts from Timur’s and Timurid Dynasty times. Even if you don’t visit it, definitely check it out. Its round entrance hall is fascinating.
- next to it is the University of Law (which housed women’s gymnasium during tsarist times).
- Tashkent Chimes with a sort of a clock tower is another popular building. It was constructed in 1940s. It is apparently a well-known meeting place. But it didn’t fascinate us to be honest.
- Palace of International Forums was built a decade ago. It serves, as a sort of a cultural center for conferences, congresses and other ceremonial events.
- The Uzbekistan hotel is a strange building built in the classic Soviet style. It is an example of brutalist architecture. Whether you admire its shape or are weirded out by it, it still leaves an impression. The building still serves, as a rather popular hotel.
From the square, walk down the Sailgokh street. This is a pedestrian-only street, where outdoor events are happening, particularly, if you are here on a weekend. We saw a lot of stalls here with different sort of food and trinkets to buy.
We also found an outdoor concert. On the perpendicular street – Mustafa Kemal Ataturk street – artists were selling their works.
This was definitely my favourate part of the town and you can spend a pleasant evening here.