High up in Russia’s cold, sometimes dark, but always interesting northwest, is one of the country’s most fascinating, yet little known cities. 500 years old, this place was actually founded by Ivan the Terrible.
Arkhangelsk, also known as Archangel, can reach the super chilly temperatures of -20 Celsius in winter, but a nice 20 Celsius in summer, and is a city that is full of culture, much of it inspired by its harsh winters.
However it is almost, but not quite an Arctic Circle city, lying just some miles south of the “line” that begins the Arctic Circle.
To give you an example of how cold it can get here though, Arkhangelsk has ice-breaking boats to ensure that it’s port on the Dvina River can continue to operate, and ships can make their way from the White Sea to the city all year round!
Getting to Arkhangelsk:
Despite it’s remoteness, getting to Arkhangelsk is actually pretty easy.
There’s a railway line that runs from Moscow (Moscow Yaroslavsky) to Arkhangelsk. It’s direct, but it takes a while – 20 hours in fact!
A train leaves in the morning from Moscow, and sometimes another will leave in the evening, and you can choose between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class tickets, giving you varying levels of comfort. You can check out tickets, and current prices by visiting Russian Rail by clicking here. But in general, expect to pay 20-30 USD for the cheapest tickets, and around 100-150 for the most expensive – that’s just one-way.
If a long train journey through the vast wilderness of Russia doesn’t quite appeal, then don’t worry! You can also get flights to Arkhangelsk. In fact Arkhangelsk is served by two airports, Talagi, and Vaskovo.
Talagi is the main airport, and is the hub for Russian airline Nordavia. That being the case you can get direct flights from Moscow and St Petersburg to Arkhangelsk. You can also get seasonal flights to places like Antalya in Turkey, and Monastir in Tunisia from the northern Russian city!
There are six direct flights to Arkhangelsk each day from Moscow, and four from St Petersburg, and the journey time is just two hours. Even better, prices can be cheaper than taking the train, usually fluctuating around 70-120 USD one-way, as long as you book in advance and not on the day of travel.
Things to do in Arkhangelsk:
Go and see a game of Bandy
What’s bandy you ask! It’s only the most popular game in Arkhangelsk, and one you must see yourself.
Bandy is a bit like a version of ice hockey, but strangely it also takes some rules from football/soccer. Basically this game is played on ice, with sticks similar to field hockey, but is played on a pitch the size of a football field, has two 45 minute halves, and there’s 11 players on each team.
It’s a pretty unique sport to watch, and is the most popular sport in Arkhangelsk. It’s also considered a national sport of Russia. As such, Arkhangelsk’s main bandy team is one of the best teams in the country. And one of the best in the world.
So if you’re planning a trip to Arkhangelsk, you must go and see Vodnik Arkhangelsk play at the 10,000 capacity Trud Stadium in the city!
Do the ‘Bank Note’ tour
Ok, so I sort of made up the tour name, but did you know that Arkhangelsk is featured on Russia’s 500 ruble note?
Some of the city’s most famous landmarks are featured on the note, so if you visit the Arkhangelsk, whip out your bank note and go hunting!
The monument to Peter the Great, the Solovetsky Monastery, and the port of Arkhangelsk are all included on the note, and are all worth visiting in person.
Visit ‘wooden’ Arkhangelsk
Make your way to Chumbarova-Luchinskogo street to see a snapshot of what Arkhangelsk looked like hundreds of years ago.
Arkhangelsk used to be full of wooden houses and buildings, and while most have now been torn down, or burned to the ground, a small part of Arkhangelsk still contains these wooden wonders.
Some buildings remain well preserved, but some are clearly still falling down. However even a couple of the sidewalks here are made of wood!
This place is like going back in time and well worth a visit.
Embrace North Russian culture
There’s a reason why Arkhangelsk is named the northern Russia’s cultural capital.
In the summer, Arkhangelsk has many music festivals, and outside concerts, while winter sees ice sculpture festivals, and winter activities.
Go to the music hall and witness traditional Russian music, inspired by the cold north, or check out the art galleries.
In short, this city is brimming with culture, all unique and inspired by this remote and interesting place. When you’re in Arkhangelsk, ask at your hotel for what’s on that week – there’s bound to be something that will be of interest.
Visit the Solovetsky Islands
There was no way I could leave out a visit to this beautiful White Sea archipelago. Indeed it is the reason why most tourists come up to this part of Russia in the first place.
The Solovetsky Islands are a mix of stunning rural northern nature, coupled with ancient Russian architecture and religious sites. Some of the earliest stone structures are nearly 2000 years ago, while the most famous site is Solovetsky Monastery.
Some interesting facts about Arkhangelsk:
The lowest temperature ever recorded in Arkhangelsk was a freezing -45.2 Celsius in 1885.
The city’s name comes from the Archangel Michael who is said to have battled the devil and beaten him at the site of where Arkhangelsk now stands.
Arkhangelsk used to be home of the tallest wooden single family house in the world. The 144ft Sutyagin House was built by a local crime lord, but was later dismantled and part of it burned to the ground.
Hundreds of years before Arkhangelsk was officially founded, there were settlements here. We know that because of many “treasures” discovered in the last few decades – including sliver and gold.