Astana became the capital in 1997 when then-president Nursultan Nazarbayev decided to move the capital from Almaty to the north of the country. Since then, Astana began developing at astonishing speed. The new capital has even been included in the Guinness Book of Records for the scale of construction. Since 1997, the city's population has quadrupled. As of 2022, some 1,200,000 people live in Astana, making it the country's second largest city after Almaty.
In 1999, by the decision of UNESCO, Astana was named the «City of Peace» as it houses temples of all major religions and hosts the International Congress of World Religions annually.
Over the past 150 years, the city has been renamed six times. It was called Akmola, Akmolinsk, Tselinograd, Akmola again, Astana, Nur-Sultan (in honor of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first President of Kazakhstan), and finally Astana again.
The best time to visit Astana is late spring, summer, or early fall. Winters here are extremely cold with temperatures often dropping to -30oC (-22oF) or less. The city is also notorious for strong winds. Keep that in mind and bring some warm clothes otherwise, your trip will not be as pleasant as it could be.
Why is Astana worth visiting?
The city is primarily known for its unusual architecture. The most eye-catching buildings are Khan Shatyr (the first lifestyle center in Astana), the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, and the Nur Alem Future Energy Museum. The first two were designed by world-famous architect Sir Norman Foster. In August 2022, the largest mosque in Central Asia and one of the largest mosques in the world opened its doors to worshippers. Moreover, the city center contains the Baiterek Monument which is considered to be the symbol of Astana.
The city stands on the Ishim River, which divides it into two parts. The left bank is home to all those futuristic buildings that Astana is famous for. If you want to see some of the most eye-catching architecture you've ever seen, head straight to the left bank. The right bank still has that special vibe of the old Soviet city, and it is undoubtedly worth a visit too. Some say that the right bank is cozier. It is probably true as it contains the city's best parks, embankments, and promenades.
updated: 16 january 2023