A Monumental Visit. After breakfast at one of Almaty’s sidewalk cafés, stroll through the 44-acre Panfilov Park. Statues here honor the “Panfilov Heroes,” local members of an infantry troop who died defending a Russian village from German tanks during World War II, as well as the soldiers of other military conflicts and former Soviet republics.
Board Certified. Tread the boards of Ascension Cathedral, the beautifully ornate tsarist-era church in Panfilov Park. One of the tallest wooden buildings in the world, the bright yellow cathedral, which was consecrated in 1907, survived both the 1911 Kebin earthquake and the Communist era and returned to its Russian Orthodox roots only in the late 1990s, after the fall of the USSR.
Instrumental Success. The wooden building in Panfilov Park that now houses the Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments was built the same year as Ascension Cathedral — as a military officer’s club. Today’s visitors can examine displays about more than 50 different Kazakh instruments, including the stringed kobyz, the fretted-lute dombra and the sybyzgy flute.
Go Green. Almaty’s Silk Road past has been reincarnated for a new millennium at the Green Bazaar, a two-story food emporium where vendors sell everything from native apples — the fruit is believed to have originated in the area — to sweets and exotic meats based on Kazakhstan’s nomadic past. For lunch, safe eaters can opt for plov — a simple but tasty combination of rice, carrots and meat — while the adventurous can sample horsemeat sausage, a local delicacy.
Heighten the Experience. A gondola whisks you from downtown Almaty to Kok Tobe, the mountain park that’s the highest point in the city. You’ll find not just panoramic views but also an amusement park, an art gallery, an apple-shaped fountain, a bronze statue of the Beatles, and Almaty Tower, the landmark TV spire.
Artistic Immersion. The permanent collections at the A. Kasteyev Museum of Arts include decorative, applied and fine arts from Kazakh artists; classic Russian, Western European and Asian arts; and contemporary art from around the world. The national museum, named for Soviet-era painter Abylkhan Kastayev, also hosts as many as 80 exhibitions a year, featuring national and international artists in all media.
It’s Hip To Be Square. Republic Square, once the political center of Kazakhstan, is still surrounded by imposing government buildings such as the former presidential palace (now city offices) and remains a popular park area with a series of fountains and walking paths. The glittering glass domes you’ll see are skylights for the 500,000-square-foot Almaty underground shopping mall.
See History in the Making. “The Golden Man” or “Golden Warrior,” a figure dressed in the ornately gilded garments of a young Scythian who lived in fourth or fifth century B.C., is a national symbol of Kazakhstan, and an example of his typical finery greets visitors in the lobby of the Central State Museum, one of the largest museums in Central Asia. The museum explores Kazakhstan’s past — the paleontology collection includes trilobite imprints from creatures that lived 420 million years ago — as well as its more recent metamorphosis into an independent republic.
Press Your Luck. Luck. Another replica of the Golden Warrior stands atop the 91-foot Monument of Independence at the center of Republic Square. (Legend has it that touching the monument brings good luck — but only once, so don’t get greedy.)
It’s Showtime! Find your seats for tonight’s performance at Abay State Opera & Ballet Theatre. Its repertoire includes international staples such as “Madam Butterfly,” “Rigoletto” and “Carmen,” and the venue also hosts Kazakh operas such as “Abay” and “Abylai Khan” and modern dance performances.
The Steaks Are High. The sleek, chic LT Bar & Grill is the culinary crown atop the glittering Esentai Tower, a 37-story building that’s also home to The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty. The signature steaks, seafood and sushi of Chef Laurent Tourondel — Bon Appétit’s Restaurateur of the year in 2007 — are all in plentiful supply at this chophouse and bar.