In the north of Kazakhstan lies the city that has been its capital since 1997. Nur-Sultan, formerly known as Astana, is a city of extremes: with a continental climate, it enjoys hot summers and endures very cold, long winters; in fact, it is the second coldest capital city in the world. The Ishim River which runs through Nur-Sultan is frozen from November to April. Although a city with a long and chequered history, a new era has dawned for Astana and the old Soviet buildings are slowly but surely being replaced by architectural wonders created by some of the most creative minds in the world. Set for completion in 2030, new diplomatic areas south of the river are being busily built at present. Meanwhile, a stroll along The Green Boulevard, known locally - in Kazakh - as The Shining Path, is a journey among the most famous and distinctive buildings in the country, including the Tower of Bayterek. Reflecting and celebrating the varied cultures and influences that make up the peoples of Nur-Sultan, there are many mosques, cathedrals and historic buildings to visit, not to mention museums, theatres and monuments.
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The imposing structure of the palace with its domed roof was built in 2004 as the official workplace of the Kazakh president. It features a hall designed like a yurt, a marble hall for summits and a golden hall to host other heads of state.
The Bayterek Tower is perhaps Kazakhstan’s most famous landmark. More than 340 feet high, it is designed to resemble a poplar tree in which, according to a famous Turkic folktale, the magical Samruk bird laid an egg. Exhibitions are held in the base and visitors enjoy panoramic views of Astana from the viewing platforms at the top.
One of the largest classical concert halls in the world, this cultural structure is specially designed to protect against the winter’s punishing cold. This modern and versatile event space holds all sorts of spectacles including ballets, theatrical performances, pop and classical concerts.
One of the largest museums in the world, Astana’s National Museum is free to enter and explore. Featuring a number of temporary exhibition spaces, its cavernous halls also contain artefacts and exhibits charting the country’s and the city’s history, culture and ethnography.
Nearly 1,900 miles from the sea, visitors to Astana can get up-close and personal with hundreds of species of marine life here. Fish aficionados can walk along the ‘seabed’, watch feeding time with the sharks and explore the depths in the Oceanarium’s 3D cinema.
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