Bishkek is an easy city to get around since it has a grid layout and the bus system works well once you get to know it. Here we’ve put together a collection of some of our favorite things to do in Bishkek (we do our best to give honest reviews) as well as general information about places near the guesthouse.
Being located on the southern edge of what is considered “the center” Southside is uniquely positioned with a relaxed atmosphere yet lots of places in walking distance.
Faiza: Good local food served fast and one of, if not our favorite, local food restaurant. It’s a Uighur owned restaurant, so the lagman is amazing and the setting is very pretty. It’s a longer walk, probably 15-25 minutes.
Atlantis: Pretty good all around local food. The samsi are very good. This is a budget place with more of bar atmosphere and an assortmant of the standard beers (Arpa, Baltica 7, etc) on tap. Under a 5 minute walk.
1001 Nights: Good for groups that want to order large portions of plov. Several private rooms for group meetings also available for rent. About a 5-10 minute walk.
Begemot: Not sure if this is really local or foreign. Pretty much the first local fast food chain that made something resembling western fast food burgers. Still quite popular. About a 10 minute walk.
Dolce Vita Pizzeria: Possibly Ryan’s favorite restaurant in Kyrgyzstan. Simple pizzeria with an Italian owner and authentic Italian pizza. If you’ve been eating village style food for a while, this is your foreign food fix. Good coffee too. Only a 5 minute walk.
Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters: We used to say there were no western franchise restaurants, but that’s not true anymore. While we’re a little sad about that sometimes, it is nice to have chili dogs some days and the fried pies are good too. It’s a 5-10 minute walk.
Shopping and Money
Narodni Supermarket: One of the older super market chains in Kyrgyzstan. Feels like a cross between a full super market and a corner or convenience store. Priced higher than bazaars and some other supermarkets like Borsook or Frunze, but there are two in close proximity. The one linked also has several ATMs in or near it. About a 10 minute walk.
Kulikov Cakes: Popular local bakery. Good option if you are going as a guest to someone’s home and want to take a cake as a present. We especially like their cakes with tvorag. Roughly a 10 minute walk.
Gazprom: Fuel and a convenience store. Gazprom has some of the cleanest gasoline and diesel in Kyrgyzstan. There are also tire repair shops nearby. About a 10 minute walk.
Demir Bank: One of the best “international” banks in Kyrgyzstan. They have a branch about 10 to 15 minutes from the B&B. Their ATM should dispense both Som and USD and accepts Visa and Mastercard. They do have a lot of paperwork requirements, so if you want to do Western Union or similar transfers, better to use RSK bank.
RSK Bank: Small branch near the Narodni. Good for general banking, Western Union, and similar services. They also have an ATM. About a 10 minute walk.
ATM Central: There are several ATMs in or near Narodni and the RSK bank. Obviously, just use normal caution if you are withdrawing a lot of money. There are always a lot of people around because of the bus stop nearby. About a 10 minute walk.
Ata Turk Park: Nice walking park just a short distance away. In the summer get an ice cream, wander a little, and people watch or read a book. Roughly a 10 minute walk.
If you want to brave the inexpensive bus system, try the bus.kg app, otherwise call a taxi or use your own vehicle. There are plenty of sites in Bishkek or within up to a one hour drive.
Osh Bazaar: One of the most frequented bazaars in Bishkek by both locals and travelers alike. Vendors selling fresh produce, dried nuts and fruits, clothing, tools, household goods, souvenirs, fabric, jewelry, musical instruments, and more sprawl out over a city block. While this bazaar is known for having the cheapest prices, it is also the most crowded within Bishkek city limits. Produce is usually great quality here and we’ve found that it is one of the best places to buy traditional Kyrgyz jewelry.
Ala Archa: A national park located 40 kilometers south of Bishkek that has over 50 mountain peaks and 20 glaciers. There are lots of trails here to explore, some rather challenging that will lead you up a glacier, but plenty of easier ones that lead to nice forested areas, waterfalls, or an alpinist cemetery that is popular with hikers. For people that can’t make it out to the mountains in the rest of the country (e.g. businessmen), we highly recommend a trip to Ala Archa National Park. The entrance fee for a vehicle to get into the park should be less than $10. There’s also a small museum not far from the entrance off the main road.
State History Museum: The State History Museum has been closed for over a year for renovations. It should be reopening sometime in 2017. Prior to renovations it was largely the same as it had been under the Soviet Union with a large dose of propaganda thrown in. We expect this will be different once it reopens, but that remains to be seen.
Ala Too Square: the hub of the city, with a large statue of Manas (a local hero) as the centerpiece. Anytime there is a government holiday that’s being celebrated, festivals, games, or concerts are held here. On one side of the square sits the State History Museum, and on the other side, there are fountains, flower beds, and open spaces for people to gather and walk.
Art Gallery: Just adjacent to Ala Too Square is something that locals refer to as “The Gallery.” The Gallery is a covered stretch of concrete where local painters showcase and sell their work. Often times the artists themselves, or relatives of the artists, will be standing around talking to each other until you ask or show interest in a painting. Since artwork is not as valued by the general populace in Kyrgyzstan, it is easy to pick up a great painting for a fraction of what you would expect it to cost. The larger paintings are often marked at a certain price, but bargaining is perfectly acceptable. If you want to pick up a painting, you will get the best prices here.
Tsum: a large shopping mall located in downtown Bishkek that expands vertically instead of horizontally. “Tsum” stands for Central Universal Stor in Russian and virtually every major city in the Soviet Union had one, even Karakol in the Issyk Kul region has one. The first floor is mainly electronics, the second floor, clothing, etc. The top floor is where you will find all the souvenir sellers. It is more expensive than the local bazaar, but there are many more choices available to you. Decorative serving dishes, beautiful sewn wall-hangings, animal statues carved out of ibex horn, old Soviet memorabilia, you name it. The downside here is the more expensive cost and lack of a true Central Asian bazaar experience. On the plus side, it is not nearly as chaotic as the bazaar and there is more variety.