Almaty is truly Kazakhstan’s cultural capital.
Its historical museums offer an extensive history of the country from its taming of the steppes to the construction of its world-class capital.
Almaty’s array of visual and theatrical arts are also world class and have won prestigious international awards. And just strolling around the city’s parks and monuments gives a sense of Kazakhstan’s rich culture.
One of the best places to start is the Central State Museum. This three-story museum contains more than 200,000 artifacts – from early tools to weapons to a replica of Kazakhstan’s Golden Man – which visually explains ancient-to-modern Kazakh history.
To get a sense of the visual arts of Kazakhstan and the region, try the Kasteyev State Museum of Arts, which contains more than 22,000 works from Kazakhstan, Russia, Western Europe and Asia.
For the theatrical arts, try the Abai Kazakh State Opera and Ballet Theatre and its beautiful Italian-style building. Here you’ll find world-class international performances. More contemporary performances can be found at the Art&Shock Theatre which specializes in cutting edge plays.
And one of the best ways to get a feel for the city is to head to Panilov Park. There you’ll find the multicolored St. Ascension Cathedral, one of the largest wooden structures in the world made without nails, and a monument to WWII Kazakh troops.
Some of the museums have small entrance fees and most don’t offer English language displays. So bring a Russian speaker or call ahead to arrange a guide.
But no matter which museum or theatre you visit, you’ll see that Almaty’s arts and culture reflect the influences of centuries at the heart of the Silk Road.