Astana, Kazakhstan

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The capital of the ninth-largest country in the world, Astana, Kazakhstan might seem largely ignored despite it being a significant oil, gas and uranium exporter. A young planned city founded in 1997, President Nursultan Nazarbayev moved the capital from Almaty to the newly-named Astana (previously called Akmola), a once-empty plot of land by the Ishim River. As the city tries to position itself as the center of Eurasia, where East truly meets West, its architecture is a sign of its cultural, technological and political development. The flashy, futuristic designs highlight the country’s desire to distance itself from its Soviet legacy while evoking the local “Tree of Life” legend and an aspirational present. When you fly to Astana, Kazakhstan which means “the capital city” in Kazakh, have an open mind. You’ll find yourself saying, “Wow,” more than once.

Sleep

St. Regis Astana

Located in the heart of Astana’s Central Park, on the banks of the Ishim River, the St. Regis offers all the modern comforts you seek while reflecting the area’s nomadic history. If the exquisite Royal Suites are booked, the elegant St. Regis Suites or Ambassador Suites will serve you well. All hotel guests are treated to signature butler services.

Rixos President Astana Hotel

Encompassing opulence and superior quality, you’ll find the Rixos President Astana in the capital’s government district, near the Bayterek Tower. After a long day, treat yourself to a Turkish hamam at the Anjana Spa. Get the most out of your trip by booking a Royal or Executive Suite. If those are not available, a spacious 105-square-meter Presidential Suite will provide a “supreme luxurious holiday experience.”

Beijing Palace Soluxe Hotel Astana

With an unmistakable Chinese-inspired façade, the Beijing Palace Soluxe Hotel Astana in the administrative district is a few blocks from the Ak Orda Presidential Building. The accommodation’s top floor is a revolving restaurant with some of the best views of the city. The President Luxury Suite on the 21st floor sets you up with everything you need, including a sauna, business suites, meeting room, library, large dining room and full kitchen.

Eat

Line Brew

An old water tower transformed into a medieval castle, Line Brew in the old city center is one of the best steakhouses in Astana. The restaurant specializes in modern European cuisine, along with Kazakh and Russian staples, such as beef stroganoff and pork shashlik. The restaurant also has great fondue, artistic salads and a good selection of beer.

Korean House

Located in Restaurant Alley, Korean House offers traditional South Korean dishes, as well as those that are popular among the local Koryo-Saram. Enjoy a meal in one of the themed VIP halls or on the terrace overlooking the Left Coast. Offering a great introduction to Korean cuisine, the restaurant’s chefs are trained by South Korean masters

CAFESTAR

Introducing a new concept of restaurants in the heart of New Astana, CAFESTAR is where diplomats and Kazakh politicians meet and feast on international cuisine. Its mezzanine lounge, plush velvet seating, crystal chandeliers and views of the “Signing Fountain” add the restaurant’s glamorous old-world bistro feel.

Play

Khan Shatyr Shopping and Entertainment Center

As you make your way from the airport into the city, you’ll pass the Kahn Shatyr, the only “lifestyle center” in Astana. The mall is housed in the largest tent, or marquee, in the world that took architectural and engineering ingenuity during its construction. During the winter, temperatures can fall to -40°F, necessitating the application of a special chemical lining to maintain its microclimate, which includes an artificial beach with sand imported from the Maldives.

Architectural Eye Candy

Astana’s surrealist skyline is one of its greatest attractions. Some of the most popular buildings include the Golden Towers near the Ak Orda presidential palace. The golden orb atop the Bayterek tower symbolizes the mythical egg in the “Tree of Life” legend. The Norman Foster-designed pyramid at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation hosts the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions every three years. Shabyt is the home of the National University of Arts. The Metropolitan Circus building might remind you of a UFO that landed in the middle of the city.

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