14 Oct Tashkent – City Guide
As promised, here is it is! It took me a while to organise my thoughts and memories of Uzbekistan, there was so much for me to absorb. Re-living holidays is never a chore, especially one so full of energy, sun, turquoise tiles and melons. What follows are locations for seeing, eating and relaxing. It is by no means an exhaustive list, rather sharing Mr Munch and my experiences with you. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to make your own Tashkent trip!
Chorsu Market – Possibly the largest market complex I’ve ever been to. Its iconic blue dome shelters butchers and dairy products. Here we found kaymak, a fluffy cross between clotted cream and natural yoghurt, traditionally eaten for breakfast with bread and honey. Surrounding the dome are webs of stalls divided into sections. Tables laden with fresh produce buzz with people and trollies, wafting the wonderful aroma of dill as they go. Spices, dried fruits and nuts are fantastic quality here (walnuts, sugar coated almonds, more types of raisin than I’ve ever encountered). Continue round and you’ll find the bakery, ovens aplenty. Try samsa, a kind of bread pastry filled with minced meat, onions or potatoes. We were shown a large tandoor style oven lit from a gas ring at the bottom, whose walls were lined with cooking samsa. If the smell of baking bread doesn’t whet your appetite I don’t know what will! Also dotted around the market are street vendors selling melons by the truckload – get your fill of Uzbek melons, they are some of the best! The further away from the nucleus of the market you go, the more home items, crafts and clothing you will find. A gem of a market!
57 Tafakkur ko’chasi, Тошкент, Uzbekistan
Plov Centre – I would return to Tashkent for this alone. This celebration of Uzbekistan’s national dish, plov, is a holy grail for meat/rice lovers. I shared the wonders of the Plov Centre in last week’s post so you must go and check that out. You will need a napkin for your drool. ?
1 Guards Colonel Khodjaev Street, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Shedevr Garden – Another recommended Uzbek dish is shashlik, skewered meat like a kebab. Originally this was done with lamb but nowadays also includes chicken, pork and vegetables. Cooked over a charcoal, it has a wonderful smokey flavour. Now, I must admit – despite this being the most expensive meal we had in Tashkent apart from the Hyatt (still only £18 for two people), we did get dodgy tummies from this restaurant which lasted a few days. Not fun! Therefore, if you do decide to go here avoid the chicken and any salads involving raw vegetables. The lamb cutlets were particularly spectacular and since lamb can be eaten pink, this is a safe bet. The setting is lovely – each outdoor table has its own covered cabana with small streams running underneath and flanked by much greenery. They have live music too, I really enjoyed the band who played the night we went. Go for the shashlik menu (hooray for picture pointing), not the english menu as the two have completely different dishes. The manager is super friendly and has perfect english should you want a bit more help!
Kizi Guncha St, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Georgia – If you’ve read my Kiev, Ukraine posts you will know that Georgian food has been very much on my radar ever since. Uzbekistan is a hop over the Caspian Sea from Georgia so when we heard of the restaurant ‘Georgia’ it was a no brainer. I think we were there early compared to locals, we were the only diners at the time apart from a very hopeful black and white cat. The courtyard is lovely to sit in with the leaf covered canopy giving welcome shade. We had a young waiter who spoke decent English and there is also a menu in english, both very helpful! Our starter was roasted aubergine with walnut sauce. The walnuts make this very Georgian to me, giving the sauce substance and a creamy texture. I forget the proper names of the main dishes but one was lamb drenched in a dark tomato sauce, the other a less saucy pork with potatoes, peppers and onions. Both were topped with fresh herbs. Add two glasses of Georgian wine to the mix and we were a happy pair. As the restaurant is located in a residential area, we had a nice post meal wander through the neighbourhood. I love walking around and seeing how other people live!
Night market – Every night Tashkent comes alive – probably to do with the cooler temperatures! Sailgokh Street (Broadway Street) was filled with people, fun fair games, and street food. Tashkent loves flamboyant street lighting and this is a perfect place to see it in full swing. Chandeliers, multicoloured flowers and children zooming around on toy cars give a festive feeling all year round. Have a dance at the music stages on either end of the street too!
TV Tower – We love an aerial view of a city and TV Tower gives you just that. Great for getting your bearings and conveniently next door to the Plov Centre (you can tell I’m a fan of the Plov Centre. GO THERE). It is the tallest building with a viewing platform in Central Asia. Remember to bring your passport here as they will check it before you go up. Good for panoramic photo time.
Amir Temur Avenue, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Gallery of Fine Arts Uzbekistan – Another example of beautiful architecture in Tashkent. Under the blue and gold dome hangs a fabulous chandelier, almost overshadowing the art which winds around the bottom of the stairs below. I like how a lot of Uzbek art capturing daily life focuses on melons and bread! On our visit there was an exhibition of a contemporary artist painting everyday Uzbek food and produce in a Japanese style. An interesting fusion of cultures. The collection is a manageable size and, as with most art, gives an insight into how people view themselves and their culture.
Holy Assumption Church – This church reminded me of St Sophia’s in Kiev with its gold and ice blue towers. A lovely Russian Orthodox church. We happened across it at the end of a service and caught a glimpse of the Archpastor giving his blessings.
91 Avliyoota Street, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Independence Square – aka Mustakillik Square. The monument has stunning statues of storks and is especially impressive when the fountains are doing their full display. We weren’t allowed further through to directly see the Monument to the Independence of Uzbekistan (it has a metal sphere atop a plinth beneath which a mother cradles her child). However to the right of the square, Ankhor Park was open for us shade-seeking tourists. Schizophrenic sprinklers caused some hilarity as we made our way through, but they added welcome coolness in the forty degree heat! Here we happened upon the Crying Mother Monument. Built to honour Uzbek soldiers who died in World War II, she sits behind an eternal flame keeping their memory alive. Intricately carved wooden corridors line each side contain boards inscribed with the soldiers’ names. This is a peaceful and thought provoking site.
Bunyodkor Square – You can’t miss this square when you drive past it – the humongous flag blowing in the breeze is a giveaway! A super photo opportunity. It’s just round the back of the Alisher Navoi park. There’s a concert hall in between the two but it looks in a serious state of disrepair at the moment and the websites don’t work so it’s probably closed. Combine this with a stroll around the park, you can get picnic snacks from supermarket Korzinka over the road.
Alisher Navoi National Park – Tashkent is full of parks and green spaces to cool you down from the blazing sun. Alisher Navoi National Park contains many statues, most noticeably Alisher Navoi himself. The late 15th century poet, writer, politician and painter is renowned across Central Asia and thought to be the founder of early Turkic literature. No wonder he has a massive statue in his park on the top of a hill, facing the Parliament of Uzbekistan. A nice place to get away from city bustle. We were there after sunset and saw lots of little bats flying amongst the trees, super cool! ?
Hazrati Imam Complex – We visited the mosque complex at sunset and the changing pink light over the domes was spectacular. Families were hanging out, kids racing around on scooters, a gentle atmosphere. We spent a while trying to take pictures of the real crescent moon with the moon statues on top of the domes! Again, you can walk around the madrassa and gardens.
Karasaray Street, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Hotel Uzbekistan and Skver Im Amira Temura Park – The iconic hotel was the first in Uzbekistan to hold large groups of tourists and is a well known building in Tashkent. It’s right next to the Skver Im Amira Temura Park. Not the easiest to roll off the tongue for non-Russian speakers! Other buildings of note around the square are the Amir Timur Museum, the Forums Palace with its striking white columns, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, University of Law and the Tashkent Clock Towers. Amir Timur himself stands proud in the centre of the park. Despite a complicated history of war in Central Asia back in the early 14th century, he is considered a national hero of Uzbekistan and is celebrated all over the country.
Your best friend in Tashkent is Yandex, a taxi app which is super easy to use. It’s their version of Uber but we couldn’t make the pay online work so you will need cash. Crossing the city costs £1 or less, it’s so so so cheap! We usually gave a tip but quite often the driver turned it down. I would advise offering anyway.
The metro system is fun architecturally. There are fantastic designs on many of the platforms so it’s worth having a look. Here are links for the most picturesque stations and a map. Be aware you’re not allowed to take photos underground! At the ticket booth throw your British instinct to queue down the plughole, get in there and shove your money under the window. If you queue, people will tut at you for holding them up! I love these cultural differences ?Check the cyrillic spelling for the stations you need as English is few and far between underground.
I will be sharing tips for getting between cities in my upcoming Samarkand guide! ?
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See you soon! ???