It takes one day and a half by train to get to Yekaterinburg from Moscow. Add two more days in a rattling train if your destination is Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. So it's wise to get a break in Yekaterinburg and at least to have a shower here.
For adventurous travellers (and I assume you are very adventurous as you've chosen a Trans-Siberian trip) a shower is not enough especially if you stop in the main city of the Ural Mountains. All the guide books recommend spending at least one day in Yekaterinburg. Thus you have time to walk in the historical centre (the city was found in 1723 so it's got some history), visit Church on the Blood - the place where the Tsar's family was killed and a giant computer key board which despite the size may be difficult to find even with a map. You'll be able to have a proper dinner in one of the cosy restaurants and a drink or two in the bars. Luckily these days most of them have menues in English, don't expect much from the waiters though. Plus you have a whole night to join a party in a night club or a pub. Pubs in Yekaterinburg are something between expensive restaurants and live-music bars. There's always something going on at night except Mondays and Thursday is considered to be a gay night-out but not everywhere.
This is a standard program for one day in Yekaterinburg. Now it actually sounds too standard and doesn't give you an idea about the Urals which is certainly a shame. You see, pretty soon you will be in Siberia and it will be all very different in the vast Russian taiga. So if you are going to claim that you've seen Russia instead of rushed about Russia, consider staying two days in Yekaterinburg.
On your second day get up early in the morning, take you camera, your back pack and may be some locals you have met in a pub the night before. They can be your handy tool if you don't speak Russian. If you do know the language you can take a bus or a local train for a one day trip in the Middle Urals. However, taking a public bus or a train you waste a lot of your precious time, as they are rather slow. You may take a taxi instead (remember that from the hotel reception they charge more!) or find a local with a car or a guide. It's easier than you think. The Ural region was closed to foreigners in the Soviet times and you are still an exotic fruit for the citizens who will be happy to even take a day off at work in order to show you around and share their Ural pride with you. At least that's what my friends and me have been doing quite often 🙂
In my other posts I'll tell you what places you may visit in the Urals. For the time being take a look at the photos and descriptions of the popular Ural destinations on my Facebook page: Yekaterinburg for You
- Tobolsk. A step down from the Ural Mountains to real Siberia
- Boris Yeltsin. How to become the president of Russia?
- Ural Guide by Park Inn
- Hotels in Yekaterinburg
- One day rafting trip to Nature Park Olenyi Ruchyi on June 16th