You’re visiting the Russian Arctic and now you’re in Salekhard, wondering what there is to do here. We’ve put together a list of the top sights in Salekhard to help you out! A lot of people think the city is just a jumping-off point for the many outdoor activities in the area, and that there’s nothing much to see or do here. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In 1595, a small fortress was built here, and the village that grew up around it was called Obdorsk. In 1933, the town was renamed Salekhard, which is taken from the Nenets word ‘salja’harad’ meaning ‘house on the peninsula’. The city is now the capital of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region so all visitors to the area go through it at least once.
Salekhard is a remote place, even by Russian standards, and was very difficult to access for a long time. As a result, the city also has a dark side to its history. In Tsarist times it was used as a place of exile, and in the Soviet era, it was surrounded by many gulags. The city’s history and location as one of the only cities in the world crossing the Arctic Circle mean it’s a pretty cool place to explore.
As you walk around the city, keep your eyes open for some interesting local artwork – there are lots of cool murals and statues hidden away. Read on to see our pick of the top sights in Salekhard, complete with interactive map.
Top Sights in Salekhard You Shouldn’t Miss
Shemanovsky Regional Museum
This is the main regional museum for the whole of the Yamal Peninsula. If you’re keen to learn more about the local indigenous Nenets people and natural history of the area then this is the place to go. There’s also an interesting look at the town’s history as part of the Gulag Archipelago.
The museum was actually founded way back in 1906 by a senior priest of the town’s Orthodox mission. It was originally a library of information about the Nenets people. These days, there are almost 150,000 exhibits.
The most famous display in the museum is Lubya, the baby mammoth. Lubya is a perfectly preserved baby mammoth mummy who was found by a local Nenets man in 2007. She’s been the subject of her own National Geographic article and even a movie!
The museum is a great place to start to learn more about the interesting history of the Yamal region.
Note: an English pamphlet is available, and some signage is also in English, but be aware that much of the museum is in Russian only.
Address: 38 Chubynina St.
Opening hours: Tue-Thur: 10:00-19:30, Fri 12:00-20:00, Sat-Sun: 11:00-18:00, Mon: closed
The bridge was built in 2004 to connect the city centre and the airport. It has actually become one of the most famous sights in Salekhard thanks to its architecture. The design features a single tower with a golden lattice structure, where the bridge gets its torch name from.
You can get a nice view of the city from the bridge itself. If you want the full Salekhard panorama then head up to the restaurant at the top of the tower!
Address: Chubynina St.
This is the original site of the Obdorskaya Fortress, which was the birthplace of modern Salekhard. Initially constructed as a prison by the Cossacks in 1595, it was converted to a fortress in 1635. In 1807 the original wooden structures here were pulled down as they were deemed to be unsafe.
Although it’s only a few years old, the reconstruction of the original wooden fortress does make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. If you’re lucky enough to get it to yourself on a quiet winter morning, you can imagine how isolated those original settlers were.
The walled area contains a beautiful watchtower and also the Church of Basil the Great, which holds services on Sundays. You can’t enter the other buildings, but it’s a lovely place to get an idea of the original architecture of the area.
Address: 1 Respubliki St.
Church of Peter and Paul
The church is the only preserved 19th-century religious building in the entire area. It was built between 1890 and 1894, and presented some pretty unique challenges to the builders. Since it stands on permafrost, the construction required special engineering considerations – it couldn’t be built on traditional piles and it had to be +16℃ inside.
Legend has it that 7 Russian architects attempted to build the church for 15 years before declaring it impossible! Finally, the structure was completed under the supervision of a German architect, Gottlieb Zinke.
The grounds are lovely, and the church looks particularly beautiful under sparkling blue winter skies. In the postwar period, the building had all sorts of uses. It was a vegetable store, a warehouse and even a sports school. Eventually, in 1991, it was re-consecrated and returned to its original function as a church.
Address: 8 Nogo St.
66th Parallel Monument
Did you know that Salekhard is one of the only cities in the world that lies on both sides of the Arctic Circle? You’ll pass this monument as you travel from the airport to the city, and it represents the exact line of passage of the Arctic Circle. It’s a fun place to go and have your photo taken with one foot in the north and one in the south!
Interestingly, the monument was initially installed in 1980 but turned out to be in the wrong place. It was dismantled and moved in 2003 once employees of the Geological Department of Salekhard had determined the correct site for it.
You’ll probably want to go here during the day for the best photos, but it’s also a great place to visit at night due to the beautiful way that it’s lit up.
Address: Brodneva St. Hwy Airport
Memorial of the 501st Gulag Site
This is one of the more sober reminders of the history of this part of Russia. This steam engine mounted on a plinth, just north of the 66th parallel is actually a gulag memorial. Construction on Stalin’s Trans-Polar Mainline started here following the end of World War II. The labour force was made up of prisoners convicted of “political” offences. Many of them lost their lives in this hostile place.
Following Stalin’s death, the project was abandoned, and the tracks left to sink below the permafrost of the arctic tundra. This railway to nowhere subsequently became known as the Dead Road.
The plaque here is inscribed with the words “…the iron road to the very end of the earth was mercilessly laid by the fate of the people […] Deeds and destinies are not forgotten…” It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of Russia, and always provokes intense emotions.
Address: Brodneva St. Hwy Airport
This sculpture is dedicated to the mammoths that once freely roamed this region. Their bones and tusks can be found all over Yamal. Although the mammoths are long gone, you might meet one of the local arctic foxes while you’re here. The views across the river are stunning from this spot too.
You’ll need to have transportation to get here, but it’s a quick 15-minute taxi ride from the city centre. You’ll come away with photos that are sure to provide a talking point when you get home! If you’re here over the Christmas period, then you may even be lucky enough to see the mammoth dressed up as Santa Claus.
Address: Salekhard-Labytnangi-Kharp highway, near the river and ferry terminal
This is definitely one place in Salekhard that you shouldn’t miss. Victory Park is dedicated to the victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War. An eternal flame burns continuously in the centrepiece Pantheon. It’s a symbol of eternal life, commemorating the courage of those who fought and lost their lives.
The park itself contains a small chapel, battle awards and several interesting sculptures. There’s also an alley of names of all the Yamal residents who participated in the Great Patriotic War. You’ll also find displays of military equipment on both sides of the park. This is a beautifully meditative place to visit whilst you’re in the city. It’s also a favourite spot for residents to hang out in good weather.
Address: Youth Avenue, behind the government building of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous district
Open Air Park of Aviation Technology
This unique park running along the road to the airport displays various types of aviation equipment. All the aircraft here played a significant role in helping to develop Northern Siberia.
In the past, Salekhard airport was only able to accept large planes in the winter. Since the runaway was unpaved, this was when it got smoothed over with frost. During the summer a large hydroport was used to connect the city with settlements all over the region.
Unfortunately, there is nothing here in the way of signage, but it’s an unusual sight when you enter or leave the city to catch your flight.
Address: Aviation St.
The City Manor Complex
The estate of the Terentyev merchant family was built in 1898. It’s located in the historical part of Salekhard, along with the Obdorsky fortress. This manor is one of the rare surviving examples of wooden architecture in the far North of Russia.
The arrangement of the buildings is representative of a typical manor house in Russia from the late 19th-century. There are a residence, barn and gate. Inside you’ll find furnishings and exhibits from the original era of the buildings. It’s something rather interesting in a city that otherwise feels rather modern.
Address: 1 Lambinykh St
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun: 11:00-18:00, Mon: closed
Interactive Map of Top Sights in Salekhard
When to Visit Salekhard
The timing of your visit will depend on what you want to see and do whilst you’re here in Yamal. Since it’s so far north, Salekhard has a subarctic climate, with short, mild summers and long cold winters.
Spring in Salekhard – March to May
The weather starts to warm up at this time of year. It’s one of the more popular times to visit as the days also begin getting longer. If you visit at this time, you’ll also get to experience one of the most interesting events of the year – the Reindeer Herders Festival. Usually held in Salkehard on the last Saturday in March, the event draws people from all over the region.
The nomadic Nenets reindeer herders arrive from across the Yamal peninsula to come together and celebrate. You’ll see sledge races, axe throwing, reindeer wrangling and a host of other activities unique to this fascinating culture.
Another big draw for this time of year is the summer Nenets reindeer migration. Tens of thousands of reindeer are herded north to their summer pastures. It’s a sight that even seasoned photographers and travellers describe as spectacular.
Summer in Salekhard – June to September
Although short, summer in this part of the Russian Arctic is magical. You may have heard of the white nights which happen around the June summer solstice. You’ll see incredibly beautiful colours as the sun just touches the horizon without truly setting. It’s a wonderful time for outdoor activities in the region, with hiking, rafting and fishing getting into full swing.
Photographers will love the light on the vast, sweeping landscapes and exploring all that nature here has to offer. There are incredible glaciers and waterfalls that can only be accessed at this time of the year. You’ll also be able to taste locally grown berries and mushrooms. If you’re feeling adventurous you can even try gathering them yourself!
Autumn in Salkehard – September to October
Although short, autumn here is truly picturesque as the foliage begins to turn, revealing shades of gold and amber. It also marks the start of the winter migration season for the Nenets. Since it’s slightly warmer than spring, is a very different experience as the reindeer graze on greener pastures.
Later in the season, you’ll experience the rolling fog across the River Ob and surrounding tributaries. It creates a truly atmospheric and mystical environment.
Winter in Salekhard – November to March
Winter here is cold and dark, but it provides unparalleled opportunities to see the beauty of the Northern Lights. There’s nothing quite like their dance across the night sky. At the time of the new moon in February, you can sometimes see them for 2 weeks straight!
In the winter you’ll need to wrap up, but there are loads of activities to keep you warm. You can ski, snowboarding and try snowmobile racing to name just a few. This is also the time when the city looks at its most magical, covered in a blanket of purest white.
Where to Stay in Salekhard
If you’re here on a group tour to Russia, then accommodation will probably be organised for you. If you’d like to stay a little longer, here are our top 3 suggestions for hotels in Salekhard.
Located near the historical part of the city, the hotel is central to all the sights of the city. It’s a great place to be based for exploring Salekhard by foot. Rooms are clean and tidy, and the on-site restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Book here
Also in the city centre and near the historical district is this hotel with spacious rooms. There is no restaurant on-site, but the hotel provides in-room breakfasts. Book here
Located further from the centre, but closer to the airport, this hotel is geared more towards business with conference facilities. There’s an onsite coffee shop, and a fitness centre and sauna are also available. Book here
Where to Eat and Drink in Salekhard
Truly the best coffee in town! The staff at this cafe are friendly and know how to make a great brew. Muffins and other snacks are also available. A great place to go for a hot drink when you’re taking in the sights of Salekhard. Highly recommended, especially in the winter.
Address: Matrosova St 16/2
Khmel’ I Sol’
With a focus on craft beer, you definitely won’t be disappointed if you’re a beer lover. The food is hearty – think gastropub grub – and the portions satisfying. We like the individual booths that allow for a party atmosphere!
Address: 24 Chubynina St
As you might expect for a restaurant named after hunters, this is not a spot for the vegetarians! Specialising in locally sourced products, there is an emphasis on the wild game of the region. You should also know that multiple trophies in the form of stuffed animals line the walls. This is one of the more upmarket restaurants in Salekhard.
Address: 11 Lenin St
The main draw of this restaurant is its unique location at the top of the Torch bridge. There are great views of the city and the river from here. It really does make for a one of a kind dining experience!
Address: 40 Chubynina St
For snacks, there are lots of supermarkets in town and a great market beside the museum, near the bridge.
How to Get to Salekhard
Plane – there are two flights daily from Moscow and three flights per week from St Petersburg. There are also various other regional flights to the city.
Train – Labytnangi is the closest station. There is a direct train from Moscow and one requiring a single change from St Petersburg. You can book trains via the RZD website here.
Overland – if you’re feeling particularly adventurous then you can definitely drive to Salekhard. You should, however, consider the time of year and how confident you are on potentially icy roads. From Labytnangi you’ll need to either take the ferry or cross the river using the ice road in winter.
Guided Tours in Salekhard
We hope that you’ve found this list of top sights in Salekhard useful. If you’re considering coming to visit this beautiful part of the Russian Arctic then why not take the stress out of organising your trip and simply book it with us!
We can arrange a sightseeing day in Salekhard as part of any of our group tours. You’ll get the benefits of transport in town, a local guide fluent in English, and all your accommodation arranged for you. We’ll even arrange your flights and collect you from the airport. View our tours here.