During the three months of winter in Moscow there are 15 clear days on average, in St. Petersburg - 11, and in Vladivostok - as many as a whopping 75. Vladivostok is the city you need to go to for winter sun.
Only Khabarovsk has more sunny days – but there is no sea there. You may ask, “What good is the sea during the cold season?” Well … read further in our Guide to Winter in Vladivostok.
Frozen sea, mountains, outdoor skating rinks – all of it highlighted by bright sunshine – only the lazy are not able to find something to do outdoors in such an atmosphere. For fun, you can ride snowmobiles and buggies (small open cars), or soak up the local flavor - go ice fishing for smelt, watch a motor rally or drifting competition.
The climate allows one to engage in sport activities that are not available in all corners of the world – including winter surfing and kiting. The classic "frost and sun" in Vladivostok chimes more these days like "wind and sun" – and the more wind, the more ideal conditions are for these activities. If the only difference in surfing during the cold season is the need to wear a very thick wetsuit, then with winter kiting – the skiing is just not on water but ice, on a snowboard or skis under a kite. Nor do SUP-surfers hide their boards away until summer: they continue to run tours on the half-frozen bays.
An unusual sporting event takes place in Vladivostok in which professional athletes, in addition to those who just like to challenge themselves, can participate. Sky Running at Livadia Ridge - a competitive race through mountainous terrain – is traditionally held in January. There is a special 3 km "walking" trail for newcomers, and more experienced participants compete at distances of 11 and 25 kilometers.
The icy half marathon “Vladivostok Ice Run” was first conducted in 2016. It is a race of 5, 10 and 21 kilometers across the ice of picturesque Novik Bay on Russian Island. Undoubtedly, one comes to Vladivostok quite deliberately for this event.
In winter, dark comes early, and it is not a time for long walks along the streets; so, comfort lovers should take note of a few ideas for how and where to relax in the cool evenings.
First, you need to eat. Guests in Vladivostok tend to choose places where they can get acquainted with Far Eastern Russian cuisine and the taste of real Chinese cooking. Savor the flavor of Primorsky oysters and scallops, and consume local ferns and sea cucumbers for the first time at Port Cafe. The dish of the season is fried smelt. To make dinner even more delicious – and informative – be sure to order a master class from the chef.
It is worth seeking out authentic Chinese food in "chifankah" - cafes and restaurants near the Chinese market (the taxi driver will understand if you say "na Sportivku"). These establishments had been known for their huge portions and affordable prices, but over the last year, they have become more expensive.
According to TripAdvisor, the best restaurant in Russia in 2014 was “Zuma” in Vladivostok. (In 2015, it finished second after Moscow's "Pushkin"). It is a place with impeccable service, the best (sushi) rolls in the city - and handcrafted, house-prepared desserts. By the way, if you show your airline tickets, as a guest of the city, they will treat you to a platter of assorted seafood.
After dinner, it would not be a bad thing to go to a classic bar like “Moonshine” to throw back a couple of glasses of something “old school” and to have a chat with the bartender. You could also drop in to the wine boutique “Vinoteka” where the best sommeliers in the city will set you up with a glass of fine wine – or something stronger.
You might dedicate another evening for an outing to a Thai or Balinese spa – where a timid but strong and skillful young woman will help you relax and warm up with a nice massage.
In this city by the sea, there are two free but most impressive spectacles - sunrise and sunset.
Vladivostok is one of the first places in the world where the day begins – and you can greet the sun in a special way at Cape Tobizina on Russian Island. This requires getting up very early to have time to get to the Island and to walk for about an hour from the end of the paved road to the Cape. But after a certain while on the path, stunning vistas of steep cliffs and the sea open up, reflecting the pre-dawn sky.
It is not necessary to go far from the city’s center to witness a sunset. You can do that at Tokarev Lighthouse - a popular place where locals come by car to line up before the horizon where the sun slowly goes down. You can walk along the beach there and, if you are lucky, spot cute spotted harbor seals and coastal sea dogs.
After enjoying nature, getting to know the city’s cultural life will be interesting for connoisseurs of beauty. They can spend evenings within the walls of Mariinsky Theatre’s Primorsky Stage. Productions here are renowned for elaborate sets and costumes, as well as talented artists. Many are surprised by the theatre’s modern architecture, where instead of the usual plasterwork with gold trim, there is glass and wood.
One can venture further to enjoy additional inspired classics at the Primorsky Picture Gallery on Aleutskaya Street – which displays works by Aivazovsky, Shishkin, Chagall, and other masters of Russian art.
Not far from Vladivostok, is the official gambling zone "Primorye." Only the casino Tigre De Cristal is currently operating, but in time the area will be transformed into a "Far East Macau" with shopping centers, hotels, a water park, and even a ski run.
On weekends, there are parties with live music and prize drawings. One need not be an avid player to visit Tigre De Cristal: people come out of curiosity for the casino atmosphere – prepared to lose 1,000 rubles in the slot machines or toss a pair of dice just for fun.
Be sure to bring home gifts from Vladivostok. Options for the bulk of friends and relatives: “Bird's milk” sweets, chocolate with seaweed or sea salt, "Ussuriyskiy Balsam" and fish. For yourself, it is better to choose something to remember the Primorsky winter, for example, a warm knitted sweater or a hat Made in Vladivostok.
Perhaps an overly traditional but no less trendy option is a sailor’s winter undershirt, double- or triple-knit, from the shop "Flotskiy".
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Arbat (Admiral Fokin Street) – Waterfront Sports Harbor – Aquarium (Oceanarium) – Museum "Vladivostok Fortress" – Batareynaya Street – Sister Cities Square – Music Bar "Mumiy Troll"
Each guest of Vladivostok should experience this route: fascinating, not long, but rich with impressions.
Time to bid farewell to ice on the Sea of Japan and explore the city on foot, to delight in the colors of new life and be filled with inspiration.