With a population of over 300,000, Murmansk is the largest city in the Arctic and an important Russian naval base and commercial port. Unlike Arkhangelsk on the White Sea, its harbor does not freeze in winter. It was the last city founded by the Russian Empire. In World War II, known to Russians as the Great Patriotic War, Murmansk served as a port for the arctic convoys, and after the war became the Soviet Union's most important submarine base. This history provides a major reason to visit the city, museums and port.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
In the Far North, Murmansk experiences cold winters with temperatures routinely dropping below −20 °C (−4 °F). The brief summer offers mild temperatures between 10–15 °C (50–59 °F). Strong winds are common, especially at the higher parts of the city.
1 Murmansk Airport (MMK IATA). Has multiple daily flights to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and limited services to other Russian cities including Arkhangelsk, Sochi and Rostov-on-the-Don. There are also several flights per week from Tromsø and Kirkenes. Seasonal flights are available from Helsinki too.
The airport is about 40 km (25 mi) south of Murmansk, near the town of Murmashi. Taxis to the city center cost 600-700 руб and make the trip in about 40 minutes. Catching a taxi waiting outside the airport is more expensive, expect to pay up to 800 руб, depending on your language and negotiation skills. For cheaper (and official) taxi service, you have to order a taxi, expect to wait up to 30–40 minutes for it to arrive, though. Bus 106 goes to the train station, stopping at Detsky Mir near the Poliarnie Zori Hotel on its way, is less expensive but much more sluggish than a taxi.
During the summer months, 2 Murmansk Shipping Company offers occasional trips to and from Barentsburg on Svalbard. They also serve remote villages along the northern coast of the Kola peninsula, most notably the isolated naval base of Ostrovnoy, with 2-3 trips per month.
A few cruise lines also visit the city during the summer season. The pier facilities are nil, basically a bare pier in a freight handling area, but with areas for buses, taxis, etc. Any scheduled ship will be greeted by port and immigration/customs officials.
Murmansk can be reached from most places in north-west Russia by train. Moscow is 35–40 hours away and Saint Petersburg 27–30 hours, depending on the train. The Arktika (Арктика) branded train is the fastest option, with first-class wagons and a restaurant on board. All long-distance trains make stop-overs in cities such as Kandalaksha and Petrozavodsk on their way. Other night trains reach Murmansk from cities as far east as Arkhangelsk or from Minsk and Brest in the west. Trains from Saint Petersburg and Moscow are daily, most others 2-3 times a week. During summer additional routes are added, mostly to Ukraine and the Black Sea.
Tickets can be bought either at the station or online at the webpage of national operator RZD.
- 3 Murmansk railway station, Ulitsa Kominterna, 14, (One block downhill from Five Corners Square).
Pasvik Turist provides a bus connection from Kirkenes in Norway daily at 14:00 or 15:00 (confirm on website) for 350 NOK one-way or 600 NOK return (Sept 2017). They also offer Russian taxi (maximum 3 passengers) from 2000 NOK one way. A once-weekly bus service is also avalible from Ivalo, Finland by Auto Express.
Book in advance, and be there on time, since it is a bad idea to miss the bus and overstay Russian visas.
There are roads from Ivalo, Finland (290 km) and Kirkenes, Norway (220 km). When calculating travel time expect hour-long waits at the border and keep the time difference in mind. A trip starting in Kirkenes at 09:00 (Norwegian time) might end at 16:00 (Russian time).
Although Murmansk is long and thin, most sites of interest to visitors are within a fairly compact area in the city center. 1 Prospekt Lenina is the main north-south thoroughfare through the city center and the central Five Corners Square. Avid walkers could cover the entire stretch of the central area from the Poliarnie Zori Hotel on the south end of the city center to the Alyosha Statue, on a plateau on the north side of the city, in less than two hours.
Trolleybuses are available on most larger streets and generally follows a north-south route, if you are heading east ("up the hill") you have to rely on the small mashtruka buses. Both buses and trolleybuses can be much delayed during rush hours due to traffic jams. A route planner showing real time location of trolleybuses on the most used lines is available online, the catch is it's in Russian only.
Another option is to use taxis which are plentiful and cheap, few drivers speak anything other than Russian, so memorize the street or name of the place you are going to. A typical journey in the city centre will cost somewhere around 400 руб. Unmarked taxis can be cheaper, but are generally a bit unreliable to use for those not fluent in the native tongue.
As a relatively new city, Murmansk has few real sights apart from the giant statue Alyosha; architecture buffs will, however, be intrigued by the crumbling Stalinist architecture downtown. The architecture is complemented by trees and other vegetation receiving little care.
Walking up into the nearby hills offers remarkable views over the city, Kola bay, beautiful lakes, and the surrounding completely barren mountains - revealing how far north the city really is.
- 1 Alyosha Statue (north of centre on hill near lake Semyonovskaya, access by road that curves around north of the lake; the nearest bus stop is Gagarina (Гагаринa), northbound trolleybus lines 2, 3 and 4 calls there). The city's pride and most recognizable sight. Officially named Defenders of the Soviet Arctic, but known as Alyosha to all, this 42-meter-tall statue of a soldier overlooks the city and was built in 1974 to commemorate the Soviet defence of the Arctic during World War II. It's common for wedding parties to visit the statue and drink a bottle of champagne in front of the statue. The grassy hill surrounding Alyosha are good hiking grounds with dirt footpaths leading back towards the city.
- 2 Nuclear icebreaker Lenin (Aтомный ледокол Ленин) (at the docks, cross the railway on elevated bridge next to the central station, turn right then left after 150 m). Excursions weekends 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00; there may be evening excursions on other days. The world's first nuclear-powered surface ship now rests in the docks of Murmansk and has been turned into a museum ship. It also features as a showcase for the Russian nuclear fleet, Atomflot. Guided tours are in Russian only, with some guides able to offer complementary explanations in English. Last tour starting 16:00. Russian citizens - 100 руб, Foreigners - 200 руб.
- 3 Memorial to the Soldiers and Seamen Who Died in Peaceful Time (Мемориальный комплекс памяти морякам, погибшим в мирное время) (Leninsky district on the slope between the street and avenue Chelyuskintsev and prospect Heroes Severomortsev). 24/7. Monument dedicated to navy personnel perished at sea during peaceful times. Designed by architects Shiryaev and N. Bogdanova, the hexagonal lighthouse in the centre of the memorial stands 17.5 m tall, with marble stairs leading up to it. Next to the lighthouse is a small museum with artifacts, including diaries of sailors. Since the Kursk accident in the Barents Sea in 2009, the site has become a memorial for submariners as well. Free.
- 4 Monument to Waiting Women (Памятник «Ждущая») (ul. Chumbarova-Lucinschi, the final stop of the bus 18). Officially named Zhduschaia, this monument is dedicated to the spouses of sailors of the Arctic Fleet, anxiously awaiting the return of their husbands. The sculpture is unusual because it is on of the few in the city dedicated to women.
The city has several museums, all mildly interesting compared to larger cities in Russia, but they do offer a good appreciation for the regions history and art.
- 5 Arctic Research Institute Exposition, Ul. Knipovicha 6, ☏ . M-F 09:00-16:00. Viewing apparently by appointment only; call and ask for Tatiana at least a few days in advance.
- 6 , Ul. Tortseva 15 (By public transit, take any buses/marshrutkas to the north that are marked "Севморпуть" (Sevmorput') or "Ловова" (Lobova). Exit at the stop near Lobova 42. Continue walking north along Lobova to Tortseva. (Tortseva will be marked as a dead-end street. Walk towards the big blue building and around the right (north) side where all the columns are. The entrance to the museum is on this side of the building and is difficult to see.), ☏ . Th-M 09:00-13:00, 14:00-19:00. 50 руб.
- 7 Murmansk Regional Museum of Art, Ul. Kominterna 13, ☏ . W-Su 11:00-18:00.
- 8 Regional Museum, Prospekt Lenina 90 (10-minute walk from Five Corners Square or trolleybus 3 or 6 to ulitsa Volodarskovo (ул. Володарского)), ☏ . F-W 11:00-18:00 (last entry 17:00). Contains displays on various themes, including ethnography of local peoples, a taxidermy display of local flora and fauna (including polar bear and moose), arctic explorations, and an extensive display on Murmansk's role in World War II. All displays in Russian only, cashier closes at 17:00. 100 руб, 50 руб extra for photos.
- 9 Shipping History Museum, Ul Volodarskovo 6 (10-minute walk from Five Corners Square, trolleybus 3 or 6 to ulitsa Volodarskovo (ул. Володарского), or trolleybus 2 or 4 to ulitsa Volodarskovo (ул. Володарского) northbound or ulitsa Chelyuskintsev (ул. Челюскинцев)), ☏ . Su-F 09:00-17:00.
A nice and popular way to see the city is to take the ferry across Kola fjord.
- 1 Oceanarium (Океанариум), Ul. Geroev-severomortsev 4 (on Lake Semyonovskaya), ☏ . See trained seals perform in the white domed building.
- 2 Sport Complex "South Slope" (Южный склон), Vostochno-Obyezdnaya doroga, 9 (just of the main bypass road towards Severomorsk, northeast of city centre), ☏ . Small but popular ski complex that's a few minutes away from the city. The main slope is just over 500 metres. There's a ski shop and a café.
- Orthodox Monastery, Prospekt Kolskij (trolleybus nr 6 from city centre going south). all day. Wooden, notched (no nails used) working monastery. Beautifully handcrafted monastery with two churches. The main church is open for visitors, gift-shop included. The gift-shop has erratic opening-hours, but the monastery is open until very late, and if you show respect for the place and the people living there, they might open the church for you to see, even after closing-hours. Unclear when it closes. Beautiful hand-crafted wooden decorations inside the church, worth a look! Free.
- 1 Cafe Yunost, Prospekt Lenina 86 (next to the Anatoliy Bredov Statue). Coffees and desserts in a relaxing environment. And jolly good chicken and chips.
- 2 McDonald's, ulitsa Leningradskaya 20, korpus 3, "Волна" (Volna) shopping center (entrance off Ul. Yegorova), ☏ . 07:00-23:30. The world's northernmost McDonald's. Order at the counter with cash or via kiosk in English or Russian with a credit/debit card. 200 руб.
- 1 Bulldog Pub (Паб Бульдог), ul. Karla Marksa, 48 (up the stairs and right from intersection ul. Karla Marksa/ul. Poliarnie Zori), ☏ . Sports bar showing matches from the Barclays Premier League and more. A good selection of draft beer, including ales. Typical pub food is also served.
- 2 Club Marrakesh, ul. Shmidta 43, ☏ . F Sa 23:00-06:00. A swank club hosting many events. Has a fine selection of wines and even a cigar room. Open til early morning.
- 3 Moisey (Моисей), 9/1 Kominterna St. (downstairs in shopping complex across from the train station). There don't seem to be a lot of wireless internet hotspots so Моисей is a good option. With cheap draft beer and (uninviting) food, this is not a bad place to get one's bearings and check emails after arriving in the city.
- 1 Azimut Hotel Murmansk, Prospekt Lenina 82 (north side of the central Five Corners Square), ☏ . Located in the Arktika building, the tallest above the arctic circle, this former Soviet flagship hotel have finally reopened after years of renovation as the city's premier business hotel. Rooms on the upper floors have some fantastic panoramic views over the city and fjord. Free WiFi and breakfast included. Standard rooms from 5400 руб per night.
- 2 Hotel Ogni Murmanska, ul. Ogni Murmanska 1 (on the bypass road towards Severmorsk), ☏ . Hotel and resort complex overlooking the city from its eastern mountain slopes. This is a good option if you are exploring the surrounding nature and wildlife rather than Murmansk itself. Standards are good, there's 80 beds in 37 rooms as well as several cottages. The restaurant is very nice and popular, if somewhat overpriced. All major credit cards are accepted. From 3500 руб per night.
- 3 Meridian Hotel, ul. Vorovskogo 5/23 (south side of the central Five Corners Square), ☏ . Not related to the international chain of similar name. The lobby displays photos of notable former guests, including President Medvedev, which gives an indicator of class of service and of price. Beginning at 3500 руб for a single.
- 4 Park Inn Poliarnie Zori, ul. Knipovicha 17 (a short walk up the hill from the Detskiy Mir bus stop), ☏ . A clean, well-located hotel with helpful front desk staff. Includes the very popular nightclub Ledokol ("Ледокол") which often hosts live music performances. From 1300 руб for a basic single.
- Finland (Murmansk office of the General Consulate of Finland in Saint Petersburg), Karl Marks street, 25 A, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-Th 09:30-12:00.
- Netherlands (General Consulate), Sofyi Perovskoy street, 5 (at General Consulate of Norway), ☏ (common), (visas), fax: , , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Th 09:00-12:00.
- 1 Norway (General Consulate), Sofyi Perovskoy street, 5, ☏ (common), (visas), fax: , , , ✉ email@example.com. M-Th 09:00-12:00.
- Sweden (General Consulate), Sofyi Perovskoy street, 5 (at General Consulate of Norway), ☏ (common), (visas), fax: , , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Th 09:00-12:00.
Some neighborhoods may be unsafe at night, particularly Rostu and Zhilstroy.
Flocks of stray dogs roam around suburban areas and have been known to attack humans carrying food. There are also bear sightings along the road leading to the airport. Although bears usually flee upon contact, mothers protecting cubs may be aggressive.
The wilderness of the Kola peninsula and Murmansk Oblast is perfect for camping, fishing or hunting. A great deal of travellers continue out in the wild from here. There are several large national parks nearby and there are several companies to organize your trip.