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Norilsk (Russian: Нори́льск nah-REEL'SK) is a large city in Taymyria. Because of its strategic importance for nickel ore processing, Norilsk is a closed city and special permission (except for Russian and Belarussian nationals) is needed for travel, which is generally only granted for guided tours. Norilsk is the northern-most of such size in the world, and the second largest city above the Arctic Circle; Murmansk is the largest. With a permanent population of 175,000, it is also the northernmost city with a population over 100,000 inhabitants.

The barren landscape void of vegetation, abundance of Soviet era concrete tenements, and high pollution often earn Norilsk the questionable reputation of most depressing city on the planet.


Norilsk was founded because of the existence of a rich deposit of non-ferrous metals including nickel, cobalt, copper, platinum, and palladium. It was initially founded as one of Stalin's notorious gulags, in which political prisoners were used for forced labour in the mines. Founded before World War II, Norilsk and its mines and industrial plants, as well as a railway connecting the city with the port of Dudinka, were built with a large-scale use of convict labor from gulag prisoners.

Norilsk Nickel is the largest producer of non-ferrous metals in the world, accounting for 38% of worldwide production of palladium and 22% of worldwide production of nickel, a key ingredient in stainless steel. Some of the locally mined ore is smelted into metals at the local refinery. More ore, after some enrichment, is shipped by rail to Dudinka; from there it is sent by icebreaker-led ships to Murmansk, and eventually to the copper and nickel refinery at Monchegorsk, whose own ore has long been exhausted.

As a result of the smelters, Norilsk is the most polluted city in Russia and is one of the most polluted cities in the world, usually covered in chemical smog. The life expectancy in Norilsk is one of the lowest in Russia and its cancer rates are one of the highest.

The yearly average temperature is in Norilsk is −9.8°C and temperatures usually hover around −40°C in the winter.

Most inhabitants of the city are migrants as a result of the high salaries and abundant opportunities offered by the mining industry.


Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
More on Norilsk's climate at WeatherBase
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches
Huge amounts of snow accumulate during winter
Norilsk enjoys a very brief summer, where temperatures reach 25–30 °C (77–86 °F). View of the central Leninsky Prospekt.

Unsurprisingly for a city above the Arctic Circle, temperatures in Norilsk are sub zero from October to May, with drops below -40° common at night during winter months. Travellers should be preparing for the coldest weather conditions when travelling to Norilsk or face severe risk of hypothermia. The high temperature differences between day and night, make it easy to fall ill. Temperatures may vary as much as 70° between winter and summer!

Norilsk's climate is relatively dry, but any snow falling in winter is likely to be around until spring, usually resulting in huge amounts accumulating over the winter months. Streets are usually cleared, but suitable footwear is nonetheless essential.

Get in[edit]

There have been people who have driven by river to Norilsk from the rest of Russia in winter, but there are no roads, so when the river is not frozen, the only way to get in is by plane, or by boat in the summer. Foreigners cannot visit Norilsk without a special permit, which is generally not granted to independent travelers. However, it is possible to visit on a guided tour with an approved company, which will handle most of the necessary paperwork for you.

By plane[edit]

By bus[edit]

Buses operate from the nearby port-city of Dudinka. From Dudinka, boats offer service to/from Krasnoyarsk in the summer months, but the journey takes 3½ days northbound and 5½ days southbound.

Get around[edit]

Buses are plentiful and go everywhere as a result of the harsh winter climate. Taxis are reasonably priced.


First house in Norilsk, now part of the local history museum.

Norilsk has several grand buildings in the center; however, it mostly consists of common, unremarkable apartment houses. Surrounding the city are vast areas of decaying industrial sites which are both depressing and fascinating at the same time.

  • 1 Norilsk Museum (Музей Норильска), Leninsky Prospekt, 14, +7 3919 460646. Local history museum.
  • 2 First House Norilsk, Leninskiy Prospekt, 14а (Behind Norilsk Museum). The first permanent building in Norilsk, dating back to 1921. Houses a small museum dedicated to the expeditions which founded the city. First house Norilsk (Q4349845) on Wikidata
  • 3 Museum of Construction and Development of the Norilsk Railway (Музей строительства и развития Норильской железной дороги). Occupying the first floor of the former railway station, this museum is dedicated to the building of Norilsk railway which connects to the port of Dudinka. Museum of Construction and Development of the Norilsk Railway (Q112735278) on Wikidata
  • 4 Nurdi Kamal Mosque, ул. 50 лет Октября, 2а, +7 391 942-11-49. The world's northernmost mosque, opened in 2000, and catering to the local Tatar community. Free. Nord Kamal Mosque (Q7050543) on Wikidata Nord Kamal Mosque on Wikipedia
  • Black Tulip Memorial. Memorial to Russian soldiers from Norilsk who died in the Afghan War. Black Tulip Memorial (Q16718946) on Wikidata


The Norilsk Polar Drama Theater building
  • 1 Norilsk Polar Drama Theatre (Норильский Заполярный театр), Leninskiy prospekt, 34. The world's northernmost theatre, opened in 1941 and manned by prisoners during its first years. The theatre hosts a wide array of cultural events. Norilsk Polar Drama Theater named after Vladimir Mayakovsky (Q4327353) on Wikidata




  • 1 Club Art Hall, Ul. Ordzhonikidze, 3. The major venue in town for the young dance crowd craving dubstep and other assortment of great - and loud - dance music. Mexanika-nights, usually held once a month is where you'll find the biggest crowd.
  • 2 Sport-Bar Overtime (Спорт-бар Овертайм), Ul. 50 Let Oktyabrya, 6, +7 3919 43-55-75. Popular sport bar.


  • 1 Hotel Polar Star (Гостиничный Полярная звезда), Leninsky prospect 2, +7 3919 252800. Opened in 2002 after a redevelopment of the building that was built in 1945. Includes a restaurant, a bar, and a gym. Wi-Fi.


Since the completion of a fiber data link along the Yenisei River towards Krasnoyarsk in 2017, high speed internet is widely available throughout the city.

Stay safe[edit]

The major dangers in the city are the pollution and the cold.

Go next[edit]

Barren landscape near Norilsk
  • Putoransky Nature Reserve is a huge high-lying basalt plateau 150 km to the south-east of Norilsk. It has beautiful scenery and includes the Talnikovy Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Asia. However, there are no inhabitants of the area and it is extremely remote.
This city travel guide to Norilsk is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.