Between its grand Soviet avenues, vast green spaces, and historic mosques, Tashkent is a surprising capital. Here, Russian, Eastern, and Asian influences blend…and the result is nothing short of astonishing!
Tashkent in a nutshell
While Tashkent may seem less charming than Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand, the three other major cities along the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, but its quirky and offbeat side has won over Captain Ulysses!
Visitors passing through may wonder why so few historical monuments have withstood the test of time in Tashkent, while Khiva, Samarkand, and Bukhara still hold a thousand treasures.
The answer is simple. First, Tashkent only became a capital city late (the Soviets made it the capital of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Turkestan in 1918), and its expansion is therefore relatively recent.
And then, in April 1966, a violent earthquake devastated the city: entire neighborhoods of Tashkent were simply wiped off the map. Following the disaster, a vast reconstruction plan was launched in the 1960s and 1970s, thus explaining the resolutely Soviet character of the Uzbek capital.
Today, Tashkent is a city that deserves to be known. Its warm inhabitants, delicious restaurants, bewildering monuments, and superb historical buildings are worth a stopover for a day or two.
Follow the guide!
Getting to Tashkent
If you’re traveling from France, you can reach Tashkent through direct or indirect flights (with a layover in Astana, Kazakhstan) offered by Uzbekistan Airways and Air Astana from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
Direct flights take around 7 hours, while indirect flights with layovers take approximately 11 hours.
Captain Ulysses recommends using Skyscanner to book your flights as it allows you to compare prices and flight options by dates and airlines to help you find the best deal.
From other cities in Uzbekistan
Tashkent is well-connected to the rest of Uzbekistan, with several transportation options available:
- Air travel is a good option, particularly if you’re coming from Urgench (Khiva) or Bukhara. Domestic flights are reasonably priced, with rates ranging from €30-€50 per person from Bukhara and €50-€75 from Urgench.
- Train travel is also a popular choice, with fast trains available from Bukhara, Samarkand, and even the Ferghana Valley. This is a quick and relatively affordable option.
- Private or shared taxis from Samarkand or the Ferghana Valley are also available.
From Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, or Tajikistan
Hotels and Restaurants in Tashkent
Accommodations in Tashkent
Looking for a place to stay in Tashkent? Captain Ulysses has some recommendations that might be just what you’re looking for!
If you’re on a tight budget, the Captain suggests:
For mid-range budgets, the Captain recommends:
If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, the Captain advises:
Restaurants in Tashkent
If you’re looking for a great dining experience in Tashkent, Captain Ulysses highly recommends checking out Jumanji. The restaurant boasts a beautiful atmosphere and serves up some truly delicious cuisine. Their menu offers a tempting selection of both local and international dishes that are sure to please any palate.
If you’re coming to the end of your trip in Uzbekistan and craving something other than Plov, Captain Ulysses highly recommends checking out the Italian restaurant Affresco. The food is delicious, and the service is really friendly!
Getting around Tashkent
Taxis in Tashkent
Taking a taxi is the easiest way to get around Tashkent. Don’t worry, it’s a very affordable means of transportation in Uzbekistan. Expect to pay around 10,000 to 20,000 soums (just a few euros) f or your rides around the capital.
There are two types of taxis: official taxis (a little more expensive) and unofficial taxis. To hail a taxi, simply stand on the side of the road and raise your hand.
Don’t hesitate to get into a car that doesn’t look like a taxi: Uzbeks are accustomed to stopping to pick up passengers for a small fee. If the place you want to go to is too far out of the driver’s way, they will simply decline the ride.
Often, drivers will ask you to suggest the price yourself. If they don’t, don’t be afraid to negotiate a little bit (within reason).
You may not always find a station nearby, but the Tashkent Metro can still be a convenient option (for example, for traveling between Amir Timur Square and Chorsu Market).
The metro ticket is very (very) cheap: 1200 soums, just a few cents.
Note that taking photos is not allowed inside the metro (Captain Ulysses learned this the hard way!).
Touring Tashkent by Bus
A tourist bus offers a tour of the city starting from Amir Timur Square. For more information, head to the square in front of the Uzbekistan Hotel.
What to See and Do in Tashkent
Amir Timur Square and Surrounding Area
Amir Timur Square is a massive plaza where many of Tashkent’s major roads intersect. While the square itself may not be particularly charming, the surrounding area is definitely worth exploring. Here, you’ll find several of the city’s most iconic sites, including the Uzbekistan Art Gallery and the Monument of the Grieving Mother.
The area around the square is also quite lovely, with plenty of trees and greenery, and it’s a great spot to take a stroll and people-watch. Don’t be surprised to see locals out playing chess or just enjoying a leisurely afternoon.
Amir Timur Square
Amir Timur Square (Amir Timur Maïdoni) is undeniably massive, with a distinctly Soviet feel. The square is surrounded by enormous buildings with somewhat bulky silhouettes, including the sprawling Hotel Uzbekhistan. In the center of the square stands a towering equestrian statue of Tamerlane.
Once, the square was lined with ancient plane trees, but they were all cut down in 2010 by former Uzbek President Islam Karimov. The reasons for this remain shrouded in mystery, but some speculate that he wanted to showcase the Dom Forum, a huge hall built in 2009 that hosts upscale events and occasional concerts.
The Amir Timur Museum
The Amir Timur Museum is entirely dedicated to Tamerlane and his descendants, seeking to build bridges between the famous national hero and the current government in Uzbekistan. The approach is not very objective, but the museum deserves credit for retracing the tumultuous history of the violent conqueror.
If Tashkent is your first stop in Uzbekistan, why not take a look? References to Tamerlane can be found all over the country, and it is interesting to learn more about this iconic figure revered by locals before embarking on your Uzbek exploration.
The Photography House
The Photography House is definitely worth a visit if you are a photo enthusiast. The museum offers the opportunity to discover the country through the eyes of contemporary Uzbek photographers.
The Uzbekistan Art Uzbekistan
The Uzbekistan Art Gallery, opened in 2004, exhibits works by Uzbek artists from the 20th century to the present day.
Mustaqillik Maidoni, the Independence Square
Mustaqillik Maidoni, the Independence Square, is definitely worth a look. This huge square, nearly 12 hectares and mostly tree-lined, was called “Lenin Square” until the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1991, it was renamed “Independence Square,” and the immense statue of Lenin that stood in its center was replaced by the no less imposing “Independence Monument.”
The paved part of the square is lined with giant fountains, and surmounted by a portico on which stand statues of pelicans, symbols of good fortune.
The Monument of the Grieving Mother
The Monument of the Grieving Mother, erected in 1999 on Mustaqillik Maïdoni, pays tribute to the 400,000 Uzbek soldiers who died during World War II. At the center of the monument stands a statue of a grieving woman, watched over by an eternal flame. On either side of the statue, in two colonnaded galleries, the names of fallen fighters are inscribed on large metal plaques resembling monumental books.
The Romanov Palace
Unfortunately, the Romanov Palace is not open to the public. It is a beautiful building from the Tsarist era nestled in a lush garden. To the great disappointment of Captain Ulysses, visitors are only able to catch a glimpse of it through the closed gates.
The Navoi Park
The Navoi Park, located to the west of the city, is a rather perplexing place! This vast park, partly well-kept and partly abandoned, is crossed by large paved roads that are deserted by cars.
The park features several grand and somewhat extravagant buildings, such as the striking Istiqlol Palace (formerly known as the Palace of Friendship of Peoples), the Wedding Palace, and the Lower Chamber of Parliament (which apparently serves only to register presidential decrees). The monument to Alisher Navoi, surrounded by trees and flowers, contrasts quite starkly with the austerity of the surrounding structures.
While Navoi Park may not appear sensational on paper, Captain Ulysses nevertheless recommends taking a stroll there, if only to discover a more unusual side of the Uzbek capital.
The Chorsu Bazaar and the Old Town
Located in the northwest part of the city, the Chorsu Bazaar is one of the highlights of Tashkent (and Uzbekistan) for Captain Ulysses!
Under a big green dome, this huge market is the perfect place to immerse yourself in Uzbek life and culture. Spices, meat, bread, pastries, cheese, fruits, and vegetables are piled up in colorful stalls along small alleys. The streets in the surrounding neighborhood are also lined with all kinds of stalls.
It’s the perfect place to shop for souvenirs and gifts: Captain Ulysse couldn’t resist buying assortments of spices and sweets.
The Juma Mosque and the Kulkedash Madrasa
Just a few minutes’ walk from the Chorsu Bazaar, the Juma Mosque and the Kulkedash Madrasa sit perched on a hill.
The Juma Mosque has stood on this spot since 819, although it has been rebuilt many times. The most recent major restoration took place in the 1990s, after the Soviets had confiscated the mosque and turned it into offices.
The Kulkedash Madrasa dates back to 1570. In the 19th century, it served as a fortress for the Khans of Kokand before being returned to its original function as a Quranic school. It is still in use today.
The Khast Imam Square
Located northeast of the Chorsu Bazaar, the Khast Imam Square is the official religious center of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Today, perfectly restored, it is another of Captain Ulysses’ favorites in Tashkent.
The Hazrati Imam Friday Mosque
Built in 2007 at the request of former President Islam Karimov, the Hazrati Imam Friday Mosque faithfully adheres to the architectural features of 16th century mosques. Topped with a blue dome, it is flanked by two minarets and decorated with sculptures in the purest Uzbek tradition.
The Barak Khan Madrasa
Built in the 16th century by a descendant of Ulugbek (himself a descendant of Tamerlane), the Barak Khan Madrasa is according to Captain Ulysses one of the most beautiful monuments in the capital.
As in many former madrasas in Uzbekistan, the students’ rooms have been converted into shops.
The Museum-Library Moyie Mubarek
The Museum-Library Moyie Mubarek, located opposite the madrasa, is famous for housing the Osman Quran, which is believed to be the oldest Quran in the world. According to legend, it was brought to Tamerlane from one of his conquests and was later confiscated by the Soviets, only to be returned by Lenin as a gesture of goodwill.
The museum-library also showcases a collection of rare books, including tiny copies of the Quran, which is quite unique.
The Mausoleum of Abou Bakr Kaffal Chachi
A short walk away in a leafy park is the Mausoleum of Abou Bakr Kaffal Chachi, which houses the tomb of the poet and Islamic scholar who is revered as the patron saint of Tashkent. Built in 1541, the mausoleum is a pilgrimage site for Muslims.
The Cheikhantaur Ensemble
The Cheikhantaur Ensemble, located north of Navoi Boulevard, comprises three 500-year-old mausoleums situated within the campus of the Islamic University of Tashkent. Unfortunately, only two of the mausoleums are open to the public, while the third one (Yunus Khan Mausoleum) can only be admired from afar.
The two accessible mausoleums are set in a small, tree-lined garden: the Kaldirgochbiy Mausoleum stands out for its unusual pyramidal roof, while the Sheikh Hovendi Takhur Mausoleum is crowned by a dome. A lovely mosque is also located nearby.
Exploring the surroundings of Tashkent: Chimgan & Ugam-Chatkal National Park
While Uzbekistan is primarily known for its urban destinations along the Silk Road, there are still some great opportunities to get some fresh air.
One such place is the Ugam-Chatkal National Park, located about 100 kilometers from Tashkent (1 hour 15-45 minutes by car). You can spend one or several days here, or simply take a day trip (costing around $80 for a car).
To book your trip or excursion, simply ask your hotel in Tashkent, as most hotels there can make the reservation for you. Alternatively, you can also use a local agency, especially if you’re interested in hiking or other outdoor activities.
Sports activities in Ugam-Chatkal National Park
The park offers plenty of opportunities for sports enthusiasts, including skiing (in winter), trekking, and rafting.
Also located within the Ugam-Chatkal National Park is the Bel’dersay ski lift, which operates both in summer and winter.
It takes about 20 minutes to reach the summit (costing 18,000 soums per person), located at an altitude of 2,100 meters (with the starting point at around 1,400 meters). Be warned that the lift can look a bit old-fashioned and the ascent can be quite dizzying in some spots.
But the view from the top is absolutely breathtaking and you can even take a horse ride around the area.
Located a few dozen kilometers from Bel’dersay, Lake Charvak is a beautiful artificial lake, surmounted by a huge dam. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the current President of Uzbekistan, has a country house there.
While the view of the lake is absolutely stunning, Captain Ulysse advises against spending too much time there. It is indeed surrounded by crowded and poorly maintained water sports centers. Too bad!
💡More traveling tips 💡
Are you looking for more tips and recommendations to plan your trip to Uzbekistan? Check out all of Captain’s articles here!
Looking for tips? Here are Captain Ulysses’ recommendations in Tashkent!
🛏️ Accommodation: When it comes to booking accommodation in Tashkent or anywhere else in Uzbekistan, Captain Ulysses highly recommends using Booking. From budget hostels to luxury hotels, they have it all.
For budget options, the captain suggests La Topchan Hostel, Art Hostel, and Amir Khan Hostel.
For mid-range budgets, he recommends Meros Boutique Hotel, ART Hotel, and Tourist Inn Hotel.
Finally, if you’re looking for a more luxurious stay, he suggests checking out Wyndham Tashkent and Aster Hotel.
🎟️ Activities: For tours and activities in Uzbekistan, Captain Ulysses recommends checking out Civitatis and Viator. With guided tours, treks, excursions, and yurt stays, you have plenty of options to choose from.
📍 Tours: Looking for a travel agency to plan your trip to Uzbekistan? Captain Ulysses highly recommends Evaneos. They offer a range of tours, including some exclusively in Uzbekistan and others coupled with a few days in a neighboring country such as Turkmenistan or Tajikistan.
✈️ Flights: From Paris CDG, Uzbekistan Airways and Air Astana offer direct and connecting flights to Tashkent International Airport. To find the best deals, Captain Ulysses recommends using Skyscanner. You can also book domestic flights between major Uzbek cities such as Tashkent, Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva.
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