Tashkent, Uzbekistan, definitely is a runner for the city that’s most ‘at a crossroads’ in the world. It’s a city that blends Soviet, Middle Eastern and European features, with some very typical Uzbek features that make it unmistakably unique.
It’s Central Asia’s largest city, and while it’s not loved anywhere near as much as Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city which is located a 16 hour train ride away, it’s thought by most travelers to be a fairly pleasant place with a few solid things to do.
That being said, the main draws to Uzbekistan are its silk road cities: Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, all located further west. Tashkent is the main transport hub of the country, meaning that while a lot of travelers visit, many are just passing through.
I actually spent three days in Tashkent, but I thought I’d condense all of what I deemed the best things to do in Tashkent into a one day itinerary – as well as some helpful tips so you can save some of the stress that I had while in the city (which took up a lot of my time!).
You can definitely get a feel for the city in a day – by all means, stay a little longer if you want to relax some more, meet up with locals via Couchsurfing and see some of the more unusual things to do in Tashkent, but a day is fine for the highlights.
How to Get to Tashkent
From Kazakhstan: you can take a 16 hour train from Almaty direct to Tashkent. I did this and it was great – the trains are clean and modern, with free drinking water. They travel overnight to Shymkent, near the border, and you reach the border at around 10am – once you’ve crossed it’s only half an hour to Tashkent.
These trains don’t leave every day, so do check your dates to make sure there is a train going, and book in advance – trains sell out quickly, especially in the summer.
I used Bilet.railways.kz to book my train tickets.
From Kyrgyzstan: I haven’t personally been to Kyrgyzstan, but my friend was travelling from Tashkent to Bishkek on a 23 hour train, so you could get the train in the opposite direction. You can also go via Fernangha and cross the Kyrgz border by marshrutka into the city of Osh.
From elsewhere in Uzbekistan: high-speed rail connects (most of) the country. These trains are clean, modern, quick, and you sometimes get snacks! You can also get the slow Soviet trains, which are a lot more dated, but definitely an experience.
Where to Stay in Tashkent
Hostel: Central Perk Hostel
I stayed here, and it was great. The staff are so incredibly helpful and go out of their way to make sure you’re having a good time. There’s a fully equipped kitchen, so you can make your own food, but breakfast is included. The dorms are spacious and each bunk has its own plug. It’s fantastic value too. Click here for rates and to book.
Budget Hotel: Art Rakat
This value hotel in Tashkent has friendly staff, clean rooms, a good breakfast and strong WiFi. Click here for rates or to reserve.
Mid-Range Hotel: Hotel Uzbekistan
I first heard about this hotel in the British TV show Race Across the World. It’s quite iconic, and harks back to Soviet times, but reviewers say that it’s a bit dated and run down. It might be worth it for the experience though, especially if you’re interested in Soviet architecture. Click here to reserve your spot.
However, if you’re visiting Almaty in Kazakhstan as well, I’d highly recommend staying at the Hotel Kazakhstan instead; it has similar architecture but the rest of the features are great as well, and it’s a third of the price. I spent a night here and loved the experience!
Luxury Hotel: Hyatt Regency Tashkent
One of the only five star hotels in Tashkent, the Hyatt Regency offers comfortable, clean rooms , a fitness centre, a pool and a bar. Click here for rates and to reserve.
One Day in Tashkent Itinerary
So, let’s dig into what to do on one day in Tashkent. This Tashkent itinerary will cover:
- Barak-Khan Madrasah
- Chorsu Bazaar
- A self-guided metro tour
- The buildings around Amir Temur and Independence Square
- The National History Museum
Plus some recommendations for places to eat!
Buying Tickets and Admin
I promise that there are more exciting things to do in Tashkent than buying train tickets, but one thing I learned when in Uzbekistan is that it’s best to get these things sorted early.
If you need to buy train tickets or get cash, I’d recommend doing this at the start of your day in Tashkent.
Quite a few Uzbekistan ATMs don’t accept foreign cards, and in other cities the ATMs often do not fill up – the supermarket/ shopping mall opposite the station has ATMs that dispense dollars, and you can change your money at the bank. I experienced a good level of English in this mall/ bank.
Buying tickets can take a while: make sure you give yourself enough time, and be aware that they can sell out in advance. I’d recommend getting train tickets for your entire Uzbekistan trip now. You can check out my Uzbekistan itinerary to work out how long you’ll need for each stop (coming soon!).
If you don’t speak any Russian (or Uzbek), work out your dates and preferred times (you can check them on this website first, although it’s not always accurate) and get someone at your accommodation to write them out in Russian.
First, head to the Madrasah. You can get the metro to Chorsu and walk, or take a Yandex taxi (these are safe and a good price) from your accommodation.
The Madrasah is one of the most impressive buildings in Tashkent and, if you are just beginning a Silk Road adventure, is a great taste of things to come. You can admire the architecture, and also visit the library museum where the oldest Quar’an in the city is displayed.
Then head to Chorsu Bazaar, a short walk away. The main area is under the green dome, about 50 metres from the station. If you find yourself in a clothes market first, you’ve gone the wrong way.
The market is a spectacle, serving food, souvenirs and clothes. Upstairs are more dried fruits than you’ll ever see in your life (if you are a woman or a group of women travelling alone, there are also more creepy men there than you’ll see in the rest of Central Asia – no idea why they all congregate there, but don’t worry I didn’t feel in danger at all, it was just a bit annoying).
It’s a great place to soak in the Central Asian atmosphere, grab some snacks and get some souvenirs if you desire (shopping in Tashkent might be a good idea, as souvenirs will be much cheaper than in the Silk Road cities).
If you are hungry, there is a plov stall which is meant to make the world’s best plov. This is a rice dish served all over Central Asia but particularly in Uzbekistan. It is traditionally served with meat, but if you’re vegetarian you can ask for it without (you’ll probably be met with a bit of head-scratching if you do though), BUT do be aware that the dish itself is cooked in lamb fat.
Even if you don’t eat here, it’s cool to check out how it’s cooked.
Tashkent’s Metro Stations
Taking the metro from Chorsu back to Tashkent station is a great way to enjoy some of Tashkent’s best metros. The system was built in the 1970s and is a fantastic example of Soviet splendor. The Soviet metro stations are the most beautiful in the world, and Tashkent possibly has the most impressive network of them all. There are more than 30 stations, and all are different.
On this route, you’ll see some of my favourites, including:
- Ozbekiston – which has some nice mosaics
- Kosmonavtlar – famous for its depictions of Cosmonauts
- Alisher Navoi – a beautiful station named after a Muslim poet
If you didn’t eat at the bazaar, you might want to grab something else to eat after your self-guided metro tour. You can, of course, find somewhere out of the many Uzbek restaurants in the area – or if you’re a Harry Potter fan, read on.
Potter Mania is a Harry Potter-themed café. Very un-Uzbekistan, I know, but I actually found it so interesting to see how far Harry Potter’s influence has reached! I’m not always proud of being British, but I am whenever I see how many people enjoy the magic of Hogwarts all over the world.
They really pulled out all the stops here – you can get dressed in Hogwarts gowns, have your picture taken with a ‘Have You Seen This Wizard?’ sign, there’s a Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom and half of a trolley underneath a ‘Platform 9 3/4’ sign.
Food-wise, it’s a pretty British menu, with all the dishes being named after something magical. There are a few veggie options, some which can be adapted to make them vegan. I wanted the vegan burger, but they didn’t have it so I had pasta instead.
The food was fine, nothing out of this world but it was worth it to see the atmosphere – especially if one of your reasons for travel seems to be to visit as many Harry Potter themed cafes as possible, which seems to have turned into the case for myself.
Once you’ve had lunch, get the metro to Amir Temur Station.
After you emerge from the station, you’ll probably be able to see the imposing Hotel Uzbekistan infront of you (obviously if you’re staying here, you won’t need to do this step!). It’s one of the best examples of Soviet architecture in the city and is well worth admiring from the outside. I mean, I use the term admire loosely, it’s kinda ugly, but it’s very iconic.
There’s a café inside, so if you want to see the lobby and soak the atmosphere up a little more, you can enter and have a drink there. Honestly, the café reminded me of the tuck shop at school camp, but it was worth getting a drink there to see the lobby. The prices are ok.
Back outside, there’s a large statue of Amir Temur and a few other notable buildings.
Once you’ve checked them out, walk towards the Independence Museum (you can connect to WiFi in Hotel Uzbekistan to help you find the way). It’s about 20 minutes walk, mainly through the pedestrianized part of the city where there are lots of street stalls.
You’ll end up in Independence Square. This is a large, leafy part of the city that’s really quite beautiful, but when I was there was incredibly quiet! Take it all in for a while, then head to the museum.
The museum costs 16,000 som for foreigners (at time of writing) and is open from 10am – 5pm. It’s a 2-floor exhibit of Uzbekistan’s entire history – with the first floor packing in history from the Stone Age to the 20th century and the second floor celebrating its independence.
Not everything is in English, but the main information is and you can get a gist of the other displays by the objects.
Back at the Metro station, you might be thinking about dinner. I’m going to again, recommend somewhere rather in-authentic (being veggie can be tough in Central Asia!) – there is a great Indian restaurant close to the station.
It’s called ‘The Host’, and it’s the best Indian you’ll get in the region. Just be sure that you’re actually in the right restaurant – I mistakenly sat down at the restaurant in front the first time I went and only realized I was in the wrong place after ordering a drink. Whoops.
Of course, if you want some traditional Uzbek food, you won’t have any trouble finding small, locally run places on the side of the road. If it takes your fancy, enjoy a local beer over dinner and toast to one successful day in Tashkent.
Where to go from Tashkent
Most people who visit Tashkent are doing so on an Uzbekistan tour through the countries’ Silk Road cities. If this is you, your next destination will likely be Samarkand, followed by Bukhara and Khiva.
If you’ve already checked these off, you might be bound for Almaty, Kazakhstan’s beautiful cultural capital. Or maybe you’ll want to visit some regions in east Tashkent, like Fernangha, and eventually onto Kyrgyzstan where you can enjoy some of the best hikes in Central Asia.
Wherever you go, you’ll absolutely fall in love with Central Asia, I can guarantee it!