The most pleasant surprise during the travel on Far Eastern Russia – Khabarovsk – lies at the confluence of two rivers – the Amur and Ussuri Rivers, about 800 kilometers north of Vladivostok, and boasts a dreamy riverside setting, vibrant nightlife and broad boulevards lined with pretty imperial-era buildings. Unlike so many places, the city has developed its riverside in the public interest: the riverside has a great strolling area with parks, monuments and walkways.
Overlooking the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri Rivers, Khabarovsk is the second largest city in the Russian Far East, approaching 600.000 residents and growing. It is also the capital of both Khabarovsk Krai and the Far Eastern Federal District. Unlike Vladivostok, the city has never been closed to foreigners, and retains a distinct international feel, rare for the Russian provincial centers – a feeling propped up by an increasing Asian presence with arrivals from Asian countries now numbering over a million each year. In turn, Asians come here to experience a piece of Europe close to home, with the fortunate effect that the city is spending huge sums of money renovating. Old classical buildings were spared much of the destructive effects of the 1917-23 civil war, and provide visitors with a taste of the past. From a European's perspective, Soviet city planning has unmistakeably taken its toll, but it is still far more attractive than your average Siberian city.
Khabarovsk was founded as the military outpost in 1858 and named after a Russian explorer Yerofey Khabarov. The post later had become an important industrial center for the region. Before that, the lands where today's Khabarovsk stands have been populated for centuries by the indigenous Tungusic people.
In 1858, the Treaty of Aigun made the area an undisputed part of the Russian Empire. The military outpost of Khabarovka founded that year subsequently became an important industrial center for the region.
In 1894, a department of Russian Geographical Society was formed in Khabarovsk and began search about local geography and history, which has been well-preserved in the Regional Lore Museum and Natural History Museum. One of the findings – the cliff drawings painted more than 1,300 years ago – have been found near the Nanai settlement of Sikhachi-Alyan. The Khabarovsk Art Museum exhibits a rare collection of Old Russian icons and original masterpieces of famous artists like Aivazovsky and others.
The Trans-Siberian first reached Khabarovsk from Vladivostok in 1897, while the construction of the railway to Moscow was completed only in 1913. The Khabarovsk Bridge across the Amur was completed in 1900, allowing Trans-Siberian trains to cross the river without using ferries.
Often overlooked due to its proximity to Vladivostok, Khabarovsk with its attractive parks, beaches, outdoor beer tents with live music, and classic architecture could easily be a highlight in the long line of predominately dull cities along the Trans-Siberian. Even if you have not so much interest in in outdoor activities, it's not a loss to go indoors: the city also houses some of the best museums east of Moscow.
The city is accessible from Vladivostok by an overnight train (the fastest and most comfortable one is "Okean" (means Ocean), it takes about 12 hours) running along the Trans-Siberian railway. Rail distance from Moscow is 8,523 kilometers. The city's five districts stretch along the Amur River for about 45 km.
Visitors of the charming Khabarovsk are likely to enjoy walking along the Amursky Boulevard with its various shops and visiting the local market.
Recently, there have been many renovations and reconstructions in the city's central part, rebuilding with historical perspective. A popular attraction for visitors is a walking tour from the Lenin Square to Utes via Muravyov-Amursky Street, where visitors can find traditional Russian cuisine restaurants and souvenir shops. There are many night clubs and pubs in that area.
There are many fascinating and worth-visiting sights in Khabarovsk. The Former city Duma building is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Big Khekhtsir State Reserve – a national park just outside Khabarovsk, which became the home to such rare animals as Himalayan black bear and Amur tiger. There are also more than 300 petroglyphs, ancient stone carving images, carved on a mass of basalt with the ancient stone instruments. Wild Animals Rehabilitation Center, where you can watch Amur tigers, lynx, black and brown bears, noble deer, elk, sika deer, fox and raccoon. Sikhachi-Alyan village, which let you experience day-to-day life of Nanai people living in the small settlement, visit their tiny museum to learn about the history and culture of their ancestors. The Lore Museum offers an insight into the different cultures of the Amur people. Those who would like to enjoy fishing can go to the adjacent Uda, Nimelen, Maya, Bichi, Koppi and Hutu Rivers.