Bishkek Travel Guide

The Kyrgyz capital is a Soviet-built city characterized by tree-lined streets, imposing architecture, and large boulevards. You’ll find that Bishkek is an approachable city that invites you to explore unhurriedly. The city is also extremely walkable, clean and green and offers many delightful spaces to relax. 

Bishkek surprised us in several ways. Though predominately Muslim, Kyrgyz drink alcohol and intermingle between the sexes more freely than you might expect. As we walked around this Central Asian city, we saw many couples affectionately holding each other on park benches, walking hand in hand, and going out. After traveling months in South and South East Asia, it was extremely refreshing. We had a marvelous time exploring Bishkek and we hope you do too.

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Bishkek City Guide, Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek Travel Guide Overview

  • Where to Stay in Bishkek
  • Where to Go (Interactive Map)
  • Best Things to Do in Bishkek
  • Where to Eat & Drink in Bishkek
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Nuts and dried fruit at the Osh Bazaar, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Where to Stay in Bishkek

BudgetVIVA Hostel is a clean hostel with very nice rooms and en-suite bathrooms. Breakfast is included, but it’s quite basic. Hot, or cold filtered water is available 24/7 and guests have access to a small kitchen. The hostel organized an airport pick-up for us for 9 USD. Viva Hostel is also located very close to Osh Bazaar. 

Mid-RangeHome Hotel Bishkek is a great value apartment located in the center of Bishkek. The apartment has complimentary drinking water, sweets, tea and coffee, and a fully-equipped kitchen.

Luxury | Orion Hotel Bishkek is a business-style hotel located in the middle of Bishkek, close to many of our favorite restaurants and cafés. The hotel has a spa and fitness center as well as a bar. Orion Hotel also serves an excellent buffet breakfast.

Bishkek Philharmonic Hall and Statue of Manas, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Where to Go in Bishkek

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Bishkek City Map
  • Where to Eat & Drink
  • Where to Stay
  • What to See & Do
  • Day Trips
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Best Things to Do in Bishkek

Our favorite experiences
Shoro Drinks, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Buying a Shoro drink

Street-corner Shoro Tasting

In summer, you’ll see street vendors selling traditional Kyrgyz beverages on almost every street corner. These beverages are known by their brand name, Shoro, Kyrgyzstan’s largest beverage company. You’ll see large red, blue and brown barrels containing: Maksym, Chalap and Kvass. We bought a small cup of each drink and conducted our own tasting. We quickly learned why Shoro failed to secure an international market for these beloved Kyrgyz drinks. But, you should try them for yourself! 

  • Maksym Shoro (red barrel) – Wheat-based drink made from fermented grains, animal fat, wheat flour, cracked barley and yeast. This milky-brown drink is sour and has a thick consistency.
  • Chalap Shoro (blue barrel) – A traditional drink made from dissolved kurut (yogurt balls), carbonated water and salt. This sour drink tastes like fermented goat’s milk.
  • Kvass (brown barrel) – Fermented beverage made from rye bread. This is the least intimidating drink of the three. It’s both sour and sweet and tastes like it wants to be a beer someday.

All drinks are non alcoholic. The drink prices are standardized and listed on each barrel. Depending on the drink, they cost 10-12 som for a small cup, 20-24 som for a medium cup, and 50-60 som for a 1 liter bottle.

Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Abdylas Maldybayev, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Abdylas Maldybayev

Attend an opera or ballet at the Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre

Do you love going to the ballet or opera? If yes, don’t miss out on attending a production at the Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theatre. If no, consider going as well. Seats are priced at an astoundingly reasonable sum of 100 – 450 som (1.46 – 6.56 USD). You can purchase tickets directly at the theatre on the same day as the performance. We showed up 30 minutes before the curtain and had no problem securing seats. Most performances begin at 17:00 (5:00 p.m.).

We attended Swan Lake and were impressed by the performance of the dancers as well as the musicians. We’ll definitely swing by for another show the next time we’re in town.

  • To see the theatre schedule, visit
  • The season runs September through June.
Osh Bazaar, Bishkek
Osh Bazaar

Shop at Osh Bazaar

Osh Bazaar is a large sprawling shopping area in Bishkek. You’ll find heaps of clothing, toys, meat, dairy, spices, nuts and just about everything else. Although it’s a busy market place, exploring is altogether stress-free. Vendors offered us samples of food, but never tried to lure us to their stalls with touts.

We visited the Bazaar twice to wander about and buy goodies: fresh bread (nan), smoked cheese, dried fruit (apricots are delicious), and Korean-style vegetable salads (pickled cauliflower and mushrooms in a chili vinegar sauce). Most stalls showcase prices in kg, so even if you can’t communicate in Kyrgyz or Russian, you’ll be able to understand the cost of items and make purchases.

Zhirgal Banya, Public Bathhouse, Bishkek
Zhirgal Banya

Scrub down in Zhirgal Banya

Zhirgal Banya is a Russian-style public bathhouse in Bishkek.

The complex is segregated by gender, so the following description reflects our experience in the women’s space, though we assume the spaces are similar.

Upon entering the lobby, we purchased an entrance ticket and received a receipt, locker key and sheet. Next, we entered the locker room, where we needed to present our receipt. We stashed our things away in our lockers and made our way into the bathhouse, wrapped up in sheets. The first communal space is dedicated to washing and scrubbing. You’ll see women and children scrubbing down with exfoliants and exfoliating gloves. Each person had their own tub of water for their own personal use. It’s quite the scene! You can also pay someone to scrub you down, though don’t expect any privacy.

After taking a shower, we entered the leaf-covered sauna, where women were smacking themselves with venik (bath brooms). After the sauna, we showered and headed to the dome. The blue-tiled dome houses an ice-cold pool in the center. I (Sabrina) only managed to get in waist-deep, though Kati was able to take the plunge. After relaxing on the wooden benches that rim the pool, we started the routine again.

The bathhouse offers other services including massage and manicures. There’s also a café connected to the locker room if you need snacks or refreshments.

Price: 300 som for adults, 150 som for children

Hours: 9am-11pm Mon-Tue & Fri, noon-11pm Wed, 8am-11pm Thu & Sat-Sun

Ala Archa National Park, Kyrgyzstan
Ala Archa National Park

Hike to Ak-Sai Glacier in Ala Archa National Park

Ala Archa National Park is located 40 km south of Bishkek, a mere 1-hour drive from the city center. We visited Ala Archa as a day trip from the city and we were absolutely wowed.

The most convenient way to get to the park and back is by organizing a taxi drop-off and pick-up (about 2,400 som round-trip). The Ala Archa park entrance is situated 12 km from the trailheads. At the entrance, you’ll pay the 450 som car entrance fee and then continue driving to Alplager, where you’ll see a red-roofed a-frame hotel and the hiking trails. 

From Alplager, you basically can go either left or right. The trail to the left (“Ak-Sai Waterfall Trail“) is 6.4 km and leads you to a waterfall (2 hours) and then to the Ak-Sai Glacier (4 hours). The second half of the trail is strenuous but rewards you with rugged mountain and glacier views. The trail ends at Razeka station with an elevation of 3,300 meters. Don’t forget your hiking poles. The trail to the right is labeled “Ala Archa River Trail” and is considerably easier.

The trail is easy to follow, so this is something you can easily do without a guide. There’s an occasional blue/white trail marker painted on rocks, but the footpath is obvious enough. You can also follow the whole trail on Read more about hiking in Ala Archa National Park.

Naan bread, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Where to Eat & Drink in Bishkek

Only the places we love

Social Coffee [Café]

Trendy café with ample indoor and outdoor seating. Interior spaces feature soft lighting, potted plants, leather and velvet sofas, tropical print cushions and other fun accents. The menu features espresso drinks, cocktails, breakfast, and lunch items. English menu.

Address: 62 Razzakov St, Bishkek

Relax [Café]

This café’s enticing assortment of cakes and sweets will make your mouth water. Come here for coffee and cake, or a western-style meal. English menu.

Address:  140 Toktogul Street, Bishkek 

Boris Coffee & Bakery [Café]

Lovely french-inspired interior with soft pastels and teal upholstered armchairs. They serve espresso drinks as well as an assortment of pastries and cakes. Really good wifi connection!

Address: 14 Erkindik Ave, Bishkek

Sierra [Coffee Shop]

Coffee shop akin to a western coffee shop chain. You’ll see a lot of people working here with their laptops. Grab a loyalty card (7th coffee is free).

Address: 57/1 Manas Ave, Bishkek

Chicken Star [Korean Café]

Delightful “Korean” restaurant located along the green Erkindik Boulevard. Loved their kimchi kimbob, olive cheese salad and Korean spicy crispy chicken.

Address: Erkindik 36 Between Toktogula & Kievskaya, Bishkek

Uno Coffee Bar [Western Café]

Western-style cafe with an upbeat and colorful decor. If you’re craving a hamburger, come here. They also have smoothies, cocktails and espresso drinks. English menu. Wifi connection!

Address: 194, Kiev St, Bishkek

Navat [Restaurant]

Stylish albeit reasonably-priced Central Asian fusion restaurant with large dining space. It’s a popular place among locals and tourists. Nice introduction to Kyrgyz food. English menu with pictures. The food was very good.

Address: 114/1 Togolok Moldo St, Bishkek

Bukhara [Restaurant]

Eastern Asian Fusion restaurant catering to a fashionable crowd. You’ll also find some western staples on the menu. Everything we tried we loved. The interior is spacious. Most tables feature couch seating. At night, there’s live music and dance floor illuminated by disco lights (weird and amazing at the same time).

Address: 227 Chui Avenue (also spelled Chuy), Bishkek, on the corner of Isanov Street.

Local Coffee & Pizza [Restaurant and Lounge]

Perfect place to relax on a hot summer day. Beautifully designed interior and outdoor dining spaces. Pizzas are excellent and staff is very professional and attentive.

Address: On the corner of Toktogul and Yakov Logvinenko Street.


Bishkek Travel Guide Resources

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Bishkek City Guide, Kyrgyzstan
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