Tashkent is a fascinating city in the heart of Asia. It was the fourth most populous city in the Soviet Union and a hub of research and learning. But the ancient Silk Road city has an oddly modern look.
You’ll also notice that Tashkent seems very well planned out. Boulevards are wide and tree-lined and the Metro system carefully placed. That’s because an earthquake destroyed Tashkent in 1966, wiping out nearly all of its ancient structures and leaving the city a pile of rubble. But the earthquake gave the city a chance to start over.
I didn’t visit every museum, house of worship, or statue in Tashkent, but here are five things I did visit that I highly recommend.
Hotel Uzbekistan is the historic Soviet-era hotel located in the heart of Tashkent. In Soviet times, this was the only hotel in which foreigners were allowed to stay. Not surprisingly, every room was bugged. While the hotel is amazingly retro on the outside, Ben and I took a look inside and sadly the lobby and rooms were renovated about a decade ago and have lost much of their charm.
Tashkent, a vibrant Silk Road city, has served as a trading post for centuries. Trade has continued unchanged at the great Chorsu Bazar for generations. Come here for anything and everything you could want, including a huge farmer’s market, delicious fresh-baked breads, clothing, furniture, hardware, books, toys. It’s a prototype for what a mall would eventually be.
I enjoyed the Tashkent Metro so much I did a separate post on it, but if you enjoy a great mixture of art, architecture, and interior design, you don’t want to miss this. Every station is unique and while some are more beautiful than others, most are worth a look. At about $0.20/ride it is also one of the cheapest attractions in Tashkent.
Amir Temur Square
The former site of giant statue of Jospeh Stalin in the center of the city is now a tree-lined park featuring a giant statue of Amir Temur, a 14th century conqueror. Opulent gardens display the best of Uzbek horticulture and it is a great place to sit and people watch.
> Read More: Lenin Statues and Historical Remembrance
Black Market Som Exchange
Exchanging money on the black market is so much fun. We were informed that at a small bazar near our Hyatt Regency Tashkent hotel we would find men roaming around in backpacks. Approach one of them and start bartering. That’s exactly what I did and had a great time bartering for a mutually beneficial exchange rate. Be prepared, though. The highest denomination is a 10,000 note, which is only about $1.40 on the black market.
Bonus: Get a Haircut
I’ve written many times before about how I love to get haircuts when I travel. I find it is a great cultural learning tool. And while perhaps I should have learned my lesson in Zimbabwe and said never again, I generally still cannot resist.
This time, a front desk agent at the Hyatt set me up at her beauty salon about five minutes from the hotel. It was a bit awkward being the only man in a salon full of women, none of whom spoke English, but I ended up with two scalp massages, a neck massage, haircut, and blow dry for $6.