How to organize a trip in Murmansk
Hi there! Use these guys (http://www.murmantourism.ru/en/companies/company_6844.html), they have english-speaking staff available to help you. Just to warn you a bit, don't be disappointed if there isn't too much to see. There's a huge statue, a church or two that aren't too interesting (one in neighbouring Kola that is kinda interesting). And the market, I guess. Depends what you're interested in, but Murmansk is a pretty bleak Russian industrial city. I do like living here, but it isnt't exactly heaven for tourists, Flait will set you up with a sightseeing-trip if you want to. Kinda pricey, for Murmansk, but they do speak English well. The city has a weird and wonderful feel to it, hard to put my finger on it, but I like it!
Its a must to see the nuclear...
Its a must to see the nuclear powered icebreaker base, called 'Atomflot'. Rundown ships stapped with nuclear waste are rusting near the harbour. You can smell the radioactivity and its a great please for photographers. The photo shows Atomflot, some 2 km north of town. Murmansk is best by summer, with the 24 hours sunshine. The Arctic air, the smell of air-pollution, and the very, very nice people here in the north.
Go to the Murmansk Region...
Go to the Murmansk Region Museum - ask at the Hotel desk for the way. It may be good to use the electric bus, but you can walk, too. It's about 30 min to walk from Hotel Polyarnie Zory, and you are going through the whole 'City Center'. Unfortunately, all texts in the museum are only in russian, but you can see many interesting exhibits.
There are many other museums in Murmansk - a atom museum, a technical museum, a military museum - take the folder 'what to do in Murmansk', it's available at the Hotels desk in English language.
Murmansk is a town, that's founded in the early 1900, and before the 2nd world war there have lived only a few thousand people. Today the town has about 400.000 habitants and the region with the neighbour towns has about 800.000 - 1 Mio people. Most of them are living in high-rise buildings.
Don't take too much - you are in town. Because we made this tour starting from Norway and we stayed only 4 days (including bus tour), we took only 1 suitcase and 1 little backpack. In winter you have to expect temperatures about -10 until -25 degrees centigrade - that's very cold, folks. Take warm clothes with you, a warm cap with face protection. Perhaps you can buy this things in Russia, too. If you need leather or fur clothing, buy it in Russia, it's more beautiful and cheaper than in Western Countries. In Winter you must expect icy roads, so you need very good shoes - if possible, with spikes. You should bring the spikes with you - I have them not seen in Russia. If you come from Norway, you can buy them there. Family Travel If you need special medication, you have to bring it with you. You will not get special medication without prescription in Russia. If you need medication, which is known for misuse or if you need to take injection supplies with you, go to your doctor at your home and get a confirmation, that you have to use this for medical reasons or take your diabetic ID with you.
All other things are like other tours. Check, if your photo equipment is working at very low temperatures. If you use digital cameras, take the reserve batteries warm at your body - perhaps in your suit pocket. Don't use IBM microdrives in your camera - it's possible, that they don't work. Use regular Compact Flash cards. You need a tripod for making pictures - it's too dark in winter. You cannot hold the camera quiet enough. Use 400ASA-films, that's OK. 100ASA-Films are not good enough. You will need a camera with night photo program or you must have enough practice to make night photos. It's not too easy.
"Into the Arctic Circle"
I flew from Moscow with Sky Express, which was cheap, but meant that we arrived at around four in the morning. We'd pre-booked a taxi to take us to our hotel (getting one from the airport will cost around 1000 roubles, whereas booking one from Murmansk was 450r). After much too little sleep, we dragged ourselves from our beds at 9.30 in order to be up and about for the few hours of daylight available to us - between about 10.30 am and 3 pm. Although the sun doesn't get above the horizon at this time of year, there is still dawn, and it was beautiful - even in the middle of the city.
There are not a huge number of sights to see in Murmansk. We were only there for a weekend and felt that was enough to see the town (although we would love to come back in summer). The biggest problem was the lack of daylight - most of my photos did not come out well because of this.
Alyosha is of course one of the most impressive sights. He towers over the city and is definitely worth the walk, even on a freezing winter's day.
The Museum of Regional History is one of the few places I have been to in Russia that does not charge more for foreigners than for Russians (a mere 25 roubles) and has three floors of exhibits from the geology of the region, through the animals (a large display of stuffed ones are on show - the elk is enormous) and up to more modern history - the Great Patriotic War (WW2) and up to the present.
A trip to the docks is a great chance to see the nuclear icebreakers. You can't get to the working ships but the decommissioned 'Lenin' is moored just behind the ferry station and is now a museum.
If you have a chance to go to Kola (a town 12 km from Murmansk), the Annunciation Cathedral built around 1800 has an unusual cupola and was the first brick building to be constructed on the peninsula and the new bridge is impressive.
Surprisingly for a Russian regional town, Murmansk seems to have a busy and varied nightlife. There are several restaurants and bars open till midnight (not always common in Russia), plus lots of clubs - for the more hardened clubber some of these are even open until 12 noon! Cocktails seemed to be popular with many places having an extensive choice. It's not as cheap as you might think, but certainly below Moscow prices.
And the toilets will impress many a seasoned Russia traveller!
There is plenty of fresh fish, particularly cod ('treska') to be had as well as reindeer steaks.