Things to do in Samarkand
This city life of Samarkand is quiet, somewhat laid back. From the center, pretty much all the major sites are within walking distance. Plan your visits in the morning because it is highly recommended to avoid the strong midday sun.
Magnificent Registan in Samarkand
A calming picturesque square surrounded by three enormous madrassas who can be spotted from anywhere in the city. This complex in the center of the old town is probably Uzbekistan’s most famous and largest site. All three have their own unique architectural, mosaic tile design with striking details on the out and inside.
Climb the 30-meter high minaret or have a view from the second floor, visit the golden inside of Tillya-Kori, and wander through the beautiful courtyards.
Get a local experience at the Siab Bazaar
Emerge with the locals at the huge Siab Bazaar where all fresh products sold are grown in Uzbekistan. Find fresh fruits, vegetables, sweets, nuts, handicrafts, and traditional delicious clay oven bread which are certainly a must-try! It is located within walking distance from Registan and next to the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, one of the other things to do in Samarkand.
What makes this bazaar especially great are the people. If you didn’t know already, Uzbek people are some of the friendliest and warmest people out there.
A good example is where we ask if we could take a photo, and after we were gifted free fruits for coming to Uzbekistan and he did not accept any money.
Best time to visit: Throughout the entire day
Visit “Tomb of the King” Gur-e Amir, Samarkand
Gur-e Amir is a mausoleum, a building housing a tomb, with a lively courtyard four minarets at each corner. While it is a bit away from the major sites, the floor’s spectacular tilework, entrance, and azure domes are well worth the walk or short taxi ride.
Amir Timur, a former military leader, originally built the building to serve as an Islamic school but due to the sudden death of a family member, its purpose changed into a mausoleum.
This site is Samarkand is really small and therefore during the daytime, it can get quite busy. Best to go in the early morning or late afternoon.
Best time to visit: early morning or late afternoon
Entrance fee: 22,000 SOM (2.30 USD)
Stunning azure blue tilework making Shakhi-Zinda arguably one of the most outstanding buildings in Samarkand. Shakhi-Zinda is a sacred place dating back from the 14th century, the craftsmanship and creativity of that time are still inspiring today. Throughout the day many local visitors come to pray so please be respectful and wear suitable clothing.
Exploring the tombs is straight forward as it is one narrow street passing them with a super picturesque endpoint.
Although the main thing to do in Samarkand is sightseeing it certainly should be known for its food. Go for a good lunch with a great ambiance to the cute Bibikhanum Teahouse. This outdoor restaurant has its staff serving food in traditional clothing. It is located on the same promenade street as the Bibi-Khanym Mosque.
The enormous Bibi-Khanym Mosque, located next to the Siab Bazaar, was one of the world’s highest mosques of its time with a high of 41 meters high. Unfortunately, this design risk took its toll as the mosque collapsed in an earthquake at the end of the 19th century.
The lush green courtyard is a relaxing area containing an enormous marble koran. Also, at the back of the main mosque ongoing restorations on the inside show how heavily damaged it was.
Art Gallery Happy Bird
At the beginning of the promenade street of Samarkand is an authentic art gallery selling ethnic colored clothing mixed with nowadays designs. The shop is located within a small shopping courtyard with others selling handicrafts, Suzani textile, and much more.
How to get to Samarkand
Samarkand is very well connected by high-speed, quality, trains from the capital Tashkent. The best option to get to Samarkand is by flying to Tashkent and take the train from the nearby railway station named Tashkent Pass. Departure times are 07:28 AM, 08:00 AM, 18:50 PM.
Getting train tickets
Buy the fast train tickets in advance as they sell out fast. Booking through the Uzbek railways’ website is extremely difficult (2019) so we recommend using Advantour. The tickets are slightly higher priced but they do the work for you by arranging all the paperwork and waiting in the line.
The train ticket to Samarkand cost 45-65 USD depending on the class.
Train station to the city center
From Samarkand train station to the city center takes about 15 minutes by taxi and costs about 15 – 20k SOM for a private taxi.
Samarkand has an international airport, however, the flights are limited to a few major cities like Istanbul, Moscow, and St. Petersberg. You also could fly from Tashkent to Samarkand but it seems like the 2-hour train is a better and faster option.
Getting around in Samarkand
The promenade street (Tashkent street) is a quiet and nice walking street and from there all major sites in Samarkand are within walking distance via safe roads and good pavements.
All taxis are yellow and when you don’t speak Russian or Uzbek, be prepared to negotiate and agree on a price before hopping in the car. A fair rate is somewhere around 2,000 SOM per kilometer.
Restaurants in Samarkand
Samarkand has a few good restaurants that serve both Western and Uzbek dishes. Most of them offer WiFi, although buying a sim card is a much better option.
- Bibikhanum Teahouse – Delicious Uzbek dishes
- Art Cafe Norgis – Great coffee and cakes
- Platan – Good Uzbek and international dishes (Vegan options)
- Cafe Magistr – International dishes, fine pasta, and pizza
- Oasis Garden – International dishes, good pasta