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Murmansk: the largest city north of the Arctic Circle

Port city in the ice-free Kola Bay receives cargo and welcomes tourists all year round

14 2020

Murmansk is the world's largest city north of the Arctic Circle, and one of the largest ports in Russia. The city lies on the rocky eastern coast of Kola Bay of the Barents Sea. Thanks to the warm North Atlantic Current—extension of the Gulf Stream—Kola Bay is ice-free which means Murmansk ports are open to vessels all year round. A trip to Murmansk is a chance to see the true Arctic, but without extreme temperatures and with a European level of service.

Kola Bay resembles the famous Norwegian fjords. It's narrow, winding, with cliffed coasts, and cuts into the land for almost 60 km. That's why Murmansk stretches for over 20 km along the coast, with massive steps going from mountain tops down to the water. The city is one with the surrounding mountain slopes, making it all look like a huge park: almost half of the city territory is occupied by natural and planted forests. The green areas are home to dozens of small and big lakes: the Murmansk region is often called the "Lake Country" for having around 100 thousand lakes.

If there was such thing as an "Arctic resort", Murmansk would be a strong contender for the title.


The city has everything you need for an exciting and comfortable vacation. Trails for downhill skiing and snowboarding are located within the city borders. Lake Semyonovskoye offers skiing in winter and boat or catamaran trips in summer. There is a year-round amusement park with the tallest Ferris wheel north of the Arctic Circle. Another attraction is an oceanarium like no other in the world: it holds performances by Arctic seals. In winter, the sky above the city is glistening with beautiful northern lights. At times, you can see two or three suns in the sky. It's an illusion created by the refraction of light in sparkling ice crystals.

The coast of the bay shows an entirely different side of Murmansk. Commercial port is full of noisy cranes and large-capacity vessels: the port's cargo turnover is over 60 million tons per year. Ships of the Murmansk Trawl Fleet—the largest in the Russian fishing industry—are unloading in the fishing port. All Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers are assigned to the Port of Murmansk. It is the headquarters of the Northeast Passage and the maritime transport administration of the Russian Arctic. As the Northeast Passage is becoming more and more valuable, the Port of Murmansk is getting busier.


Murmansk also boasts an array of fresh seafood delicacies. Cafés and restaurants serve a variety of dishes made of Atlantic cod, halibut, Atlantic salmon, mussels and scallops. Dried ruffe is a special treat, made right at the fishing vessels. But the main pride of the local cuisine is the gigantic Kamchatka crab with a leg span of up to 1.5 metres. This crab species was introduced from Kamchatka back in the Soviet times, and it has assimilated so well that a crab safari with a tasting of the catch has become a staple among the tourists.

Apart from delicious seafood, Murmansk is also famous for its silver jewellery with semi-precious stones made by local jewellers, as well as talisman pendants, figurines, jewel boxes and candlesticks. These are the perfect keepsakes to remember a friendly city that is not after making money off of tourists, but knows full well how to greet the most discerning guests.

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