Perm, Russia, is a real undiscovered treasure. While most tourists will flock to the larger and more famous cities in Russia, there so much more to be seen if you’re willing to explore a little further. Perm was our 2nd stop on our Trams Siberian adventure across Russia and while we didn’t spend too much time here, we still found enough cool museums, sites and excellent bars to keep us occupied for 48 hours.
If you’d like to discover more about the natural beauty, culture, Russian food, and the rich history of the country, Perm is a great place to visit. I’ve picked out some of the best Perm attractions to make your visit a little easier. I hope you enjoy the unique charms of this lesser known Russian city.
Where in Russia is Perm?
Perm is a Russian city that lies in the heart of the Ural Mountain area. The city stands on the banks of the Kama River, and it’s possibly the most significant destination in this region. If you’re taking the Trans Siberian like we did, then you will probably stop off here after a few nights in Kazan.
VIDEO: Spending 48 Hours in Perm, Russia
Things To Do In Perm Russia
Perm city may not be a typical destination choice for a Russian holiday, but there really is a lot to see and do here. Whether you visit during the snowy winter or hot summer, here are some of the best things to do in Perm…
Walk Along The Kama River And Pose For A Photo
The Kama River is one of the greatest Perm landmarks, as the city lies on both of its banks. One of the best things to do while you are here is to take a walk down the scenic banks of this river. This is a popular activity amongst the locals and is beautiful in any weather conditions.
A large sculpture of red letters spelling out the Russian words Счасте не за горами can be found along the river banks. This is one of the most iconic sights in the city. The words describe happiness in Russian, translating to “Happiness is not behind the mountains”.
The riverside backdrop of this sculpture makes it the ideal photo opportunity – as you can see from my Instagram snap below!
Visit Perm-36 For A History Lesson
Perm-36, officially known as the Memorial Complex of Political Oppressions, offers a look into the dark history of Russia. This is one of the last remaining gulags that can still be seen today. Perm-36 used to be a major Soviet detention center for political prisoners. Today, it stands as a museum, dedicated to this difficult piece of Russia’s past.
There are a number of permanent exhibitions up here relating to the camp, and what life was like here for prisoners. Visiting Perm-36 can be quite a haunting experience, but it’s important in understanding the history of the country.
The museum also features a few changing displays that aren’t necessarily focused on life in the Soviet detention center. This is the only gulag museum in Russia that can be found on the site of an actual prison.
Sadly Amy and I didn’t have enough time to make it out here but if I ever go back to this part of Russia I would definitely make the time to visit.
Explore The Ural Mountains For An Adventure
Perm is set amongst the magnificent Ural Mountains. The vast expanse of stunning natural landscapes that these mountains offer will make any nature lover giddy. The scenery here is completely unspoiled, offering plenty of adventure.
You can hike through the beautiful mountains, go camping, or river rafting here. The mountains are great to visit throughout the year, as they always offer dramatic landscapes. Just be prepared for some seriously cold weather if you plan on visiting in winter.
See A Show At The Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre
Russia has an incredibly rich cultural heritage – something that is most famously expressed through ballet. No trip to Russia would be complete without admiring a fantastic ballet performance.
The Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre is one of the great historic buildings in the city. This grand destination is the pride of many Perm residents. Here, you’ll find some of the most magnificent ballet and opera performances in the country. For anyone spending some time in Perm, indulging in a ballet performance will be a truly memorable experience.
Browse Through The Museum of Contemporary Art PERMM
There is plenty of arts and culture to be enjoyed in Perm. The Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the best destinations to experience the more modern, creative side of the city. This museum was opened in 2009, and it remains a complete artistic gem in the city.
Exhibitions here are constantly changing, making sure that the gallery is always an exciting place to visit. The museum attracts a pretty diverse crowd, and it’s well-loved by people all across Perm.
Investigate Old Perm Architecture
Perm has two main roads – Lenin Street and Komsomolsky Prospekt. One of the best ways to experience the magic of the city is just by walking down these busy roads. Along the way, you’ll get to admire some of the best architecture in the city. This is especially found in Old Perm (the area between Sibirskaya Street and October Street).
Some real gems of the city include the Perm Academic Theatre and the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre. These are found amongst many different 19th century buildings which give the city its unique flair.
Enjoy One Of The Many Festivals
There’s always a lot going on in Perm, including many world-class festivals. Hopefully, you can visit the city during one of these fantastic celebrations. Diaghilev Festival is a famous ballet festival that happens every two years. Perm is considered the third major ballet destination in the world – and this festival program will show you exactly why.
The International Documentary Film Festival Flahertiana occurs every October, drawing large crowds. This is one of the most popular events for film lovers in Russia.
Travel Back In Time At The Museum of Perm Prehistory
If you’d like to explore a little deeper into the history of Perm, then this museum offers some amazing insight. The Museum of Perm Prehistory has a number of archeological displays that date far back in time.
You can enjoy over 2000 antiques on exhibit here. All of these are from the local region. There’s also a fascinating skeleton exhibit, displaying dinosaurs and other rare and ancient animals.
Admire Perm’s State Art Gallery
There really is so much culture to be appreciated in this city. The Perm State Art Gallery is another leading destination to discover this.
The gallery is most famous for its collection of Permian wooden sculptures. This is really unique to the area. However, there are plenty of other great displays here that just can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The gallery can be found in the grand Cathedral of Christ Transfiguration along the Kama River.
Stop At Permyak Salty Ears
This statue may seem like a bit of a silly attraction in Perm, but it always manages to draw a crowd. If you’re visiting the city, you just have to make the obligatory stop at the Permyak Salty Ears sculpture. The statue is of two large ears, framing an empty space. There is a photographer statue facing this. Visitors place their heads between the ears for a classic photo opportunity.
This is a kind of monument towards the city’s prominent salt mining industry. Salt has played a vital role in shaping Perm into the city that it is today. The statue refers to how salt miners would carry big bags of salt on their backs, which would sometimes make their ears go big and red.
Where to Eat And Drink In Perm
Beyond the city’s well-loved landmarks, one of the best things to do in Perm is to indulge in the excellent local food. Here are some insider tips on standout places to eat and drink in the city, with a focus on bars because that’s kind of where I spent most of my time in Russia!!
A super hip restaurant and bar located in a 19th-century pharmacy. This is always a fun place to hang out with Perm’s cool crowd. Be sure to try the homemade beer at Sister’s Bar here.
If you’re after a true taste of Perm, then this is the place to go. This quirky restaurant-museum is all about the delicious and unique local cuisine. You’ll get to learn all about the interesting cuisine of the area, as well as taste some amazing food.
Speakeasy is the place to go in Perm for a fun night out. This incredible cocktail bar is prohibition themed – something that adds to its fun character. There is no sign here, making it feel like a really exclusive place to enjoy the city’s best cocktails. It can be a little tricky to fin, especially as night as it’s kind of hidden in a car park behind a big block door. Once inside, however, expect a fun atmosphere, jazzy music and some of the best bartenders in Russia.
Looking for an afterparty? The guys here will tell you where to go! ;-)
Molotov Bar & Beer Shop
Molotov Brewery is one of the most well-loved craft beer producers in Russia. They have their own bar in the city, which is always a fun place to spend an evening. If you love beer and want to meet some friendly locals, then this is the place to go.
Final Thoughts on Perm, Russia
Most people will go straight to Moscow or St. Petersburg when visiting Russia. However, there is so much to be discovered and experienced when visiting lesser-known cities like Perm. Perm is a real gem in Russia’s European side, with plenty on offer for tourists.
Whether you visit for the arts and culture, history, or natural beauty, a trip to Perm offers plenty of special experiences. For those wanting to discover more of what Russia has to offer, visiting Perm comes highly recommended.