Home Europe Russia The Coldest Places in Russia: 9 Frozen Cities

The Coldest Places in Russia: 9 Frozen Cities

coldest places in Russia
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It’s no secret that Russia is known for its bitterly cold winters and frozen landscapes, which stretch out for as far as the eye can see in some parts of the vast country. In the Northern and Far East regions, winter is especially harsh and lingers for nearly half of the year. Those are places where you’re looking at record low temperatures in the area of -38 F. Yikes! It’s hardly a surprise that many of the coldest places in Russia are located out there.

Between October and April, there isn’t much you can do to escape the frigid temperatures and bone-chilling winds of Siberia and the steppe. These regions are famously unprotected from the Arctic further north. There are no mountains in the way to stop the sub-zero gusts from blowing straight down and pushing the mercury to shiver-inducing temperatures. And it’s the same in other parts of Russia, too, with much of the country sitting between 40-75° of latitude, where things can get pretty cold indeed…

But these chilly areas aren’t uninhabited. Far from it. They are home to millions upon millions of people, and have whole cities where the residents go about their lives as if they’re not living in a freezer. Those are the places we’ll focus on in this guide to the coldest places in Russia. So, grab your jacket, hat, and mittens because we’re about to hit the snow…

Khabarovsk

frosty trees in Khabarovsk
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Average winter temperature: -22.0 (°C) / -7.6 (°F)

Located in Russia’s Far East region, Khabarovsk easily lives up to its title of being the coldest city in Russia. It turns into a frosty wonderland for almost half the year, with an average winter temperature of a mere -22.0 (°C)/-7.6 (°F). Temperatures rarely get above freezing between November and March and can dip as low as -40 (°C)/-40 (°F) on occasion.

But, due to Khabarovsk’s monsoonal dry-winter humid continental climate, it doesn’t receive much snow. Most years, the winter months see an average of just 18 mm (0.7 inches) of precipitation. So, this isn’t a snowy paradise, but that doesn’t stop the trees from freeing and ice crystals forming like glittering diamonds throughout the parks.

The unrelenting cold and permafrost doesn’t seem to bother the city’s 633,000 inhabitants too much. Khabarovsk’s KHL ice hockey games provide excellent entertainment. Meanwhile, there’s a nascent dark tourist industry, with the city pulling in folk who want to get off the trodden path and experience winter at its most extreme.

Come in the summer, and you’ll see a very different place. Temperatures soar to an average of 21.3 °C (70.3 °F) in June, July, and August. The permafrost turns into lush grass, and locals flock to the beaches along the Amur River. You might not even need the woolly thermals then!

Novosibirsk

church in Novosibirsk
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Average winter temperature: -20.0 (°C) / -4 (°F)

The second coldest city in Russia, Novosibirsk, is located in western Siberia. It is home to more than 1.5 million people, so is well built for freezing temperatures, permafrost, and icy roads. The average winter temperature is a bitterly cold -20.0 (°C)/-4 (°F), and the record low is −46.3 (°C)/−51.3 (°F) – higher than even Khabarovsk above!

It’s a touch strange, though. There are many cities that are much warmer than Novosibirsk sitting further to the north. That’s mainly down to the town’s location on the edge of the great steppe, which open up northwards in a sweep of rolling hills. They totally lack mountains, which would usually block freezing Arctic winds from coming down. The ocean is also very far away, so there’s no moderating effect on temperatures from the water. Here, it’s just Novosibirsk, the great Russian plains, and the snow.

Interestingly, Novosibirsk wasn’t founded until 1893. That was when the Trans-Siberian Railway developers decided that the village of Krivoshchekovo was the perfect spot for the tracks to cross the Ob River. On the opposite side of the river, a settlement which is now Novosibirsk began and grew. Today it attracts a steady stream of visitors on that bucket-list train route. There’s a zoo that’s home to more than 4,000 animals, along with some pretty churches and shrines.

Omsk

snowy Omsk
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Average winter temperature: -20.0 (°C) / -4 (°F)

A modern city with over 20 higher-education institutions, a handful of theatres, stunning cathedrals, and various industrial enterprises, Omsk has loads going for it. It’s clear that the folk here don’t let any cold weather get in their way, and travelers often pass through to see things like the Assumption Cathedral (one of the largest churches in Siberia) and the intriguing Museum Complex of Military Glory of Omsk (chronicling Russia’s role in WWII and various Afghan conflicts).

The average winter temperature sits at a freezing -20.0 (°C)/-4 (°F) here. It has dipped as low as -45.5 (°C)/-49.9 (°F), though. Minimal winter precipitation means that while the winters have a harsh bite and wind chills dive well into the negative ’20s (°C), Omsk doesn’t see too many intense blizzards or big snowdrifts.

However, don’t let those temperatures fool you. Come summertime, you’d hardly know Omsk is a frozen tundra for six months of the calendar. Once April hits, temperatures begin to shoot up, and, by the end of July, the average high is 25.3 (°C)/75 (°F). This is due to Omsk’s humid continental climate, similar to that of much of Siberia. If you visit when it’s warmer, you can even look forward to open-air exhibitions and festivals – there are more than 500 cultural events throughout that part of the year!

Chelyabinsk

one of the coldest places in Russia, Chelyabinsk
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Average winter temperature: -18.0 (°C) / -0.4 (°F)

A true four-seasons city, Chelyabinsk is bitterly cold in the winter and perfectly warm in the summer. Spring brings wildflowers and trees budding with new leaves, and autumn sees reds, yellows, and oranges transforming the landscape. Yet, the colder part of the year here seems to hang around for much longer than any other season, and Chelyabinsk is certainly one of the coldest places in Russia…

Starting in September, temperatures begin to cool and even drop below freezing in some years. By October, most days hang around 0 (°C). By late December and early January, you see an average low of -19 (°C)/-2.2 (°F) – so, seriously chilly! It’s not until May that things warm-up again, then summer rolls in pretty fast, presenting averages near 20 (°C)/68 (°F) while the good times are in town.

The cold temperatures shouldn’t scare you away from visiting Chelyabinsk, though. Bring a good quality winter coat, boots, a hat, and mittens, and you’ll enjoy wandering the frosty city just like the 1.1 million others who call Chelyabinsk home. There are some interesting POIs, like the Chelyabinsk Region Art Museum and its folklore and craft exhibits, or the Aloe Pole Park, where a huge statue of Lenin mingles with strange flowers and plants (not in bloom midwinter, of course).

Krasnoyarsk

frosty Krasnoyarsk, coldest places in Russia
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Average winter temperature: -18.0 (°C) / -0.4 (°F)

Another city situated perfectly along the Trans-Siberian Railway, Krasnoyarsk is filled with colleges and universities, sportsgrounds, and an array of handsome architecture, both Brutalist and regal. However, unlike Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk’s history stretches back far beyond the coming of the trains. In fact, it’s one of the earliest Russian settlements in Siberia, built on the back of the region’s gold deposits, the construction of a large hydroelectric power station, and aluminum production industry. Today, it’s home to more than a million people.

Not surprisingly for a city that’s located in Russia’s Far East, Krasnoyarsk also has intensely cold winters that stretch on for far too long if you ask us. While it might have warmer summers than some European cities at the same latitude, its winters are much colder and longer. The average temperature in the chilly part of the year sits at -18.0 (°C)/-0.4 (°F), and temperatures have dipped as low as -52.8 (°C)/-63 (°F) in the past.

Due to its long-lasting winters, Krasnoyarsk is also home to many winter sports facilities. Skiers, bobsledders, speed skaters, and snowboarders all come here to train, and, in 2019, the city even hosted the Winter Universiade sports competitions, a major tournament for university students all across the globe.

Tolyatti

Tolyatti
Photo by Deny_Hell/Pixabay

Average winter temperature: -18.0 (°C) / -0.4 (°F)

Unlike many of the other coldest places in Russia on this list, Tolyatti is not an administrative center. Instead, it’s known for being home to Russia’s largest car manufacturer, AvtoVAZ. The automotive plant, having been built as recently as 1964, means Tolyatti is a relatively young town, and much of its economy still revolves around the car industry.

Since it’s such a young city, the infrastructure is built incredibly well to combat the freezing cold winters that come every year. Average mercury levels in the winter sit at a measly -18.0 (°C)/-0.4 (°F). But you shouldn’t get too cold inside the city’s well-heated buildings. Outside, be sure to layer up – a good-quality jacket, thick boots, woolly hat, and hardy mittens are all musts if you want to explore al fresco for any length of time.

Tolyatti is also home to a large pine forest that makes up one-quarter of the city’s area over on the south side of the Volga River. In the winter, many cross-country skiing paths are maintained there, and you’ll find residents heading out to get their fix of nature in the snow.

Yekaterinburg

frosty square in Yekaterinburg, coldest places in Russia
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Average winter temperature: -17.0 (°C) / 1.4 (°F)

Deemed the third capital of Russia, Yekaterinburg is a sprawling city that hides an intriguing history. It’s located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has a beautiful mix of architecture from both older and more modern periods, and is famed as the place where the last family members of the tsar were imprisoned and executed after the Russian Revolution. However, one thing it’s not known for is its mild climate…

The Ural Mountains, located on the city’s west side, block warm air coming over from Europe. Instead, the cold arctic air from the north runs straight into warm air from the Caspian Sea region. When they collide they create huge temperature fluctuations. In winter, thermometers can read -40 (°C)/-40 (°F) and lurch to above to above freezing in a single day. The opposite can happen in summer, seeing things go from positively balmy to woolly jacket-worthy in just a matter of hours.

Even with these weather swings, Yekaterinburg is still one of the coldest places in Russia, with an average winter temperature of -17.0 (°C)/1.4 (°F) overall. No matter when you visit, you’ll want to pack for all four seasons to take advantage of the city’s abundance of museums, art studios, and theatres.

Volgograd

Volgograd in winter
Image by Jose Coso Zamarreno/Getty Images

Average winter temperature: -16.0 (°C) / 3.2 (°F)

You’ve likely heard of the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the biggest and bloodiest battles in World War II and even in the history of all conflicts. Well…it took place right here in Volgograd. The town was called Stalingrad between April 1925 and November 1961. The name changed to what it is today after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and Volgograd is now nicknamed the Hero City to boot. You’ll also find the largest statue in all of Europe here, paying tribute to those who died when the USSR fought the Nazis.

Despite its bloody history, Volgograd is the 5th-largest city in Russia today. It boasts a well-developed infrastructure, numerous theatres, and plenty of cultural entertainments. Volgograd’s climate, on the other hand, brings some drama to the table. A humid, continental climate means there are long and bitterly cold winters that turn to hot and relatively dry summers. The average winter temperature sits at a frosty -16.0 (°C)/3.2 (°F) and can dip down as low as -33 (°C)/-27.4 (°F). In summer, temperatures soar to an average of 29.6 (°C)/85.3 (°F) and have even hit a record high of 42.6 (°C)/108.7 (°F)!

Barnaul

Barnaul, one of the coldest places in Russia
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Average winter temperature: -15.5 (°C) / 4.1 (°F)

Tucked between two rivers, the Ob River and the Barnaulka River, and located close to the Altai Mountains, Barnaul is a beautiful Russian city packed with character. Just outside the town’s limits, you’ll find the Barnaul Ribbon Forest, which stretches over 400km and is home to many hiking trails, ski trails, and MTB routes.

Such beautiful landscapes and surroundings make Barnaul a wonderful city for lovers of the great outdoors. While winters are long and cold, with an average temperature of just -15.5 (°C)/4.1 (°F), unlike many of the other coldest places in Russia, Barnaul still sees plenty of blue skies throughout its chilly season.

From May through to the end of August, when summer rolls around, average highs reach into the mid-’20s (°C)/mid-’70s (°F). That opens up a whole other range of pursuits, and is the perfect time to come and see the grand, gilded homes of the old copper- and gold-mining merchants that date back to the 1700s and make the center such a stand-out star.

What is the coldest city in Russia?

The coldest city in Russia is Khabarovsk, where average winter temperatures are a mere -22.0 (°C)/-7.6 (°F), and the record low is -40 (°C)/-40 (°F). Winters there stretch from November through to March, and it’s quite rare for the thermometers to read above freezing.

Is Canada colder than Russia?

While it’s a very close race between Canada and Russia for being the coldest country in the world, Canada wins by a hair. The estimated average yearly temperature in Canada is -5.35 (°C)/22.37 (°F), while the estimated average yearly temperature in Russia is -5.1 (°C)/22.8 (°F). There’s just a fraction of a degree in it folks!

Where does it snow the most in Russia?

The snowiest place in Russia is Mount Elbrus (which also happens to be the highest point in both Russia and Europe at 5,642 meters above sea level). There, the average precipitation in the lower altitudes is 500mm (19.6 inches) and can get up to 1000mm (40 inches) in some years. At higher altitudes, it’s not uncommon for average snowfall to be above 1500mm (60 inches). Luckily, there’s a ski field on Mount Elbrus to help you make the most of it!

What is the hottest city in Russia?

The hottest city in Russia is Yashkul. It has average highs in July of a staggering 33.1 (°C)/91.6 (°F) and the record high is 44.4 (°C)/111.9 (°F). Yashkul is a relatively small city with a population of 8,000 residents. It sits on a large grassland plain, making it hard to get a break from the heat.