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The Best Things to See and Do in Perm, Russia
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The Best Things to See and Do in Perm, Russia

Picture of Marta Wiejak
Updated: 14 November 2017
Russia has so much more to offer than just the undeniable charms of Moscow and St Petersburg. The Ural Mountains are one of its undiscovered gems. Perm, one of the most significant cities in the region, is most certainly a place worth visiting. If you find yourself in the area, here are the best things to see and do in Perm.

Go for a walk along the Kama River and discover that happiness is closer than you might think

Perm lies on the banks of the Kama River, the proximity of which is a huge part of the city’s identity. A walk down the embankment is a truly local way to spend a Sunday afternoon. At some point during your stroll, you are bound to come across a sculpture that grew to be one of the symbols of Perm. The red letters read Счасте не за горами, Russian for ‘Happiness is not behind the mountains’. They are appropriately placed against the beautiful background of the river and its opposite bank.

Happiness is not behind the mountains, a sculpture by Boris Matrosov on the embankment of the Kama river in Perm
Happiness is not behind the mountains, a sculpture by Boris Matrosov on the embankment of the Kama river in Perm | © Dmitry Kolesnikov / Flikr
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Indulge in some high culture and watch an incredible ballet

Russians are great fans of poetry, classical music, opera and ballet. Indeed, every major city in Russia has an opera and ballet theatre. Perm’s ballet is quite remarkable, and the quality of the pieces they stage puts them in the same rank as the country’s ballet giants: Mariinsky in St Petersburg and Bolshoy in Moscow. Watching a ballet performance in Perm is most certainly a thing to tick off your list even on the shortest visit.

Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre, Petropavlovskaya 25A, Perm, Permsky Krai, Russia,

Attend one of the local festivals

Quite a few internationally renowned festivals take place in Perm every year. The most prominent ones include the International Documentary Film Festival Flahertiana. Every October, the festival, inspired by the art of Robert Flaherty, draws the brightest stars of both international and Russian documentary scenes. International Diaghilev Festival is another prominent event in Perm. It is entirely devoted to classical art and theatre and occurs every year in June.

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Learn about some of the most difficult parts of Russian history right where it happened

Perm-36, a forced labour camp located 100 kilometres (62.1 miles) north-east of Perm, was one of the most prominent Soviet detention centres for political prisoners. It was operating until the 1980s. In the 1990s, a group of former inmates and Memorial, an NGO dedicated to helping victims of the Soviet regime, converted the camp into a museum – the only GULAG museum in Russia on the site of an actual camp. Despite some problems with the current local administration, the museum is still operating and most certainly worth visiting.

Memorial Complex of Political Repressions, Kuchino, Permsky Krai, Russia,

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Become a Permyak Salty Ears for a little while

Perm and its nearest surroundings are very rich in minerals. Throughout history, salt was the most prominent of them. Indeed, Perm appeared because people were relocating here to work in the salt mining industry, of which the legacy is a vital part of the locals’ identity. One of the most famous symbols of the region is the sculpture Permyak Salty Ears. In the early days of salt mining, the locals would carry big bags full of salt on their back. Some of the salt would then fall on their ears, making them big and red. The sculpture, located in the very city centre, consists of a frame with big ears attached to it and a figure of a photographer taking a picture of it. Putting your head in the Permyak Salty Ears frame and snapping a photo is an absolute must for every visitor to the city.

Permyak Salty Ears, Komsomolsky Prospekt 27, Perm, Permsky Krai, Russia

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See what Russian contemporary art has to offer

Perm is truly a city full of cultural surprises. On top of the festivals and the theatre mentioned above, it is also home to the only contemporary art museum outside of Moscow and St Petersburg. PERMM is a museum and exhibition space; it also hosts lectures, workshops and festivals. It is an extremely vibrant place and is most certainly worth a visit even on a short trip to the Urals.

PERMM Museum of Contemporary Art, Bulvar Gagarina 24, Perm, Permsky Krai, Russia,

Experience the incredible landscapes of the Urals

The Ural Mountains are incredibly scenic and largely undiscovered. Whether you’re a fan of hiking, rafting or simply camping for days in pristine nature, Perm and its surroundings have something to offer you. If you happen to find yourself with a little bit of time while in Perm, go camping and explore. Your trip will soon turn into an adventure you will never forget.