Ice-Skating at Medeo
With a distinct appreciation for snowy mountains and Soviet-era relics, how could I avoid a trip to the ice-skating rink at Medeo on my last visit to Almaty?
Originally built in 1951, Medeo was during the Soviet era one of the top ice skating rinks anywhere in the world. Though lack of upkeep since the early 90’s means that the stadium is no longer tops, it does still hold several world records for speed skating of various distances.
Despite that lack of world-class status, though, Medeo still seems like a popular place for Almaty locals to get out and spend a day. By the time I visited on a sunday afternoon, the skating area (over 110,000 square feet!) was packed with locals; particularly the teenage couple set!
Ice-skating may not be at the top of the list of priorities for most tourists, to be sure, and for these there would be very little reason to actually go inside the stadium itself (for which, of course, you have to pay admission).
Even for you though, unenthusiastic tourist, all is not lost. You wont have access to the sweet Airstream food trailer inside the stadium.
But, BUT, you will be able to walk through the valley quite a ways or up the 842 stairs that lead from the back side of Medeo up to the top of the gigantic retaining wall that forms the backdrop for the skating rink.
After all that effort, you’ll be happy about the tea and shashlyk stands at the top! Stick around for a while to enjoy the view.
Medeo is easy to get to on public transport, with Bus 6 or 12 leaving from in front of the Hotel Kazakhstan in Almaty just north of the intersections of Abay and Dostyk. Entrance to the skating rink is normally 1500 Tenge (a little more than $8), or reduced prices of 800T (students) and 400T (children 7-12 years old). Medeo is open Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 – 23:00, with a break from 16:00 – 18:00. Skate rental is available from 600T for two hours, or alternatively at a shop across from the stop for the #6 bus for 1000T for a full-day rental.
If you’re having trouble finding a place to stay in town, check out Almaty Backpackers. Getting to the bus stop for Medeo is a quick ride from here, and there are proper dorms and a kitchen for guests for much cheaper than the hotels in town. Its nice to see proper hostels starting to pop up in Central Asia!