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Norilsk (Russian: Нори́льск nah-REEL'SK) is a large city in Taymyria. Because of its strategic importance, Norilsk is a closed city and special permission is needed for travel, which will likely be denied unless you have a really good reason. Norilsk is the second largest city above the Arctic Circle; Murmansk is the largest. With a population of 210,000, it is also the northernmost city with a population over 100,000 inhabitants.


Children in Norilsk
Norilsk nickel plant

Norilsk was founded due to the existence of a rich deposit of non-ferrous metals including nickel, cobalt, copper, platinum, and palladium. Founded before World War II, Norilsk and its mines and industrial plants, as well as a railway connecting the city with the port of Dudinka, were built with a large-scale use of convict labor from gulag prisoners.

Norilsk Nickel is the largest producer of non-ferrous metals in the world, accounting for 38% of worldwide production of palladium and 22% of worldwide production of nickel, a key ingredient in stainless steel. Some of the locally mined ore is smelted into metals at the local refinery. More ore, after some enrichment, is shipped by rail to Dudinka; from there it is sent by icebreaker-led ships to Murmansk, and eventually to the copper and nicker refinery at Monchegorsk, whose own ore has long been exhausted.

As a result of the smelters, Norilsk is the most polluted city in Russia and is one of the most polluted cities in the world, usually covered in chemical smog. The life expectancy in Norilsk is one of the lowest in Russia and its cancer rates are one of the highest.

The yearly average temperature is in Norilsk is −9.8°C and temperatures usually hover around −40°C in the winter.

Most inhabitants of the city were transplants as a result of the high salaries and abundant opportunities offered by the mining industry.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Alykel Airport (IATA: NSK) is 35km west of town. Direct flights are available from Krasnoyarsk, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg amongst others.

By bus[edit]

Buses operate to/from the nearby port-city of Dudinka. From Dudinka, boats offer service to/from Krasnoyarsk in the summer months, but the journey takes 3 ½ days northbound and 5 ½ days southbound.

Get around[edit]

Buses are plentiful and go everywhere as a result of the harsh winter climate. Taxis are reasonably priced.

See[edit][add listing]

Landscape near Norilsk

Norilsk has several grand buildings in the center; however, it mostly consists of drab commieblocks. Surrounding the city are vast areas of decaying industrial sites which are both depressing and fascinating at the same time.

  • Norilsk Museum - Built in 1921 as a wooden cottage, it was the first house in what was to become Norilsk, and now hosts the museum.
  • Nurdi Kamal Mosque - One of the northernmost Mosque on Earth, it caters to the local Tatar population.
  • 1935-1936 prisoners memorial.

Do[edit][add listing]

Visit the world's northernmost theatre, the Norilsk Polar Drama Theatre [3]

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Norilsk Restaurant @ Hotel Norilsk, Kirova 36, +7 391 922-99-99, [1]. European kitchen, mainly grilled dishes.  edit
  • Zharki, Bogdana Khmel'nitskogo 11, +7 391 942-81-29. Literally, "frying", this cafe has great soups.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Constellation (Созвездие), st. Dzerzhinsky 5a, +7(3919)-42-54-78. Popular nightclub with DJs, cocktail bar and even a pool.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Hotel Polar Star ("Гостиница), Leninsky prospect 2, +7(3919)-47-28-00, [2]. Opened in 2002 after a redevelopment of the building, originally built in 1945. Includes a restaurant, a bar, and a gym. WiFi.  edit

Stay safe[edit]

The major dangers in the city are the pollution and the cold.

Get out[edit]

Putorana Plateau landscape
  • Putorana Plateau is a huge high-lying basalt plateau 150 km to the south-east of Norilsk. It has beautiful scenery and includes the Talnikovy Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Asia. However, there are no inhabitants of the area and it is extremely remote.
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