Moscow, Russia. Credit: Serge Kutuzov on Unsplash

Magnitogorsk: City of the Magnetic Mountain

By Doug Landsborough

Spanning the divide between Europe and Asia lies the city of Magnitogorsk. One of the largest cities in Russia, Magnitogorsk was constructed on the southern end of the Ural Mountains, the Ural River flowing majestically through it like a sparkling blue ribbon. This city, once known solely for its metallurgy, is becoming a popular destination for those looking for a truly unique experience.

Magnitogorsk, more simply called Magnitka like the ironworks that drove its growth, was established in 1743 next to Mount Magnitaya, from which the city gets its name. Mount Magnitaya is considered an anomaly by geologists; the mountain is made almost entirely of iron ore which, when refined, means that Mount Magnitaya is upwards of 60% pure iron. Because of this, Magnitka flourished into one of the largest sources of iron and metallurgy in the world.

With so much iron, it’s no surprise that Magnitogorsk means “City of the Magnetic Mountain” and, for a long time, this area was defined almost exclusively by its ironworks. During World War II, Magnitka was responsible for producing half of all the steel used by Russia to construct tanks and a third of the steel used in munition shells. Because of this effort, an awe-inspiring monument known as the Rear-front Memorial was constructed of a Magnitogorsk iron worker handing a sword to a Russian solider.

The Rear-front Memorial Photo credit:

A lot has changed in recent years, though. When the need for wartime steel diminished and it became known that the mass production of iron was leading to health problems for those living in the city, Magnitka adapted to modern times.

Iron is still produced in the city, though at about one-third of its capacity. Modernization has made the city flourish, embracing the natural beauty that the Ural River and its surroundings offers, and a boost in local culture has risen like a phoenix.

Attractions in Magnitogorsk

There are many attractions to visit in Magnitka, whether you’re into history, culture or sports.

For those interested in history, various Soviet monuments can be seen throughout the city. These include the Eternal Flame that burns in front of the Rear-front Memorial seen above, which is itself part of an international triptych consisting of The Motherland Calls and Warrior Liberator. Other monuments dot the walkways and plazas of the city, celebrating the history of the city.

History buffs can also visit the Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works to learn more about the industry that is responsible for the very creation of Magnitka.

The First Tent, a monument to the first builders of the city. Photo credit: Aleksandr Zykov

. While you will also see Stalinist architecture throughout the city, outside of Magnitogorsk are the ancient remains of Arkaim, a fortified settlement from 5,000 years ago.

If history isn’t your thing, the city is home to theaters hosting opera, plays, puppets and more. Museums and art galleries are open to the public, and there is even a local circus.

For sports fans, Magnitogorsk certainly isn’t lacking in options. Hockey is extremely popular in Russia, and this city is no different. NHL fans might recognize Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nikolai Kulemin of the New York Islanders. These athletes were both born in Magnitogorsk and grew up playing hockey there.

Outside of the city there are two well-known ski destinations: Metallurg-Magnitogorsk and Abzakovo. Both of these ski centers have gained national and international popularity in recent years, boasting great skiing and delicious food when you reach the bottom of the slopes. Even outside of ski season, there’s no denying the beautiful view from the Ural Mountains.

More recently, the Magnitogorsk Race Track was constructed, adding even more excitement to the city. The track offers just over 3km to race on, with an accompanying 1.2km circuit for karting.

Penny Ford from SNAP! on the kart circuit in Magnitogorsk. Photo credit: Penny Ford

Not only can you experience the thrill of racing, but you can do it with a beautiful view of the area around Magnitogorsk while you do it.

Getting to Magnitogorsk

Want to go experience the City of the Magnetic Mountain? Magnitka does have an international airport that sees about 200,000 passengers each year, Magnitogorsk International Airport (MQF). It’s about 18km outside of the city and connected by a railway.

If you want to get to MQF though, odds are you’ll be connecting through elsewhere in Russia or Crimea. The airport is serviced by Aeroflot, Nordwind Airlines, Pegas Fly and S7 Airlines. This makes it a perfect excuse to see more of Russia and what the country has to offer.

As the largest country in the world, Russia is filled with a rich history and a vast array of landscapes. During your layover in Moscow, you can take some time to visit the Red Square, where you can take in views of the Kremlin, the Resurrection Gate, the beautiful architecture of the Saint Basil Cathedral and visit the State Historical Museum.

Saint Basil Cathedral from the Red Square. Photo credit: Elly Fairytale/Pexels

Russian architecture is unlike any other, combining both European and Asian influences into stunning colours and shapes. If you want an authentic look into the past, rent a car and drive the Golden Ring of Russia. The cities and towns along this route will transport you back to medieval Russia, with each stop boasting virtually untouched architecture from the 12th to 18th centuries.

The only thing more beautiful than the buildings is nature itself. Soaring cliffs, beautiful coasts, sprawling forests and more than 100,000 rivers are yours to explore while basking in the unique culture that is Russia. Even if you want a more topical stop on your trip in Russia, tie in a visit to Sochi, another layover that leads to Magnitogorsk. Very few people think “tropical” when they think of Russia, but this site of the 2014 Winter Olympics is on the Black Sea, complete with beautiful beaches and palm trees.

While you might not be able to get a direct flight to Magnitogorsk, you’ll find that a trip to this city, whether a part of a larger Russian expedition or right to the City of the Magnetic Mountain, will be unlike any other you’ve experienced.

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