Ala-Too Square, Bishkek (Everything You Need to Know)

Ala-Too Square in Bishkek represents the many parts of Kyrgyzstan’s culture.

There’s the Soviet past, political troubles and modern-day independence. But also the community spirit and togetherness of the people and national pride.

Find out more in this complete guide on how to visit when you’re in Bishkek (or even virtually)…

The history museum, a statue and a large flag of Kyrgyzstan make up the square under a blue sky

Where is Ala-Too Square?

This large square is located in central Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan.

Chuy Avenue runs through the centre of the square separating it into two parts. Other nearby attractions include the parliament building, Panfilov Park and the National Museum of Fine Arts.

The snowy mountains of Kyrgyzstan behind the golden dome-topped building in Ala Too Square

About Ala-Too Square Bishkek

This vast and impressive square in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan serves as a place of history, reflection, celebration and community.

It takes its name from the Ala-Too mountain range that can be seen to the south of the square on a clear day.

Brief History

Built in 1984, the square was called Lenin Square until the early 1990s and the fall of the USSR.

It was built originally to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic. And a large statue of Lenin was a centrepiece of the square, remaining in place until 2003.

Since 2011, the current statue of Manas – a traditional Kyrgyz poem – has been central to the square instead. And serves as a nod to Kyrgyzstan’s independence.

With its close proximity to the parliament building, the square is a focal point for political demonstrations. Most notably, a 15,000-strong crowd gathered in 2005 to protest the elections.

However, 2 people were killed and many more were injured. But ultimately, the protesters succeeded in forcing the resignation of the president.

Similarly, a monument in the square is dedicated to those who were killed in a political protest in 2002. Although this happened in the western district of Aksy, protests soon spread to Bishkek to ensure justice.

The fountains of Ala-Too Square Bishkek. Flowerbeds and buildings surround the spray of water coming from each water jet

What’s there

In Ala-Too Square Bishkek you’ll find the following:

  • State History Museum
  • Manas Statue
  • Large flag of Kyrgyzstan
  • Fountains (summer only)
  • Flowerbeds
  • Chingiz Aitmatov Monument

Around the outside, you’ll find restaurants, cafes and shops.

The now-removed statue of Lenin can be found in the park behind the State Historical Museum. Which is just a short walk from the square.

Changing of the Guard

Every 2 hours in winter and every hour in summer (the best time of year to visit Kyrgyzstan), changing of the guards takes place.

This isn’t an all-singing and all-dancing affair. So don’t expect any marching bands like you might see at Buckingham Palace.

Rather, the incoming guards march out from their base near the History Museum. They make their way to the small glass-sided watch station, then switch with the guards currently in post.

Then it’s just a case of the replaced guards marching back to the base near the museum. Expect ceremonial gun-holding and extravagant marching styles.

Three guards march away from their duty guarding the square. Their legs are at ninety degrees and they are carrying wooden guns in front of them

Events and Celebrations

If there’s a national celebration going on, you can be sure that the square will be decorated for it.

Previous events have included the World Nomad Games and the anniversary of World War 2. As well as annual celebrations like Independence Day on 31 August and New Year’s.

Looking across the square at the fountains, flag and buildings in the background

Visiting in Bishkek

A visit to Ala-Too Square is well worth 30 minutes or so of your time if you’re in Bishkek.

As a large, open square you won’t need much time to see its different parts. But nevertheless, its Soviet style and grandeur are stark and easy to see.

This area of Bishkek feels so different from the area around Osh Bazaar and the Bus Station, just a couple of miles along the road. The square is impeccably clean as well as calm and quiet during the day.

At night, particularly in the warmer months between late spring and early autumn, the square becomes a meeting spot for the people of Bishkek. As such, pop-up vendors offering a range of activities appear to add to the fun and vibrant atmosphere.

What’s more, with the darkness of nighttime comes the bright lights of the fountains and surrounding buildings. Watch as the water hops and falls across the fountains, illuminated by colourful lights.

Because of these two different sides of the square, it’s well worth visiting both during the day and in the evening if you have time.

And with the wonders of modern technology, you can visit virtually with the Ala-Too Square webcam providing a 24/7 feed.

Zoe stood in front of the square with the flag visible on one side. The road behind her is completely empty and the sky is blue with no clouds

Do you have any questions or want any more information? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Information is correct as of June 2023 but is subject to change in future.

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