Quiet and shady, Birobidzhan is the capital of the 36,000-sq-km Jewish Autonomous Region and is a couple of hours shy of Khabarovsk on the Tran-Siberian line (if you’re heading east). Its concept has always been a bit more interesting than its reality (as evidenced by the quick influx of Jews coming to ‘Stalin’s Zion’ in the 1930s, then leaving the undeveloped swamp just as quickly). Still, its sleepy provincial feel and riverside setting make it worth a half-day visit – more if the weather’s good or if you want to explore the city’s Jewish heritage.
The town is quite walkable. The main streets ul Lenina and partially pedestrian ul Sholom-Aleykhema parallel the tracks just a five-minute walk south on ul Gorkogo from the train station. The Bira River is another five minutes along, where you'll find a pleasant sculpture-lined walkway with piped-in music and peaceful views.