The unofficial capital of the Russian Far East and one of Russia's most important commercial ports and naval bases, Vladivostok ('Master the East') is also a thoroughly charming city, with a gorgeous, hilly setting, striking architecture and numerous verdant islands and sandy bays along its Pacific coastline. Most notable of these is Golden Horn Bay (named for its likeness to Istanbul’s), over which now soars a massive suspension bridge, one of two built in recent years that have hugely improved the city's lumbering Soviet-era infrastructure.
The rest of Russia slowly seems to be waking up to Vladivostok's potential as well. In 2016 St Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre inaugurated its impressive glass and steel Primorsky Stage, while the Hermitage Vladivostok is due to open in 2018. Vladivostok buzzes with cocktail bars, excellent restaurants and a renewed sense of purpose – don’t miss the Far East's most dynamic and fast-paced city.