The Best Things to do in Samarkand | A Complete Guide

Samarkand is often referred to as the heart of the Silk Road. Why? Because it was once the hub of the silk trade and the halfway point of the trade route that connects Europe to Asia. A trip through Uzbekistan is undoubtedly going to lead you through Samarkand; a city rich in history, and streets lined with mosaic architecture. Read on to find the best things to do in Samarkand, where to eat, and where to stay.

Registan Square lit up at night in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

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Samarkand sightseeing attractions

Registan Square, Samarkand

First up is the famous Registan Square. Unlike backpacking through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which are famed for their out-of-this-world nature, Uzbekistan, Samarkand in particular, is all about memorizing architecture. Registan Square was once a noisy and lively square filled with market stalls, where farmers and artisans sold their goods. But today, there stand 3 very notable structures; Ulughbek Madrasah, Tilya-Kori Madrasah and Sher-Dor Madrasah.

Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Registan Square in Samarkand is the heart of the Silk Road

Ulughbek Madrasah

The first building, Ulughbek Madrasah, dates back to 1471. The other two buildings were built in the 17th century to replicate Ulughbek’s fascinating dreamy design of stars in the night sky.

Ulughbek madrasah - Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Out-of-this-world design on Ulughbek Madrasah

Registan Square history

The three Islamic buildings were ordered to be built by two different rulers at different times. Ruler, Yalangtush Bahadur, ordered the construction of a second madrassah (Sher-Dor) intending to mirror that of Ulughbek. However, after 200 years, Ulughbek’s madrasah had shrunk into the ground. Therefore, today Sher-Dor stands slightly taller.

Registan Square gardens in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Registan Square Gardens in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Entrance to Registan Square

We thoroughly enjoyed wandering in awe at the glazed mosaic designs. So much so, we went 3 times; once in the morning, once at sunset and once at night-time.

Registan Sqaure at night
Local ladies wanted a photo with Katie as Registan Square lights up at night

We woke up super early in the morning to catch the sunrise over Registan Square. We arrived at the square at 6 am, but the ticket office doesn’t open until 8 am. Feeling a little gutted that we couldn’t go inside, we waved over to the guard to see if he could help us. In the end, we paid him $5 to open ‘the secret door’ that leads upstairs to the higher levels of the buildings. He allowed us to roam freely for the next two hours until the ticket office opened at 8 am.

Architecture of Registan buildings - Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The grand design of the buildings on Registan Square

The official ticket cost is 30,000 Som and lasts the entire day.

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Silk Carpet Factory Samarkand

Whilst in Samarkand, the heart of the silk road, it makes perfect sense to visit a silk carpet factory. It’s here where you can witness silk carpets being intricately designed and handmade by local women.

Each carpet can take anywhere between 3 months to 2 years to complete. The length of time depends entirely on how many knots (how much detail is in each carpet).

Silk carpets being made - Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Katie trying her hand at making a silk carpet in Samarkand

It’s interesting to see the young women at work and to learn about the production of silk carpets. We would have loved to have bought one, but with prices starting at $3,000, it was a little (actually way) out of our budget.

A visit and tour of the silk factory are completely FREE. The owner was extremely helpful and enthusiastic whilst showing us around. He knew beforehand that we had no intentions of purchasing a carpet, but he still explained the process thoroughly and was happy to answer any of our questions.

The Silk Carpet Factory in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Katie getting comfy on a sofa at the silk carpet factory

Other things to do in Samarkand

  • Gur Emir Mausoleum – 22,000 Som ($2.31)
  • Ruhabad Mausoleum – FREE
  • Bibi Khanym Mosque – 22,000 Som for 3 days entry ($2.31)
  • Siob Bazaar – FREE
  • Shakhi Zinda Mausoleum – 22,000 Som ($2.31)
  • Prophet Daniel Mausoleum – FREE
  • Ulughbek’s Observatory – 22,000 Som ($2.31)

Where to eat in Samarkand

Café Magistar – They have a selection of local food and plenty of Western food to choose from, including pizza, pasta and fries. The prices are fair and there is wifi available.


Burger Club – Serves delicious burgers and wraps. Not many places have chicken, but Burger Club does. We spent a few hours in here drinking their delicious mojitos and snagging the fast wifi connection that the old city generally lacks.

Where to stay in Samarkand

Timur the Great Guesthouse A family-run guesthouse in the heart of the old city. The guesthouse is just 5 minute’s walk from Registan Square, making it convenient to visit multiple times throughout the day. The rooms are very clean and traditionally decorated. What makes this place great is the very filling delicious breakfast that consists of traditional Uzbek pastries, bread, cheeses and egg. The owners speak English well and are super helpful and attentive.

Timur the Great guesthouse - Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Jake tucking into a delicious Uzbeki brekkie at Timur the Great Guesthouse

We hope you enjoyed reading this quick guide to Samarkand. It truly is a fascinating place. Let us know how your visit went in the comment section below.

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For more prices and deals on properties in Samarkand CLICK HERE.

Essential resources for travelling in Uzbekistan

Travel Insurance – No matter where you’re travelling to, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re covered for any accidents or losses. We spent days and weeks searching for insurance, but most insurers would not allow us to take out a policy as we were already abroad. Our personal choice is Safteywing. You can opt for automatic monthly payments, just like a subscription. More importantly, it is available in 180 countries and can be purchased whilst already travelling. There is no cap on the duration of travel.

Visa – Before you travel to any country, make sure to check if you need a visa. iVisa is a fantastic website that is super easy and quick to use. Just type in where you are from. and where you are going. to check if you need a visa. If you do, you can quickly make an application online.

AccommodationBooking.com is our go-to when looking to pre-book accommodation online. Booking.com tend to almost always have the best rates and a FREE cancellation policy for most properties.

Tours & Activities – If you want to book tours and activities online, make sure to check out Get Your Guide. Get Your Guide takes the stress out of booking activities abroad. You will also find a range of benefits, such as skip-the-line passes, lunch included in your tours, and so much more.

Travel tips ebook -Before you head off on your adventure, make sure to download our free ebook. It has a whopping 109 budget travel tips to help you make your hard-earned cash go further. Click here to download your FREE ebook.

Are you heading to Bukhara next? Check out the perfect Bukhara itinerary.

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The Best Things to do in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

10 thoughts on “The Best Things to do in Samarkand | A Complete Guide

  1. Toti and Alessia says:

    I ear about this place, I never had to think to go in Uzbekistan but really your post open me a World. Is nice to see other places over the common escape holidays. Your post is really well for two factor, the first is full of information about visiting places, price and where and the second is: I can feel your sensations while reading. Well done. Hope to get in touch with you soon for ask more suggestions for my trip.

    • Katie says:

      Thanks a lot for your comment. We are glad you liked the post and found it useful. We hope you get to visit Uzbekistan soon. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any tips 🙂 Will be more than happy to help.

  2. Cynthia says:

    Uzbekistan is one of the top most travelling place. In Uzbekistan there are lots of travel spot. Uzbekistan is mainly popular for there mosque. All mosques is really beautiful.

    Great post, full of pictures. After seeing those pictures realized that all of you enjoyed. Katie and Jake you surely buy 1 silk carpet. You can use it for sleeping and yoga 🙂 🙂

    • Katie says:

      Yes you’re right the buildings in Samarkand are so beautiful and fascinating. We wish we could have bought one but we aside from not having room in our backpacks, we didn’t have enough money 🙁 maybe next time though!

  3. Followingtherivera says:

    I love this post! Registan Square is beautiful, and those colours are mesmerising too. Good to know there are some other places to eat. Pungent meat doesn’t do it for me either!

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