10 Coldest Cities in the World – 2023 Update
Living in the U.S., many of us know that the cold season can be uncomfortable at best and destructive at worst. Temperatures drop, and we bundle up, winterizing homes and vehicles to make it through whatever the weather can dole out.
Fortunately, most of us only deal with the chill for a small fraction of the year. In other pockets of the globe, an icy climate is an everyday reality for residents. The next time you see snow in the forecast, take comfort in knowing that you’ll get some relief, eventually, unlike the coldest cities in the world.
The 10 Coldest Cities in the World
The list of the top 10 coldest cities in the world includes only those with at least 100,000 residents, resulting in some notable omissions. At 5°F, Oymyakon in Russia has one of the lowest average annual temperatures in the world. It still doesn’t make this list because, with fewer than 1,000 residents, there isn’t much civilization to experience amid the cold. When you visit the cities listed here, it isn’t just the surprising cold but also how many people can live in it year-round.
1. Yakutsk, Russia
|Lowest Recorded Temperature||-83.9°F|
The capital of the Sakha Republic in Russia is a city centered on its cold-weather culture. With over 300,000 residents, the city is one of the coldest worldwide and the largest built on a layer of continuous permafrost.
Arriving in the summer months, you wouldn’t know that Yakutsk has one of the lowest average temperatures in the world. Average highs from June through August stay around 70°, with some days eclipsing 80° in the sun. But lows in January through March, ranging from -24° to -43°, bring the average annual temperature down to a freezing 16.5°F. The extreme temperature difference between the hottest summer days and the coldest winter months is one the greatest of any city in the world.
Although residents have to retreat indoors much of the year, Yakutsk features a vibrant culture. The city hosts an annual Ysyakh summer festival, and visitors can enjoy an array of museums, theaters, and artworks representing the best of Sakha society.
2. Norilsk, Russia
|Lowest Recorded Temperature||-63.6°F|
Located nearly 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle, Norilsk is one of the northernmost cities in the world. With it being so far north, the days are short, and the winters are long, lasting from October until June.
Like Yakutsk, the city of over 170,000 residents is remote and difficult to access, with visitors only able to arrive via plane or ferry. Despite its isolation and relatively small population, Norilsk is one of the most polluted places on earth, thanks to its palladium and high-grade nickel processing facilities.
During the summer, temperatures stay between 40° and 60° on average before plummeting in October, reaching an average of just 19°. From November through March, a period featuring two months of polar night and perpetual darkness, highs never exceed 6°.
3. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
|Lowest Recorded Temperature||-36°F|
Ulaanbaatar, or Ulan Bator, is the capital of Mongolia. Boasting nearly 1.5 million residents, it is also the country’s largest city and the center of its economy. Most of the nation’s corporations have headquarters there, and its vast collection of museums and monasteries offers an immersive look at all aspects of Mongolian culture.
Summers in Ulaanbaatar are pleasurable, with average highs peaking at 75° in July. Below-freezing temperatures set in from October through May, when pollution is at its worst in the city. As the temperature dips as low as -18° in the coldest months, many residents warm up with simple stoves (called “gers”) that put out an overwhelming amount of smoke and pollution.
4. Irkutsk, Russia
|Highest Recorded Temperature||-57.5°F|
Irkutsk lies on the southern edge of Siberia, a stop on the Trans-Siberian railway heading toward the magnificent Lake Baikal. Sitting near the border, Irkutsk features a varied culture with Siberian, Chinese, and Mongolian influences. Along with its prominence on the railroad, the city is known for its engineering industries.
As with other Siberian cities, Irkutsk has a wide temperature range that jumps from average highs of 75° in July to average lows of -11° in January. Temperatures stay below-freezing from November through March. Precipitation is similarly varied, with 4 inches of rain accompanying the summer heat before easing into drier winter months.
5. Novosibirsk, Russia
|Lowest Recorded Temperature||-51.3°F|
Sitting west of Irkutsk is Novosibirsk, a city of 1.5 million and the largest in Siberia. The city enjoyed a growth spurt during Stalin’s reign when much of the country’s industry moved there. It continues to be an essential manufacturing center today, hosting leaders in aerospace, energy, and agricultural engineering.
In its varied climate, Novosibirsk has warm summers and frigid winters that last from October through April. Light snow showers are common through the winter, and temperatures are milder than in many other Siberian locales. Average temperatures get as cold as 2° in January, but lows generally stay at or above 0° the entire year.
6. Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
|Coldest Recorded Temperature||-60.9°F|
Nur-Sultan is the second-largest city in Kazakhstan, which is a metropolis of over 1 million people sitting on the Ishim River. It developed into its modern landscape under president Nursultan Nazarbayev, leading to the country’s capital city being renamed in 2019 to recognize his impact. While the railway provides much of the employment in Nur-Sultan, its tourism and industrial production sectors are vital sources of the city’s economic success.
After Ulaanbaatar, Nur-Sultan is the second-coldest capital city on the planet. Summers get warm, with average highs nearing 80° in July and record highs eclipsing 105°. That warm weather keeps an average annual temperature weighed down by cold winters when average lows stay at or below 0° for 3 months.
7. Anchorage, Alaska
|Coldest Recorded Temperature||-34°|
Although it covers more area than Rhode Island, Anchorage has a population of fewer than 300,000 residents. That still makes it Alaska’s largest city, and the thriving community draws considerable interest for its gorgeous landscape, varied wildlife, and colorful artistic community.
Unlike its Siberian counterparts across the strait, temperature variations are mild in Anchorage. Summer monthly averages never rise above 60°, and winter averages never go below 18°. The short growing season lasts about 3 months, and rain and snow are frequent throughout the year.
8. Winnipeg, Canada
|Lowest Recorded Temperature||-40°F|
Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, is home to roughly 750,000 residents. The city is a flourishing economic and cultural center featuring a broad range of industries and numerous National Historic Sites of Canada. It was the backdrop for several major Hollywood productions, and it plays host to an array of annual festivals and several sports teams, including the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets.
Winnipeg’s weather can be diverse. Summers are warm and humid, with highs averaging over 75° from June through August. By contrast, winters can be frigid, as lows fall below 0° in January.
9. Harbin, China
|Highest Recorded Temperature||-35°F|
Harbin is a sub-provincial city in the northeast corner of China. The massive urban area is known for its multicultural cuisine and embrace of the cold weather that residents enjoy most of the year. The highlight of China’s “Ice City” is the annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, where visitors delight in awe-inspiring ice structures and various winter sports and activities.
Winters bring little precipitation, and temperatures stay below 0° on average in January despite the sunshine. The days warm up in April, and monthly highs remain close to 80° from June through July. These hot summer months are also when the city sees most of its annual 21 inches of rainfall.
10. Erzurum, Turkey
|Highest Recorded Temperature||40°F|
Erzurum’s importance dates back to around 300 AD when it went by “Theodosiopolis” for Roman Emperor Theodosius I. Many of the historic sites from the Roman Empire and subsequent civilizations still exist for exploration. The city currently makes a name for itself as a winter retreat full of impressive sports arenas that have hosted several international events, most notably the 2011 University Games.
The weather gets consistently cold in Erzurum, where average winter temperatures between 14–31° bring plenty of snow and most of the city’s annual precipitation. Summers, though mild, remain dry. Temperatures peak close to 80° in July and August, but temperatures only average 65° during these hottest months.
Related Read: 10 Hottest Cities in the World
For most people around the globe, chilly winters are temporary trials with the reward of warm spring weather at the end. But in icy areas like these cities, cold is part of the culture, an integral component of everyday life, and an ongoing challenge. The next time you’re feeling down about an oncoming snowstorm, remember how good you have it compared to the world’s coldest regions!
Featured Image Credit: Piqsels