The wooden fort at the mouth of the Yaik River was founded in 1645 as Nizhny Yaitzky Gorodok (literally, Lower Yaik Fort) by the Russian trader Gury Nazarov. The fort was plundered by Cossacks, leading the Guriev family to rebuild it in stone (1647–62). The fort gradually lost its strategic significance and was demolished in 1810. Between 1708 and 1992 the city was known as Guriev. The city began growing in 1930s when a fish cannery was constructed and the Balykshi housing area. Later, a lot of industrial plants were transplanted here during World War II. An oil- and gas-processing plant was constructed and a housing district, Zhilgorodok. In October 1991, the Guriev city administration decided to rename it Atyrau. In Kazakh language the word “atyrau” means the place where river flows into sea. Atyrau city was founded on the bank of the river, but today it is 25–30 km from the river.
Atyrau is an important railway station, and has daily, or bi-daily, connections with many Kazakh cities, except for the northwest (including Astana). International rail connections include Tashkent/Saratov, Moscow/Dushanbe and Astrakhan (20-hr train).
There are also daily international buses to Astrakhan.
- 1 Manjali Mosque (Imangali), Qanysh Sätbayev Ave 15. Beautiful mosque. Entrance only with long trousers. Next door is the grand Isatay and Makhambet Square with a noble statue of these guys on horseback.
- Atyrau Regional Museum, Bauyrzhan Momyshuly St, from ukuleles to little yurt-like things, discover what made Atyrau Atyrau, and just to the west is the Atyrau Art Museum.
- Museum of Military Vehicle, Vladimir Street 28, find this mostly outdoor exhibit next to the Fantasy World with its big ferris wheel, come see all the artillery here in Victory Park.
- Aktau Paleontology Museum, Mukhtar Auezov Ave, a natural history museum that borders the Retro Park with some cool statuary and rotunda along an oxbow of the Ural River. But perhaps even more compelling is the somewhat Golden Gate-looking bridge to the west that has some acclaim for being one of the longest pedestrian bridges around.
- Atyrau Fitness Center, Alipova St 1. 09:00-24:00. The gym has a good selection of machines including running, cycling, steppers, multi-weights and free weights. A sauna is available.
- Ice Skating Palace (Muz Aidyny) (In the Nursaya micro district), ☏ , . The complex is six thousand square meters with ice area of 30 meters wide and 60 meters long.
- Kazakhstan English Language Theater of Atyrau. The first all-English theater and drama group in Kazakhstan. Started in Almaty in 2001, KELT began operating in Atyrau in 2008, performing Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in spring 2010. KELT meets weekly for improvisational theater games, and good English language practice.
- Munayshy Swimming Pool, Zhilgorodok, Mukanov Street 5. An Olympic size pool with 8 lanes. There is also an automatic scoreboard. International competitions are held here.
- Ardager. Has items ranging from 100-500,000 tenge. There are clothes shops like Mango. They have an international grocery shop called Ramstore, which is very popular among foreigners. It has small jewelry and make-up stands next to the escalators. It has two big beauty shops called Mon Amie, and Beauty Mania. They have some eating places like Taksim and Baskin Robins. They also have Dream which is a bowling place, and next to it is a karaoke place. There is Dostyk near by, which is an American village. There is a mosque nearby and the Renaissance Hotel. Mukhambet Square is within walking distance. Fake pink and blue lighted trees fill Ardager with rich flamboyant colors. If you’re going to be doing activities outside then you only need cash. But if you're doing activities inside the mall, then you can pay with debit or credit card.
- Tamasha. The main mall in Atyrau. Tamasha has items ranging from 100-300,000 tenge. It all depends on what you buy, and which season you buy it in. In Tamasha, there are clothes shops, like United Colors of Benetton, Tvoe, Incity, Motors, Kira Plastinina, and many more. They also have a Japanese restaurant with a bar on the first floor called Yamato. They also have a price-saver grocery store, called Ideal, which is opposite to Yamato. There is horse and yak riding. There is a carousel and a Ferris wheel. There is a Russian Circus hosted there for about 2 weeks every year. There is the kids play area on the top floor. There is also a large toy store in the first floor.
- Cafe La Roma, Kurmangazy 5, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Pizzeria. Delivery available.
- Selena (Селена), 2, Azattyk St, ☏ . A restaurant where you can just sit around and enjoy the food, Asian and European. Air conditioned and family-friendly.
- Green Hotel.
- Marriott Executive Apartments Atyrau.
- Hotel Renaissance, 15B Satpayev St. There is a fitness center in the hotel complete with cardiovascular equipment and free weights. Two swimming pools, one is a heated indoor swimming pool and the other is a children's pool. Sauna, steam room and solarium, beauty treatment rooms and massages.
- River Palace Hotel. Formerly the Hotel Renco.
- Saraidzhuk, remnants of a medieval city dating all the way back to the 1200s reportedly, 50km north of Atyrau.