Barnaul is located in the forest steppe zone of the West Siberian Plain, on the left bank of the Ob River, at the confluence of the Barnaulka and Ob Rivers.
Barnaul is the closest major city to the Altai Mountains to the south. The border with Kazakhstan is 345 kilometers (214 mi) to the southwest. The city is also situated relatively close to the borders with Mongolia and China.
The humid continental climate of Barnaul (Köppen Dfb) is defined by its geographical position at the southern end of the Siberian steppe: it is subject to long winters, with an average of −15.5 °C (4.1 °F) in January, but also enjoys a short warm season in the summer with an average temperature of +19.9 °C (67.8 °F) in July. Temperatures can vary in the extreme, from below −45 °C (−49 °F) in the winter to above +35 °C (95 °F) in the summer.
The climate is relatively dry. The average precipitation in the area is 433 millimeters (17.0 in) per year, 75% of which occurs during the region's warmer season.
The area around the city has been inhabited by modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans, for hundreds of thousands of years. They settled here to take advantage of the confluence of the rivers, used for transportation and fishing. In the late BC millennia, the locality was a centre of activity for Scythian and various Turkic peoples.
While 1730 is considered Barnaul's official establishment date, its first mention dates back to 1724. It was granted city status in 1771. Chosen for its proximity to the mineral-rich Altai Mountains and its location on a major river, it was founded by the wealthy Demidov family. The Demidovs wanted to develop the copper in the mountains, and soon found substantial deposits of silver as well. In 1747, the Demidovs' factories were taken over by the Crown. Barnaul became the center of silver production of the entire Russian Empire.
In 1914, Barnaul was the site of the largest draft riot in Russia during World War I. There were more than 100 casualties from the fighting. Street fighting also took place between White Russians and Reds during the Russian Revolution of 1918.
Maria Stepanovna (née Zudilova) (1912-1996) was born and lived as a child in this city. She later became the mother of American actresses Natalie Wood (born Natalia Zakharenko) and Lana Wood (born Lana Gurdin). Her father Stepan was killed in the 1918 street fighting between the Whites and Reds following the Revolution. Afterward her mother took Maria and her siblings as refugees to Harbin, China. Maria married a Russian there, and they had a daughter Olga together. Maria eventually immigrated with Olga to the United States, where she married another Russian immigrant, from Vladivostok, and had two daughters with him.
Over half of the light ammunition used by the Soviet Union in World War II is estimated to be manufactured in Barnaul.
Barnaul is the administrative center of the krai. Within the framework of administrative divisions, it is, together with the work settlement of Yuzhny and twenty-four rural localities, incorporated as the city of krai significance of Barnaul—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the city of krai significance of Barnaul is incorporated as Barnaul Urban Okrug.
Barnaul is an important industrial center of Western Siberia. There are more than 100 industrial enterprises in the city, employing approximately 120,000 people. Leading industries include diesel and carbon processing; as well as production of heavy machinery, tires, furniture and footwear.
Barnaul lies at a junction of the Novosibirsk–Almaty and Biysk train lines.
The city is served by Barnaul Airport, located 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) west of Barnaul.
Since 1957 FC Dynamo Barnaul has been the city's professional football club.
Barnaul is twinned with: Flagstaff, Arizona, United States
Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain
Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang, China
Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Pyotr Kozmitch Frolov, scientist and inventor
Tatyana Kotova, Olympic champion in long jump
Julia Neigel, singer, songwriter
Ivan Nifontov, World champion and Olympic medalist in Judo
Anna Nikolskaya-Ekseli, writer of children's books and science-fiction
Alexey Novikov-Priboy, writer
Ivan Polzunov, inventor, creator of the first two-cylinder engine in the world
Konstantin Scherbakov, pianist
Sergey Shubenkov, track and field athlete, 2015 World Champion
Nadezhda Shuvayeva-Olkhova, Olympic champion in basketball
Alexey Smertin, former captain of the Russia national football team
Rita Streich, coloratura soprano
Nikolai Yadrintsev, explorer and archeologist, discoveries include the Orkhon script, Genghis Khan's capital, Karakorum
Mikhail Yakubov, NHL and KNL professional hockey player
Mikhail Yevdokimov, comedian and former governor of Altai Krai
Barsik the Cat (Kot Barsik), mayoral "candidate"