Irkutsk, the “Paris of Siberia”, the elegant and romantic city on the banks of the serene River Angara. The de facto capital of Eastern Siberia, is by far the most popular stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Moscow and all points east. Is located near the Angara, Irkut and Ushakovka Rivers.
Is one of the largest cities in Siberia and the most important hub for tourism in the Lake Baikal region.
The city has a history spanning over 300 years.
Irkutsk has had a crucial role to play in much of Russia’s history, from its early role in Siberian luxury goods trade to a place of exile for many Russian nobles and intellectuals.
Founded in the mid-17th century as a winter quarters for traders and tax collectors, Irkutsk came to prominence in the 1800s. Participants in the Decembrist revolt against Tsar Nicholas I were exiled to Siberia in droves, turning Irkutsk into their cultural center.
Amid the 19th-century architecture, revived churches, classy eateries and numerous hostels, can help you plan anything from a winter trek across the lake’s ice to a short walking tour through the city.
There are many examples of unique historic architecture in the city. The Church of the Savior, Sobor Bogoyavlensky, Znamensky Monastery, and the city’s various museums.
You can spend an entire afternoon walking the streets of Irkutsk and not come across two homes that are alike. This city is comprised almost entirely of old, traditional Siberian houses and each one is entirely unique. They often have bright, carved shutters that contrast sharply with the dark wooden exterior. Something unique.
The Saviour’s Church is the oldest church in eastern Siberia, built in 1706. The building survived floods, earthquakes and fires. Today, it is the area’s largest historical monument. It is famous not only for its history, but also for the large paintings created in the 19th century which decorate the walls from the outside.
Block 130 (Irkutsk Sloboda) is the historical zone with dozens of old wooden structures and residential buildings built in the 18th century. Irkutsk Sloboda was created to preserve the age-old architectural buildings not just in the history books, but also in reality. It is a unique place where you can walk and look at the buildings that became objects of cultural heritage up close. Some of the buildings became museums. For example, at Zatoplyaev’s house, you will find the Museum of the Siberian Railway.
The Znamensky Monastery, built in 1762, is one of the largest and oldest in Siberia. the Znamensky Monastery is a place of pilgrimage and one of the city’s main tourist attractions. The silhouette of its towers in a unique style of Siberian baroque is perhaps the most recognisable site in Irkutsk.
The Knyaz – Vladimirsky – Monastery , constructed in the late 19th century, this impressively elaborate complex was built to honour Prince Vladimir who originally baptized Russia. Although much smaller in size, the monastery draws some similarities to the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square with its array of turrets which are capped off with bright blue tones that can be seen for miles.
Irkutsk’s colourful Kazan Church looks like a fairy-tale building. It’s known for having the largest bell and internal fresco paintings. The renovation works were completed in 2012.
The Epiphany Cathedral rich in bright gold and silver colours, this magnificent 19th-century cathedral stands proud as one of Irkutsk’s most popular religious buildings. But it’s not just the outside which is impressive; visitors are allowed inside during the day, and the boasts stunning murals covering the walls and ceilings. It’s an unusual combination of two architectural styles, Neoclassical and Russian Siberian.
The Holy Cross Church of Irkutsk is a magnificent piece of Siberian Baroque. It fascinates visitors with its rich ornamentation and complex design.
Lake Baikal, surrounded by mountains, is the world’s deepest freshwater lake. It is an important geological phenomenon with unique flora and fauna like the nerpa or the golomyanka, a pink fish.
There are many villages around the lake. The most popular activities are wildlife spotting tours, hiking, ice skating and dog sledding.
Filled with history, hearty food, and friendly locals, Irkutsk this is a city well worth exploring.