One of the largest cities in Siberia, charmingly celebrated Irkutsk, is the most beloved stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Moscow and all eastern points. With Lake Baikal less than 50 miles away, the city is surrounded by natural wonders of the world. Amid the 19th-century construction, restored churches, classy eateries, and various hostels, abundant English-speaking agencies can help you get ready for anything from a winter trek beyond the lake’s ice to a short walking tour around the city.
Things to see in Irkutsk:
- The Saviour’s Church is the oldest in eastern Siberia, constructed in the early 17th century. The building survived earthquakes, fires, and floods. Today, it is the area’s most significant historical monument. It is famous not only for its storied history but also for the magnificent paintings created in the 19th century, which adorn the walls.
- The Znamensky Monastery, constructed in the mid 17th century, is one of Siberia’s biggest dearest. It was an infamous place of deportation of the Decembrists and their families. Today, the Znamensky Monastery is a pilgrimage and one of the city’s foremost tourist attractions. The contour of its towers in a unique Siberian baroque style is probably the most distinct site in Irkutsk.
- The Bronshteyn Gallery is the most extensive collection of late-medieval art. Its display halls occupy more than 1300 sq.m., and the expo includes about 1500 works of art, including graphics, paintings, and sculptures.
- Lake Baikal, enveloped by mountains is the world’s deepest freshwater lake. It is a natural geological marvel with unique plants and animals like the golomyanka- a pink fish. There are several villages and campsites around the lake. The most favorite activities are hiking, ice skating, wildlife spotting tours, and dog sledding.
- The white-and-red Epiphany Cathedral is covered with pictures of the saints and ornamental tiles. The interior’s walls are embellished with different mosaic tiles representing religious figures. It’s an unusual blend of two architectural styles, Russian Siberian and Neoclassical.
- For art enthusiasts, Irkutsk Art Museum, comprising about 20,000 art treasures, is a must-see.
- If you are traveling in the winter, the central park offers numerous ice sculptures and an ice castle that you can stroll around in. There are ice slides in this park as well. Most tourists stand up and slide on the soles of their shoes. The place is lively at night with tourists, even though the colds drop well below -20 degrees C.
How to move around the city?
The historical center of Irkutsk is walkable. However, for those who want to travel between one side of the river and the other, the public transit system is useful. Understanding at least how to read the signs on the bus stops and buses is helpful, and on the minibusses, one must call out to the driver to halt. Renting a bicycle is easy and the rental companies are very helpful and genuine.
What to eat in Irkutsk?
Irkutsk has numerous restaurants offering Siberian, Russian, Buryat, Japanese, Mongolian, European and Chinese cuisine.
For a local specialty, Sig, Omyl and Kharius are regional fishes found in in the Lake Baikal (you can order that in nearby restaurants). Cold smoked kharius is excellent with beer. You can find Hot smoked kharius in Listvyanka or Kultuk villages near Baikal lake.