30 Irkutsk sights to see
Irkutsk is located in Eastern Siberia near Lake Baikal. This is a distinctive city with a rich history, architectural and cultural heritage. Here you can find unique examples of wooden architecture, decorated merchant mansions, the oldest churches and monuments of constructivism. Most of the notable points are concentrated in the center, and one or two days are enough to visit them. For a trip to Baikal it is better to save more time.
In the center
One of the most beautiful places in the city is the Angara embankment. The wide river flows out of Lake Baikal and has a bright blue color. The lower embankment was improved for the 350th anniversary of the city a few years ago, and now it’s a great place to walk in the center. Along with the landscaping, several new monuments were put up: to Jacob Pokhabov, Peter and Fevronia.
Also, the Moscow Gate, a triumphal arch erected in honor of Alexander I in the early 19th century, has been restored. The monumental arch was destroyed during the Soviet era as a reminder of Czarism. In 2011 the arch was restored according to old designs.
The Epiphany Cathedral
The 17th century Epiphany Cathedral is one of the most beautiful and oldest churches in Irkutsk. It repeatedly suffered from destruction due to fires and earthquakes, and in Soviet times it housed a confectionery shop. During this time, the church was deteriorating, and the question of its demolition began to be raised. Fortunately, instead, the building was put under protection as a cultural monument and undergoing restoration.
During the restoration, the interior and exterior were painted, creating a very unusual appearance of the church, very different from its original appearance.
Church of the Savior
It was from the area where the current building of the Church of the Savior is located that the city began. Originally there was a fortress, but after fires and earthquakes only the church of the XVIII century survived. The temple is unique with wall paintings and shrines: icons and relics of Theodore of Tomsk.
Roman Catholic church
The Polish church was built in the 19th century with money from the Poles exiled to Siberia after the November Uprising. At that time Poles protested against Russian authority in the Polish kingdom and many protesters were exiled. In addition to Poles, Catholics in Irkutsk included French, Germans, and Italians working on the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Later Catholic parishes were supplemented by repressed Lithuanians, Latvians, and Ukrainians.
During the Soviet era, as part of the anti-church campaign, the Polish parish was persecuted and the church was closed. For a long time the building was misused as a newsreel studio. Even after restoration, the church was not given to the Catholic community, and it still remains in limbo. At this time, the church is home to the Philharmonic.
Street of Karl Marx
The most beautiful street in Irkutsk – Karl Marx Street. Almost all it consists of mansions of XIX century and other historic buildings. In czarist times the city was home to many wealthy merchants who came here to develop trade with China and industry. The heyday was in the middle of the XIX century – so the construction of the most prominent buildings fell on this period. Mansions are now occupied by museums, stores and cafes.
There are also often income houses of the early twentieth century.
The mansion at the intersection of Karl Marx and Litvinov Streets is decorated with lush decor in the early 20th century. Two floors of the neo-Renaissance building were occupied by the Grand Hotel. On the first floor there were stores selling Swiss watches and books, a cafe and a billiard room. After the revolution the hotel was nationalized and party congresses were held inside. Now the first floors are again occupied by stores.
Perpendicular to it, Street Uritskogo is a pedestrian shopping street. The main architectural monument is the house of merchant Rodionov (3, Uritskogo).
Build a stone mansion at the end of XIX century in Irkutsk could afford only very rich people. Such was the merchant Feinberg, who ordered a mansion in an eclectic style. Richly decorated, not only the facade, but also the interior, including stucco, tiles and paintings.
Another mansion in a similar style belonged to the family of Vtorov, a wealthy Irkutsk merchant. The exterior was decorated in a pseudo-Russian style, while the owner was inspired by Eastern motifs when decorating the interior.
Not surprisingly, such an unusual building had outstanding owners. Alexander Vtorov opened a trade in manufactures in Irkutsk, and was a member of the town Duma. Soon he became one of the largest businessmen in Siberia, and his arcade was opened in the center. His business acumen was passed on to his son, Nikolai Vtorov, who not only preserved, but also increased the family fortune. He continued his father’s business and expanded the field of activities, engaging both in trade and industrial production, as well as opening new enterprises all over the country, including Moscow. At the beginning of the 20th century, according to Forbes, Nikolai Vtorov had the largest fortune in Russia. Many of the industrial enterprises founded by the Vtorovs are still in operation today.
Okhlopkov Drama Theater
The Irkutsk theater is one of the first dramatic theaters in Russia, along with the Volkov Theater in Yaroslavl. For a century and a half the theater has been the center of the cultural life of the region. The building was built in eclectic architectural style with many decorative details.
Ul. Karl Marx St., 14
The center holds a rare and amazing wooden heritage. Houses with carved platbands, shutters and unusual facades for the most part remain inhabited. The peculiarity of Irkutsk wooden houses is that many of them are below ground level.
The manor of public figure Sukachev now houses a branch of the art museum. The building itself, which is considered one of the best examples of wooden architecture, is remarkable. On the territory is laid out a winter park, there are stables and guest houses.
December Sobedy Street. 112 Dekabrskikh Sobytiye Street.
The Trubetskoy house-museum
In a beautiful wooden mansion, according to legends, once belonged to the family of the Decembrist Trubetskoy, is an exposition of the Decembrist Museum. Among the exhibits are personal belongings and the history of the Decembrists’ exile and hard labor. Good preservation of the house is explained by its complete reconstruction ten years ago – the house was almost completely disassembled and rebuilt.
ul. Dzerzhinskogo, 64
The second part of the Decembrists museum exposition is located in the Volkonsky house. Moreover there is a reconstruction of the Volkonskys’ family household, restoring the interiors and keeping the objects of everyday life.
Lane. 10, Volkonsky Lane
Quarter 130 is a new neighborhood built on the former rural area formed back in the 18th century. For a long time, the wooden architectural monuments of the oldest suburb were not in the best condition and were gradually deteriorating, despite their unique historical significance. In 2010, all residents of the dilapidated houses were relocated, and a cultural and entertainment zone was built on the site of the former residential neighborhood.
However, not all of the houses were preserved. Some were demolished, and new modern buildings were erected instead, ruining the authenticity of the former suburb. The remaining buildings were restored or rebuilt. They housed museums, cafes, restaurants and stores. Here you can have a look at the Craftsmen’s Yard or the museum of the Siberian railroad. At the entrance to the quarter stands the symbol of Irkutsk – Babr.
House of merchants Shastin
The Shastin House is often referred to as a lace house because of its rich decor imitating the baroque, including platbands, towers and carved decorations. The building has now been fully restored and is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Friedrich Engelsa str. Friedrich Engels St, 21
The Cathedral in the Znamensky Monastery is located at the confluence of the Ushakovka River into the Angara. Together with the monastery is one of the oldest religious buildings in Siberia, founded in the 17th century. The construction was overseen by Peter the Great, who wanted to make the monastery the beginning of the Christianization of the region. In addition to nuns, excommunicated women were exiled to the monastery and tried to correct them with hard physical labor.
In Soviet times, the church was closed and housed an aircraft repair shop, which existed until the end of the Great Patriotic War. After that, the monastery was returned to the ROC, and since then it has been active.
Monument to Kolchak
Near the Znamensky Monastery, not far from the firing squad is a monument to Kolchak. This is a relatively new monument, created in 2004. Its installation has caused disagreements among residents, and in the government, which were due to the ambiguity of the historical figure. The pedestal depicts a Red Guardsman and a White Guardsman who laid down their arms.
The cylindrical facade, ribbon windows, and solid balconies make the building an excellent example of constructivism. The chief architect of the city at the time decided to follow world trends and build a residential house for NKVD officers in this particular style. A few years later the architect was repressed as a spy and died in prison.
Pioneer Lane, 10
The site of Kolchak’s murder
Kolchak was killed in Irkutsk – at the confluence of the Ushakovka river into the Angara. Admiral Kolchak was shot and thrown into the water. Now there is a memorial cross.
To see all the most interesting things in one walk, it is most convenient to book a tour of Irkutsk with a local guide, who will show the main points and tell stories about the city:
The building was built specifically for the branch of the Russo-Asian Bank. After the revolution all international connections were terminated and the house was occupied by the Kolchak government. Now it is a district clinic.
The oldest bridge in Irkutsk, built in the 1930s. Before the bridge, residents moved from the center to Glazkovskoye Suburb exclusively by boat.
The city stands on the beautiful Angara River. There are picturesque views of the river on both banks. They are best admired from the Ferris wheel “Krugozor” on the island of Konny and Yunost. In addition, there is a children’s railroad and an ice rink on the island.
Station and the Trans-Siberian Railway
A famous railroad, the Trans-Siberian Railway, passes through Irkutsk. The station itself is also noteworthy – it is a complex of buildings in neo-Russian style.
Irkutsk art museum has several branches. The main branch presents works by Repin, Shishkin and other Russian masters. Despite the modest decoration, it is worth a visit to take a quiet stroll through the half-empty halls, looking at the rare and most famous paintings of the artists. In addition to paintings, there are sculptures and objects of arts and crafts.
Museum of local history
The history of Irkutsk is most fully told in the Regional Museum of Local Lore. The exposition covers the time from antiquity to the Soviet period. It is interesting to learn about the archeological findings in the area, the industrial boom of the 19th century and the strong change of the city during the Soviet period.
ul. Karl Marx St., 11
One of the oldest icebreakers in the world, the Angara, is preserved in Irkutsk. It operated from 1900 to 1962, and is now a specialized museum. The icebreaker operated at the port of Baikal, and during the Czechoslovak uprising it took part in military operations until it passed into the hands of the White Guards. During the Civil War there was a mass shooting of prison escapees on board.
The ship is now turned into a museum. It is possible to get into the engine room and look at the mechanism of the icebreaker.
Av. Marshala Zhukova, 36
PSU Botanical Garden
State University Botanical Garden is not located in the center, so you have to take public transport to the Pervomaisky district. The garden was opened in 1940 and since then has expanded its collection of plants. Now its territory has an apothecary garden, Japanese and Korean gardens, picturesque arbors, fountains, alleys, greenhouses, arboretums and a Buryat yurt.
It’s a great place for walks and photos, especially during the warm season. To learn more about the garden’s plants, it’s worth booking a tour of the greenhouses and arboretums, but an independent visit will also be fascinating. Admission: 80-150 rubles.
Of course, the main point of attraction of the Irkutsk region is Lake Baikal. This is one of the most beautiful places in Russia, which must be seen at least once in your life. To get to the lake from Irkutsk is quite easy: by shuttle bus or as part of a special tour. Road to Listvyanka takes about an hour.
Read also: how to get to Baikal: the most budget and comfortable way to get to the lake, the best time to go, current prices and photos.
The most popular destination in Baikal is Olkhon Island. Some people go to Olkhon with an organized group or on their own, but also for the residents of Irkutsk, the island has become one of the most popular places for recreation. Olkhon is also famous for the opportunity to see Baikal seals, which have taken a fancy to its shores. In the largest village on the island, Khuzhir, you can learn about the traditions and culture of the indigenous peoples.
The most comfortable way to visit Olkhon is to meet a guide, who will provide a comfortable transfer, tell you the main things about the place and show you the main and unvisited places.
One of the most beautiful and technically complex railroads in the world, the Circum-Baikal Railroad, runs along Lake Baikal. There are dozens of tunnels, viaducts, and arched bridges along the way, and the views of the lake are breathtaking. A visit to this railroad, for example, is a great opportunity to see Lake Baikal, visit Listvyanka and Slyudyanka, travel a considerable stretch of the shore, and see the beautiful arches and tunnels. Read more about the trip along the Circum-Baikal railway.
The “Taltsy” museum of architecture and ethnography is an open-air museum complex, where the old wooden houses of the Irkutsk region were brought together. Some of the villages have not survived, as they were flooded after the creation of the Irkutsk hydroelectric power station, so the houses are a unique and the only memory of them. In addition, there are shown objects of everyday life and art, interiors and architectural monuments. In Taltsy often hold events for children.
In Irkutsk there are lush merchant mansions, wooden houses with cozy courtyards and even constructivist projects. It has a rich history, which can be found in museums, and an amazing nature, including the Angara River and Lake Baikal.
A separate plus is the relatively low prices for accommodation, food, cabs, and public transportation. At the same time, there are establishments with a decent level of service, trendy coffee shops and modern hostels. That is why budget tourists will especially like it in Irkutsk.
Read also: Lake Baikal in September – is it worth the trip?
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30 best sights of Irkutsk
Have you ever seen a real northern patchwork quilt? That’s exactly what the sights of Irkutsk, located in different city districts, remind you of it. Museums, entertainment institutions, historical monuments, creations of modern sculptors, enthusiasts create a special environment, where it is pleasant to be, to reflect on the eternal values, to talk with like-minded people and just relax your soul.
The modern city manages to retain its ancient coloring in spite of the unrestrained run of time. And at the same time it did not freeze up, did not become depressive. Irkutsk is growing, developing, and its cultural life is changing along with it. In the regional center appear new amazing places, where thousands of tourists rush to enjoy an amazing feeling of wonder, novelty, to be transported into the past or the future of Siberia.
The public space in the shape of a triangle has a second name: Irkutsk Sloboda. It is where the history of the city began. There are only 7 real architectural monuments on the territory of the 130th quarter. The rest of the buildings in the area were built in the 21st century, based on pre-revolutionary engravings, drawings or moved from other parts of the city, where high-rise buildings are located today.
The “Fashion Quarter” shopping center located in the suburb is adored by shopaholics, gourmands, and movie lovers. Fans of painting prefer to spend time in the neighboring building, the DiaS Art Gallery, where exhibitions of regional, national, and international importance are held. There are 2 museums on the block: “Noosphere” and “Window to Asia”.
Another attraction of the historic district: a planetarium. Bronze sculptures of the Ussuri tiger and a dog, and a metal “Circle of Wishes”, to which the Siberians ascribe magical powers, are also an important part of the amazing suburb.
Lower Angara embankment
The 900-meter street, whose beauty fascinates at any time of day, is famous for its monuments of history, culture, numerous cafes. It is considered the city’s calling card. For several centuries, a small pier, where merchant ships used to dock, has become the main street, where major festivals, folk festivals, various mass festivals take place.
Here the eternal flame burns, the Epiphany Cathedral and the Church of the Savior shine with its golden domes, the Moscow Triumphal Gate proudly rises. Each of the sculptures installed on the embankment, can safely be called a symbol of a Siberian city. Frozen on pedestals figures of explorer Yakov Pokhabov, geodesists-surveyors, teachers with children, Saints Peter and Fevronia, the outstanding Soviet commander AP Beloborodov attract attention.
The street consists of 2 main parts: transport and pedestrian. Its tiers, buildings, sculptures, together with the majestic Angara are a harmonious ensemble of natural and man-made monuments.
The oldest 1245-meter-long city bridge, which offers a beautiful view of the river and the banks of the Angara, was built in the 1930s. Its predecessors, a ferry crossing and a pontoon structure, were constantly plagued by breakdowns. Before the revolution, fundraising for the construction of a new bridge began, an engineering project was created, but World War I and changes in the government stopped its implementation.
Another attempt of townspeople to raise money in the 20s to build a bridge, thereby immortalizing the memory of the leader of the world proletariat, Lenin, was supported by the state, but the project was again under threat of failure. Even the sculptures that could have emphasized the grandeur of the building were decided not to be installed, and only the temporary figure of Vladimir Lenin was left.
The Lenin Mausoleum and the bridge were designed by the same architect. During the construction of the second building none of the 2000 workers died. The second fact is considered no less surprising, because the construction of durable bridges over full-flowing rivers, according to popular belief, is always accompanied by casualties. The grandiose structure is still in use today; it is divided into zones for vehicles and pedestrians.
Monument to Yakov Pokhabov
Historians know very little about the great explorer and founder of the city. Lifetime images of him didn’t survive. However, the name of Yakov Pokhabov is forever inscribed in the history of Siberia. There is a theory that he was a relative of the famous Yenisei Cossack Ivan Pokhabov. The second contributed to the study of Lake Baikal, until 1902 historians mistakenly believed that it was he who founded Irkutsk.
Later found documents disproved this version, but the description of Ivan’s appearance, found in one of the written sources, became an important point of reference for the creation of the monument to Yakov. On the lower Angara embankment the figure of the great pathfinder was installed relatively recently: in 2011. It looks especially realistic when the twilight falls over the city.
About Cossacks from Yakov’s detachment scientists know almost nothing. So we can safely say: the sculpture symbolizes both the legendary personality, and the free men forgotten by history. How did their fate take shape? No one knows. And the bronze figure reminds us that there are things that are older than time, because people’s memory keeps stories about the deeds of extraordinary personalities for centuries.
Cathedral of the Epiphany
This Orthodox church in the historic part of the city used to be the Peter and Paul Church and was “questioned” up to the status of a cathedral. It is the oldest extant stone building in the city and traces its history back to the XVII century. The first building did not survive: it was destroyed by fire more than 300 years ago. The rebuilt temple suffered a major earthquake, but survived.
In 1746, after repairs, it was consecrated and later was repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes. The construction of the belfries, the cathedral’s chapels, and the bishop’s palace went on in different centuries. The buildings were repeatedly rebuilt and restored, but the church complex looks very harmonious. Its snow-white walls fascinate with their power.
The architecture of the cathedral is dominated by the style of Russian classicism. The temple is called one of the pearls of Siberia. After decades of atheism, services were resumed in it. It is here that the ashes of the saint revered by many Siberian women are buried: St. Sophronius of Irkutsk, whose imperishable relics were destroyed by fire in 1917 – not long before the revolution predicted by the man of God.
- Address: 1A, Sukhbaatar Street
- Working hours: daily, 08:30-17:00
The famous triumphal arch on the embankment was established in honor of the 10th anniversary of the reign of Russian Emperor Alexander I, a person of legend and mystery. People did not believe in his death. There are versions that the real emperor took monasticism, took up the spiritual exploits of hermitage, asceticism, fasting and ended his life in the Urals.
During the years of Soviet power the dilapidated Moscow Gates were dismantled, and the unique architectural monument disappeared from the map of Irkutsk. At the beginning of this century it was decided to reconstruct it and give it to the city museum.
In 3 months, restorers managed to recreate the exterior and layout of the building, which before the Revolution had a tea room, offices of outpost keepers, an archive, and a water rescue society station. In fact, the professionals have done the impossible: in fact, all the engineering, architectural documents relating to the arch, 100 years ago, mysteriously disappeared.