Discover Irkutsk

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In 2015, the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God celebrated its 15th anniversary.

This is the only active Catholic church in Irkutsk, but it’s not the first one. In the late 19th – early 20th centuries, the congregation prayed in the Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. That church was built in 1884 in a neo-Gothic style, which was a rare style for Siberia. The services were held until 1930s. After that, the congregation was disbanded and the interior was rebuilt beyond recognition. The building was used to house the Eastern Siberian film studio and, from 1978 to the present day, the Organ Hall of the Philharmonia.

The Catholic community has repeatedly tried to return to the historical building. They were refused again and again, and the need for a new church continued to grow. In 1998, the government suggested several places for the construction. Bishop Jerzy Mazur chose the area in front of the Irkutsk State Technical University.

The history of the Cathedral

Irkutsk Catholic Cathedral
Irkutsk Catholic Cathedral (photo by Denis Kurenkov)
After the place was selected, several events followed in rapid succession.

On May 18th, 1999, Irkutsk became a center of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Administration of Eastern Siberia, led by Bishop Jerzy Mazur.

On April 28th, 1999, a service on the site of the future cathedral was held to mark the pilgrimage of the relics of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Russia.

On June 10th, 1999, the construction began.

On September 5th, 1999, Archbishop John Bukovsky consecrated the cornerstone of the cathedral.

On April 21st, 2000, on Good Friday, a cross was consecrated and installed to crown the building. On September 2nd, the bells, made by Feldzhinskih factory in Przemysl, were installed.

On September 8th, 2000, Irkutsk Catholics finally got their church. On this day, the consecration ceremony took place.

On September 24th, 2011, the cathedral got an organ, and the liturgies and holiday concerts started to sound much more solemn. Masses are held in the church every day: at 18:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, at 09:00 on Tuesdays and at 11:30 and 18:00 on Sundays.

Architecture and interior of the church

Irkutsk Catholic Cathedral
Irkutsk Catholic Cathedral (photo by Denis Kurenkov)
The author of this project is a Polish architect Andrzej Chwalibog. Its chief designer is Lidiya Nesterova. Space planning solutions were developed by Irkutsk architects Oleg Badula and Vladimir Stegailo. A Polish sculptor Vincent Kuchma designed the interior for the altar part of the church and the chapel of Reconciliation and Peace.

The laconic building of the cathedral was raised in the perfect Constructivism style. At the front of the church, two tall towers, one of them a bell tower, are connected with a bridge that looks like a miter. A miter is headdress of the senior Catholic clergy. A radiant cross rises above the two towers.

The chapel of Reconciliation and Peace stand to the right of the entrance. Inside the chapel, a figure of Jesus Christ stands as if floating in the air, surrounded by 14 marble slabs that represent 14 stations of the Cross.

An inscription that says «Veni Sante Spiritus» («Come, Holy Spirit!”) and holy water fonts greet the visitors at the church entrance. The chapel of Divine Mercy with ancient icons in on the right. The central part of the cathedral features the sculptures of the patron saints Our Lady of Fatima and St. Joseph the Betrothed. The main part has an altar with seven candles. A red line runs through the entire interior of the church. It symbolizes the love of God, which the believers take to carry on into the world.

Interesting facts

  • The legate of the Pope, His Eminence Cardinal Jan Peter Schotte, the head of the Synod of Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, attended the mass held in honor of the opening of the cathedral.
  • The building of the cathedral is laid with the stones from Golgotha, Tabor, Nazareth and Fatima; the relics of the Holy Cross, St. Theresa, Child Jesus and St. Raphael Kalinowski. On its 15th anniversary, the cathedral received a part of the relics of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko from Cardinal Casimir Nycha of the Warsaw Metropolitan.
  • The largest bell weights 550 kilograms. The bell, bearing the name of the Holy Family, has its own motto that says, “Take care of our families”.
  • The central altar of the temple is made of Baikal jade.
  • Urns with the earth from the mass graves of victims of political repression lie under the slabs in the chapel of Reconciliation and Peace.

Contacts

Working hours

near the “Technichesky universitet” bus stop, 110, Griboyedov St., Sverdlovsky region
+7 39-52 41-09-43
katedra@curiacat.irk.ru
curiacat.irk.ru
VK page
from 9:00 to 18:00

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Irkutsk Synagogue, the only synagogue in the region, is both a spiritual and a cultural center for the Jews of the Irkutsk region. The Jewish community is still recovering the traditions that were lost during the Soviet regime. The synagogue teaches Hebrew and hosts lectures on Jewish culture, history and customs.

The history of the synagogue

Irkutsk Synagogue
Irkutsk Synagogue (photo by Mark Fisher)
Before the synagogue was built, the Jewish community used to gather in a wooden house, rented by Jacob Dombrowski. Dombrowski was the founder and leader of the Irkutsk Jewish Community, a merchant and a philanthropist. Later, the services were held in his own home despite the official ban.

Finally, 1878 marked the start of the construction of the real synagogue. In just a year, the building was ready. On April 5th, 1879, the synagogue held a service for Emperor Alexander II who survived an assassination attempt three days earlier.

But in June, a devastating fire left only the synagogue’s walls standing, destroying an adjacent school and an almshouse as well. The community collected money to rebuild the synagogue. In 1881, Leonty Leibowitz led the construction, doing everything he could to restore the building. Leibowitz was a companion of Jacob Dombrowski, a merchant and a prominent member of the Irkutsk City Council.

In 1882, the newly rebuilt synagogue opened its doors to greet the community. Until the Soviet era, the synagogue stood without incident.

In 1932, the synagogue was abolished. Its building was used to host a warehouse, a medical university and its campus, an engineering company and a boxing gym. In 1945, the Jewish community regained the ground floor or the synagogue, and got the first floor two years later. However, the Jewish religious community regained full-fledged ownership of the building only in 1993.

Another fire destroyed the building once again in 2004. This one was much more devastating than the previous fire, and the rebuilding and restoration of the building took five years. On February 24th, 2009, the synagogue rose from the ashes. Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar participated in the grand opening.

Architecture and interior of the synagogue

Irkutsk Synagogue
Irkutsk Synagogue (photo by Mark Fisher)
The two-story synagogue is easily noticeable from afar. The beautiful building on Karl Liebknecht street is rich in detail. Plastic facades and a contrast of arched doors and triangular pediments attract the eye. If you look up, you’ll see a small dome with the Star of David. The wall to the right of the entrance holds some information about the Jews in Irkutsk.

Inside, a 250-seat prayer hall for men occupies nearly half the area of the building. The folding seats can host 200 more male visitors. Women pray on the balcony.

The ground floor of the synagogue also hosts a mikvah, a kitchen and a meal center that serves kosher food. A wardrobe and toilets, one of which is adapted for wheelchair users, are located nearby.

The first floor hosts the offices of the leaders of the community, a recreation room and a computer class. The second floor belongs to the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Interesting facts

  • A Judah Neumann library appeared in a synagogue in the mid-1890s. Thanks to Judah Neumann and to the members of the Jewish community, the library used to be one of the biggest libraries in Irkutsk. By 1915, it had 4200 books. After the synagogue was closed in the 1930s, the books went to the museum of atheism and then to various other museums. Some of the books are now kept in Irkutsk libraries.
  • The wall of the corridor that leads to the prayer hall has the symbolic “tree of life”. The leaves of the tree immortalize the names of the philanthropists who donated money for the restoration of the synagogue.
  • A mezuzah, which is a parchment scroll with a handwritten prayer, can be found in front of the main prayer hall entrance. The parchment for this mezuzah was made in Israel specifically for the Irkutsk synagogue.

Contacts

Working hours

Near the “Dom kuznetsa” bus stop, 23, Karl Liebknecht St., Pravoberezhny district
+7 39-52 20-93-67
Monday to Thursday: 10:00 to 17:00
Friday and Sunday: 10:00 to 15:00

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Irkutsk is a multi-religious city. Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Judaists and Buddhists have their own places of worship. We created a tourist route that will let you see most of them in a day. This route starts in a city center and ends at the train station.

The oldest stone churches and a chapel at the site of a lost Cathedral

Bogoyavlensky (Epiphany) Cathedral in Irkutsk
Bogoyavlensky (Epiphany) Cathedral

Start your day by visiting the churches on the Lower Quay. Bogoyavlensky Cathedral, the main cathedral of the Irkutsk Diocese, stands right there. This stone church, built in 1718, survived large earthquakes, a horrible fire of 1879 and the destruction of churches during the Soviet times — though the Soviet Union still turned this building into a pastry factory. After 18 years of restoration, the church looks considerably different than before. However, its beauty stayed the same.

Spasskaya (Savior) Church in Irkutsk
Spasskaya (Savior) Church

Spasskaya Church, the oldest stone building in Irkutsk, stands not far from Bogoyavlensky Cathedral, on Sukhe-Bator Street. It was built in 1710 in order to replace a wooden church. The stone church became a part of the fortress wall that defended Irkutsk from the raids. As the city grew, the fortress wall was demolished, but the church stayed. Snow-white walls and a tall bell tower make the church quite easy to spot.

Chapel of Our Lady of Kazan in Irkutsk
Chapel of Our Lady of Kazan (photo by High Pass)

Walk toward the Kirov Square to see the Chapel of Our Lady of Kazan. The chapel stands on the site of the Kazan Cathedral which was blown up in 1932. The chapel is an exact copy of the church’s dome, and the base of its foundation is laid with the foundation stones of the destroyed cathedral.

“Marine” church, outstanding examples of the Siberian baroque and the churches of the Krestovaya Gora hill

Harlampios Church of the Archangel Michael (Mikhailo-Archangelsky Kharlampievsky Church)
Harlampios Church of the Archangel Michael (Mikhailo-Archangelsky Kharlampievsky Church)

Walk towards the 5th Army Street to see the next two churches. The first one is the two-story Harlampios Church of the Archangel Michael on the 5th Army Street, 59. Built in 1777-1790, it gave out blessings to the sailors who leaved for long voyages and so it was christened as a marine church. In 1904, Alexander Kolchak, a Navy lieutenant and a polar explorer at that time, married Sophia Omirova in this church.

vyato-Troitsky (Holy Trinity) Church in Irkutsk
Svyato-Troitsky (Holy Trinity) Church (photo by Denis Kurenkov)

The same street has the Svyato-Troitsky Church (5th Army St., 8). During the Soviet times, the building hosted the only planetarium from Tomsk to Blagoveshensk. The church is still famous in Siberia because of that planetarium. At the end of the 80s, the building slowly became to crumble and the planetarium was closed. After a restoration that took years, the church began to properly function again in 1998. Connoisseurs of architecture appreciate the building for the beauty of its Siberian baroque style.

Krestovozdvizhensky (Holy Cross) Church in Irkutsk
Krestovozdvizhensky (Holy Cross) Church (photo by Denis Kurenkov)

The architecture of Krestovozdvizhensky church shows an even better example of Siberian baroque. This church also stands in the historical center of Irkutsk. You can find it on Sedov Street at the foot of the Krestovaya Gora hill.

Vhodo-Yerusalimskaya Church in Irkutsk
Vhodo-Yerusalimskaya Church (photo from Wikipedia.org)

This small one-story church stands at the top of the hill on Bortsov Revolutsii Street, 15. Go through the central park and climb up the stairs to see a magnificent panoramic view of the city.

A synagogue and a mosque

After your visit to the Krestovaya Gora hill church, go down towards Karl Liebnecht street to see the oldest functioning synagogue in Russia (Karl Liebknecht St., 23) and the Irkutsk Mosque (Karl Liebknecht St., 86).

Irkutsk Synagogue
Irkutsk Synagogue (photo by Denis Kurenkov)

This synagogue was built by the Jewish citizens of Irkutsk in 1882. It has gone through several restorations, as several fires left only walls standing. Each time, the synagogue was rebuilt, and repainted with the same light blue color. Nowadays, the synagogue is not just another place of worship. It is a cultural center for the Jewish community, and it has its own library, a kosher kitchen and a charity meal center.

Irkutsk Mosque
Irkutsk Mosque (photo by Denis Kurenkov)

This Sunni mosque has an interesting story to tell, too. The stone building of the present days was built in the early 2oth century to replace the old wooden one. The 20s and 30s of the Soviet rule were hard on religion, but the parishioners managed to preserve their mosque as a place of worship until the early 40s. During the 80s, a fire destroyed the mosque. Renovation began 10 years later and still goes on. However, the mosque still functions, and anyone who follows the etiquette of visiting mosques can go inside.

Spaso-Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration) Church and the “Red” Church

Transfiguration Church in Irkutsk
Transfiguration Church (photo from Wikipedia.org)

After your visits to the mosque and the synagogue, go to Volkonsky lane and walk towards the Transfiguration Church. The history of this church is closely connected with the Decembrists. From 1845 to 1855, the parish hosted the families of Sergey Volkonsky and Sergey Troubetskoy. The church held marriage ceremonies for the daughters of Volkonsky and Kuchelbecker families and held funerals for Peter Mukhanov and Nikolai Panov. During the Soviet times, the church building hosted the city archives and the library. Nowadays, it hosts daily morning and evening prayers once again.

Kazan Church in Irkutsk
Kazan Church (photo Wikipedia.org)

Kazan Church (Barrikad St., 34) is your next destination. The people refer to it as the “Red Church”, noting the beautiful color of its walls. The foundation for this stone building was laid in 1835, and the construction took 57 years. The church, opened on Easter 1892, is magnificent. The lights at night make it look particularly spectacular.

Znamensky Nunnery, “Litvintsevsky” Church, a Datsan, the Catholic Cathedral and a church near the railway station

You’ll probably want to take a break from walking on feet after your visits to the previous churches of our route. Use public transportation to save time and conserve strength.

Znamensky Nunnery to Nikolo-Innokentievsky Church

Znamensky Nunnery
Znamensky Nunnery

Znamensky Nunnery (Angarskaya St., 14) is one of the most important places of worship in Irkutsk. The nunnery keeps the relics of the first Irkutsk bishop. Buried by the walls of the nunnery lie the Troubetskoy princess and her children; an explorer and the founder of the Russian America Grigory Shelikhov; and the writer Valentin Raspitin. The first Russian monument to Kolchak stands nearby, and the nunnery itself is stunningly beautiful inside and out.

How to get there

Walk from the “Fuchika” bus stop near the Kazan Church and travel
to the “Remeslennoye Uchilishe” bus stop by one of these buses: 105, 122, 123, 124, 131

Nikolo-Innokentievsky Church in Irkutsk
Nikolo-Innokentievsky Church

The final point of the route stands 360 meters away from the Irkutsk railway station, which is convenient for those who plan to leave the city after seeing the churches. Nikolo-Innokentievsky Church (Profsoyuznaya St., 45a) is the last Irkutsk church that was build in the classical architecture style. During the day, the plain building, its modest decor and a landscaped area around the church look unremarkable. But when the lamps light up at night, the view becomes magical.

How to get there

Walk to the “Remeslennoye Uchilishe” and travel
to the “Dzhambula” bus stop by one of these buses: 8, 67

Datsan to Knyaze-Vladimirsky (Prince Vladimir) Church to the Catholic Cathedral and then to the Nikolo-Innokentievsky Church

Irkutsk datsan
Irkutsk datsan (Photo by Denis Kurenkov)

The Kazan Church and the datsan (Barrikad St., 56b) stand on the same street. Walking from one to another would take up a lot of time, so go by a minibus. A datsan is a Buddhist university monastery. In Irkutsk datsan, you can ask the Lama for advice, order a horoscope or consult a doctor of Tibetan medicine on any day. You can also visit the datsan just to see its exotic beauty.

How to get there

Walk to the “Fuchika” bus stop near the Kazan Church and board one of these minibuses: 64, 4K.
Travel to the “Technichesky college” bus stop

Knyaze-Vladimirsky (Prince Vladimir) Church in Irkutsk
Knyaze-Vladimirsky (Prince Vladimir) Church

The route from the datsan to the Prince Vladimir Church (Rabochee, Kashtakovskaya St., 52) is easy. This monastery was founded in 1888 in honor of the 900th anniversary of the Christianization of Russia. As many other places of worship in Irkutsk, this monastery was built with private funds. Most of the people who donated money were merchants. Prince Vladimir Church owes its existence to Vasily Litvintsev, hence the nickname “Litvintsevsky”.

How to get there

Walk to the “Technichesky college” bus stop near the datsan and travel
to “Detskaya” bus stop by one of these minibuses: 64, 4K

The Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God in Irkutsk
The Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God (photo by Denis Kurenkov)

This route ends near the Nikolo-Innokentievsky Church, as does the previous one. But before you go there, visit the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God on Griboedov St., 110. If the doors are closed, don’t leave. Knock on the doors or go to the office on the left side of the building. Chances are, you’ll be let inside and allowed to examine the interior to your heart’s content.

How to get there

Get there from the Prince Vladimir Church by traveling from “Detskaya” bus stop to “Technichesky universitet” bus stop by minibus #64

Get from the Catholic Cathedral to the Nikolo-Innokentievsky Church by traveling from “Technichesky universitet” bus stop to “Dzhambula” bus stop by minibuses #64 or #40 or a bus #80

Tips for tourists

Keep in mind that the churches have different working hours. Orthodox churches are open from 7:00 to 19:00–20:00, the cathedral and the datsan are open from 9:00 to 18:00 and the mosque is open from 12:00 to 22:00. The synagogue is open from 10:00 to 17:00 Monday through Tuesday, and from 10:00 to 15:00 on Fridays and Sundays.

Follow this set of rules in any church you visit. Speak in whispers, turn off your phone or put it in a silent mode, don’t walk around during the service and don’t bother the worshippers. Wait after the service is over to see everything you want.

Some churches allow to take pictures after you get permission from the ministers, and some don’t allow taking any pictures at all. Clarify the rules at the church entrance.

Dress appropriately. Don’t enter a church in shorts or revealing or tight clothes. In Orthodox churches, women must cover their hair and men must take off their hats. In a synagogue, everyone must cover their hair. The Catholic Cathedral allows women to go in uncovered; pantsuits and short sleeves are allowed as well. The mosque has stricter rules. Women must cover their hair, wear long skirts and no heavy makeup or strong perfume. Everyone who enter the prayer hall must take off their shoes.

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On September 27th, the whole world celebrates the Tourism Day. Lake Baikal will celebrate this day along with the Omul Festival. The main events of those festivals will happen in Eastland ski resort in Listvyanka and at the Ol-Terra turbaza in Utulik. Come and get some Baikal water, souvenirs and gastronomic experience!

Saguday
Saguday (photo by Julianna Kirillova)

Listvyanka celebration highlights

  • from 12:00 to 18:00 on Saturday: “Made at Baikal” fair.
  • from 13:00 to 15:00 on Sunday: a culinary show with an omul delicacy tasting.

Utulik celebration highlights

  • from 11:30 on Saturday: a workshop with the participants of the first wooden sculpture festival, a theatrical play based on “A barrel of omul” Buryat fairytale, fishing competitions.
  • from 13:00 to 17:00 on Sunday: a culinary duel and a best omul dish competition.

How to get there

How to get to the Eastland ski resort

  • go by car on the Irkutsk – Listvyanka highway. When you see a “Sanatoriy Baikal” road sign, turn left.
  • go by a bus or a minibus to Listvyanka and take a five-minute walk to the ski resort.
  • order a transfer by calling +7 39-52 25-00-00, +7 39-52 25-01-50.

How to get to the Ol-Terra turbaza

  • go by car on the M55 highway to Utulik, which stands 140 kilometers away from Irkutsk. Turn towards the the Irida Garden and a white-blue house with a flag, which is the village administration building. Follow the route arrows towards the shore.
  • go by a bus or a minibus that travels to Baikalsk. You’ll need to get off near Polina cafe in Utulik. The bus departs from the Irkutsk bus station at 09:30. The road will take 3,5 hours, costing you 300 rubles. Minibuses depart daily from the bus station, the Central Market and the train station almost every hour. The last ride departs at 20:30. After you get to Utulik, go by foot or order a taxi by calling +7 39-54 23-33-33, +7 39-54 23-33-55.
  • go by 6334 Irkutsk-Baikalsk train to the Utulik station. The train departs from the Irkutsk-Passazhirsky station at 17:36 and gets to Utulik in 3 hours and 50 minutes. A one-way ticket will cost you 160 rubles. Since you’ll get to Utulik late at night, we recommend you to get a taxi to the turbaza.

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This place is worth a visit, especially if you enjoy history and want to learn more about the key figures of Irkutsk’s history. Vladimir Platonovich Sukachev was a famous 19th century patron of the arts, a trustee and a founder of the first Siberian art gallery. He also was the only city mayor who kept his job for 13 years, from 1885 to 1898. The manor was Sukachev’s ancestral home. There, he lived with his family, held charity events, spent time with his friends and visitors. His visitors were scientists, writers, musicians and artists.

Nowadays, the restored Sukachev manor is a place for tours, thematic lectures on history and culture, theatric plays and balls. At the same time, the life of the manor stays tied to the present days through the contemporary art of the 21st century.

What to see in the museum in August

For a strong emotional experience, visit the “Fragile world” graphics exhibition. The exhibition is dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Iri and Toshiko Maruki, the artists who witnessed those events, reflected their horrific experience in their art. At the same time, the artists left some place on their canvas for the beauty of peace, too.

iri_i_tosiko_maruki_0
Graphics by Iri and Toshiko Maruki

In 1967, Iri and Toshiko presented a gift of more than 20 of their works to the Irkutsk Regional Arts Museum. 48 years later, those portraits, landscapes and stills are re-opened for public viewing once again. The exhibition will be open until August 30.

An exhibition of miniature dolls will also be open throughout all August. “The small world” by a Kazakhstani artist Irina Verkhgradskaya is full of sweetness and subtle charm. Peter the Great, Ekaterina II, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and Harry Potter are some of the more familiar exhibits in the collection of 300 dolls. All of the dolls are only 10–15 cm high.

Exhibit of «The small world»

The tickets to the exhibitions cost 200 rubles for adults, 150 rubles for college and school students, retired and disabled people, and 80 rubles for preschool children. The manor is open every day from 10:00 until 18:00 except for Monday. On Thursdays in summer, the manor is open from 12:00 until 20:00. August 25th is an additional day off for the manor.

Contacts

112, Dekabrskikh Sobytiy St.
Oktyabrsky District, near “1-aya Sovetskaya” and “Usadba Sukacheva” bus stops
8 (39-52) 53-12-24
info@sukachoff.ru
sukachoff.ru
VK page

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These landmarks are the face, the soul and the memory of the city. Some of them have lived through difficult years, got old and rebuilt, and some of them are only beginning their story.

Together, they create the unique look and charm of Irkutsk that is not often felt by the hurrying crowd. To get a better feel of the city, take a stroll in the city center. Take a closer look at the older buildings, churches and museums. Treat yourself to a night of a good music or a theater performance. Start with these landmarks, and, perhaps, your first time in the city will be a beginning or a beautiful friendship.

Krestovozdvizhensky Church

This Siberian baroque architectural monument was built on the Krestovaya Mountain. The church is hard to miss. Elements of Orthodox, Buryat and Buddhist symbols merge into lush wall decorations, form complex patterns and stun the onlookers by their unusual elegance.

Krestovozdvizhensky Church
Krestovozdvizhensky Church

The church lures people like a decorated jewelry box, daring to see what’s inside. And when people walk in, the church amazes them again. This is the only church in Irkutsk that has preserved XVIII century interiors and iconostasis. During the Soviet regime, the church was a cathedral, an important architectural monument and an anti-religious museum. Nowadays, it is a working church that any tourist can visit to enjoy the views and take a break from the world outside.

Where to see it

When to see it

1, Sedov St., at the intersection 9:00 AM until late at night any day of the week

Irkutsk Regional Museum

The oldest museum in Siberia and the first provincial museum in Russia, Irkutsk Regional Museum has lived through difficult times. 97 years after its opening in December 1782, the museum was destroyed by a devastating fire and found a new home in 1883. Today, this Moorish-style building is a department devoted to the history of the museum. The studio museum and the nature department of the museum are a bit further on the same street, in another building that used to be a lithographic bookshop and a bookstore of Siberian publishers. The museum complex also includes a childrens’ center and a “Window to Asia” exposition department in the 130th quarter.

Irkutsk Regional Museum
Irkutsk Regional Museum

Irkutsk Regional Museum is a place where you will discover many curiosities, be they objects, documents, a unique collection of jade sculptures and decorations of the new Stone age or pictures of the cultural life of Siberian, Mongolian, Far-Eastern, Kamchatka, Chinese and Korean people. You can also order tours of Irkutsk and Baikal right in the museum.

Where to see it

When to see it

Department of History
2, Karl Marx St.
“Lenina” or “Philarmonia” bus stop
10:00–18:00 throughout the year and 11:00–19:00 in the summer, any day of the week except Monday
Department of Nature
11, Karl Marx St.
“Lenina” or “Philarmonia” bus stop
10:00–18:00 throughout the year and 11:00–19:00 in the summer, any day of the week except Monday
Studio Museum
13, Karl Marx St.
“Lenina” or “Philarmonia” bus stop
10:00–18:00 throughout the year and 11:00–19:00 in the summer, any day of the week except Monday
Children’s Museum Center
21B, 3-go Iuilya St.
130th Quarter, “Lenina”
or “Muzikalny Teatr” bus stops
10:00–18:00 any day of the week except Monday
“Window to Asia” exposition department
21, 3-go Iuilya St.
130th Quarter, “Lenina”
or “Muzikalny Teatr” bus stops
10:00–18:00 throughout the year and 11:00–19:00 in the summer, any day of the week except Monday
museum.irkutsk.ru

Okhlopkov Irkutsk drama theater

There is a Russian saying, “Every theater begins with a hanger”. However, Irkutsk theater begins with this pearl of urban architecture on Karl Marx street. The building was constructed in 1897 with a tiered scheme in mind. Today, Okhlopkov theater is a historical and cultural monument.

Okhlopkov Irkutsk drama theater
Okhlopkov Irkutsk drama theater

The theater is equally beautiful inside and out, and the halls have perfect acoustics. You’ll hear everything the actors say no matter where you sit. To get a better feel of the atmosphere of this wonderful place, take a stroll through the halls during the intermission, see the theater museum on the third floor and stop by the theater buffet.

Where to see it

When to see it

14, Karl Marx St., “Lenina” bus stop
dramteatr.ru
12:00 to 18:30 any day of the week

The Organ Hall

Made by a German company “Alexander Schuke”, Irkutsk pipe organ is one of the top-ten best organs in Russia. The organ hall building is no less remarkable. The building used to be a Roman Catholic Church, built in a late Gothic style which is not seen often in Siberia.

The Organ Hall
The Organ Hall

The first concert in the Organ Hall happened on November the 3rd in 1978. Since then, Russian and foreign musicians perform every week. If you want to enjoy the divine sounds of Bach’s favorite instrument, schedule a 90-minute appointment in your traveling schedule and go to a concert at 15:00 during the day or at 18:00 in the evening.

Where to see it

When to see it

1, Suche Bator St.,
“Skver Kirova” and “Gostinitsa Angara” bus stops
filarmoniya.irk.ru
12:00 to 19:00 any day of the week

Irkutsk datsan

The only Buddhist temple in Irkutsk is open to people of all faiths and nationalities. Come here to admire the exotic beauty of Buddhist structures, to meet the Lama and to get a wise recommendation.

Irkutsk datsan
Irkutsk datsan

As you enter the church, don’t forget to follow these ground rules. Take off your hat, speak calmly and quietly and either turn off your mobile or put it in a silent mode. If you want to take some pictures, get permission from the temple workers first. And if you get hungry, keep in mind that datsan prepares perfect buuzy — delicious steamed dumplings filled with meat.

Where to see it

When to see it

56B, Barrikad St.,
at the intersection of Barrikad and Zimnyaya streets, “Zimnyaya” and “Kinoteatr
irkdacan.ru
9:00 to 20:00 any day of the week

Irkutsk Museum of Decembrists

The Decembrists were Russian upper-class revolutionaries, exiled to Siberia and sentenced to penal servitude after the uprising of 1825. After some time, some of the Decembrists, such as Trubetskoy and Volkonsky princes, came to reside in Irkutsk.

The Museum of Decembrists consists of two manors with memorial houses of Trubetskoy and Volkonsky princes. The houses still keep the personal belongings of the Decembrists, such as books, the only working XVIII century pyramid piano in the world, skillful bead embroidery, and the Volkonsky princess poplar box that later belonged to Leo Tolstoy family.

Trubetskoy House Museum
Trubetskoy House Museum

“Lichtenthal”, the favorite piano of Volkonsky princess, is a star of all concerts and performances in the museum. Some annual events such as “Night in the Museum” and “Decembrist evenings” are held here as well. “Decembrist evenings” is a festival that shows thematic tours of the house and Volkonsky home theater performances.

Where to see it

When to see it

Trubetskoy House Museum
64, Dzerzhinsky St.,
“Muzey Dekabristov” bus stop
10:00 to 18:00, any day of the week except for Tuesday (in summer) and Wednesday (in the winter)
Volkonsky Manor
10, Volkonsky St.,
“Muzey Dekabristov” bus stop
10:00 to 18:00 any day of the week except for Monday

Shastin House

This landmark is also known as “Europa House” and “The Lace House”. The last name suits the building perfectly. Rich carved ornaments create the illusion that the house is decorated by fine lace.

Shastin House
Shastin House

The modern “Europa House” is a copy of a building that was constructed in the XIX century in the Russian baroque style. During the late nineties, Shastin wooden buildings were fully reconstructed from photographs and archive schematics. After the reconstruction, the French association of world heritage monuments conservation pressed for the building to enter the list of the protected world heritage. The estate has a tourist information office, a hotel, a café, a city life museum and a museum of tea.

Where to see it

When to see it

21, Friedrich Engels St.,
“Muzey Dekabristov” bus stop
10:00 to 20:00, any day of the week

Moskovskie Vorota

Restored to the 350th anniversary of Irkutsk, the triumphal arch is 20 meters from the place where the first arch stood. You can find the arch at the intersection of Moskvo-Laninskaya and Nizhnyaya Naberezhnaya streets.

Moskovskie Vorota
Moskovskie Vorota

From 1813 until the end of the XIX century, everyone who came to Irkutsk registered at this arch. Over time, the building decayed and the walls began to crumble. The triumphal arch needed serious renovation work. However, Russian revolution of 1917 put renovation out of the question. In 1925, the arch was demolished. The city regained its triumphal arch only in 2011. Today, the arch is a prominent landmark, always standing surrounded by tourists and newlyweds.

Where to see it

When to see it

Nizhnyaya Naberezhnaya St. 24/7

Alexander the Third monument

A monument to the Russian emperor, whose decree marked the beginning of the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, has difficult fate. After the opening ceremony in 1908, this magnificent architectural sculpture adorned the city for only 12 years. In 1920, the statue was demolished. A monument to the Siberian pioneers was set in its place in 1964.

Alexander the Third monument
Alexander the Third monument

This monument stood proud until 2003. And then, on the centenary of the Trans-Siberian railway, a reincarnation of the old model of the statue finally returned to its place. The area around the monument is full of life. The monument is a meeting place, a place to take pictures, a starting point of marathons, a center of the Blowing Bubbles Day and a perfect spot to launch fireworks.

Where to see it

When to see it

Gagarin Boulevard 24/7

The monument to Kolchak

Kolchak was a polar explorer, an Admiral, the political leader of the White Movement during the Russian Civil War and a Supreme Ruler and Commander-in-Chief of All Russian Land and Sea Forces. This monument to Kolchak is the first one in Russia, built on 4th of November 2004, the 130th anniversary of Kolchak’s birth.

The monument to Kolchak
The monument to Kolchak

The fate of the Admiral is inextricably linked with Irkutsk. Irkutsk was a place where Kolchak married, gave lectures about his polar research and bid his farewells before going on the war with Japan. Irkutsk was also a place where he died. This 4.5 meter high monument stands near the place where the admiral was shot to death on the February morning of 1920. The pedestal of the monument shows the reliefs of two soldiers of the Red and the White Armies. Vyachesvlav Klykov, the author of the monument, explains that the lowered rifles of the soldiers express “the idea of cessation of the fratricidal civil war and the reconciliation of artificially divided society”.

Where to see it

When to see it

Angarskaya St., near Znamensky monastery, “Remeslennoe Uchilishe” bus stop 24/7

Our city has plenty of theaters. Among them are drama theaters, a puppetry theater, musical theater and studio theatres. Each has its own story, its own style and its own audience which likes art in all its manifestations.

Some believe that theaters are the best feature of Irkutsk. Visit any of them, and, perhaps, you’ll leave with a strong impression, too.

Okhlopkov Irkutsk Academic Theater

Okhlopkov Irkutsk Academic Theater
Okhlopkov Irkutsk Academic Theater (photo source dramteatr.ru)

This is a number one theater in Irkutsk. Growing and developing since 1850, it’s the oldest one. Having four scenes — a main scene, a chamber scene, experimental scene and student performance scene, it’s the largest one.

The theater stages performances in a variety of genres, varying from comedies and drama to concert performances and novels in verse. A performance happens almost every evening. Children’s plays are staged in mornings or during daytime.

Contacts

14, Karl Marx St.
Pravoberejny district, “Lenina” bus stop
8 (39-52) 55-04-61 (answering machine)
8 (39-52) 20-04-77
8 (39-52) 20-04-88 (ticket reservation)
teatr@irk.ru
dramteatr.ru

Ticket price

100–500 rubles for adults
70–250 rubles for children

Working hours

12:00—18:30 daily

Zagurski Irkutsk Musical Theater

Zagurski Irkutsk Musical Theater
Zagurski Irkutsk Musical Theater (photo source photo-monster.ru)

This is the second most popular theater in the city, a place where all important musical events happen. One example of these events is the annual Christmas meetings with Denis Matsuev, a world-renowned Irkutsk pianist.

The repertoire of the theater consists of musical comedies and dramas, operettas, musicals and ballet performance. Performances happen in the evenings of weekdays, weekends and holidays. Children’s plays start at 11:30 each morning.

Contacts

29, Sedov St.
Oktyabrsky district,
“Muzikalni Teatr” bus stop
8 (39-52) 34-21-31
8 (39-52) 20-38-73
imt_irk@mail.ru
imt.irkutsk.ru

Ticket price

150–500 rubles

Working hours

10:00—20:00

Vampilov Youth Theater

Vampilov Youth Theater
Vampilov Youth Theater (photo source Wikipedia.ru)

The history of this place began in 1928. Today, it is the oldest children’s theater in Siberia. A literary society “Elegia”, which is a part of this theater, stages amazing literary performances.

The repertoire consists mostly of plays by Russian and foreign authors. Siberian playwrights Valentin Rasputin and Alexander Vampilov hold a special place here. Morning, afternoon and evening plays happen on an almost daily basis.

Contacts

23, Lenin St.
Pravoberejny district,
“Lenina” or “Philarmonia” bus stops
8 (39-52) 45-00-41
8 (39-52) 34-41-02
tuzvampilov.ru

Ticket price

150–350 rubles

Working hours

12:00–18:00

“Aistenok” puppetry theater

Aistenok puppetry theater
“Aistenok” puppetry theater (photo source rumap.net)

This puppetry theater is the oldest in Siberia and the only one in Irkutsk. In Janauary, 2015, “Aistenok” turned 80 years old. The audience enjoys cozy seats, a good view of the scene from all angles, and, of course, they enjoy the plays.

Most of the plays in this theater are for children, usually staged in mornings or afternoons. Grown-ups come here willingly, too — after all, deep inside, all of us are children who miss good and kind stories.

Contacts

32, Baikalskaya St.
Oktyabrsky district,
“Teatr Kukol” bus stop
8 (39-52) 50-59-80
(answering machine)
8 (39-52) 25-19-64 (ticket office)
aistenok-irkutsk.ru

Ticket price

100–250 rubles

Working hours

10:00—18:00
Closed on Mondays

Folk drama theater

Folk drama theater
Folk drama theater (photo source igtnd.ru)

“It’s a very Russian theater” would be the most accurate review. The actors value national traditions and try to convey them to the audience through the epic or drama theater genres.

The repertoire consists of ritual performances, Russian folk tales and heroic stories. Performances mostly happen in the afternoons, so don’t hesitate to bring your children with you. All plays are picturesque, colorful and emotional.

Contacts

13A, Mukhina St.
Sverdlovski district,
“Mukhinoi”. “Teatr narodnoi dramy”
or “Zakharova” bus stops
8 (39-52) 46-99-68
igtnd@irkutsk.ru
igtnd.ru

Ticket price

100–150 rubles

Working hours

Ticket office:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
13:00—18:00

Sunday
11:00—14:00

Youth Chamber Theatre

Youth Chamber Theatre
Youth Chamber Theatre (photo source vk.com)

This theater is experimental, taking an alternative approach to the classical and modern drama.

The repertoire mostly consists of performances by graduates and undergraduates of the “Bravo” acting school. If you enjoy lively and energetic theater with innovative ideas, a love of bold experiments and honest acting, you’ll definitely enjoy this place. Performances are held in the evenings of weekends.

Contacts

54B, Piskunov St., entrance from the yard
Oktyabrsky district, “Diagnostic Center”
and “Shestaya Sovetskaya” bus stops
8 (39-52) 72-55-97
8 (950) 085-17-90
bravoir@bk.ru
театр-подвал.рф

Ticket price

200–250 rubles

The theater season begins in September and ends in June. During the summer, local theaters go away on performance tours.

During the same time, well-known Russian and international theaters come to the city, instead.

“Teatr piligrimov” studio theater

“Teatr piligrimov” studio theater
“Teatr piligrimov” studio theater (photo source tp-sokolov.ru)

This is a unique musical theater, directed by Vladimir Sokolov. The theater grew out of the “Piligrim” rock band and became well-loved and popular. “The heart of Irkutsk” is how the fans call this theater.

The repertoire consists of classical music with modern twists, rock-operas, mysteries and symphonic rock fantasies. Most of the performances are held in the evening. Check the VK page of the theater for the monthly schedule.

Contacts

8A, Volkonsky lane
Pravoberejny district,
“Muzei dekabristov” and “Avtovokzal” bus stops
8 (39-52) 74-17-37
8 (904) 146-40-71 (ticket reservation)
pilgrims@bk.ru
tp-sokolov.ru

Ticket price

150–200 rubles

Three golden rules of theater:
  1. Buy tickets in advance, especially if the performance is held in a small room with a limited number of seats.
  2. Do not be late, as you might not be let in and the tickets are not refundable.
  3. Turn off your mobile or put it in a silent mode before the performance.

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If you try to make up an image of Irkutsk based on these sculptures, you’ll get an unusual picture. In this picture, Irkutsk is just like a person; a person who likes girls who read and watching movies, likes to joke around and greats the tourists, likes the sun and street music, sends kind thought into space and makes almost everyone’s wishes come true. Not even the residents of the city see this side or Irkutsk often, and seeing the city in this light is enjoyable to both the guests and the city’s residents.

4-meter tall Babr

Babr monument
The heraldic symbol of Irkutsk is a mystery to those who don’t know its story. The tourists see the babr as either a fox or a marten. They are mistaken. The head and the body or Irkutsk babr come from the Siberian tiger, and the paws and the tail come from a beaver. In its mouth, the babr hold its prey, a sable.

Do not miss the opportunity to see this wondrous bronze beast. Stop by and take a picture with this charming symbol of Irkutsk.

Where is it?

The intersection of Lenin St., Timiryazev St., Sedov St., 3rd July St. and Krasnogo Vosstaniya St. in the 130th district.

When was it installed?

October 2012

Who are the authors?

Olga Smirnova and Natalia Bakut

A gazing tourist

A monument to the tourist
This two-meter tall guy with a backpack is supposed to be wandering through the city center after returning from a trip to the Lake Baikal. Everything seems to amaze him. Looking up at the beautiful buildings at Karl Marx Street, the tourists stops in awe in from of an old neo-renaissance building, a former «Grand-Hotel» that was built in 1899–1902.

Where is it?

Litvinov St., 2

When was it installed?

27th September 2011, on the World Tourism Day

Who are the authors?

Ilya and Eugeny Stavski

Leonid Gaidai shooting a movie

Памятник Леониду Гайдаю
A monument to Leonid Gaidai (Photo by Denis Kurenkov)

The most famous comedy movie director of the Soviet Union, Leonid Gaidai is especially adored in Irkutsk. Here, he spent his childhood, graduated from a drama school of the Irkutsk Regional Drama Theatre, worked as an actor and as a lighting specialist.

The monument to the director looks like a picture of a filming process frozen in time and recreated in bronze. On one side of the five-meter area stands a sculpture of Gaidai; he is sitting in a chair next to the Barbos dog that holds a dynamite stick in its teeth. The other side or the area depicts the famous scene from the «Kidnapping, Caucasian style» movie. In this scene, the Fool, the Coward and the Pro are stopping a car. Come here if you want to reminiscence for a while, to feel the magic of the moviemaking world or to meet the characters of these kind and fun soviet movies for the first time.

Where is it?

Trud Square, near the «Circus» or «Sapojok» bus stops

When was it installed?

October 2012

Who are the authors?

Aleksandr Mironov, Lev Serikov and Segey Demkov

Movie date

A monument to dating
A young man is waiting for his date, glancing at his watch with impatience. He’s holding flowers in hand, hiding them behind his back, and his eyes are sad. His crush is running late.

This landmark near the Barguzin cinema is interesting by itself. People of Irkutsk made the monument responsible for the success or their dating life. If you want your date to be great, too, rub the bronze nose of the statue for luck.

Where is it?

Baikalskaya St., 107, next to the «Diagnostics Center» and «6th Soviet» bus stops

When was it installed?

7th of March, 2013

Who are the authors?

Ilya and Eugeniy Stavski

A monument to street musicians

A monument to street musicians
A sculpture composed of a cello, a chair and a begging hat stands on Uritski St. This street is the largest pedestrian street in the city, often referred to as the Arbat of Irkutsk. Many talented people gather here to share their music for a modest fee or for a simple smile.

The chair is the most popular element in this exhibit, and it rarely stands empty. Both citizens and tourists like to take pictures of themselves sitting in it.

Where is it?

Uritski St., 8

When was it installed?

August 2011

Who are the authors?

Ilya and Eugeniy Stavski

Anniversary kopek monument to the kopek coin

Anniversary kopek monument
This landmark sculpture is 1.5 meters high. «A kopek saves up for a ruble», says the inscription at the base of it.

The first version of this sculpture was given to Irkutsk on its 350th anniversary by the Sberbank bank, which turned 170 years old in the same year. A coin this big became a regular target of vandalism — and soon, the sculpture cracked beyond any hope of restoration. A new metal kopek was hoisted on a pedestal two years later, and it stands unharmed and shiny to this day.

Where is it?

Trilisser St., 57a, next to the «Trilisser» bus stop

When was it installed?

4th of September, 2011 (the first version)
2013 (the new version)

Sundial

A sundial monument
This monument is another gift for the 350th anniversary of Irkutsk. This time, it was a gift from Verkhnelenski Bank. The dial is crafted from marble and granite, adorned with a wrought ornament and a giftcard-style mural. However, the beauty is not the main point of this sculpture.

Come to see this sculpture on a sunny day. When the sky is clear, the sundial shows astronomically precise time.

Where is it?

Lenin St., next to «Voyage» mall («Trud Stadium» or «Philarmonic Theatre» bus stops)

When was it installed?

2011

Money-power socket

«Charge yourself with the energy of money!» monument
In 2003, the Saint Petersburg Mint Office issued a limited collection of coins with 1, 2 and 5 ruble denominations. In 8 years, these coins were made into an art installation which amuses the residents and the tourists to this day still.

If you overspend money on your journey, stick two fingers into the socket next to the inscription that says, «Charge yourself with the energy of money!» Perhaps, the legend says, you’ll find some extra money in your pockets afterwards. Whether or not you end up with some extra coins, this act will still improve your mood in an effortless way.

Where is it?

Lenin St., 15

When was it installed?

October 2011

The hand of kindness

Памятник «The hand of kindness»
This monument, sculpted in the form of an open book, is dedicated to Yagoda Vlagon’, the head of MONAR Polish Center which helps drug addicts and HIV-infected patients. The words inscribed on the left page of the book say that even one good though can help someone in a dark time. Next to these words, on the right page, there is a recess in a form of a palm. This recess represents a hand of kindness.

Touch this hand if you want to support someone with your thoughts: a loved one, someone close to you or even a stranger. Whoever is sad, lonely, scared or bitter will feel your support, and he’ll feel better.

Where is it?

In the courtyard behind a municipal clinic, on the corner of Lenin and Karl Marx streets

When was it installed?

2012

The Soviet muse

The Soviet muse
This is the only USSR-made sculpture in our selection. The workers of a local mica factory gathered the money and hired the sculptor at their own initiative. They put the monument near the music school.

In this sculptural interpretation, the patron of arts looks dispassionate and detached from the worldly matters. But here’s the paradox: the closer you look at the muse, the longer you’ll want to keep looking.

Where is it?

Zhelyabov St., 9, next to the «Circus» or «Gor’ki» bus stops

When was it installed?

1986

Who is the author?

N. A. Berdnikov

A student of the Foreign Languages University and her magical dictionary

Russia has many monuments to students, but some unspoken rule somehow dictated most of them to be depicted as male. The Irkutsk sculpture differs fundamentally. Here, the statue is female. It is not a big surprise, though: 70% of this university’s students are female.

Almost everyone in the university participated in the creation process of this monument. People drew sketches and passed their wishes to the sculptor. The end result turned out to be a pretty sculpture which invites you to sit next to it and take pictures. Some of the more superstitious students gather around the sculpture’s magical dictionary before exams. They believe that rubbing the spine of the dictionary will help them make it through the finals.

Where is it?

Lenin St., 8, next to a bus stop and «Angara» hotel

When was it installed?

2008, in honor of the university turning 60 years old

Who is the author?

Mikhail Filippov

The architecture of Irkutsk is a memorable contrast of modern business centers, cozy wooden huts and apartment blocks of concrete and glass. Irkutsk has a lot of wooden buildings, and almost every street at the city center has them at one corner or the other, making casual walks through these areas an unforgettable experience — especially if you haven’t seen anything like it before.

Irkutsk photographer Vladislav Gerasimov provided several HDR-shots from his project to help you visualize this.

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Come nightfall, Irkutsk, like many other cities, transforms for the better. Different smells, different atmosphere and opportunities for unique experiences cloud the streets. At night, the city calms down. Darkness hides the imperfections, and well-places lights emphasize some of the particularly beautiful places and sights.

If you’re planning to stop by Irkutsk for at least a day, make sure to take a stroll through the city at night. Nighttime streets are not as dangerous as they might seem at first, especially if you have friends with you. Surveillance cameras and regular police patrols work in your favor. Make sure to give your route a think-through, don’t get lost and remember the 112 number for the emergency services as well as some taxi phone numbers.

Take a look at this dynamic timelapse of nighttime Irkutsk.

This rare newsreel will show you how Irkutsk looked like almost a century ago. The city has changed since, of course. Some places, however, remain untouched by the years passed. Alexander the Third monument, railway station building and old churches look just the same now.

This film was made by the Czechoslovak Corps, which participated in the Civil War in Russia in 1917–1922/1923.

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Unique architecture of Irkutsk

The first Russian settlers came to the confluence of Irkut and Angara rivers in the middle of XVII century. Since those times, the city grew, changed, burned, got rebuilt and formed a unique look. Architectural styles mixed. The wooden buildings are a part of a preliminary UNESCO heritage list. Irkutsk baroque makes way into photographers’ albums, and the neo-brutalism style brings researches from across the whole country.

The way it all began: the Kremlin of Irkutsk and Spasskaya Church

The Kremlin of Irkutsk
The Kremlin of Irkutsk (photo source — Wikipedia.ru)

The architectural ensemble of Irkutsk is one of the few in Siberia staying almost the same since Tsar Russia. However, the earliest buildings, like Irkutsk Kremlin, did not survive to see the present day. Many citizens don’t even suspect they ever existed.

Spasskaya Church
Spasskaya Church (photo source — Wikipedia.ru)

The Kremlin has grown in place of the Irkutsk fortress, which, despite only being 17 meters wide and 19 meters long, protected the town from the raids of Siberian tribes. The only part of the building surviving today is Spasskaya Church, built in early XVII century. Nowadays, it’s the oldest stone church in Eastern Siberian and the Far East regions of Russia. Together with Bogoyavlenski Cathedral, this church survived though the Soviet era, having been a cobbler shop and a communal house, and now being a part of the oldest architectural ensemble of the city.

The church has a museum on the inside, and people are allowed to climb the bell tower on certain days

Verkhnyaya Quay

The White House and National History Museum

“White House”
“White House” (photo source — Wikipedia.ru)

Another prominent ensemble stands in the beginning of Karl Marx Street, formerly called Big Pershpektivnaya Street. The Governor-Generals resides here from 1837 to 1917. The building has a long, long history behind it – built in early XIX by mayor Sibiryakov, it was a center of social life. The doors were always open to visitors, and the decorations amazed the guests with their graceful design. Two statues of sleeping lions adorned the gates until Bolsheviks got the building. The White House was a residence for those who decided the fate in the city in the Soviets in 1917. Today, this house is the main building of the Irkutsk State University library.

The National History Museum
The National History Museum (photo source — Wikipedia.ru)

Right across from the White House stands the National History Museum, one of the largest museums in Siberia and one of the oldest in the country. It was built the XVIII century, just before the governmental residence. The architecture of the museum is Moorish. Northern-African architecture looks surprising in Siberia even today, in the twenty-first century – to say nothing about how out-of-place it looked in the XVIII. Next to the museum stands a monument to Alexander the Third, a Russian Emperor who ordered the construction of the Trans-Siberian railway.

Decembrists in Irkutsk

Architecture of the estates

Trubetskoy estate
Trubetskoy estate (photo source — Wikipedia.ru)

The Decembrists came to Irkutsk after the uprising of 1825. This story is well known to any Russian who attended high school. Politically exiled Trubetskoy, Volkonsky, Muraviev, Davydov, Obolensky and many others started coming to the city in 1826. Upon their arrival they were sent forward into penal servitude. Until 1845, most Decembrists only visited the city for short periods of time. Little by little, Trubetskoy and Volkonsky princes came to reside in the city. Their estates are nowadays open to visitors. Volkonsky alley has a whole complex of architectural structures, including a wooden theater and Preobrajeniya Gospodnya church. During the summer, Volkonsky estate hosts open-air movie nights.

During the summer, Volkonsky estate hosts open-air movie nights

Volkonsky estate
Volkonsky estate (photo source — imd38.ru)

Wooden baroque

Zhelyabovsky complex, Europa house and 130th Quarter

UNESCO pays close attention to the city, as no other town in Russia has anything similar to the wooden architecture of Irkutsk. This unique style is a result of a being caught between different cultures, namely, Eastern European Orthodox culture and Buryats’ Shamanism and Buddhist traditions.

Migrating to Irkutsk, Cossacks, merchants and farmers built their own homes, unwittingly adopting traditional Siberian motifs of carved Buddhist symbols and atypical forms. They also kept up with the architectural practices of Europe. And so, a unique style of Irkutsk baroque was born. Incidentally, the same methods were adopted for the construction of stone churches – but not many of them stand to this day. Nowadays, Irkutsk wooden architecture is being rebuilt and restored.

Дом Европы
Europa House (photo source — Wikipedia.ru)

Take a walk through the city center to enjoy the view of Irkutsk wooden architecture. Start with Friedrich Engels Street, detouring into the courtyard or the city museum and Europa House. Walk towards Babushkin Street and then turn to Zhelyabov Street, which still keeps Irkutsk wooden houses as an architectural style. Proceed to the 130th Quarter, where the restored wooden huts serve as shops, museums and restaurants, creating a new center of city life.

UNESCO pays close attention to the city, as no other town in Russia has anything similar to the wooden architecture of Irkutsk

The legacy of Soviet architecture

USSR State Bank building
USSR State Bank building (photo source — cbr.ru)

During the Soviet era, Irkutsk grew and developed with an alarming speed. From here, people managed dozens of mines, factories and wells in Eastern Siberia. During these times, constructivism style entered — and stayed a part of the architectural image of the city. With time, USSR State Bank building and Railroad Management building were supplemented with elements of classical order. Throughout the city, Stalinka apartment blocks grew like mushrooms. These Stalinkas are the buildings constructed in the Soviet classicism style between 1930 and 1956. Leningrad architect Pavlov later gave way to Irkutsk neo-brutalism, constructing the famous legged house and the boomerang apartment block.

…and everything else

If you want to sort out all styles of Irkutsk architecture, you’ll wander around the city for an eternity. The Blacksmith House, the Feinberg House, the newly rebuilt Amur gates — it’s nearly impossible to list it all. Quiet streets full of wooden houses stand next to giant malls, and a sports stadium is right across one of the oldest theaters in Siberia.

Irkutsk is considered lucky, as the Soviet rule destroyed much less of the oldest architecture as it did in neighboring Siberian cities. Despite this luck, some of the architecture was lost. Some of the buildings are nowadays being restored — for example, the Kharlampiev Church on the 5th Army Street used to be a student campus in USSR. Some buildings are remembered only thanks to books and albums, some serve as an inspiration for documentaries. In other words, Irkutsk architecture enthusiasts do everything they can to describe, rebuild and preserve the old city.

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Пройди тест на знание Иркутска

Going somewhere for a first time is an adventure to be taken seriously. It doesn’t matter whether you’re visiting the legends of Paris or the promising noises of New York City; a small forest village in Vietnam or a 354-year-old Irkutsk. What matters is your mood and how well you’re prepared for your first date with the city. People mold their first impressions during the first hours of the visit, and nothing’s sadder than being unable to see the beauty in Irkutsk — a city which constantly surprises even those born and raised here.

So if you decided to visit Irkutsk or Baikal, to bike across the magical island of Olkhon or to venture north, to the enticing Siberian wilderness, there are a few things you should know first.

Visas, transportation and accommodations

If you are not a citizen of a CIS county, a visa to Russia is issued by the any embassy of Russian Federation in your country.

Once your visa’s no longer a problem, the tickets are in your pocket, and the camera is charged and ready, get ready to greet Siberian weather.

Eastern Siberia is located at the center of the continent, and so its climate is harsh. The summers are hot, and the winters are arctic cold. Every season has its silver lining, though. Irkutsk summer is a great time to go on a walk and greet the dawn with your friends. In winter, you’ll surely enjoy warming up in small city cafes after getting to know true Russian winter cold. Always check the forecast and prepare the necessities to handle the weather. The journey will be more comfortable if you aren’t distracted by freezing feet or a sweaty back.

Tens of thousands tourists come to Irkutsk each year, so the city has many hotels. Among those are luxury hotels with famous musicians and politicians walking around the lobby, and plain hostels with travelers from around the world gathering at a kitchen and exchanging stories. Irkutsk is also a home for many avid couchsurfers who are always ready to welcome you in their homes and show you the real city beyond the usual tourist attractions.

Nizhnyaya quay of Irkutsk

Worth seeing here

Irkutsk is an old city. Cossacks came to this area of Siberia in the early seventeenth century. In 1661, the right bank of Angara already had a village — a beginning of a future city, filled with dreams of becoming a future cultural and commercial center. During all those centuries, Irkutsk lived through amazing and weird events. Gifted architects of the time build the city’s streets, and outstanding people crafted the stories. If you want to experience the scale of the past’s events, to feel the city’s pulse and to please your sight with the architectural wonders of the city, just take a walk through the capital of Eastern Siberia and see it all for yourself.

The center of the city is located at the right bank of the Angara River, and you should make your own pathway across it. Laying down your own route across the city is more interesting, but if you want to save some time and effort, here are some of our recommendations to help you see as much as possible.

You should split your walk around the city in two parts. Start with the Verkhnyaya Quay, walking away from the monument to Alexander the Third, one of the emperors of Russian Empire.

Monument to Alexander the Third
Monument to Alexander the Third

Walk down Karl Marx Street until you see Irkutsk Academic Drama theatre — by the way, its first play was staged in 1851. Turn to Lenin Street and walk to Kirov Square. You can also stop by the Regional Museum of Art. You should finish you first-day promenade in the Nizhnyaya Quay, where you’ll see the oldest church in the city touching the sky with its spires. You’ll also see the Catholic Church, the City Council building and the monument to Yakov Pokhabov, a Cossack who began the work on the settlement.

On the second day in the city, after you get some rest, go to 130th Quarter. It is a recently remodeled part of the historical center of Irkutsk, a small and cozy mini-village. Afterwards, visit any of the other must-see places — the Musical Theatre, Volkonski Manor, Sukatchev Manor, Rogal Museum or the urban gallery «Revolyutsiya».

Irkutsk is a city with a unique personality. And, in a faraway wilderness of Siberia, this city can become one of the most amazing places you’ll see in your life. It is a place where everything is the same as everywhere, but adheres to its own laws.

Things to do at night

Anton Chekhov, Russian classical writer, once wrote:«The best one among all other Siberian cities… Irkutsk is excellent!. It is a cultural city». Checkov visited Irkutsk on his way to Sakhalin.

Irkutsk is a city with a unique personality

Those years have long since passed and the city has changed, but Irkutsk still has many places to make your evening enjoyable. Irkutsk has theatres and a Philarmonic Hall, small concerts hosted at local coffee shops, lectures and poetry nights, open-air movie nights and museum nights. So check out the posters on the street and event schedules on the net, and enjoy a great dinner and a couple of fancy cocktails.

Where can you go from Irkutsk

Olkhon Island
Olkhon Island (photo by Wikipedia.ru)

Irkutsk is a starting point of traveling over Eastern Siberia. You can go to Lake Baikal, to Olkhon Island, to several lakes, to the Marble Quarry, to Arshan or to the neighboring Buryat region. You can also visit the north with its mountains and ancient rivers. In fact, Eastern Siberia has a great lot of places to see. You can learn more in the «Baikal» and «Things to do» sections of this website.

Most importantly

Your journey to Irkutsk will become truly unforgettable if you treat this city as a living being which breathes, blooms and hibernates. People in Irkutsk love their culture and the nature’s wonders. Even in the middle of vast Siberia people live, enjoy little things, create unique projects and fall in love with their homes all over again. Many people in Irkutsk would be glad to help you see that.