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.
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.
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
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.
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.