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
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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 (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 (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
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
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
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
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.