Irkutsk is called the historical center of Eastern Siberia for its fascinating history. This small but interesting city lies in the middle of taiga forests, endless fields, and transparent rivers. Founded in 1661 by Yakov Pokhabov, Irkutsk is located five thousand kilometers from Moscow. Here, you can see with old merchant houses, century-old wooden architecture, and churches with intricate wood carvings. Many architectural works have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Travelers call Irkutsk a “museum town”, standing on the banks of the Angara River. Baikal, the oldest, deepest, and cleanest lake in the world is only one hour's drive from Irkutsk.
Irkutsk had always been a part of the global economy, culture, and political life. Standing on the Transsiberian Railroad, Irkutsk had played a small but key role in the development of the Russian Empire. During the Soviet times, Irkutsk became the center of industrial development of East Siberia and the Far East of the USSR. And now Irkutsk is standing out in the global travel market, Lake Baikal and Siberian nature attract people from all over the globe.
The main touristic area in Irkutsk is the city center. International tourists can see there the old buildings of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Visitors can relax in city parks, or try delicious food of Russian and Buryat cuisines.
In 1890, Anton Chekhov visited Siberia. In his travel notes, he called Irkutsk “an intelligent city”, a metaphor to be inevitably cited in all historical references. By the way, while visiting Irkutsk, the famous writer did not only visit cultural institutions but also public baths and even women of easy virtue.
During the Civil War, Irkutsk was the seat of Kolchak's ‘White’ government, but admiral Alexander Kolchak was arrested and shot upon arrival in the city. One of the local legends has it that a White army train allegedly loaded with gold crushed into Baikal in 1919. And nobody has found the mythical “Kolchak's gold” so far. Nor has refuted the fact of its existence.
WWII became another cultural breakthrough for Irkutsk. Many scientists, professors, academicians came here from the central regions of the country. Here, they taught at universities and laid the foundations of classical Irkutsk education.
What to bring from Irkutsk
A unique “trademark” of Baikal is omul (Baikal cisco). Local manufacturers pack Baikal cisco in sealed packages so that travelers could bring it home.
Other souvenir ideas include eco food such as pine nuts, pine nut oil, pine nut milk, and all kinds of sweets including the most favored ones – honey with nuts and sweets with roasted pine nuts.