Irkutsk

Church colors, Irkutsk

Irkutsk (Russian: Ирку́тск; eer-KOOTSK) is capital of the Russian province of Irkutsk Oblast in Eastern Siberia.

Understand

Irkutsk was founded in 1661 as a settlement for trading gold and furs. It was connected to Europe via a road constructed in 1760.

After the Decemberist Revolt of 1825, many Russian artists, officers, and nobles were sent into exile to Siberia for their part in the revolt against Tsar Nicholas I and in the late 1800s, 30% of the population of the city were exiles. Irkutsk became the major centre of intellectual and social life for these exiles, and much of the city's cultural heritage is a result of these exiles. Many of their wooden houses, adorned with ornate, hand-carved decorations, survive today in stark contrast with the surrounding Soviet apartment blocks. Around 1900, the city was nicknamed the "Paris of Siberia" due to its wide streets and ornate, continental architecture but travellers today will find little resemblance with Paris.

During the civil war that broke out after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917-1922, Irkutsk became the site of many furious, bloody clashes between the "Whites" and the "Reds" (aka Bolsheviks). A number of city landmarks remain from that era. In 1920, Kolchak, the once-feared commander of the largest contingent of anti-Bolshevik forces, was executed in Irkutsk, effectively destroying the anti-Bolshevik resistance.

Today, Irkutsk is the 6th largest city in Siberia, with a growing population of more than 590,000 people. It's home to several universities and a major branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, due to its proximity to Lake Baikal.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) -13.2 -8.4 -0.3 9.0 17.5 22.6 24.3 22.0 15.5 8.9 -2.8 -10.3
Nightly lows (°C) -22.4 -20.4 -13 -3.4 3.0 8.7 12.3 10.5 4.0 -3.2 -12 -19.2
Precipitation (mm) 12 8 12 18 33 71 116 89 53 24 20 16

Average of Irkutsk

Climate

In July, the average temperature is 18°C (64°F) with a bit of rain, but by January, the temperature plunges in typically Siberian fashion to -19°C (-2°F). Early September finds the local foliage at its finest.

Get in

By plane

International Airport Irkutsk (IATA: IKT) is 5km east of the city center.

Direct flights operate to/from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Ulan Ude, Novosibirsk, Vladivostok, Yakutsk, and several other Russian cities. International flights operate to from Ulaanbaatar, Osh, Seoul, Bangkok, Beijing, and Tashkent.

Buses, trams, and minibuses run frequently between the airport and Kirov Square (near the Angara Hotel) and other points in the historical center. A trip via public transport costs approximately RUB20.

By train

Irkutsk train station

Most travellers arrive in Irkutsk via the Trans-Siberian Railway. Irkutsk is about halfway between Moscow and the two eastern terminus cities, Vladivostok and Beijing, making it a good place to break the trip, if only to stretch your legs and buy provisions. The Baikal-Amur Mainline, connecting with more northerly cities, also runs nearby.

Apart from Moscow there are also direct carriages from most cities in Russia such as Saint Petersburg (86 hours), as well as from Minsk (94 hours) and Warsaw (113 hours).

Other popular destinations include Vladivostok, Beijing, Ulaanbaatar, Novosibirsk, Chelyabinsk, Chita, Khabarovsk, Severobaykalsk, Ulan-Ude, Novosibirsk, Neryungri, Blagoveshchensk, Ust-Ilimsk, Novokuznetsk, Penza, Kislovodsk and Abakan.

Be wary of the taxi-drivers at the station if arriving on a late-night train. A taxi ride to the centre of town should only cost RUB200-300. Unlicensed taxis will overcharge you. If there is a disagreement, ask your hostel/hotel owner to come to the taxi and arrange the correct fare.

Get around

By foot

The historical center of Irkutsk is relatively compact and walkable. Traffic congestion is not bad for a city of nearly 600,000 people.

By public transport

For those who want to save time or travel between one side of the river and the other, the public transit system is a good option. Knowing at least how to read the signs on the buses and bus stops is helpful, and on the minibuses, one must call out to the driver to request a stop. Oddly enough, the names of major bus stops are posted on kiosk roofs parallel to the road so that the names are not often visible from inside the bus. Bus and minibus ("marshrutka") fare is usually RUB12. Local etiquette is to pay the driver when exiting the bus and trolley (therefore you can exit it only through the front door). In trams tickets should be purchased from driver, then stamped in the machine on board.

Map of tram and trolleybus lines.

Tourist information

  Tourist Information Office, in the Europe House, 21 F. Engels St. (very friendly and useful)

Bike rental

Skiwalker, Kultukskaya Ulitza #15, offers bicycle rental.

See

Among the Soviet concrete monstrosities, Irkutsk features many of atmospheric, decaying wooden buildings. Most of these are either abandoned or still used as private residences and add to the atmosphere of the city.

Museums

The Europe House (Shastin's House), Irkutsk
Sukachev Art Museum

Estates

Shastyna House, a typical wooden building

Religious buildings

Epiphany Cathedral (1718–46)
Prince Vladimir Monastery
Our Lady of Kazan Church (1885–92)
Synagogue
Holy Trinity Church
Transfiguration Church

Other places

Ice-breaker "Angara"
Irkutsk Philarmony

Do

Drama Theater

Learn

Buy

Kamusi

Wood carvings, birchwood boxes, and lacquer boxes are typical souvenirs of Siberia. A few hotels have souvenir stalls in the lobby, and the Regional Museum at Ul. Karla Marksa 2 has a decent selection in their gift shop as well.

Kamusi are winter boots used by native Siberians made out of deer, elk, or other fur. One place to buy is at a small shop across from the bus station at Ul. Oktyabrskoi Revolyutsii 20B called "Aikhal". It is in a courtyard behind some kiosks, so it takes some searching. They have kamusi for men, women, and children, with prices starting at about 3000 Rubles.

Eat

For a local speciality, Omyl, Sig and Kharius are local fishes found in the lake Baikal (available in many restaurants). Cold smoked kharius is good with beer. Hot smoked kharius you can find in Listvyanka or Kultuk villages near Baikal lake. Price depends on fish size and is usually about RUB150-25 for one. In the Central or New market (Noviy Rinok) you can buy kharius and sig caviar - tasty.

National Buryat big dumplings (boozy, pozy) can be found in Amrita cafés. It's a special Buryat fast food chain with some cafés in the middle of town. Cheap, tasty. Pozy is a steamed meat (beef with pork) big dumplings that must be eaten using only hands.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Balsams Buryatia and Amrita are very nice Buryat alcoholic drinks (costs about 180 RUB each 0.75 l). Thay are also very helpful against cold. Balsam Buryatia was consecrated by Dalai-Lama XIV, as it says label on the bottle.

Sleep

Many locals have rooms for rent and services such as Airbnb are popular ways of finding accomodation.

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Consulates

Go next

Wooden Church at Taltsi
Routes through Irkutsk

Novosibirsk Angarsk  W  E  Ulan Ude Khabarovsk
End  N  S  Ulan Ude Beijing


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 08, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.