Irkutsk is one of the great Siberian cities, and also a major toursit destinations in Russia. Being one of the busiest cities in eastern Siberia, Irkutsk has an important cultural and historical significance to modern Russia. Currently, Irkutsk is one of the 5 most visited places in Russia, with over 100 companies dealing with the tourism industry. There are visiting tourists all year round, even in the cold winters
You cant see lake baikal from Irkutsk.. the fastest way to reach the lake, is to take a bus from Irkutsk to Listvyanka which is about an hour bus ride away. (see below for Listvyanka)
How long should I spend in Irkutsk
You should not spend too much time in Irkutsk, considering the fact that there are so much more out there around Lake Baikal. Irkutsk should be more like a transit place, while waiting for the next morning bus to Olkhon Island OR to stay the night before leaving further on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Irkutsk is where the main tour companies are, and it is here where you can start arranging the accommodations and transportation for the next few days in Lake Baikal.
I would not recommend more than 2 days in Irkutsk.
Getting to Irkutsk
Arriving by train along the Trans-Siberian Railway is the most popular way of reaching Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. A direct train from Moscow usually takes around 80 hours to reach Irkutsk. Below are an example of prices for different train classes from Moscow to Irkutsk.
3rd Class tickets (Plazkart) : 3500 - 5500 Roubles (higher prices for faster and newer trains)
2nd Class tickets (Coupe) : 9000- 14000 Roubles
1st Class tickets (Luxe) : 23000 - 28000 Roubles
Fore more information about train classes and conditions, visit our Train Siberian Railway page.
As the picture shows, outside the train station you will see that most of the people there are tourists. To reach the city center, you need to cross the bridge to the eastern side. You can take a tram, a taxi (around 200roubles), or alternatively, you can walk to the main square of the city (been there, done that, see pic below). The main hostels around this area are located around the main square.
A good tip here would be to purchase your train tickets based on the correct arrival time in Irkutsk. Because Irkutsk is +5 hours time zone difference from Moscow time, choosing a train ticket with arrival time of around 2 am Moscow time would be perfect because you will reach Irkutsk at 7am , and you will have a whole day free to tour around the city.
This picture below shows the main train station in Irkutsk, with many vacant taxis waiting outside all year round.
Irkutsk airport, code name IKT, is one of the largest airports in eastern Russia. It receives international and domestic flights. It receives international flights from Germany, Malaysia, Ukraine, China, Thailand, Mongolia, South Korea and other neighbouring former USSR countries.
Irkutsk Airport (IKT) can be reached from either of the two major airports in Moscow, Domodedovo or Sheremetyevo 1. Rossiya Airlines also flies directly to Irkutsk from St. Petersburg and S7 Airlines uses Irkutsk as a regional hub, flying to several cities in Russia, as well as flights to China, South Korea, and elsewhere in Asia.
The airport is located fairly close to the city center and buses, trams, and minibuses run frequently between the airport and Kirov Square (near the Angara Hotel) and other points in the historical center.
Airport official website : www.iktport.ru/
To reach the city center of Irkutsk from Irkutsk airport, you can take trolley bus no. 20, 41, 42, 43. The distance from the airport to the city center is 7 KM. Busses work till midnight. Travel time from Kirov Square to the airport by bus during rush hour is about 30 minutes and costs between 10 and 20 Rubles.
In July and August hydrofoils buzz up Lake Baikal to Severobaikalsk and Nizhneangarsk (R1400, 111⁄2 hours) stopping off in Port Baikal and Olkhon Island (R1100). Depart- ures from Irkutsk are timetabled at 8.50am on Tuesday and Friday returning next day but changes and cancellations are frequent. An extra Irkutsk–Olkhon–Irkutsk service might run on certain summer Thursdays. There’s an airline-style baggage limit.
Between once and four times daily, June to September, hydrofoils also serve List- vyanka (R130, 11⁄4 hours) and Bolshie Koty (R180, 13⁄4 hours).
Sights in Irkutsk
Irkutsk is a small and cozy town, therefore it is best to spend around a day or two (max) here. For the rest of your time around Baikal, I would definitely suggest to go to Olkhon Island (3-4 days) , Listvyanka (2-3 days), Bolshiye Koty (a day's hike) and the circumbaikal railway (1 day). Priorities should be given to Olkhon Island, if you don't have more than 5 days around Baikal.
All sights are marked within this google map.
View Irkutsk in a larger map
Kirov's square (Ploshad Kirova)
Probably the most beautiful sight in this town is at the northern part of Irkutsk, known as Kirov's square. Here, the memorial and the eternal flame are dedicated to the Siberian soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect mother Russia during WWII. The eternal flame was lit on May 8th, 1975. There you can see the USSR regional administrative building, which represents the ex-communist party headquaters. On the central wall of the Irkutsk regional administration building, the names of 37 Heroes of the Soviet Union who were natives of Irkutsk were carved. The eternal flame lies opposite the regional administrative building, where Russian guards march around there daily.
Picture of guards and eternal flame
Walk northwards you will see a statue before a bridge, which brings you to the Angara River. If you are walking with your loved one, buy a lock , write your name on top and lock it on the bridge for eternal love.
From the bridge along Angara river, walk eastbound and you will see a very eye-catching fairy-tale like church. This cathedral was once the main temple of the city.
The facades of the cathedral are decorated with tiles of beautiful animals and flowers.
Address : 2, Nizhnaya naberezhnaya Ulitsa
The Znamensky Convent was founded in 1683, and was considered a very important building for the christianity of Siberian locals.
During soviet times, this monastery was closed and worked only as a church. It resumed its function after 1994.
Address : 14, Angarskaya Ulitsa
Raising of the cross church (Крестовоздвиженская церковь)
Build under the "Siberian Baroque" style, which is a mixture between the local aborigines and the Russians east of the Urals. During the Soviet times, this church was the first to return to its functions in Irkutsk city.
Address : 1, Sedov street
Regional Museum & statue of tsar alexander III
Houses of Decembrist exiles
The Volkonskiy House, located behind the Transfiguration Church off Timuryazeva street near the bus station, was one of the focal points of the Decembrists' social life in the mid-19th Century.
The Trubetskiy House at Dzerzhinskovo street 24, as of March 2008, has a sign on the door (dated September 2006, no less) saying that it is closed for restoration.
Decaying wooden buildings along Karla Marks steet
Most of these are either abandoned or still used as private residences, though, and cannot be entered without permission of the owner, but provide for an atmospheric stroll down the street.
The City History Museum (1.8 km north west from the train station)
Has an interesting and thorough display of Irkutsk from its inception to the present day. It is currently located across the river (on the same side as the railway station) from the city center; take bus 8, 11, 23, or 25 from the Angara Hotel, although one will probably have to ask which stop to get off at. The museum is scheduled to move to a new building in the city center in Summer 2008. Closed Wednesdays and holidays.
Sukachev Art Museum
Probably Siberia's best collection of fine art, including several early icons, Russian secular art of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, including a few works of Repin, a section of Mongolian and Chinese art, and a section of European art including a collection of lesser-known Dutch masters. Closed Tuesdays.
Address : 5, Lenin street.
Accomodation At IRKUTSK
There are quite a number of hostels in Irkutsk, but my personal favourite is Baikaler hostel . The stay is comfortable, place is clean, located right in the city center, the price is reasonable, and best of all are the friendly staff who speaks excellent english. The hostel owner Jack organises various interesting short trips for the budget traveller. Daily transfers to Olkhon island departs from the hostel at 9am and 11am in the morning during summer.
Friends we met at Baikaler
As of now, year 2011, we do not recommend any hotels in Irkutsk for the time being, as we had feedback from a few friends about the overpriced hotels in Irkutsk with terrible service. There are private rooms offered at the hostels in Irkutsk which are more spacious and cleaner than hotels which are 6 times the price. Furthermore, hostels in Irkutsk have young english speaking staffs who will be more than happy to help you with your travel.
Transportation within Irkutsk
Irkutsk is a small town, and everywhere is pretty much accessible by foot. However, the public transit system is good. Bus and minibus fare is usually 10 Rubles, or 20 Rubles if traveling as far as the airport.
- MiniVan number 20 runs from the airport, passes Dekabrskikh Sobyty street, Karla Marksa street and Lenina street before passing the Hotel Angara and crossing to the train station.
- Trolleybus 4 (R5) takes a similar route but via Sovetskaya street and Hotel Gloria.
- From the train station, trams 1 and 2 run to Lenina street and Timiryazeva street , while bus 7 crosses to Kirova square, then loops round the centre and out past the Znamensky Monastery.
- Bus 16 continues down Lenina street, past the Raising of the Cross Church and (eventually) the Angara Dam. It then passes within 500 meters of the SibExpo hotels before looping back beside the Raketa hydrofoil station to the Angara steamship.
- Tram 5 from the Sun Hotel trundles to the central market, and from here tram 4 goes past the bus station and Kazansky Church.
- For the west bank, both bus or MiniVan 3 from the central market and marshrutky 12 and 72 (to Solnichny) from the train station cover the whole length of Lermontova street.