Irkutsk the “Paris of Siberia,” is one of the most popular stops on the Trans-Siberian Railway and is a major tourist hub for those traveling to Lake Baikal. It is an architectural jewel that features traditional Siberian domestic architecture.
Transport yourself back in time and take a stroll along 130 Kvartal, a restoration project of traditional Siberian wooden houses of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some transported from other locations, some constructed to blend in with original structures in the area. Today, the street is filled with boutiques, restaurants, cafes, bars, souvenir shops, and commercial museums.
See one of the world’s oldest icebreakers:
Ice is, obviously, an issue in Irkutsk. It has been an issue for so long that Irkutsk is where you can find one of the oldest ice-breaking ships in the world. It is now safely anchored in the Angara river and is open to visitors, but back in the day, it used to crush the ice on Baikal Lake to make travel across the lake possible The vessel was in use until 1962. In 1990 it was anchored in Irkutsk and became the Ice-Breaker ‘Angara’ Museum.
Open air museum:
The open-air museum Taltsy is located 20 kilometers away from Listvyanka. The exposition features wooden buildings brought from all over Siberia. Right now, 40 landmarked buildings and 8000 artifacts dated by XVII-XIX centuries are presented as part of the exhibition. The museum looks like an ancient village with long streets, wooden houses, water mills and even a small school. It should be noted, that in the past real village “Taltsy” was located here.
Become an Ice Princess:
Irkutsk’s annual ice sculpture festival doesn’t really hold a candle to the one in Harbin, China, but locals nonetheless put up snow and ice sculptures in the city’s Central Park every year. If you happen to visit Irkutsk in winter and aren’t headed immediately to Lake Baikal, this is definitely something you should check out. Some years there’s an ice castle, which means you can become an ice princess.
Nerpinarium Ringed Seal Show:
The Baikal ringed seal is a symbol of Lake Baikal, being their only habitat in the world. They are difficult to see in their natural habitat as they are timid and frighten easily. To have a chance to see the seals, head to the Irkutsk Nerpinarium where they have a trained seal show, the only one of its kind. The seals are brought to the Nerpinarium by tourists or locals who rescue them in winter when they cannot find their way back to the water.