This city evokes memories of the past with its traditional wooden buildings and magnificent churches. It is a historic city that doesn’t boast the grandeur of wealthy Russian cities but softly beckons with its mystic. Here are some of the things that draw people to Irkutsk by the numbers;
Known by many as the deepest and oldest lake in the world. Some even claim that the waters of this legendary lake have supernatural ability to prolong one’s life.
Traditional Wooden Houses
Never fail to impress with their bright carved shutters that contrast ever so sharply with the dark wood. Each house is unique and it is very unlikely to see a house that resembles another.
The city has its fair share of history and art to showcase. You will find popular artworks in the museums. Regional museum is housed by an old brick building from the 1870s. One can buy alluring jewelry and birch bark boxes from the gift shop.
The Art Gallery
Will be nothing short of awe inspiring. It boasts enviable collections which are a must see even with the poor lighting.
Towering Orthodox Churches
Bring such incredible contrast with the wooden houses. The architecture of these churches makes them a sight to behold for locals and visitors alike. The Bogoyavlensky cathedral is one such church that will capture your eyes with its salmon, green and white towers.
Like any other place on earth, Irkutsk is home to a number of wild animals. The most fascinating of them is the freshwater seal that can only be seen at the stunning lake Baikal.
Where to Eat
Vegetarians visiting this idyllic city can grab a meal at Govinda Café on Furye Street. Indian tunes play in the background as you enjoy Pies, Casserole, stews and lots of juices and teas like no other. It is also one of the places where prices are fair.
Irkutsk city is home to people from various cultures and this is evident from the restaurants around. Kochevnik restaurant is a place to be for rich Mongolian cuisine. Try the mushroom soup and you will certainly want another round. The taste of smoked Omul with lemon, ice and salt is truly unforgettable. Couple your food with beer and vodka and you are good to go.
A friend once hinted that you cannot claim to have been to Irkutsk if you have never been to Figaro restaurant on Karl Max Street and I had to check it out. An Italian based menu comes with the most original add-ons. This plus English-speaking staff makes the dining experience in Irkutsk even more exciting. Meals at Figaro are as nicely presented as the staff is polite.
At the design bar, you can dine on a budget. The meals are delicious and warmhearted. There is a variety of salads and hot meals to get you through the cold winter days. The bar also has some of the best cocktails which make the drive from the city center worth the while.
Your dining experience cannot be considered complete if you have not been to the Rio Grande on Rossiyskaya Street. American, Mexican and Russian cuisine will be found here. Feel free to sample whatever you like with help from friendly staff. A meal at Rio Grande is certainly what every visitor to Irkutsk needs.
Monet Restaurant dazzles right from its exterior and one does not expect the serendipity inside. There are many teas to sample as well as tempting cakes. There is nothing comparable to the signature berry teas served here.
You can shop from various shops on Karl Max Street. The central market is an ideal place to shop for food, clothes and even camels! For maps to guide you around the city, find your way to Knigomir. Fanat is the one stop shop for all your camping, fishing and hiking gear. There are myriad shops at the international airport where you can shop for everything from gift items to clothes. The bike rental shop ‘Skiwalker’ is the best place to hire mountain bikes.
Where to Have Fun
The top watering hole of Irkutsk is Liverpool bar. There is an intercontinental beer menu to sample from and the meals are creatively named after various Beatles tracks.
Okhlopov Drama Theatre
If you are a fan of classics then you must go to the Okhlopov drama theatre in the summer. Russian classics are often played there, making it a darling for lovers.
Join the moneyed youth of Irkutsk at the Chili for Aztec style food and entertainment day and night. For the cozy couches and meals, there is no place like Chili.
Watch Russian MTV while enjoying fragrant candle scents at Monet. This ‘coffee fashion club’ is the place to be for intriguing entertainment.
Stratosphera Night Club
An alluring spot with a bowling alley and two story disco for the fun lover.
Go to the circus for exciting performances but avoid front row seats if you want a good view of the action.
How to Get Around
From Irkutsk airport, you can ride a taxi to the city center. There are buses ferrying people to different locations in the city center and some even offer transport to and from the airport. The city is rather compact and walkable if you are in possession of a map. Minibuses are also an ideal way to get around the city. If you want to ride on minibus, you must learn how to call on to the driver to stop. The tram service is an excellent way to travel from one point to another. The tram’s last stop is usually at the central market between Ul. Dzerzhinskogo and Ul. Timiryazeva. If all this is too much for you, try out the bike rental at Skiwalker and choose a god brand to get you around the city.
Irkutsk is nothing short of magnificent. Right from the cuisine to the scenic views, Irkutsk is a place anyone would love. It is such fun that one never notices the cold. Irkutsk is most certainly the ‘Paris of Siberia’ and you don’t have to be a local to make a nice purchase or have immense fun in this historic city.