Located in Eastern Siberia, Irkutsk is a fascinating place to visit and has something to offer nearly every type of traveller – from history buffs to outdoor enthusiasts to fans of unique architecture. Whether you’re planning a visit, thinking about adding the city to your must-visit list, or you’ve already set a date and booked your ticket, our expert local guides have the scoop on getting there, getting around, and what to see and do while you’re in Irkutsk.
The best way to get to and from the airport in Irkutsk is via taxi. There are usually many taxi drivers waiting at the airport, but be sure to negotiate a price before you set off. Paying around RUB 300 is considered a fair price to get from the airport to any place in the city center. In addition, you can use some of the apps popular among locals: Yandex taxi app and Maxim app. They work very well in Irkutsk, and you’ll always know in advance how much to pay.
Public transport is widely represented in Irkutsk with buses, minibuses, trolleys, and trams.
For buses and minibuses, the cost for one ride is RUB 20 before 8pm, and RUB 25 after 8pm. For trolley and tram, the cost of a ride is RUB 15.
Try to avoid any transport during peak hours (8-10am and 5:30-7:30pm). Public transport starts at 6am and operates until 10pm.
If you’re exploring the city centre, getting around on foot is your best option
Hockey fans may want to check out a local game. The Kontinental Hockey League starts up in the fall, with regular season games running until February, and pay-off games kicking off in March. Seeing a game is a fun, local experience and fans get pretty enthusiastic. Or, if you prefer to be on the ice (while not with a hockey stick in hand), skating is a popular activity in Irkutsk in the winter. Skates can be easily rented for RUB 150 to 300 per hour.
Get to know the city on foot with a walk along the Green Line, a walking route encompassing around five kilometres that takes you past 30 sites in the historical center of the city. Take your time exploring, seeing the sights, and stopping for coffee or something to eat along the way. You can use this map for your self-guided walk, or pick up a map from the tourist office, located in the city centre.
Depending on how much time you have, it’s worth the hour-long trip out of the city to see Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the summer, you can swim or go for a boat ride on the water. There’s also the option of exploring the lakeside village of Listvyanka. In winter, the lake freezes over so you can take a hovercraft ride across the ice.
When it comes to festivals and events, the Day of Irkutsk City takes place on the first Saturday of June and is a big event for the city. Usually the celebration starts in the morning with a lot of events in the city center, and continues all day long finishing with a concert and fireworks.
Maslenitsa Winter Festival, celebrated since Pagan times, is a celebration of the end of winter and happens during the week preceding Lent. One of the main attributes of this week-long celebration is eating blini (Russian pancakes). So basically, all week we eat pancakes at home, at work, and go to visit our relatives and eat pancakes there. All week long there are street celebrations, street markets, and other fun activities. The week ends with the big day on Sunday, when we burn down a massive scarecrow which serves as a symbol of winter.
Get ready for your trip with a listen to “By the Wild Steppes of the Transbaikalia,” a Russian folk song about a man who sailed on Lake Baikal.
Any book telling the story of explorations of Siberia, Lake Baikal, or the Decembrists will give you a lot of glimpses into the history of Irkutsk. That will give you the understanding of some regional issues and the history of how hard it was to build cities in such a severe climate.