Irkutsk Oblast is rising in popularity when it comes to tourism in Russia. The number of tourists has been climbing, both from within Russia and from out of the country. The amount of foreign tourists has grown to 211,000 people per year, and the total number of tourists has grown by 4.7% to 1,597,800 people per year. The vast majority of these come from China, with Korea in a not-so-close second. Hundreds of guides like Svetlana (interview below) are present to lead tourists around the city and around Baikal.
While it's generally accepted that tourists in Irkutsk are, for the most part, there to use the city as a stepping stone to Baikal , the city has made a fair amount of accommodations for the visitors in order to make their stay more convenient and comfortable. There are numerous Tourist Information Offices in main areas of the city that will assist visitors, especially if they prefer to go without a guide. Irkutsk has done its best to make sure that the city has its own story to tell, with plenty of museums and attractions for tourists that offer the unique point of view of an old Siberian city.
Tourist Attractions in the City
The Green Line
The Green Line that runs throughout the city, mostly in the downtown area, is specifically designed for tourists to follow and view some of the most historically and visually relevant sights in Irkutsk. It is especially convenient if visitors choose to move around the city without a guide. It includes 30 specific stops and is designed to take about 3 hours to complete the 5 kilometers entirely. There are stops at 5 churches, 5 museums, and 5 historic monuments that are popular tourist destinations. Every stop is accompanied by a sign that explains in Russian, English, and Chinese the relevance of the building or statue the tourist has arrived at. The Green Line begins at the bank of the Angara river with the statue of Czar Alexander III, and ends next to the 130th Kvartal with the picturesque Exaltation of the Cross church.
From the 30th and final stop on the Green Line, tourists can take the short trip across the street to explore the District 130 and take pictures with the iconic Babr statue.
A recently built and expanding tourism center constructed in the style of the popular wooden buildings that are contained in Irkutsk. The area consists of many restaurants, cafes, and bars, and is lined with souvenir stands on every level that sell Irkutsk and Baikal-themed trinkets. A popular tourist activity is to get a picture taken with the giant statue of the fictitious animal that appears on the Irkutsk coat of arms, the Babr.
Museums, Theaters, and Churches
Some museums are included on the city's Green Line, but those that aren't are still cited as popular tourist attractions.
Popular museums within the city include the City History Museum, the Sukachev Regional Art Museum, the Icebreaker Angara, and the Decembrist Museum (including the Volkonsky House, a remaining homestead of a notable exiled Decembrist where tourists can get tours and walk around the property).
Theaters are also popular stops on the Green Line. Even if visitors don't have the opportunity to pay and go to a show in the evenings, the architecture of these buildings offer picture opportunities that can be iconic for Irkutsk (especially the Irkutsk Drama Theater).
The Churches of Irkutsk attract visitors with their unique architecture and interesting history. The Exaltation of the Cross Church, Church of the Savior, Epiphany Cathedral, the Polish Catholic Church and the Kazan Church all offer gorgeous views of Russian architecture, with additions of Irkutsk's wooden designs, without one resembling one another. Tourists haven't tired of visiting these prominent and iconic areas and they remain some of the city's biggest and most advertised tourist attractions.