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The Perfect Irkutsk And Lake Baikal Itinerary

Have you heard of Irkutsk? If you ever played the board game Risk you probably have. In any case, Irkutsk is a city located in Siberia (Russia).

It was one of our stops on the Trans Mongolian Express and despite visiting St. Petersburg and Moscow as well, Irkutsk was actually my favorite Russian city!

In this guide, I'll share everything you need to know to plan an amazing (family) trip to Irkutsk and nearby Lake Baikal (the main reason most Trans Siberian Express and Trans Mongolian Express travelers make a stop here).

Irkutsk and Lake Baikal: a 2 day itinerary

Irkutsk - view over the Angara River

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Things to know when planning a trip to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal

What is the best time to visit Irkutsk and Lake Baikal?

We visited Irkutsk in mid-May and were very lucky with the weather! Our train arrived at Irkutsk station in the early morning and it was pretty cold when we got out (5 degrees Celsius).

However, it warmed up quickly and when we left our hotel around noon it was almost 20 degrees! We walked around in our t-shirts for the rest of the day.

The next day we went to Lake Baikal and the weather was perfect as well. Blue skies, sunny, and not too hot (around 20 degrees Celsius) for sightseeing.

Ice on Lake Baikal in Siberia (Russia)
Ice on Lake Baikal as seen from the Trans Mongolian Express (picture taken in May)

However, as Irkutsk is located in Siberia it can get very cold. In fact, the average temperature in December is a chilly -14 degrees Celsius.

Also, the tour guide who showed us around Lake Baikal mentioned that there was snow a week before we arrived. Make sure you pack enough warm layers, regardless of the time you are visiting!

Altogether I think May until September are nice months to visit Irkutsk if you don't like to be cold. During winter Lake Baikal completely freezes over, which must be amazing to see.

But like I said above, be aware it'll be cold. Very very cold;-).

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How to travel to Irkutsk?

By train

We traveled to Irkutsk by train, as part of our Trans Mongolian Express adventure. From Moscow, it takes approximately three and a half days to get to Irkutsk by train. From the train station, you can take a taxi to the city center or a bus (number 16, 20 or 80).

Click here to book train tickets for the Trans Mongolian or Trans Siberian Express!

By plane

You can also fly to Irkutsk, from Irkutsk International Airport it's only 7km from the city center. From the airport, you can either take a taxi to the city center or hop on a bus (number 20 or 480).

How to get around Irkutsk?


Since the city center is pretty compact the best way to get around is on foot. We explored most of the things to see in Irkutsk in one day, just by leisurely walking around.


If you prefer, you can order a taxi. We hopped into a taxi from the train station to our hotel in the 130 Kvartal, which took only 10 minutes. We paid 200 Russian rubles (₽) via Gett.

Public transport

There is a bus and tram network in Irkutsk as well, though we haven't personally used this. You can buy a ticket on the bus (cash).

Tram in Irkutsk

Where to stay in Irkutsk?

Kupechesky Dvor hotel

We stayed at the beautiful Kupechesky Dvor hotel, a unique reconstructed Siberian manor. We loved our stay here, it's a beautiful building (both on the inside as well as on the outside) and the location is absolutely perfect!

Right in the middle of the popular 130 Kvartal (read more below) and within walking distance of all the best things to do in Irkutsk.

Our spacious and lovely attic room had a large bed, a comfortable couch, a bathroom with a bath, and our baby's favorite feature: brightly colored soft carpet!

Attic room in Kupechesky Dvor hotel Irkutsk

We arrived early in the morning and were very lucky our room was already available.

The Kupechesky Dvor staff was really nice and the breakfast (which could be served both in our room as well as in the cozy breakfast area next to the reception) was delicious.

We had a hard time deciding what to order (and may have ordered slightly too much because we wanted to try everything on the breakfast menu;-).

Click here to book a room at the Kupechesky Dvor

The best things to do in Irkutsk

Click here for the interactive map

1. Stroll through the 130 Kvartal

130 Kvartal Irkutsk Russia
Colorful stalls in 130 Kvartal Irkutsk

The 130 Kvartal is a lovely pedestrian area in Irkutsk. There are lots of shops, restaurants, and cafes, located in beautiful (mostly recreated) wooden buildings.

Since all we had to do to visit this area was step out of our hotel, this was the first stop on our Irkutsk itinerary.

2. Walk along the Angara River

One of the most popular weekend (family) activities is strolling along the Angara river, the only river flowing out of Lake Baikal (whereas more than 300 rivers flow into Lake Baikal).

There is a path along the water with lovely views of the river, Irkutsk train station, and the Ferris wheel.

3. Check out the beautiful old wooden houses

Irkutsk is famous for the beautiful historic wooden houses that can be found throughout the city. Some are in pristine condition, and others have almost crumbled to pieces.

The city is currently on a mission to restore many of these wooden houses to their former glory. These buildings have so much historical value, it would be a shame if they were lost.

The two most famous wooden houses are the Volkonsky House and the Trubetskoy House, both of which are museums where you can learn more about the Decembrists.

Trubetskoy House in Irkutsk
Trubetskoy House

4. Visit a museum

While Irkutsk isn't that big, there are several interesting museums you can visit. As mentioned above, there are the Volkonsky and Trubetskoy Houses.

You could also visit the Museum of the History of Irkutsk, the Bronshteyn Gallery, or the Regional Museum.

5. Go statue hunting

The Irkutsk Babr in the 130 Kvartal

I don't know why but for some reason there are lots of statues in Irkutsk. The most famous one is the Irkutsk Babr, the symbol of Irkutsk (this statue can be found in the 130 Kvartal).

But there are lots more hidden throughout the city, finding as many as possible is a fun game to play when visiting Irkutsk with kids!

6. Admire the many churches

While Irkutsk doesn't have a cathedral with colorful onion-shaped domes, like St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow or the Church of the Savior on Blood in St. Petersburg, it does have several beautiful churches.

Next to the 130 Kvartal, you can find the Raising of the Cross Church, and close to the Irkutsk Region Administration office there is the beautiful Saviour's Church.

And as you are walking around the city center you'll come across several other beautiful churches (not all are open to the public)!

7. Head to a playground

Childrens Playground in Irkutsk

Ok, this one is only when you have kids. There are multiple fun playgrounds in Irkutsk, I marked two nice ones on the map but there are more.

In general, I feel Irkutsk is a much more kid-friendly city than Moscow and St. Petersburg. It's not nearly as busy, the distances are small and there are many green spaces.

The best things to do around Lake Baikal

Map with things to see in Listvyanka (Lake Baikal)

Click here for the interactive map

After you've explored Irkutsk for a day it's time to head to magnificent Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world containing approximately one-fifth of the world's surface water. We did a tour with Real Russia and had an action-packed program.

How far is Lake Baikal from Irkutsk?

Lake Baikal is approximately 70 kilometers from Irkutsk.

How to get from Irkutsk to Lake Baikal?

The easiest way to get there is by car, which takes one hour. Transportation was included in our Real Russia tour, however, you can also get there by (mini)bus. More information can be found here.

1. Lunch with Omul

Omul dish at Listvyanka Club restaurant

First, we had an extensive lunch at Listvyanka Club. Of course, this included omul, a fish native to Lake Baikal and a must-try on any Lake Baikal excursion.

Note for traveling families: this restaurant is very suitable for families as there is a baby high chair and a children's play area.

2. Visit the Baikal Museum

Baikal Museum Listvyanka

In the Lake Baikal Museum, you can learn about the geology and ecosystem of the lake.

3. Learn about the Shaman Stone

Shaman Stone Lake Baikal

At the point where the Angara river flows out of Lake Baikal, there is a 1.5-meter-high stone protruding from the water.

The stone is called Shaman Stone and there is an interesting legend behind its origin. Until this day the rock is a sacred place for shamanists.

4. Hike up to Chersky stone and viewpoint

Chersky stone Listvyanka view over Lake Baikal

From this 970-meter-high viewpoint, also called the Kamen Cherskogo, you have a beautiful view over Lake Baikal.

We hiked up in 20 minutes (with baby D. in his baby carrier) but you can also take the cable car.

5. Admire St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church in Listvyanka

This beautiful wooden church is one of the last remaining wooden churches in Russia. You can enter the church, but be sure to dress appropriately.

For women: bring a scarf to cover your head. If you don't have one, scarves are provided at the entrance.

6. Stroll over Baikal Market and the beach

A nice place to buy a souvenir (or dried fish if you have a taste for it;-). Across the market is a stony beach, where you can dip your toe in the freezing water of Lake Baikal.

Click here to book a tour of Lake Baikal with Real Russia.

Trip to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal: in conclusion

Visiting Irkutsk and Lake Baikal was one of the highlights of our Trans Mongolian Express adventure. I highly recommend stopping here if you are traveling on the Trans Siberia or Trans Mongolian train.

Irkutsk is a pleasant place to spend a day or two and of course, Lake Baikal is such an impressive place to visit, it just wouldn't be right to skip it.

Granted, you have excellent views of the Lake from the train as well, but it's not the same as actually feeling the freezing temperature of the water with your own bare hands (or feet if you dare…).

Also read my other post about traveling the Trans Mongolian Express with kids:

This post was updated in December 2020.


Monday 29th of March 2021

I'm glad to have read this blog post on Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. So informative and helpful. From the pictures you posted, Irkutsk looks like a city worth checking out. And Baikal looks stunning. I'm sure the pictures don't do it justice though, compared to seeing it in person. I definitely plan on visiting there on my next overseas trip post Covid pandemic.


Sunday 18th of April 2021

Hi Hans,

Thank you for your kind comment and I'm happy to hear I've inspired you to visit Irkutsk and Lake Baikal! You are right, the pictures can't do Lake Baikal justice, despite my many attempts to capture its sheer size... I wish you a wonderful trip once that's possible again.

All the best, Lotte


Saturday 13th of February 2021

A nice city to visit, stay and enjoy.


Sunday 14th of February 2021

I totally agree Zahir:-)


Thursday 7th of January 2021

Nice and informative post. Thank you. I was in Baikal 2019 winter. It was amazing. However we used agency service to make our trip.


Sunday 10th of January 2021

Hi Serzhen,

Baikal is beautiful right?! We also used a travel agency (Real Russia) for our trip to the Lake. Definitely worth the convenience.

Best regards, Lotte


Sunday 25th of October 2020

This is so informative and amazing. Thanks for this. I will definitely use it when i travel to Lake Baikal.


Tuesday 27th of October 2020

Thank you Ajeetesh! Have a nice trip to Lake Baikal:-)


Saturday 30th of November 2019

Nice post. Very informative. Thanks. Can you please tell me whether a boating is possible on lake baikal.


Tuesday 3rd of December 2019

Thank you:-) Boating on Lake Baikal is possible, but only during summer (June-August). You can find more information here: