One of the largest cities in Siberia, Irkutsk is a popular stop for tourists on the Trans-Siberian Express. Located less than two hours away from Russia’s famed Lake Baikal, Irkutsk offers an interesting look into the heart of Siberia. The city is known as the "Paris of the East" and is a nice size for travelers looking to spend a couple of days on stationary land before continuing on their rail journey.
As Irkutsk is a popular stop for travelers, it is home to a number of youth hostels. Travelers should try and find a Irkutsk hostel in the downtown core, near to Karl Marx and Lenin streets (ulitsa Karla Marksa/ulitsa Lenina), as all amenities from restaurants to shops are found in this area. Irkutsk is quite walkable, although there is a fairly decent bus and marshrutka (shared taxi) system. Hostels near Gagarin Boulevard (Boulvar Gagarina) will be within walking distance to the banks of the Angara River, which is quite a safe and lively place to take a stroll. Many Irkutsk hostels should be able to help visitors arrange day trips to Lake Baikal and Listvyanka, a lakeshore village that is popular with tourists, as well as longer trips to Olkhon Island.
While in Irkutsk, travelers interested in history should make a stop at either the Trubetsky or the Volkhonsky houses, both of which belonged to exiled St. Petersburg residents who took part in the failed Decembrist coup of 1825. Tourists should also look into visiting a nerpinarian while in Irkutsk or Listvyanka -- these "seal aquariums" are home to the nerpa seal, the only freshwater seal in the world and an inhabitant of Baikal.