Located about 70 kilometers from Lake Baikal not far from China and Mongolia, Irkutsk of today is among the region's largest towns with a population of more than 500,000 people.
In the early 19th century many participants in the Decembrist revolution against Tsar Nicholas I were sent into exile to Siberia. Among them were many officers, nobles and artists who turned Irkutsk into a thriving cultural and educational center, the hive of Russia's intellectual and social life.
Many universities, wooden houses with hand-carved decorations still stand today side by side with the city's multiple historic churches and museums. Among the city's main highlights are the Volkonsky House and the Trubetskoy House - two buildings where the largest salons and social gatherings of the era were held.
Irkutsk tragically burnt down almost completely in 1879, but it was rebuilt right away. The city developed so quickly and greatly that already by the year 1900 it was referred to "The Paris of Siberia." Irkutsk's other landmarks include the House of Europe, Sukachev Art Museum, icebreaker Angara and Museum of Geology.