One of Siberia's oldest cities, Tomsk was Russia's frontier back in 1604, much like trading outposts of the Hudson Bay Company in the Canadian prairies. Its fortunes ebbed when the Trans-Siberian railway line sidestepped the city in late 19thcentury, favoring rival city of Novosibirsk some fifty kilometers to the South. Turnabout came half a century later in World War II – Tomsk played host to several major industrial enterprises evacuated in the face of the German offensive on the Eastern front.

Tomsk is a university town, where one in five resident is a student, and it has an easy-going and youthful feel. Tomsk State University and Tomsk Polytechnic University are two major hives of activity in the metropolitan area. Be it for the students or otherwise, nightlife pulses into the wee hours.
A partial list of museums in Tomsk includes a former secret police prison that operated from 1923 to 1944, an oil industry museum and a museum of wooden architecture.