Once one of eastern Siberia's foremost towns, forgotten Nerchinsk is quietly intriguing. While hardly worth a special 300km trip from Chita, a day here handily breaks up a long Chita-Blagoveshchensk journey.
Founded in 1654 by Petr Beketov's Cossacks, Nerchinsk was the venue where China signed the immensely important 1689 border treaty recognising Russia's claims to the trans-Baikal region. The town profited from resultant Sino-Russian trade and boomed from the 1860s with the region's development of rich silver mines. Mikhail Butin, the local silver baron, also created steel and wine industries and built himself an impressive crenellated palace, furnished with what were then claimed to be the world's largest mirrors. He'd bought the mirrors at Paris's 1878 World's Fair and miraculously managed to ship them unscathed all the way to Nerchinsk via the China Sea and up the Amur River.