Arkhangelsk was founded in 1584 by order of the Russian tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible). It was situated on Pur-Navolok (Cape Navolok). The original name of the new town was Novye Kholmogory, then Novokholmogory; its present name — Arkhangelsk — dates back to 1613 and is connected with the Archangel Michael Monastery, which was situated nearby.

Being for centuries a wooden town, Arkhangelsk often suffered from fires. There was the conflagration in 1667 and people had to build up the town anew. In the end of the 17th century, stone buildings began to be built in Arkhangelsk. One of the first examples of stone construction was Gostiny Dvor (Merchant Yard), dating back to 1668–1684.Arkhangelsk was the first seaport of Russia. From the middle of the 18th century, Arkhangelsk became known as a base for Arctic development.

Now, Arkhangelsk is the administrative, industrial and cultural centre of the Arkhangelsk region. As one of the oldest Russian towns, with its unique history and culture, it is very attractive to tourists from all over the world.