The city was founded in 1893 as the future site of the Trans-Siberian Railway bridge crossing the great Siberian river Ob and was known as Novonikolayevsk after Saint Nicholas. It also was the name of the Tsar ruling at that time Tsar Nicholas II. The bridge opened for traffic in the spring of 1897. Its importance further increased early in the 20th century with the completion of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway, connecting Novosibirsk to Central Asia and the Caspian Sea.
By the time of the bridge's opening, Novonikolaevsk's population was 7,800 people. The year 1906 saw the first bank of Novosibirsk being established and by 1915, there were already five banks. In 1907, it became a city with all the rights of self-government and a population of 47,000. The pre-November Revolution period saw Novosibirsk with a population of 80,000 and was the largest commercial and industrial center having an agricultural processing industry, power station, iron foundry, commodity market, banks, commercial and shipping companies, 7 Orthodox churches, one Roman Catholic church, several cinemas, 40 primary schools, a high school, teachers' seminary and the Romanov House' non-classical secondary school. Novosibirsk was one of the first towns in Russia that accepted the compulsory primary education in 1913.
The Russian Civil War took a toll on the town, with several typhus and cholera epidemics which took thousands of lives. The famous Ob bridge was blown up and, for the first time since the beginning of its history, Novonikolaevsk's population fell. In December 1917, the Soviet Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies of Novonikolaevsk seized the town. In May 1918, Czechoslovak prisoners of war set up an opposition and together with White Guards captured Novonikolaevsk. It was taken by the Red Army in 1919.
Novonikolaevsk began reconstruction in 1921 at the start of Lenin's New Economic Policy. It was given a new name, Novosibirsk, in 1926. The "novo" part means "new", "sibir" - Siberia and the "sk" suffix is common for settlement names, so "Novosibirsk" can be translated as "New Siberia City".
During Stalin's Industrialization, Novosibirsk rose from a large commercial city into one of the largest industrial centers of Siberia. Several huge plants were located here, including the Sibkombain plant, a mining tools plant, a metal processing plant, food processing and other plants and factories, and a power station. From 1932-1933, during the Great Soviet Famine, more than 170 thousand refugees arrived at Novosibirsk. They settled down in barracks at the outskirts of town, in shacks and huts, giving rise to slums such as Big Nakhalovka, Little Nakhalovka, and others.
Fast growth and industrialisation lead Novosibirsk to have the nickname the "Chicago of Siberia"
Tram rails were laid in Novosibirsk in 1954; by that time it was the largest city of Siberia with 287,000 residents. The next year, the Kommunalny bridge on the Ob was built to replace the old bridge that helped start Novosibirsk.
To cope with the large amount of people moving to the town during the 1950s, a hydroelectic power station for 400,000 kilowatts was erected near Novosibirsk that caused the creation of a giant water reservoir - to be known as the Ob Sea. However, that power station didn't solve all the power supply problems; in fact it caused more. Vast fertile fields were flooded; relic pine woods were put under water; because of the new water space, the wind speed doubled causing higher soil erosion.
Akademgorodok, the city of scientific research, was built about 30 km south of the city centre in 1957 and was the centre of the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences. There arose within a very short time 14 research institutions and universities, virtually making it a new city.
On September 2nd, 1962, Novosibirsk reached a population of one million. At that time, it was the youngest city in the world with over a million people. It took Novosibirsk less than 70 years to achieve that milestone.
In 1979, construction of the Novosibirsk Metro began, culminating in the opening of the first line in 1985.
Novosibirsk was on the center path of the Solar eclipse of August 1, 2008 with a duration of 2 minutes and 20 seconds.