The city is located in the southwestern part of Siberia on the banks of the Ob River adjacent to the Ob River Valley, near the large water reservoir formed by the dam of the Novosibirsk Hydro Power Plant. It is split into ten districts and occupies an area of 502.1 square kilometres (193.9 sq mi).
Novosibirsk, founded in 1893 at the future site of a Trans-Siberian Railway bridge crossing the great Siberian river of Ob, first was named Novonikolayevsk (Новониколаевск), in honor both of Saint Nicholas and of the reigning Tsar Nicholas II. It superseded nearby Krivoshchekovskaya village, which was founded in 1696. The bridge was completed in the spring of 1897, making the new settlement the regional transport hub. The importance of the city further increased with the completion of the Turkestan–Siberia Railway in the early 20th century. The new railway connected Novonikolayevsk to Central Asia and the Caspian Sea.
At the time of the bridge's opening, Novonikolayevsk had a population of 7,800 people. The frontier settlement developed rapidly. Its first bank opened in 1906, and a total of five banks were operating by 1915. In 1907, Novonikolayevsk, now with a population exceeding 47,000, was granted town status with full rights for self-government. During the pre-revolutionary period, the population of Novonikolayevsk reached 80,000. The city had steady and rapid economic growth, becoming one of the largest commercial and industrial centers of Siberia. It developed a significant agricultural processing industry, as well as a power station, iron foundry, commodity market, several banks, and commercial and shipping companies. By 1917, seven Orthodox churches and one Roman Catholic Church had been built there, several cinemas, forty primary schools, a high school, a teaching seminary, and the Romanov House non-classical secondary school. In 1913, Novonikolayevsk became one of the first places in Russia to institute compulsory primary education.
The Russian Civil War took a toll on the city. There were wartime epidemics, especially of typhus and cholera, that claimed thousands of lives. In the course of the war the Ob River Bridge was destroyed. For the first time in the city's history, the population of Novonikolayevsk began to decline. The Soviet Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies of Novonikolayevsk took control of the city in December 1917. In May 1918, the Czechoslovak Legion rose in opposition to the revolutionary government and, together with the White Guards, captured Novonikolayevsk. The Red Army took the city in 1919, retaining it throughout the rest of the Civil War.
Novonikolayevsk began reconstruction in 1921 at the start of Lenin's New Economic Policy period. It was a part of Tomsk Governorate and served as its administrative center from December 23, 1919 to March 14, 1920. Between June 13, 1921 and May 25, 1925, it served as the administrative center of Novonikolayevsk Governorate, which was separated from Tomsk Governorate. The city was given its present name on September 12, 1926.