Odessa is a popular tourist destination, with many therapeutic resorts in and around the city. The Filatov Institute of Eye Diseases & Tissue Therapy is one of the leading institutes for eye care. The Tolstoy, Vorontsov, and Potocki families owned palaces in Odessa, which can still be visited. The writer Isaac Babel was born in the city, which has also produced several famous musicians, including the violinists Nathan Milstein, Mischa Elman and David Oistrakh, and the pianists Benno Moiseiwitsch, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels. The chess player Efim Geller was born in the city. (All listed, except for Richter, are representatives of the city's Jewish community.)
Popular show-business people, like comedians, humorist writers' success in 1970s contributed to Odessa's established status of a "capital of Soviet humour". Later several humour festivals were established in the city, including the celebration of the April Fool's Day.
Most of the city's 19th century houses were built of limestone mined nearby. Abandoned mines were later used and broadened by local smugglers. This created a complicated labyrinth of underground tunnels beneath Odessa, known as "catacombs". They are a now a great attraction for extreme tourists. Such tours, however, are not officially sanctioned and are dangerous because the layout of the catacombs has not been fully mapped and the tunnels themselves are unsafe. These tunnels are a primary reason why subway was never built in Odessa.