The capital of Belarus is one of the most fascinating cities in Eastern Europe. Famous as much for its extraordinary history as its impressive, Soviet-style architecture, leafy parks and eccentric locals, Minsk is unforgettable.
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Minsk is one of the most intriguing cities you are ever likely to visit. It remains, almost proudly, a Soviet capital right down to its KGB building. It’s also a city of reinvention - Minsk has been rebuilt several times, most recently after the Second World War when the Nazis reduced the city to rubble.
Along the huge Francyska Skaryny, you will find major pieces of architecture including the Main Post Office and the GUM department store. Nearby, on October Square head to the haunting Museum of the Great Patriotic War. The Svisloch River divides the city. Walking along its banks is quite beautiful in the summer, particularly if you start your walk from the Old Town.
The city has a fascinating past and a lot of strange footnotes from history have been written here. Lee Harvey Oswald, the man responsible for assassinating JFK, defected to Russia and lived in Minsk. The apartment where he lived on Ploscha Peramohi still stands. As you will quickly find, Minsk invites curiosity.
Minsk is all about monumental excess, with its grand boulevards and big squares, but its Old Town is tiny. The best place to start exploring Minsk is at Independence Square with its statue of Lenin and the Belarusian University building.
Explore the Old Town
The Old Town sits on the eastern side of the Svislach River, bordered by Vul Maxima Bahdanovicha. Known as Troitskoe Predmestiye, or “Trinity Suburb”, the Old Town is not really that old. The original 17th and 18th century houses were recreated in the 1980’s. However, it’s a delightful place to walk around in. You can relax in quaint cafés or browse through the souvenir shops.
Visit the Island of Tears
Down from the Old Town by the riverbanks is the evocative Ostrov Slyoz, or “Island of Tears.” This is a memorial to Belarusians who lost their lives in battle, but particularly in remembrance of those that died in the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan in the 1980’s.
Holy Spirit Cathedral
Standing defiantly on a small hill is the Holy Spirit Cathedral, one of the most instantly recognisable landmarks of Minsk. This two-towered Orthodox cathedral is situated in the Upper Town. It was once part of a Polish Bernadine convent. The monastery buildings nearby are now a music academy.
Have a Picnic in Gorky Park
Gorky Park is the city’s oldest park and is lovely in the summer. It is very popular with locals who often stroll along the well-tended paths. Gorky Park is a big draw to children due to the enormous Ferris Wheel. Another reason to come here is the great view of the city.
Church of St. Simon and Helena
Better known as the “Red Church”, the Church of St. Simon and Helena was built in 1910 by a Polish noble to commemorate the death of his two children – the tower’s three bells are named after him and the dead children.
At the junction of Nezavisimosti and Zakharava is this huge square, with a giant victory obelisk emerging from the centre. The monument has an eternal flame at its feet, which has been burning since 1954, and is accessible from an underground passageway.
Museum of the Great Patriotic War
Next to the classical-style Trade Union’s Culture Palace, lies the Museum of the Great Patriotic War. This museum tells of Belarus during World War II. It also tells the story of Minsk’s Jewish population following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Behind the building is a park filled with vintage tanks and planes.
Sit In Tsentralny Park
Across the road from the Museum of the Great Patriotic War lies a delightful little park that stands on the site of a 19th century marketplace. You often see people playing music here.
Visit the Kgb Museum
North-west of Independence Square is a yellow neo-classical block, which houses the KGB building. On the other side of the street is a park, where you can find a bust of the founder of the KGB’s predecessor, the Cheka, Felix Dzerzhinsky.
The Palats Mastatsva is a stylish and trendy hangout – well compared to the dour museums that tend to make up Minsk’s cultural scene. Palats Mastatsva is an arts institute where you will find galleries and book stalls.
Central Botanical Garden
This is one of the most beautiful places in Minsk. The Botanical Garden is a leading scientific institution and home to more than 1,000 different plants. It is a tranquil place with a beautiful lake and the perfect spot to have a picnic at on a sunny day.
National Library of Belarus
National Library of Belarus is one of the most iconic buildings in the city, and it is easy to see why. Not only will you find the library here but there is also an art gallery, cafe and an observation deck with a beautiful view over the city.
Minsk Arena is a great place to visit for concerts or a fun-filled hockey game. Check out their website while you are there to see what is on. You will also find 7 cafes and 3 different restaurants in the building.
Dreamland Park is one of the main amusement parks in Minsk. It is a park for all ages but children will probably find some things more exciting. There are lush walking paths, a zoological area with exotic birds and live entertainment.
Belarussian State Circus
Few things are as exciting and amazing as going to the circus. At the Belarussian State Circus you will find different performances, you should really try to catch one.
The restaurant scene in Minsk is slowly changing. Old, formal restaurants are being usurped by a new breed of dynamic Western European-style eateries. The local cuisine, rich in baked meat, mushrooms, soups and heavy sauces, is making a comeback though.
Local favourites worth trying include Hribnoy sup (mushroom and barley soup), Kolduni (stuffed meat dumplings) and Golubsty (cabbage rolls stuffed with meat and rice). Many of the best restaurants are located near the Grand Opera. Several restaurants in offer performances to accompany your meal. Expect anything from a keyboardist tapping out Beatles hits to bikini-clad girls dancing around your table!
Pan Khmeliu is one of the most popular restaurants in town. Here you can enjoy giant portions of food complemented by live bands and other entertainment. Open until 4am.
Delicious exotic food in the heart of “White Russia”, Uzbekistan is a great place for a snack. While you eat you can watch belly dancers perform.
Straunya Talaka is based in a cellar and has an interesting décor consisting of stuffed animals and the tables are made from old beds. It’s a popular place so you might need to book early.
South east of the city centre, Khutorok is one of the best restaurants in Minsk. The restaurant has several themed rooms as well as a terrace that is fantastic in summer.
This chain serves hearty Latvian food and is always busy. Enjoy Latvian Smorgasbord where they serves everything from pizzas to pork chops.
Westfalia offers fresh, healthy food in simple, elegant surroundings. The cuisine is German and central European. There is live jazz here every Friday.
Planeta Sushi offers good value and tasty Japanese food, it is a part of a Russian chain. Great option when you feel like something different.
Taj serves delicious spicy North Indian cuisine. Popular with politicians and vegetarians - the dhal and pakoras are gorgeous. Taj is decked out with Buddhist statues and Russian dolls and is a real marriage of East and West.
Enjoy the Italian cooking and true qualities of the food just as in Italy here at Bergamo. This restaurant makes you feel at home with the attentive service and delicious food and wine.
Kamyanitsa is an authentic Belarusian restaurant. They have a great selection of beer, both local and international, as well as a menu of typical Belarusian food. On some evenings you can catch a performance of a local band.
If you do not know what you are in the mood for then tapas is a great option. Visit this Spanish restaurant where they serve good portion tapas in a relaxing atmosphere and fantastic service.
If you want to go to a low key, relaxed place then Gosti is the place to be. They serve pub food with great beer and on certain nights they have live music with a small dance floor where you can move your hips.
BierKeller is a German beer cellar with a big selection of exclusive German beer. Try the German food, dance to the music and why not buy an authentic German beer glass to take home?
ID bar makes delicious homemade pasta and bread, and serves a great steak. Not only is this a good dinner option but they also serve a big breakfast. The staff is attentive, drinks tasty and atmosphere cosy.
At Talaka you can experience traditional Belarusian food. This is a cosy restaurant, located in a cellar on a small street in central Minsk. The atmosphere is rustic and there are many delicious meals to choose from on the menu.
Extra Useful Information
Demonstrations in central Minsk are fairly commonplace. Most of these pass peacefully although some have been known to turn violent. The resulting police response can be sudden and occasionally frightening. The important thing to remember is that if caught up in a demonstration, stay alert and get out of it as quickly as possible.
Minsk has a serious problem with prostitution. Particularly in bars and lobbies, always be weary of overfriendly girls, or indeed guys for that matter.
10 per cent is the usual tip. In some hotels 10-15 per cent service charge will be added to your bill.
Minsk National Airport
Minsk II is the main international airport located 42 km from the city. You can get a taxi from outside the arrivals hall which will take you into the centre of town. The airport bus is cheaper but takes longer to get into town and runs sporadically.
You can get around Minsk by using the bus, tram, or the metro. All three are cheap and reliable. The two line metro is an interesting way of getting around as each station is decorated by a theme. For instance the October Square station evokes the 1917 revolution.
Public transport operates from about 05.30 to 01.00 daily and serves all parts of the city. Trolleybuses 1, 2 and 18 pass through Minsk’s main street, Pr Francyska Skaryny. The metro closes at 24.30 every night.
Remember to validate it by punching the ticket on one of the red punching machines. Ten day or monthly passes are available for all modes of transport.
Yellow cabs are the state run taxis that are best used. Prices depend on distance. Taxis can be called on 052 and 084.
The pharmacies in Minsk are marked by a green cross and there are many of them in the city. Often you can buy medicine that are not usually common in other countries.
220V AC, 50Hz
Country code: +375
Area code: 17
Travel to Minsk
Flights to Minsk can be booked through Etihad Airways to enjoy a city that is as captivating as its name. Minsk is often referred to as a living monument due to its 1950s futuristic-style architecture.
Top 5 Things To Do in Minsk
- Have fun at the Gorky Central Park which is located right at the city centre. The park has a wonderful atmosphere where you can unwind and enjoy a relaxed afternoon
- The Minsk Arena is gorgeous and holds a lot of events with ice hockey being a favourite. The main arena has various cafes and restaurants where you can sample some of Minsk’s signature dishes
- You must visit the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus. Like most buildings in Minsk the design is daringly futuristic and the museum has a lot of interesting exhibitions
- A trip to Minsk is incomplete if you have not visited Victory Square. This popular attraction sight has a remarkable history
- Check out the Church of Saints Simon and Helena which is one of the most stunning structures in Minsk
Plan Your Minsk Holiday
You can get flight deals to Minsk from Etihad deals. While most people prefer to visit Minsk during summer, winter in the city is quite beautiful. The streets and buildings are well lit during the winter nights and air tickets to Minsk are also less expensive. Cheap hotels in Minsk are also easier to find in winter due to the low tourist traffic.