My trip from Vilnius to Minsk by bus was really cool, but I am also so happy about my visit around Minsk. It’s a very nice city, with a particular atmosphere. I like the setting and its big streets. During the war, they needed to make possible the planes landing for any emergency. That’s why around the center the streets are enormous.
Walking you can see typical communist architecture close to classical and modern buildings. The city and its setting give you the idea of a meeting between Russia and Europe. Obviously as architecture.
Minsk is a lovely city, it is quite big, it is the capital of the country, but I don’t feel the stress among the people walking on the street. As it happens in some other cities in the western part of the world. Also, the people are kind and friendly. My personal problem is language because most of them don’t speak English.
Anyway, if you ask for directions they will try to help you. I am Italian, so I am always ready to communicate with gestures. It is also hard to use the phone and the GPS because time to time the signal disappears.
Walking around Minsk
If you already have read some of my destinations posts, you know how much I love to walk around the cities. For me, it is a need. I can discover some interesting and curious places. Then it is a way to feel the atmosphere and to get inspiration. Minsk has to be firstly seen on the street. Churches, building, river, and statues tell the story of the country. Yes, history is important to understand how the capital of Belarus is made. And this is what I want to tell you before to give you some information about the attractions.
Anyway, keep in mind that I want to make this post a tour guide. It is already full of them online and offline. My goal is to give you some tips. With them, you will enjoy more your trip. Being there for business reasons didn’t allow me to go around so much. But, believe me, meeting locals is great because you can see the place with different eyes. Good, now let me tell you a few things about history, then I will write about what you should see.
Belarus and Russia
My only knowledge about Belarus, before to leave from Italy, was related to kids. Yes, Italian families host often for some months, Belarusian kids. Then some of them are adopted. It’s part of the cooperation between the two countries. Asking for the visa I started to discover more. The news we have in Italy is not that much, that’s why I have read a few books and made some research on the internet.
Not only about Minsk, obviously. I had also the proof (one more time) that seeing the things personally is not like to read them. Some texts and articles described the country as the one led by Europe’s last dictator. The control is under the secret police and the members of the opposition disappear easily. It looks like elections are fake and also part of the opposition is chosen by the “dictator”.
Well, staying in a place for a while can’t give you the proper idea. Talking with people I listened to some complaints too, but as Italian, I am used to this. Surely if people can freely say what they think it is not properly a dictatorship. Then my experience with the police, according to pass the border or to ask for directions is completely positive. They were kind and helpful. Despite the difficulties with the English language.
The relationship with Russia
There is something that I have never heard in Minsk. Noone told me that Sovietical Union collapsed. It looks like a topic that people don’t want to talk about. They call the secret police KGB and agriculture, one of the most important parts of the local economy, is still based on tractor sales. The principles are the same as the past. In front of the Government House, there is a statue of Lenin.
I didn’t feel oppressed in Belarus, but the country looks like to live a bit in the past. There is some modernity, so don’t worry. If someone asks me about a destination, on the list I will surely include Minsk. I really enjoyed the city and the visit, for what I could do during my working days. You should spend a few days in the capital of Belarus and also go out of it. I didn’t have time to see the surroundings, except what I saw passing by bus. But for that reason, I invite you to explore more.
Then don’t forget that modernity and improvements come together with tourism. Keep it in mind when you decide your next holiday. I am sure you will be glad about the trip as I am. If I will have the chance I will be back to the country to see more.
Must to do in Minsk
When you arrive in the capital of Belarus you have to live some experiences. I consider them a must for every traveler. You will see the attractions and also get in touch with the local culture. This is essential to know better a country. So let’s see my selection.
Walking in downtown
As I already mentioned, to walk is the first way to explore the center of Minsk. Go on Independence Avenue, see the people, the shops, the main buildings, and the bars. This will take you directly to the local atmosphere. You won’t become a local, but you will see the city with different eyes. From the street, you will understand the location of what you want to visit during your stay.
The best option to move fast around the capital of Belarus is surely the underground. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go somewhere in particular. Because it’s an artwork. So, you should see all the stations. They are elegant and well conserved, with all the decorations.
When you buy the ticket, they give you a plastic token that you have to put in the turnstile. A public transport worker and a policeman are present there to check that people pay to enter. The trains are a bit old, but they work well.
I already mentioned it, so I guess you want to see it. The statue of Lenin is outside the Minsk Government House. It’s quite big and I think it deserves a visit because it’s not anymore easy to find one around the world. Then you can check out the architecture of the building, quite typical in the area.
There are a lot of monuments in Minsk. They are a very good way to discover the history of the city and of the country. I listed the most important ones I saw. The ones you can’t miss. It won’t take much time, but they will give you a real historical picture of the city.
The Victory Monument has an Eternal Flame and it is important for the country celebration. You should try to be there where they do the changing of the guards. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. As I know it is really a very nice moment.
It’s great its art and it gives incredible emotions. The Afghan War Memorial on the Island of Tears is one of the most interesting monument to be seen. Not only in Belarus. Surrounded by trees it takes you into a special atmosphere.
Walking in the center you will be in front of the plethora of Soviet art. It is present in more places, with big frescoes and bas-reliefs. These artworks are the main representation of Soviet ideals and historical events. It is like to open a book.
Among the various buildings with Soviet architecture, some museums show is in great style. It’s a combination of important palaces and monuments. Because on some of them there are big sculptures and decorations.
It is surely the case of the Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum, that has a big monument in front of it. The structure has modern huge panels inserted like rays. This museum is dedicated to the liberation of Minsk from Nazi invaders.
It is really amazing because it has items of any type spread in the 24 halls. You can find tanks, guns, statues. They also reconstructed some events, so you can see dummies representing politicians, soldiers, and so on.
Among the museums in the city, you have to explore the Zair Azgur Memorial Museum and Workshop. It is dedicated to the artist Zair Zagur, born in 1908 and died in 1995. His workshop became a museum to show his masterpieces. He was living and creating the sculptures in the building. Now you can admire a lot of body busts of important people. Among them the one of Karl Marx.
When architecture and art are mixed it is always interesting to see the result. Going around Minsk you can discover many Soviet sculptures and their modern juxtaposing. Directly on some old malls or in the most important buildings in the city.
In Minsk, it looks like a space shuttle, because of its shape and the modernity of the architecture. The National Library of Belarus, as a building, deserves surely a visit. You can see the rhombicuboctahedron architecture. It’s a combination of geometric figures mixed to give a unique style. Someone find it weird, but even if I am not a modern architecture lover… I must say that I found it interesting.
A bit more typical for the place is the City Gates. Two specular buildings with a big road in the middle. They are an example of Stalinist architecture. Those palaces are fully decorated on the facade and on the top. They also count some statues on the upper part. There is also a clock.
One of the hugest buildings of Minsk is one of KGB. Big and with an imponent entrance made by columns. It is on the main street so you can’t miss it. But be careful, taking pictures is not allowed. You can use the James Bond inside you and take one while no one sees you.
Another important building of the city is the Palace of the Republic, used for exhibitions and events. After you took some pictures of the architecture what is going on inside. It can be something open to the public and interesting. Time to time there are art expositions also.
Then check out the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. I suggest you not only a visit from outside. It depends on the period, but if you like and if you are lucky you can attend some event.
A building that reminds me of ancient Greece is Belarusian State Circus. Columns, capitals, and statues welcome visitors. Don’t go there during the day, but during the evening. That place is the center of nightlife. You can enjoy it and listen to music, have a drink… It is funny.
The religious buildings have to be part of your Minsk tour. As it happens often around Europe, the architecture of this type of constructions is a real artwork. So you will be delighted, also if you aren’t Orthodox as the local population.
All Saints Church is, at least according to me, the most beautiful Orthodox church of the city. There is also a memorial dedicated to the innocent victims of the war. The construction is quite big and it has golden domes.
There is also a beautiful Roman Catholic center of faith. It is a landmark for Catholics. The Red Church is a construction made with red bricks, that’s why they used the color in the name. It is big and very interesting for its architecture. Visit it, you will be impressed. I won’t tell anything more, because I don’t want to ruin surprises.
In Minsk, the Cathedral Of Holy Spirit and Monastery Of Holy Spirit Bazilianok In Nyamiga offers a great example of architecture before Communism. It was an ancient monastery and it shows some art that it’s hard to find in the city and in the surroundings. Visit the old town, it worths a lot.
Then, if you are going to search for some relax and nature, visit the parks. Minsk is well equipped for this. The city has beautiful public gardens, with nice trees, flowers, and sculptures. Well kept. You will like them.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t because of my work meetings, but out of the city, there are many castles. In particular, the Mir Castle and Nesvizh, protected by the Unesco World Heritage Program. You need to travel a few hours to go to see them. Plan your trip by bus. Thanks to Infobus you can easily find a cheap solution. Or you can ask Tez Tour, they will organize your trip.
Where to sleep
In Minsk, you can easily find any type of accommodation. There are luxury and budget hotels. Also, flats are available. Anyway, I can suggest you a great hotel. It is in the center and it offers very good rates and services. Europe Hotel is located in downtown, close to the main attractions of the old city.
Rooms are modern and well equipped. The classic style is well combined with the last innovations. This 5 stars structure offers a spa and a gourmet restaurant, among the various facilities. It is really comfortable and featured by a sober luxury. I had a very good experience here. That’s why I suggest you take it into consideration for your stay.
Where to eat
It doesn’t matter what you like to taste. Minsk has almost everything, including Thai and Japanese restaurants. I prefer local food, everywhere I go. There are budget and elegant places, so all the range of prices. You have to consider that for Western European standards Belarus is quite cheap.
I can’t mention all the options for food. I feel to recommend you a couple of places I tried. The first one is called Simple. Belarusian cuisine is revisited with some innovation. The cook selects all local ingredients, as we say in Italy 0 km. distance from the field to the kitchen. Let’s say that the traditions are meeting the present and the future. Here some dishes you should order pike perch with parsnip and mashed beetroot, lamb tartar, ragout with rabbit. Everything cost about € 10-12. They have also a good selection of wines and a sommelier that give you advice with competence.
The second place I suggest you it is called Pelmeni House Gurman. The location is nice because it is in the quiet district of Asmaloŭka. A portion of pelmeni costs between 2.5-5 Euro. For summertime, it is possible to eat on the terrace, one of the best of Minsk. Pelmeni is one of the specialties, but not the only one. The menu is rich: steaks, and a dranik (potato pancake) (yes, singular), and even chicken tikka masala. You should also taste the mushroom soup.
I have chosen these places influenced by a good website that selected some of the best restaurants in the city. After reading good reviews I decided to try them and I am completely satisfied. If you want to know more about the Minsk restaurants check out Minsk not Dead.
Preparation of the trip
Check on the Foreign Affairs Ministry website of your country if you need a visa to visit Belarus. Then read the Belarusian Embassy in your country. So you will know everything about the documents. Also, pay attention to insurance. For this reason, read my experience at the border with health insurance.
When you got all the information on papers, plan your trip. Find a flight to Minsk or to some close place from where to use the bus, as I did, train or car. The best solution, with all means of transport, can be found on Infobus. On the platform, you have everything you need, also the combinations among the means of transport.
Then visit the TEZ Tour website. The staff will prepare a tailor-made trip for you. They are specialized in this area, so you will get the best excursions and experiences. Select what you need, from the room reservation to the day trip. You will get superb travel with them.
Would you love to save some money? You should get some free air miles using your credit card. Don’t worry, it’s not a matter of expenses, but of card selection. You have to focus on bonuses. Watch the video to understand how. In this case, you will have a huge discount or free tickets.
When you finish the planning, it comes the time to prepare the suitcase. You can choose a backpack or some other type of bags. I suggest you prepare a list of what you need. Maybe some new accessories will be useful for your trip.
Read my packing list and personalized it. It helps you to avoid the risk to forget something important at home. Then visit my Amazon page to see my travel item selection. Or go to the AliExpress website to find what you need before to leave.
Now you are ready to go. Is at home everything fine. Is there someone who takes care of it while you are away? In case you need, consider the housesitting. Your house will be safe with a professional person who will accomplish the tasks you decide. Collecting mail, feed pets, clean, water flowers, and keep out thieves.
The travel start
Now I gave you all the information and tips about your trip to Minsk. I hope you are inspired and that my post was useful. If you like it, please share it with your friends. Maybe this way you will make them happy. Surely you will help me.
Don’t forget to share your experience in Minsk if you will visit it, reaching me through the blog or through my social pages on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Then to get all my updates and some extra contents, subscribe to my newsletter.