Located in Eastern Europe, the Republic of Belarus is abundant with nature. Almost 40% of its land is blanketed with majestic forests, and over 20,000 rivers meander throughout the country. There are 10,000 lakes that dot the landscape as well. This country’s rich heritage and layered history is seen through UNESCO recognized castles and fortresses.
We spent the day exploring its capital city, Minsk, and were amazed by its enduring culture and gracious people. Founded in the 12th century, the city’s “Champs-Elysees” is a spacious 14-kilometer Independence Boulevard lined by massive buildings, impressive monuments, old churches, beautiful parks and forests.
Honored as a Hero City by the former Soviet Union in 1974 to acknowledge the people’s efforts in their WW II struggle against the Nazi Regime. Practically 90% of this city was destroyed in WW II, and it has since been rebuilt designed by leading architects from Moscow, Leningrad and Minsk in post-war Stalinist Empire style.
Here are our recommendations on the top places to visit, where to stay & dine while in Minsk.
Highlights in Minsk
The best way to explore Minsk is with Minsk Holidays. Greeted at the airport by Sergei, our driver, and welcomed by our guide Daria – both are fabulous! You can view Daria’s profile here and watch her video here – she speaks both English, Belarusian, and Russian. You can email her at here.
Private Tours can be arranged with Minsk Holidays and email them – click here.
There’s lots to see in Minsk – 26 parks, 159 squares and 26 boulevards, so it helps to have a guide navigate through the city and translate the signs.
We started the day with a walking tour of Minsk to see the 5 main Squares, Monuments, and key landmarks, then ended the day driving to see some of the other highlights.
Our recommendation is to see the following:
- Freedom Square (Town Hall, Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Cathedral, Mariinsky): Located in the Upper City, in an area near Svobody Square is a tourist hot spot with several monuments, churches, and street vendors. Facing the Svisloch River is the Belarusian Christian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. It’s a nice area to start a tour, stroll the square and old streets, or relax at a cafe.
- Independence Square with House of Parliament & the Red Church of Saints Simon & Helena: one of the largest squares in Europe, with an underground shopping mall. Good to note: the Red Church survived the Soviet years when many of the surrounding buildings were changed completely.
- Trinity Suburb and the Svisloch Embankment: Many locals like to walk along the embankment, one of the most picturesque places in the city. From the bridge on Bogdanovicha Street, you can see mirror reflections of the Trinity Suburbs in the water.
- National Library of Belarus: Built in the shape of a diamond, the national library stores 9 million book copies in 80 different languages – one of the largest collections of books in the world.
- Yakub Kolas Square: Named after a Belarusian classic writer.
- Victory Square: Prior to 1958, this square was called Round Square. In remembrance of those who defended Belarus from invaders, it become known at Victory Square with a 120 ft. monument erected in the center with an Eternal Flame burning below.
- October Square: Located in the center of the city where public events and celebrations take place. During winter, there’s an ice skating rink here.
- City Parks: Alexander’s Park is one of the nicest parks in Minsk situated in the city’s center, next to the Oktyabrskaya & Kupalovskaya metro stations. Also, Gorky’s Park is a popular place to take a stroll.
- Art Galleries and Museums – Be sure to visit the Art Museum, and stop at Art Galleries. Kontseptsiya Gallery has a selection of modern Belarusian art – paintings, graphic works, sculpture and applied arts on display. I bought a couple paintings at the Mastactva Art Gallery www.ArtGallery.by. In the heart of the Trinity Suburbs historic district, you’ll find a collection of souvenirs created by folk masters and artists at Slavutyja Majstry Gallery, 6b Troitskaya Naberezhnaya.
- Komarovsky Market: This is the main marketplace where there are fruit and vegetable stalls, and other local products to buy.
- City Gates: The Minsk twin towers on Privokzalnaya Square by the Train Station greet visitors arriving by rail. Designed in the middle of the 20th century in Stalin’s classical style, these gates are the front door to Minsk. Each tower is decorated with sculptures of a farmer girl, an engineer, a soldier and a female worker.
- Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre
- GUM Department Store: the city’s main department store is GUM that opened in 1951. In post-war Minsk, this wasn’t just a store, it was a palace with a variety of goods to choose from, and lavish interiors with chandeliers and silk curtains.
- National Art Museum of Belarus: The museum has a rich collection of art by local Belarusian as well as Russian and European artists from the 16th to 20th centuries.
- Shopping! Souvenirs an be bought at the Kirmash Store located at 19 Nezavisimosti Ave. or the Gallery of National Arts at 5 Oktyabrskaya St. where there are linens, wooden boxes, dolls, national costumes, leather goods, and other folk art. For linen goods, stop at Lyanok Store, 46 Nezavisimosti Ave, where you’ll find linen tablecloths, napkins, towels, curtains and bedlinen.
- Spa Treatments: Visit the spa at the Robinson Club, or Renaissance Minsk Hotel, or SPAkoy at 4 Tolstogo St., or EVO, www.evo-club.by. There are several spa locations throughout Minsk.
There’s more to see in Minsk and in Belarus! Provided by the Tourism Office, see links below for more information.
Where to Stay
After a 30 mins drive from the International Airport, we received a warm welcome and stellar service at the Renaissance Minsk Hotel. This 11-story hotel offers 267 guest rooms with views of the city. My room was very comfortable with modern amenities.
Arborea, the hotel’s restaurant offers a range of culinary choices. I had breakfast and dinner here and both meals were excellent. Especially recommend the local pancakes filled with curd.
The spa and fitness center are excellent. Be sure to take a swim in the large pool, take time for the sauna and book a massage.
It’s ideally located within walking distance to the Belarusian National Arts Museum and The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus, and not far from the Opera House, the Pishchalausky Castle and river.
Republic of Belarus: a country with almost 10 million people located in the eastern Europe, and shares its borders with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Ukraine.
Capitol City: Minsk with a population of almost 2 million.
Official Language: Both Belarusian and Russian are spoken. Our guide, Daria, recited a poem in Belarusian and it’s a very melodic language.
Currency: Belarusian ruble (BYR)
Tourism Office: click here
Global Adventuress would like to thank the Renaissance Minsk Hotel for hosting our stay.
We paid Minsk Holidays for the day tour of Minsk, and highly recommend this company for tour in Minsk and Belarus.