Minsk, a city somewhere in Eastern Europe, was once part of the Soviet Union and perhaps still part of Russia. Belarus has been ruled for centuries under regional powers, including Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. The country finally became independent in 1990, with two official languages: Belarusian and Russian.
Although I had a hard time getting a visa, I must say my few-day trip was worth it. So, this is a list of 10 great places to visit in Minsk.
Are you a theatre-goer? Even if not I suggest you spend a night at the ballet or enjoy an opera. The first performances took place here in 1933. This magnificent building was used as a stable for German horses, partly destroyed and rebuilt again during the war. So you can enjoy such world-famous pieces as Carmen, Swan lake, Boris Godunov, Othello, Don Carlo. (Tip: get youк tickets early, like really early, at least a few weeks before, since it is a popular venue!).
Places to visit in Minsk: Wander Troitskoye Predmestie
This is a small district, considered an old part of the city. The place was first mentioned in the 12th century, but most buildings date from the 19th. I particularly like to wander narrow cobblestone streets, looking at book and souvenir shops. Have a cup of tea and a traditional lunch in one of the well-hidden cafes with wooden stairs and little courtyards. While sipping your drink, gazing at the nearby river, you may find your place of peace…
Places to visit in Minsk: The National Library!
If you ask locals about the most famous building in Minsk, the answer will be – the National Library of Belarus! It is a modern, 72 metres high building of a rhombicuboctahedron shape (what does it even mean? You will have to see for yourself!). It contains the largest collection of printed, audio and visual materials in Belarus – about 8 million individual items! Go on the 22nd floor to be amazed by the spectacular view of the city. I enjoyed freshly pressed grapefruit juice at the cafe up top.
Places to visit in Minsk: Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Lifestyle
Choose a sunny day and head to this open-air museum! Situated 4 km away from Minsk, it can be easily reached by bus or taxi. Occupying 151 hectares, it represents three regions of Belarus: “Central Belarus”, “The Lakeland”, and “The Dnieper region”. , you will see the reconstruction of the life of Belarusian people from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. Walk around, explore old wooden houses and enjoy simple food at the authentic local restaurant. You may feel as if you are coming one of the Belarusian folk at this stage of your journey!
Places to visit in Minsk: Central Botanical Garden
If you feel like serenity, this spot is for you. The history of the garden goes from 1932, and the vast collection of plants include species from North America, Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus, Far East and Siberia. The garden is a favourite place for loving couples, lonely dreamers and photographers. So take a book, some food from the local shop and a blanket – the day may quickly slip away from you here!
Places to visit in Minsk: Losycki park
If big green areas are your thing, you will love our next suggestion: Losycki park. The history of this park goes to the 16th century. The last owner of the park – Eustache Luban, was famous for conducting unique experiments in cross-fertilising a variety of plants, which he ordered from all over the world. Thanks to him, today we can find all of the magnolia, Siberian fir, Crimean mountain pine and Manchurian walnut in one place – something truly unusual for Belarus!
Do you believe in ghosts?! This park has a story to tell. Jadwiga Luban, who was married to Eustache Luban, her many senior years, apparently fell in love with a charming gentleman. Unfortunately, rumours of the affair started to spread (some said she got pregnant), and poor Jadwiga decided to drown herself in the nearby river at night. Being deeply devastated by her death, Eustache planted an apricot tree at the exact spot where she was found. Ever since people have claimed to see a ghost of a young lady wandering the shady alleys of the park when the tree is blossoming…
The park has another unique feature: about 10,000 years ago, the last glacier melted here. Therefore, there are more than 32 kinds of soil in the park and more than 400 different species (from trees to insects and birds).
Places to visit in Minsk: Belarusian National Arts Museum
A two-storey building with several columns – a perfect example of “triumphal” architecture. The museum has the largest collection of Belarusian and foreign art in Belarus. It is a must-see if you are an arty person!
The museum collection has over 30,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings and porcelain pieces. In addition, you will find Belarusian Art from the 12th to the 20th Century, Russian Art from the 18th to the 20th Century, Western European Art from the 16th to the 20th Century and Oriental Art from the 15th to the 20th century.
Places to visit in Minsk: Great Patriotic War Museum
One of the most famous war museums globally, along with others in Moscow, Kyiv and New Orleans.
Belarus was in the epicentre of the Second World War, losing about 3 million citizens to the conflict. Therefore, it is no wonder the Government pays so much attention to preserving the history of this devastating time, even including an obligatory course on the Great Patriotic War in the school curriculum.
What will you find? 24 exhibition halls with more than 142,000 items. Among them: collections of drawings, flags of military units, personal belongings, military vehicles, small arms and artillery weapons. The newly opened in 2014 building looks like a salute: 11 sparkling rays made of stainless steel to symbolise the Great Victory and at the same time 1,100 tragic days and nights of Minsk’s occupation.
I loved the interactive displays of the museum: a unique spherical screen, 3D installation, a custom fog screen, imitation flames and simulated guns!
Places to visit in Minsk: The View
After walking through the city, its parks and galleries, you will be ready for a gastronomic experience! I suggest the View restaurant, the name of which speaks for itself. Situated on the 28th floor of one of the business buildings it offers a great view of the city, the river and the historical centre. Add to this – the highest restaurant in Belarus! Not only is it situated high, but it also has high (according to numerous reviews on the internet) standards regarding service and food. Moreover, it offers an open terrace in the summertime, a fantastic view is included!
Places to visit in Minsk: Church of Saints Simon and Helena
One of the first buildings you will notice at Independence square will be a tall, redbrick Roman Catholic church. The Church has seen several closings and reopenings during its history. In 1932 it was closed by the Soviet authorities and transformed into a theatre, and later into a cinema. During the Second World War, the German administration opened it again. Nowadays, the Church is the centre of the city’s religious, cultural, and social life. If you happen to pass by, you may enjoy the tranquillity inside or even listen to a mass held in the Belarusian, Lithuanian, Polish and Latin languages. The Church has its own library and a shop.