Belarus is a country with many possibilities; most of Belarus is one vast plain, broken by a central range of low-lying hills. It is crossed by rivers, and there are many areas of marsh and woodland. The Behlovezha Forest, which stretches across the border with Poland, is managed jointly by the two countries. It is one of the few remaining parts of the vast forest that covered northern Europe in prehistoric times. The wildlife living there includes the last surviving herd of wisent or the European bison.
Tourism, industry and agriculture are all important to the economy. Most Belarusians are city dwellers, but about one-third work on large private or state –run farms.
These are the top ten not to be missed places when in Belarus.
Memorial Complex Brest Hero Fortress
This attraction is a thought provoking memorial that is dedicated to the Belarusian heroes who took part in upholding democracy during the war. The
Memorial Complex Brest Hero Fortress
was used in both the first World War (Treaty of Brest 1918) and the second World War (battle for Brest Fortress 1939) and is an important part of Belarus’ history. The local fortress dates from the 19th Century and today has become one of the most popular attractions of Belarus. The fort was first named “Hero-Fortress” in the 1960s and is now known as the “Brest Hero-Fortress”.
The park, featuring typical war monuments, is one of the most impressive memories of a troubled era that still exists today. Here, you can rent old military uniforms and take pictures them. If you stay in Brest, you should definitely visit the former fortress.
The Fort itself has preserved war memorabilia’s and portions that have not been destroyed during the Second World War. Interestingly, it still has the former access route from the Polish side where you can see the remains of the fortress wall with bullet holes from World War II. You will also find an Orthodox Church on the fortress grounds and the remains of the “White Rooms”, where the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litivosk between the Central Powers and Soviet Russia occurred in March 1918.
In the middle of the complex, there is the monument of the Soviet era. The visit can be easily combined with a trip to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha (Bialowieza National Park), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Buses travel here daily or “chartered” taxis can be arranged from the Brest Central Station.
Church of Saints Simon and Helena
The Church of St. Simon and St. Helena, or more commonly called the “Red Church,” is located in the center of Minsk on Independence Avenue near the House of Government building. Its red colored brick stands out from the herd of monuments that can be found in the city of Minsk, the capital city of Belarus.
Among its strength is definitely the location, because it is close to the railway station and juts out over the Piazza dell’Independence – a path to the other noteworthy attractions of the city.
This church is Catholic, and not Russian Orthodox (it is evident from the design of the towers). It is beautiful from the inside and out and is a destination for the faithful. In the evening, the whole façade of the church is lighted, providing a marvelous backdrop for a photo opportunity and moment of contemplation.
Tourists and locals love to visit and admire this religious structure. Its construction began in 1905 and was officially consecrated to promote the Catholic faith in 1910. In 1932, the church was completely closed, and in 1990 was returned to the Catholic Church. To listen to the organ music being played after the Holy Mass is a brilliant and mesmerizing experience. Inside is a copy of the Shroud of Turin, which draws devoted pilgrims for prayer and solemn moments of reflection. It is a beautiful landmark, especially in the evening. It is more like a castle than a religious landmark. It is truly an interesting site to discover, and a visit is highly recommended for anyone planning a trip to Minsk.
Island of Tears
There is a special place in Minsk known as the “Island of Courage and Sorrow”, yet it is called “
The Island of Tears.
” It is a small island in the midst of the river near the Trinity suburb. The island is surrounded by weeping willows with tears that drop straight into Svislach River. To gain access to this attraction you need to pass over a small humpbacked bridge to the entrance archway of Mostiku.
On the island, there is a monument to “the Sons of the Fatherland, who died abroad.” The monument was erected in 1996 and was first dedicated to the killed Russian soldiers in Afghanistan. The “Crying Angel” on the Isle of Tears is a monument not only to “Belarusians-Afghans” who died during the war, but also those who died from the mental and physical wounds the soldiers endured after returning to their homeland. At a small chapel, you’ll find a bronze icon of the Mother of God. In it, embedded in the walls, are the names of the 771 Belarusians who died while on their tour of duty in Afghanistan. Many people come here to pay tribute to the victims by offering flowers and prayers.
The monument also holds a statue of bereaved mothers in mourning, their figures showing visible tears welling in their eyes. This statue always leaves a strong and moving impression of the cruelty and stupidity of war that takes place anywhere in the world. The monument of small dimensions speaks for itself. You’ll witness the faces of mothers and sisters, whose face are distorted by grief over the loss of their loved ones. Also worth visiting (and ideal for romantic couples) is the Gate of Eternal Promise, where newlyweds hang locks engraved with their names from it.
This war memorial still carries the Cold War atmosphere and is an excellent location for a vintage photo shoot. It is important to witness the changing of the guard. Time seems to stop when the soldiers, with their fur hats and red stars, March in a goose-stepping cadence reminiscent of the Cold War era. At Victory Square, you can see lots of reminders such as the hammer and sickles, red stars, and the eternal flame of the Unknown Soldier. The Soviet-style architecture in Piazza della Vittoria makes it a splendid location for movies and photos that look authentic.
On the other hand, it is a city where you can still find a statue of Stalin with lots of fresh flowers and where you can visit the Mausoleum of the fallen Red Army in Afghanistan. Victory Square is a must although it exudes so much sadness and grief about the victory of the Belarusians over the Nazis and Russia. The square is at the bottom of the city (Independence Avenue) at the center of a busy roundabout. There are subways to reach this site. One there, you will find the huge column with an eternal flame to remember the fallen in front. It is not unusual to find a bouquet of fresh red carnations left on the granite floor by families or relatives of the brave Belarusian soldiers.
National Library of Belarus
National Library Building of Belarus
is an excellent library and an impressive building. It has an innovative system that automatically stores more than 9 million available books. A guide is necessary to see the huge threshold of books and to have an understanding of the effective filing and archiving system the library implements. Even those not fond of books are amused by seeing the carriages attached to the ceiling that move volumes of books. There is also an adjacent museum that houses the true masterpieces of book collections.
Visitors can climb the lookout tower (23 floors with elevator) to see the magnificent skyline of Minsk. From the top, you can admire the winding path of the river that bathes the city. At night, it is really romantic as you can see much of the city, as well as a beautiful mix of colors in the horizon during a sunset. The viewing tower is features dark glass that is illuminated at night by light shows creating patterns that leave everyone speechless.
The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus
National Art Museum
has many Russian and Belarusian works of unknown artists. Upon entrance, visitors receive a friendly welcome from the director of the museum. There is no audio guide and the store is limited to selling postcards and cute souvenirs in its small shop. However, you will find decent work of famous Russian painters that try to illustrate the history of the country. The paintings are classified and exhibited by periods starting from ancient times until the last Soviet period. The museum has an interesting art café that sells delicious Belarus delicacies and sweets.
The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus holds an excellent collection of Russian art and has temporary exhibitions every weekend to highlight the latest contemporary artists in Belarus. It is a museum with a rich exposure of European culture. The collections on display are of high artistic level and create an aesthetically pleasing experience that you will always remember. For those not familiar with art, it offers a great opportunity to discover new artists that are not widely known but whose impressive artwork deserves attention. There are also extensive collections of artifacts proudly displayed in every corner. It is truly worth the time and a visit when in Minsk.
Belarusian Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life
Belarusian Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life
is an open air museum that is located in the Ozertso Minsk district Village. The museum recreated the historical images of traditional rural architecture of Belarus. The exposition is divided into three parts, presenting the architecture of the three historical-ethnographic regions of Belarus; Central Belarus (Minsk region), Podneprovje (Mogilev), Lakeland (Vitebsk region). The exposition is arranged in the form of “Villages” – wooden houses and rural outbuildings built in the 19th- and early 20th centuries. Here you will find residential wooden houses, stables, threshing floor, barns, a mill, a church, and a chapel. These are all that have survived since their construction in the 19th and 20th centuries. They were found in the outskirts of Belarus and transported to the museum near Minsk. In each building, you can enjoy the atmosphere of the time. The houses have antique household items and appliances. The museum recreates old Belarusian crafts – pottery, weaving straw, as well as the manufacture of textiles made from flax. The museum also hosts a folk theater puppetry called the “Batlejka” – a popular form of entertainment during earlier times.
is one of the most unusual religious structures that you can find in the city of Grodno. It is accessible from the city center on foot and can be found on Neman road. The church consists of two parts, and the old part immediately catches the eye. In fact, it is one of the oldest sites in Belarus, present since the days of ancient Russia.
Its current deplorable state is due to its unfortunate location (the river washes away the soil and part of the walls have collapsed) and the Russian-Lithuanian wars that occurred a few centuries ago. It, along with the Old and New Castles, is still worth a visit.
The Grodno Zoo is the first Belarusian zoo. It was founded in 1927 and is located in the city center near the railway station. Its central location makes it the perfect attraction to visit even if you’re just passing through. The Grodno Zoo is open from 10am to 7pm on weekdays and on weekends and holidays from 09:30 am to 7.30 pm. An adult ticket costs 30,000 rubles, but a child’s ticket is significantly reduced.
The admission fee includes a visit to the zoo and the cage, but to visit the so-called “pad” or the “Grandmother court” you will have to pay separately. Pay for this add-on, you will not regret it. It is a uniquely equipped area where you can touch the animals and birds in a safe environment.
Rumyantsev – Paskevich Palace
Rumyantsev Paskevich Palace
in the city of Gomel, there is something to see all year round. There are amazing spring tulips, daffodils, and summer roses; plus white and black swans floating in a pond as music plays. In autumn, you can enjoy Raznocvet Park. Sit on a bench in the Sozha promenade area in silence and see how fast the river flows. You can visit the carousel, go to a conservatory, feed the squirrels and the pigeons – but be sure to visit the Palace.
The central part of the palace is an architectural monument of the XVIII century (1777-1796). Its history is connected with the life and activities of prominent personalities of the Russian state, government and military figures (Rumyantsev-Paskevich). In every corner of the park, there is a story. Enjoy the current Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, a planetarium, and an entire tourist friendly location that is kept clean, well-groomed, and solemn.