Spending a holiday in Minsk, capital city of Belarus, is similar to zooming back in a time machine to an Orwellian Soviet-period society where the clock paused in the 1960’s. A tour of Minsk is loaded with standards and regulations, so it is basic that travelers know the ins and outs of Belarusian culture before planning a visit.
Minsk is one of Europe’s most established traditional urban communities, yet it shows an amusing touch of modernity today. After a greater part of its memorable structures were destroyed during World War II, Minsk has undergone so many struggles to achieve its freedom.
It was reconstructed when the Soviet Union collapsed and Belarus finally gained full independence and became the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States; an alliance of former Soviet states and so many things has changed from that point forward. There are neat wide streets and squares dotted with modern and old style structures, and remnants of the long Soviet rule like; statues of Lenin and war memorials.
When To Go:
The best time to check out the city is amid the warm summer months in the middle of May and September, when the avenues are vibrant and quaint cafes open their shops. Summer is also characterized as the wettest season, so it would be smart to pack an umbrella alongside your sunglasses.
This damp, warm city has precipitation all throughout the year, with wet summers and freezing winters. The atmosphere in Minsk is, notwithstanding, direct with a normal January temperature of 21°f (-6°c) and a normal July temperature of 64°f (18°c). Winters are mellow, with snow, while summers are warm and generally sodden; two thirds of the yearly precipitation falls amid the late spring months. May to September is the hottest time of the year and fog is a common occurrence during the pre-winter and spring season.
Here are the top things to do when in the historic city of Minsk.
National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus
At the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus you can watch “Giselle” in such a stunning setting; lightweight, flying, excellent performance, and an impressive artistic design. The theater is not only beautiful; it is solid, traditional, and very symbolic just like the exhibition pieces in the lobby. You can take pictures outside but cameras are not allowed inside the theater. Once you get in you will like everything without exception. The theater building is very striking, lively, and the fountains add solidity and decoration. The interior impresses with its luxury and abundance of gold. The stage is amazing same with the performance of their professional and high skilled artists. During the presentation, you will completely forget everything around and be transported into a fairy tale like setting.
If you are a fan of the classics, ballet, musical, and opera, then go here. It is really interesting to look at the scope and scale of the architecture of the Soviet period. Minsk is generally quite large scale built, but some of the buildings are especially impressive and this structure exemplifies it well. What’s more surprising is that the theater allows casual clothing (jeans, T-shirt, and leggings). Ticket s can be purchased in advance online if you don’t like the idea of standing in long lines.
Monument To The Fallen Jewish People
The Monument To The Fallen Jewish People is located in the city center, close to the subway and the Nyamiha Frunze avenue. It represents the obelisk where the flowers can be laid, as well as sculptures of people along the stairs. It is a very sad place and makes a lot to think about and spend time to reflect and look back to the events that happened in March 2, 1942 which is the inspiration for this symbolic sculpture.
The monument to the dead Jews of Minsk is seemingly situated in the middle of the city, but at the same time in a secluded place. Along the stairs on the right side are the statues of the Jews posed like descending down the steps in a structural composition called ”The Last Way”. The artist carefully worked on each piece and makes it sufficiently interesting to consider each character. It’s amazing how it is emotionally able to convey fear, despair and resignation of these people. The monuments are very impressive and makes the viewer think and remember such a massive tragedy can happen in the history of mankind. In many guidebooks this monument to Jewish sacrifice is also called “The Pit”.
Church of Saints Simon and Helena
The Church of Saints Simon and Helena is one of the few remaining buildings in Minsk, although it is not too old, it was built in the early 20th century. It is beautiful, quality built and successfully entered into the church environment of Belarus. Inside you can attend a regular mass service and meet the local congregation and the resident priest of this catholic church and briefly give you a tour and insights behind its history and important role to the city of Minsk. This catholic church is spiritually enriching with a red brick façade outside but warm and welcoming inside. The entire place is favorable to meditation; the atmosphere is calm, relaxed and easy. The main entrance of the church is near the woods and you can also come through the side entrance.
The church is located at the Independence Square, which is also a major tourist attraction. Under the square is a huge shopping mall. Nearby is the Hotel Minsk, which faces the Independence Avenue – the main street of the city that leads to many other attractions in Minsk. Also close by is a beautiful park with a pond. Besides all these, the church itself deserves special attention. The moderately serene appearance of the building catches the eye. The interior view is also interesting – mosaic windows outside which goes well with red brick walls of the church, inside becomes even greater beauty of a white plaster. You can also see a beautifully painted vault of the temple and all the required finer attributes of the Catholic Church.
Victory Square is a majestic area built and designed in typical Soviet style. In the center of Victory Monument (with the image at the top of the Order of Victory – perhaps the only one of its kind in the territory of the former USSR) is one of the oldest symbols of Minsk. You will definitely not miss this spot whether you want to or not, but almost drive past will not work because most of the routes in the center passes through this area. You can also witness a nice changing of the guard with the distinctive goose step at the eternal flame. It is a fitting memorial to the heroes who fought bravely during the Great Patriotic War.
Victory square is located on the main street of Minsk, along the Independence avenue. It has a circular shape and is usually an icon in the busy Belarusian capital. Overlooking the square are two parks, one that goes down to the Svislach River and the famous Gorky Park.
The square is famous for its monument to the victory in the Patriotic War, a huge granite obelisk that measures 38 meters high, decorated with symbols of the Soviet Republic of Belarus. On the sides of the base are four bronze reliefs that celebrate the struggle of the Soviet people against Nazi invaders and Belarus. In front of the obelisk a flame is always on. Under the monument was built a basement which can be accessed from several subways. At the center of the basement is a crown of colored glass. On the roof of the buildings of the square an inscription commemorates the sacrifice of the Soviet soldiers and partisans of Belarus.
It is here at the Minsk Arena Complex where you can see local matches readying for the World Cup of Hockey. It is a great facility with beautiful view from any sector. Modern and very well kept and has clear directions to every part of the stadium. There are numerous eateries and toilets (very clean). It is easily reached by bus. In front of the Arena, on the other side of the street is a shopping center with several shops on two levels.
It is a multi-purpose stadium/ building that is very interesting, It looks more stunning when illuminated at night and there are lots of huge spaces that characterize all the buildings in Minsk. This sports complex has complete facilities and snack kiosks where you can order beer and some snacks while you enjoy the game.
Trinity Hill was once the Jewish quarter of Minsk and is considered a pristine area with preserved pre-war Belarusian architecture. During the war, Minsk was destroyed and rebuilt again and the only place where you can still see the old image of the city is at the Trinity Hill. This suburban area is very small and you can get around and see everything within ten minutes. On its territory there are several cafes and across the bridge is another interesting place called the Nyamiha. There remained a few old houses and a church. On the shore there are a few restaurants where you can have lunch or dinner while taking in the wonderful views.
Island of Tears
The Island of Tears is also called Island of Courage and Sorrow a memorial to soldiers and the heroes of Belarus who fought and joined the allied forces to fight terrorism in Afghanistan. It stands next to the Trinity Hill Near right in the center of Minsk. The place provokes a range of sad emotions where it is necessary to grieve, reflect, and be touched. Look at the figures of the weeping women, their anguished, tragic face and begin to empathize with them as they mourn over the fallen soldiers. And the location is chosen so well at the city center where at the same time you can have privacy, peace and an opportunity to reflect on the more important and eternal moments and a prospect of a future world existence with no wars and women grieving for the death of their sons or husbands sent to fight a pointless war.
The memorial touches deeply. Bend over the water willow that is weeping softly on the boy’s guardian angel. At the Memorial Chapel, mourners surround the figure of women. Inside are four altars carved with bas-reliefs of the names of dead soldiers in Afghanistan, the walls, and the dome painted biblical scenes. The center of the chapel used the soil from the graves of the fallen soldiers. The sculpture showing the passing up of the metal strings symbolize the invisible threads that connect the souls of the fallen warriors along with the Bells Memory.
Alivaria Brewery Museum
The Alivaria Brewery Museum is always worth a visit when the city of Minsk. Upon entrance to the museum you will be welcomed by a tour guide woman who has worked for this company for over 40 years. The woman recounts the history of the factory and every process involved in making beer. She will lead you to the brewery and the step by step procedure and at the end allows you to give it a try. The brewery is cool, clean and the guide is knowledgeable about every process she discuss with her guests.
You get the most detailed information and afterwards the free or unlimited beer tasting session, you will be surprised that bottled beer from the store tastes different from freshly brewed beer. Even if you are not into beer drinking, go and visit this place because it is entertaining and informative as well. The only downside is the tour hours; a visit can only be done from 12:00 to 17:00 pm.
Holy Spirit Cathedral
The Holy Spirit Cathedral is a pleasant and ancient cathedral. For the Orthodox pilgrim and faithful visit here is a must. Inside you can find the relics of the blessed Sofia Slutskaya, the miracle-working icon of Our Lady of Minsk. Services are conducted regularly and the church opens on certain hours of the day. The atmosphere in the temple is very good and the friendly staff gives guided tours of the cathedral.
It is very convenient and close to the metro station of “Nyamiha” a few meters away from the city center. It is also near another Orthodox Cathedral and church, the town hall of Minsk, and other interesting buildings, cafes, and restaurants. After a tour or attending a service you can visit the nearby Upper Town restaurant where you can enjoy coffee on the terrace with views of the cathedral.
Gorky Central Park
Gorky Central Park is more commonly known today as the Children’s Park and rightly so because there are more kids or families with children roaming around this famous park in Minsk. . It is very nice to walk around the park and just enjoy the peace and quiet. But try the interesting features it provides like; the Ferris wheel that rises 54 meters above ground level.
The views from the top and the entire city are breathtaking. It is a very fun park that is ideal for walking, with a variety of rides, stalls with ice cream, and beautiful avenues. You can also visit the planetarium, the river bank pathways, bridges, trampoline areas, carousel, swings in the form of boats and the Pine Hill Bears.
The Minsk Sea is a sufficiently large body of water within the city. It has many equipped beaches. Along the shoreline there is also a large number of health centers. It is a nice place to play beach volleyball, sunbathe, and enjoy long walks with the cold breeze of the sea but swimming is not highly advisable. It is a particularly abundant park with lots of green spaces.
The river passing through the city, adds a distinctive beauty. From this side of the shoreline you do not have a lot of historical monuments to see. With no waves you can practice nautical sports without any problem. A small restaurant can be found in the marina’s clubhouse.
Belarusian Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life
The Belarusian Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life is a fun theme park dedicated to the life and culture of the people living on the territory of Belarus. It is highly recommended to go for a half-day tour of the site to understand the rich culture of Minsk. On this territory they grow lots of fruit trees and there is a souvenir shop where all the produce are sold in a much cheaper cost than in the local market. Take an exciting trip to the past when you visit this open-air museum. It is interesting for adults and children.
Plunge into the past of the Belarusian village where you can explore a huge community network, see the mill and craft houses and lots of animals that you can feed. Don’t forget to taste the local brew that is served with a pickle and honey. You can tour around the wooden houses which describes and often shows everything about the ancient crafts village and their own form and source of livelihood. You can see the locals involved in pottery making, basket weaving, tinsmith, beekeeper, stables, etc. You can safely go around and find an interesting way to spend a few hours while in the city of Minsk.