The capital and largest city of Belarus, Minsk still has reminders of the Soviet era but is working on becoming a progressive and modern city. Despite a strong police presence, the city has much to offer from park walks to a vibrant café culture
Minsk was one of our ‘will we, won’t we’ places. We are so glad we visited though, as this city is surprisingly beautiful. With a lack of tourists, it’s a great place to experience and avoid crowds. Our hotel, Hotel Belarus, sits proud next to the city’s river, Svislach. With amazing views over the city from our room and a great breakfast spread, we couldn’t have chosen a better mid-range hotel for our stay in Belarus.
Church of St Simon and Helena
Better known as the ‘Red Church’, this church was built in 1910 by a Polish nobleman to commemorate the death of his two children. In honour of this, the three bells are named after his two children and himself. The church sits on Lenin Square and is surrounded by former Soviet buildings.
Situated on this famous square is the Supreme Soviet of Belarus and Minsk City Hall. It was called Lenin Square and is one of the biggest in Europe. A Lenin statue stands in front of the government headquarters. It is well connected, with the metro line stopping to the south.
Gates of Minsk
The main railway station in Minsk is a mass of glass and concrete. Opposite is one of the most iconic images of the city, the ‘twin towers.’ If arriving by rail, the ‘Gates of Minsk’ would be the first thing that travellers would see. Even if you don’t arrive by rail it is a must to see.
If you’re at the junction of Nezavisimosti and Zakharava, you’ll no doubt be stood in this huge square. With a giant victory obelisk standing in the centre and an eternal flame at its feet, which has been burning since 1954, it’s an impressive sight. Victory Square metro stop is just right on the square for easy access.
This little park stands on the site of an 19th century marketplace. Head to the park also if you want to visit the Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War.
Museum of the Great Patriotic War
This museum tells the story of Belarus during World War II, with a great section on Minsk’s Jewish population, following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Don’t miss the park behind, as it is filled with vintage tanks and planes.
Like most cities, the river cuts through the centre. Minsk is no different with the Svislach River winding its way through the Old Town and beautiful parks. The Old Town is situated on the eastern side of the river. Known as Troitskoe Predmestiye or Trinity Suburb, the Old Town is not really that old. Due to war, it was rebuilt to its original 17th and 18th style during the 1980s. However, it’s a delightful place to take a walk and grab a refreshment and food on the banks of the Svislach.
Island of Tears
The Ostrov Slyoz, or ‘Island of Tears’ is just a short walk down from Old Town. This is a memorial to Belarusians who lost their lives in battle, particularly soldiers that died for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Holy Spirit Cathedral
The Holy Spirit Cathedral stands defiantly on a small hill. It is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Minsk and has a great interior. The Cathedral is in the Upper Town and was once part of a Polish Bernadine convent.
Minsk’s oldest park is Gorky Park and is at its best in the summer months. Like Moscow’s Gorky Park, locals come out in their hundreds to have a picnic and enjoy the sun. The enormous Ferris Wheel is a big draw, offering great views over the city.
All Saints Church
The All Saints Church is a real pride of the city and is the highest cathedral in the Commonwealth of independent states. Construction started in 2006 and finished in 2010.
There are more than 500 niches in the crypt. Each niche has a vessel for historical battle places. The crypts are made up of marble, granite and onyx. These materials are used to create an atmosphere of eternity. The free guide is excellent and thorough.
Holy Trinity Church
This Orthodox church is rather young, being constructed in 2001. The church celebrates Divine Liturgy. The exterior and interior are fantastic and it’s a great example of past creations. The church is situated next to All Saints Church and are easily reached by the metro. Stop Uschod station is a 10-minute walk away.
National Library of Republic of Belarus
One of the most iconic buildings in Minsk is the National Library building and it’s easy to see why. With a vast selection of literature, there is also a gallery and café. It also has an observation deck that has a view of the city.
Belarusian State Circus
The building sits opposite another good place for a stroll, the Janki Kupaly Park, and is a glorious example of a Soviet era circus building. The circus is the only circus in the world that is located on the central avenue of the country capital.
Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul
This church is a beautiful and atmospheric church on the side of Vulica Niamiha road. Once outside, it is a great place to grab some food.
The architecture of this capital city may be the number one reason to come to Minsk. Minsk was appointed as one of twelve ‘hero’ cities during the Soviet Union’s era, an award that was one of the highest honours during World War II. Many works of social realists art are placed around Minsk, with one of the most impressive being the ‘Solidarity’ sculpture above KFC.
In a cream coloured neo-classical block is a building that used to house the KGB. On the other side of the road, the Dzerzhinsky Garden, you can find a bust of the KGB founder, Felix Dzerzhinshy.
Saint Elisabeth Convent
Just outside of Minsk, Novinki is a very peaceful, beautiful convent with fantastic, modern and ancient architecture. With a relaxing atmosphere, be sure to taste the local food and purchase some pieces made by the workshops on the grounds.
National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre
The theatre opened in 1939 and was designed by an architect from Leningrad, Losif Langbard. The original design wasn’t fully implemented and some design features were omitted. Even so, the building is very impressive. It is located in the Trinity Hill district and houses the Belarusian Opera and Ballet.
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