In spite of the fact that Minsk is Belarus' largest city and Europe's 12 largest city, it is surprisingly calm and charming. Minsk does not have the hectic, chaotic feeling of Rome, Paris or Budapest, cities that are only slightly larger. While Minsk is lively and fast paced, it does not overwhelm you. Streets and buildings are in good repair, the train station and metro stations are modern parks are well groomed and public buildings and shops are more or less contemporary. There are no obvious signs of poverty, such as homeless people living on streets or people asking for spare change. Neither Belarus nor Minsk have the "third world" feeling that many westerners are led to expect. Salaries are low, but cost of living is also low, so many locals have a reasonably good quality of life. Of course, there are few that can afford to jet off to Paris for the weekend, but mobile telephones are becoming more and more ubiquitous and the restaurants and bars are packed on weekends. The downtown areas of Minsk Belarus are busy, with lots of people outside, in both summer and winter, enjoying the variety of things that the city has to offer.
Walks in Minsk Belarus
A particularly charming walk is to explore the area around the Palace of the Republic at night. Behind the Palace of the Republic are the Town Hall and the Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church, both located in Freedom Square. Further on is the Holy Spirit Cathedral. Beyond the cathedral is a view of over Troitska Suburb. At night these buildings and others nearby are well lit and look magnificent and stately.
Another nice walk is along Nezavisimosti (Independence) Ave at night.
Start at Ploschad Pobedy (Victory Square) and walk until the Nezavisimosti (Independence) Square.
Along the way, you will pass:
Yanka Kupala Park
Palace of the Republic
Centralny and G.U.M. shopping centers
Several restaurants and cafes (Il Patio Pizza, TGI Fridays, Beze, etc)
Central Post office
St Simeon and St Elena Roman Catholic Church
Click Here to see a panoramic video from the center of Nezavisimosti street during the day. Click here to see a similar video at night.
Belarusian State Circus: The Belarusian State Circus is year-round. It is located in the center of Minsk on the intersection of Zezavisimosti and Kupala Streets. It is an easy walking distance from either the Victory Square metro or the Oktyabrskaya metro. If you are traveling to Minsk with a child or if the child in you is not completely grown up, the circus is worth a visit. To see videos of Minsk circus performances click here or here. For more information, visit the Belarus Circus Website.
Please note:The two major streets of Minsk have been renamed in 2005. F.Skoriny Ave is now Nezavisimosti (Independence) Ave, Masherova Ave is now Pobeditelei (Victory) Ave. However, other smaller are streets are now named F.Skoriny Ave and Masherova Ave. Be careful, this is causing a lot of confusion. Both old and new names are mentioned below.
Things to do in and around Minsk Belarus
Looking for a nice way to spend an afternoon? Consider a visit to the outdoor Amusement Park, The Cheluskintsev Amusement Park, and neighboring Botanical Garden in The Central Public Gardens. The Amusement Park is a far cry from the western style amusement parks such as Disneyland, but admission is free, you pay only for the rides such as the Farris Wheel or ancient roller coaster. The Botanical Garden is also quite simple and is more like a large park but admission is cheap and the atmosphere is pleasant. It makes a nice walk.
For evening entertainment consider the Circus, the Ballet or the Philharmonic. These can be attended for a few dollars and tickets can be purchased from 'box offices' located on Nezavisimosty (former F. Skariny) Ave. that are actually small booths or kiosks operated by ladies that sell tickets to everything from performances to concerts.
Troitsky Suburb is an 'old town' rebuilt in a 19th century style on the Svisloch River, the main river that flows through the center of Minsk. It is great for an afternoon walk. In the summer you can enjoy a beer at one of the outdoor cafes neighboring the lake.
Internet Cafe Soyuz Online: Modern internet facilities in Minsk?? Absolutely! This place comes highly recommended. The Techno music can be distracting,however, if you have your industrial strength earplugs with you, this is the place to be. There are nearly 100 high-speed computers, the friendly staff speaks very understandable English, and there is a real cafe in the back serving drinks and snacks. Check out the VIP room. For a little more money, you can escape the techno. Internet Cafe Soyuz Online
Fitness, Beauty and SPA facilities in Minsk
Beauty Salon Lady Gadiva: If you want to pamper yourself and have a beauty salon experience when in Minsk we recommend Lady Godiva Beauty Salon. Centrally located at 38 Nemiga Str. this salon is not only known as one of the best Belarusian salons for its high quality services but is also well known for its castle-like interior and magical atmosphere. The variety of services offered include facials and other cosmetology treatments, pedicure, manicure, massage, day spas, hairdressing, make-up etc. You will be treated like a king or a queen at this luxurious beauty palace and definitely will enjoy this experience. Polite and friendly receptionists as well as almost all the salon personnel speak English. Prices can be considered comparatively high for Belarus (basic pedicure is from 30 dollars, facial from 60-70 dollars) but are a bargain for the west. To watch a video about Lady Gadiva Salon click here or at the picture. Have a look at Lady Godiva website.
Hotel Minsk Fitness Club: The Hotel Minsk lets non-guests use the fitness club for a few dollars per visit. During the evening hours, the gym can get full, so a reservation is recommended.Another advantage is that everyone at the hotel speaks excellent English.
Shopping in Minsk Belarus
The selection of Minsk shopping possibilities is growing with every year. Check out some main stores like GUM located at 21F.Nezavisimosty (former Skoriny) Ave (Oktyabrskaya metro station). On its 3 floors GUM has many departments that offer everything from local and foreign brand cosmetics to carpets. It has a certain Soviet style about it. Click here to see a video of the inside of GUM department store. For a more modern style shopping check out Torgoviy Dom na Nemige located at Nemiga Str. 8 (Nemiga metro station). Nemiga Store also has a bankomat and an exchange office in the store.
Also have a look at some so-called Trade Centers, the Belarusian version of a Shopping Mall. They consist of countless small kiosks and tiny shops offering a great variety of clothes, accessories, cosmetics, electronics etc. The biggest and most popular ones are located withing a 5-10 minute walk from Yakuba Kolasa metro station, here are a couple:
Torgovy Tsentr Zerkalo, Very Horujei Str., 6b
Torgovy Tsentr Impuls, Very Horujei Str., 2
To experience a Belarusian market where everybody is hunting for bargains, go to one of the local markets/fairs. For food, including meats, dairy selection, fruits, vegetables, sweets, local specialties go to Komarovsky Market (5-10 minutes walk from Yakuba Kolasa metro station). (The contents of this website are copyrighted by TravelsWise.com)
Grocery Store: Looking for a nice western style Grocery Store? Located near the McDonalds on Nezavisimosti Street you will find a two-floorstore called Centralny. On the ground floor are several cafes, bakeries and a liquor store. One for up is the supermarket, which is well stocked with everything from French wine to peanut butter. Be sure to check expiration dates. There is a bankomat and an exchange office right in front of the supermarket. Here is a video taken on the ground floor of Centralny.