Destination Belarus: Why Not Choose… Minsk?
If you have a love of wide open spaces or a passion for history, Minsk is the destination for you! Built between parks and forests, this huge city stands out for its unbelievable diversity of flora and fauna. But Minsk is also a resolutely modern city, with a rich and abundant historical and cultural heritage. With its famous squares, museums, theatres and libraries… not forgetting its cathedrals and fortified churches, you're sure to fall in love with this affordable city!
Abundant historical and cultural heritage
As both the capital of Belarus and the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Minsk is the political, economic and cultural hub of the country. Although few buildings survived the Second World War and Stalin's construction projects, the citizens are proud of their city's historical and cultural heritage. Minsk has 16 museums, 11 theatres and 139 libraries, including the National Library of Belarus with its gigantic 12-faced glass diamond.
Whether it's going to see a concert, taking a trip to the theatre, visiting a museum, stopping for a drink or eating bulochki, a holiday in Minsk promises plenty of surprises and opportunities, without breaking the bank! In fact, Minsk offers a very good quality of life (many parks, the chance to see ballets or eat in restaurants every evening) at very low prices.
Stay in Minsk to discover its pleasant Belarusian lifestyle and its 21st-century Communist chic.
Countless cultural treasures…
There are around thirty museums in Minsk, many of which are devoted to history:
- The Great Patriotic War Museum, one of the largest war museums in the world
- The War Museum
- Why not make the most of your stay in the city to visit the KGB headquarters?
Minsk will also charm you with its Folk Museum of Architecture and Rural Life, its Fine Arts Museum with paintings by Russian and Belarusian masters from the 13th and 19th centuries, as well as its opera and National Library.
Distinctive cathedrals and churches…
- The Cathedral of Saint Virgin Mary, the main Catholic cathedral in Minsk
- The Holy Spirit Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in the city
- St Peter and St Paul's fortified cathedral
- The impressive Church of Saints Simon and Helena (known as the Red Church)
- The Church of Saint Alexander Nevsky
- The Church of Christ's Resurrection
- The Church of the Protection of the Virgin Mary
Top 10 Places to Visit in and around Minsk:
The City Hall: a true copy of the 20th-century building destroyed during the war, the current building was completed in 2000. In the upper city, you can also see the only wooden house in Minsk to have survived the wars.
Republic Square: the geographical centre of Minsk, this square is a very lively place of passage. Must-sees: the Palace of the Republic (an imposing concert hall).
The Government House.
Trinity Suburb: the city centre, home to large administrative buildings and old churches, it is the only area left intact during the Second World War. The typical houses in a range of colours are reflected in the waters of the little Svislach River.
The Island of Tears: opposite Trinity Suburb, it commemorates the war with Afghanistan, during which many Belarusians died. In the centre of the island is a small chapel, from which you can see the figure of a guardian angel crying because he has been unable to protect the soldiers from death.
Independence Avenue: Belarus' answer to the Champs-Elysées, with its traditional Slavic restaurants.
The great Komarovsky Rynok covered market: the bustling heart of life in Minsk.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park: famous for its European bison, it extends over 99,000km of rivers and has no less than 11,000 lakes. Pure escapism!
Mir Castle (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
The village of Khatyn: a memorial site for the Nazi army massacres.
Rustic and very popular gastronomy
Between Poland and Russia, Belarus offers cuisine very similar to that of Russia. Its soups and stews, for example Shchi soup and Gribnoy soup, are not to be missed. Main courses are generally based around mushrooms (for example gribnoy sup or kotleta po krestiansky) or potatoes (for example draniki). For dessert, you won't be able to resist shklbantsi, a kind of sweet gnocchi made from potato and served with melted lard and poppy seeds. To wash it down, you can enjoy myadukha, kvas or one of the many varieties of vodkas and beers on offer... in moderation of course! The city has no shortage of restaurants and typical brasseries, offering hearty menus and old recipes in a traditional setting.
Cultural calendar, celebrations and festivals in Belarus
6 to 7 January: Orthodox Christmas. Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the night of 6 to 7 January. The Orthodox religion follows the Julian calendar and not the Gregorian calendar, so Christmas is celebrated 13 days later than Catholic Christmas.
April: Orthodox Easter
May: the Radonitsa. The equivalent of All Saints' Day: a commemorative day in honour of the dead and the saints.
June: Kupala Night. Similar to Saint John's Eve celebrations. It is celebrated during the night of the summer solstice, beside a river. There are rituals connected to fire and water, during which citizens invoke the natural elements to obtain a good harvest. Young women get into the river and are splashed with water. Others wear crowns of flowers and perform folk dances.
3 July: Independence Day (national holiday). A national holiday in Belarus, 3 July is a key event in the calendar, when local families come to watch a traditional military procession on Masherov Avenue in Minsk.
July: Slavic Bazaar in Vitebsk. Every year, the best Slavic musicians take part in this music festival bringing together Georgians, Ukrainians, Poles, Serbians, Czechs, etc. The chance to see exhibitions and performances showcasing the music and vast cultural heritage of the Slavic world.
November: Listapad, Minsk International Film Festival. This festival encourages Belarusian cinematographic production, and makes Minsk a key cultural centre in this part of the Old Continent. Competitions for different categories (documentary films, young directors, etc.), exhibitions (photos of filming, film posters), as well as conferences and round tables dedicated to contemporary cinema, and even the chance to meet directors. A modern and local perspective on the countries of the former Eastern Bloc.
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