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The capital of Belarus is one of the most fascinating cities in Eastern Europe. Famous as much for its extraordinary history as its impressive, Soviet-style architecture, leafy parks and eccentric locals, Minsk is unforgettable.
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Do and see
Minsk is all about monumental excess, with its grand boulevards and big squares, but its Old Town is tiny. The best place to start exploring Minsk is at Independence Square with its statue of Lenin and the Belarusian University building.
Explore the Old Town
The Old Town sits on the eastern side of the Svislach River, bordered by Vul Maxima Bahdanovicha. Known as Troitskoe Predmestiye, or “Trinity Suburb”, the Old Town is not really that old. The original 17th and 18th century houses were recreated in the 1980’s. However, it’s a delightful place to walk around in. You can relax in quaint cafés or browse through the souvenir shops.
Visit the Island of Tears
Down from the Old Town by the riverbanks is the evocative Ostrov Slyoz, or “Island of Tears.” This is a memorial to Belarusians who lost their lives in battle, but particularly in remembrance of those that died in the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan in the 1980’s.
Holy Spirit Cathedral
Standing defiantly on a small hill is the Holy Spirit Cathedral, one of the most instantly recognisable landmarks of Minsk. This two-towered Orthodox cathedral is situated in the Upper Town. It was once part of a Polish Bernadine convent. The monastery buildings nearby are now a music academy.
Have a picnic in Gorky Park
Gorky Park is the city’s oldest park and is lovely in the summer. It is very popular with locals who often stroll along the well-tended paths. Gorky Park is a big draw to children due to the enormous Ferris Wheel. Another reason to come here is the great view of the city.
Church of St. Simon and Helena
Better known as the “Red Church”, the Church of St. Simon and Helena was built in 1910 by a Polish noble to commemorate the death of his two children – the tower’s three bells are named after him and the dead children.
Victory Square
At the junction of Nezavisimosti and Zakharava is this huge square, with a giant victory obelisk emerging from the centre. The monument has an eternal flame at its feet, which has been burning since 1954, and is accessible from an underground passageway.
Museum of the Great Patriotic War
Next to the classical-style Trade Union’s Culture Palace, lies the Museum of the Great Patriotic War. This museum tells of Belarus during World War II. It also tells the story of Minsk’s Jewish population following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Behind the building is a park filled with vintage tanks and planes.
Sit in Tsentralny Park
Across the road from the Museum of the Great Patriotic War lies a delightful little park that stands on the site of a 19th century marketplace. You often see people playing music here.
Extra Useful Information
Demonstrations in central Minsk are fairly commonplace. Most of these pass peacefully although some have been known to turn violent. The resulting police response can be sudden and occasionally frightening. The important thing to remember is that if caught up in a demonstration, stay alert and get out of it as quickly as possible. Minsk has a serious problem with prostitution. Particularly in bars and lobbies, always be weary of overfriendly girls, or indeed guys for that matter. 10 per cent is the usual tip. In some hotels 10-15 per cent service charge will be added to your bill.
Minsk National Airport
Minsk II is the main international airport located 42 km from the city. You can get a taxi from outside the arrivals hall which will take you into the centre of town. The airport bus is cheaper but takes longer to get into town and runs sporadically.
Public Transport
You can get around Minsk by using the bus, tram, or the metro. All three are cheap and reliable. The two line metro is an interesting way of getting around as each station is decorated by a theme. For instance the October Square station evokes the 1917 revolution. Public transport operates from about 05.30 to 01.00 daily and serves all parts of the city. Trolleybuses 1, 2 and 18 pass through Minsk’s main street, Pr Francyska Skaryny. The metro closes at 24.30 every night. Remember to validate it by punching the ticket on one of the red punching machines. Ten day or monthly passes are available for all modes of transport.
Yellow cabs are the state run taxis that are best used. Prices depend on distance. Taxis can be called on 052 and 084.
The pharmacies in Minsk are marked by a green cross and there are many of them in the city. Often you can buy medicine that are not usually common in other countries.
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Country code: +375 Area code: 17
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