- The capital city of Belarus, home to nearly 2 million people.
- It is crossed by the Svislach River and located on the slopes of the Minsk hills.
- The capital of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Minsk was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in the 1950’s under Stalin.
- Nickname: The Splendid City
- Currency: Belarusian ruble (BYN). Note: this currency was redenominated in July 2016 (10,000 “old” Belarusian rubles = 1 “new” Belarusian ruble). The old notes are still accepted, and will be deemed invalid on January 1, 2022. BYN is the currency code for the new ruble (previously BYR).
- Spoken languages: Russian and Belarusian.
- Best time to visit: May to September for the warmest weather of the year and the longest hours of sunshine (although rainfall is also at its heaviest).
- Arriving via Airport: Minsk National Airport (MSQ) is served by marshrutka travelling to Vostochnyi and Moskovskii bus stations. Shuttle buses are available during the day for ~2 BYN (20,000 BYR). Taxi rides to the city center should cost be ~45 BYN (450,000 BYR), although you will be confronted by drivers outside the airport offering for double or triple that (or more!) It’s a good idea to arrange for transportation beforehand – many hotels should be able to send someone to pick you up. Alternatively, just wait around the arrivals area and hop into a taxi that someone else got out of (you should be able to get a normal fare this way).
WHERE TO STAY
The city centre offers the unbeatable advantage of being close to all the action: restaurants, bars, shops and the widest selection of accommodation. Troitskoye Predmestye or Trinity Suburb on the left bank of the Svisloch River is instead a charming and quiet neighborhood, ideal to escape the crowds. Note: a passport will be required when checking in.
- The city’s network of public transportation is served by metro, bus, trolleybus and tram lines. Metro tokens (one time use) are 0.55 BYN (5,500 BYR).
- Marshrutka or taxicabs pick up passengers from anywhere in the city and follow a set route. They are a convenient option for those looking to avoid the crowded subway or the confusing bus lines. Fares start at 0.6 BYN (6,000 BYR).
- Taxis charge by the meter, with fares per km priced at 0.55 BYN (5500 BYR) for most popular services. Call +375 17 284 6861 or +375 17 310 2037 to pre-book. Taxi Friday is a comparatively upscale taxi service (all their cars accept credit cards), and can be booked at: +375 17 399-75-00 or +375 29 133-75-00.
- Uber is available in Minsk, and will likely be a far better deal than any taxi service operating near the airport / railroad station.
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is 5 AM. Some clubs are open till 8 AM.
- Troetskoe Predmestie features plenty of trendy cafés and bars to keep the night young.
- Prospekt Nezavisimosty (between Kupalaŭskajais and Plošča Lienina) has many spots for casual drinking and eating.
- Ploshtshad Svobody hosts several clubs and watering holes that suit all tastes.
- Check out reviews for “Minsk nightlife” venues on Google Maps first.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum commemorates the German-Soviet War and is the first dedicated museum to open before World War II was over.
- The Church of Saints Simon and Helena, also known as the Red Church, is the city’s best known Catholic church, commissioned by nobleman Edward Voinilovich at the premature death of his two children.
- Victory Square is a key landmark of the city, located between Independence Avenue and Zakharau Street. Following tradition, newlyweds come to the square to take their first picture.
- The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus is the largest museum in the country housing more than 27,000 works of art displayed in 20 collections.
- Check out the Island of Tears, The Pit, and Gorky Park.
- Chelyuskintsev Park is the soul of the city, a vast expanse that includes an amusement park and the Central Botanical Gardens with their splendid collection of flora.
- Minsk Sea is an artificial reservoir popular for its idyllic charm, public and nudist beaches and water activities such as sailing.
- The metro stations at October Square, Victory Square, Independence Square and Lennin Square are all uniquely decorated and are unique attractions of their own right.
- The annual average of fog is 67 days (compared to London’s 45)!
- Belarus is fondly referred to by travelers as “Europe’s last dictatorship” – this is the real deal! When Russian film directors want to film a movie set in Soviet-era 1950s, they head to Minsk.
- There is a compulsory state medical insurance needed for visitors to the country of Belarus, amounting to €2 for a one-to-three-day stay, €5 for a stay of 4-10 days, €15 for a stay of up to 31 days, and €85 for a stay of one year. This is waived for Russian citizens.
- Every foreign guest must be registered with the local police department if planning to stay longer than 5 days.
- Where to find good cheap eats: Stolitsa shopping mall offers the best prices in the city and the widest selection of food stalls offering every imaginable cuisine.
- Dangerous areas: the heavily patrolled streets of Minsk and the imposed curfew on teenagers (i.e. no 18 year-old should be out after midnight) keep the city very safe. If you don’t go looking for trouble, you’re unlikely to find it here.
RECOMMENDED MINSK GUIDE BOOKS
- No decent English guide books seem to exist for Minsk (please let us know if you find any)
- Closest thing we found: Belarus (Bradt Travel Guide)
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days