Chilly Minsk is a whole new adventure of a city
Being capital not only of Belarus, but of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Belarus has a modern, post-war feel about it with plenty of fascinating Soviet-era architecture from the 40s and 50s, but look between the concrete blocks and you’ll find hidden gems including beautifully restored churches and more.
While shopping in Minsk is limited compared with many other European capital cities, there are certainly interesting purchases to be had. Items to look out for include sweet treats such as chocolates, Belarusian cognac and beer, embroidered linen products and straw and painted-wood items. Unique folk art, including ceramics and textiles, can be picked up at the market near the Trade Unions’ House of Culture, and some lovely souvenirs hunted down at the Suvenirnaja Lavka (Ulitsa Maxima Bahdanovicha 9) – from intricate straw crafts to potent bottles of local vodka. For department stores, head to the main shopping strip Prospekt Nezavisimosti.
Food & Drink
Minsk’s restaurant scene is continually on the up. Pull up a seat on the patio at Grunwald (Ulitsa Karla Marxa 19) to feast on local and international dishes; a medieval theme runs through the décor and food. At Khutorok (Prospekt Partizansky 174) dine on rich meat dishes in one of the themed rooms or on the terrace in fine weather. There are also an increasing number of international restaurants. For Japanese flavours, pop into Planeta Sushi (Prospekt Nezavisimosti 18); aromatic North Indian food is served at Taj (Ulitsa Romanovskaya Slabada 26); and fill up on hearty Italian dishes at Teplo Zaftrak (Prospekt Francyska Skaryny 78).
In keeping with Eastern Orthodox traditions, Christmas celebrations climax on 7 January throughout most of Belarus. Find an assortment of Christmas celebrations in and around Minsk.
Minsk Spring International Music Festival
This popular classical music festival is held at the Belarusian State Philharmonic, home to the Belarusian Philharmonic Orchestra, and features an impressive selection of composers and international musicians.
Thousands of soldiers young and old take to the city streets on 9 May to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII. Wreathes are laid at the memorials to Soviet soldiers, and surviving veterans are honoured. It is taken as a national holiday.
Minsk City Day
This citywide celebration sees all manner of free performances and entertainment, sports events and contests take place in squares, parks and public gardens across Minsk. Past years have seen craftsmen demonstrating the likes of traditional pottery and straw braiding, bands playing in Victory Park and fireworks over Komsomolskoye Lake.
Listapad International Film Festival
The country’s largest film festival champions national, regional and international film, and creates networking opportunities for creative talent. It has been going strong since 1994.
Minsk has a solid selection of hotels that caters for an assortment of budgets. For attentive service in elegant surrounds, check into the grand Crowne Plaza Minsk Hotel (Ulitsa Kirova 13) in the city centre. Guests here enjoy a convenient location, as well as the on-site pool, Turkish steam room and several dining options. Slap bang in the centre, Dom I Co Apartments (Prospekt Nezavisimosti 40) offers a clean and stylish self-catering home-from-home in the city, while sat atop a skyscraper, Hostel Sky (Ulitsa Biady 2B) is a no-frills comfortable and affordable accommodation option with predictably fabulous city views.