Since 12 February 2017, Belarus started a visa-free programme for citizens of 80 countries around the world, including 39 in Europe. You can visit the country without a visa for no more than 5 days, and only through the National Airport in Minsk.
Independence Avenue – the most important street
Starting from Independence Avenue, this long highway (about 15 km) divides Minsk in half. It’s famous for almost being a kind of symbol of the city, as it’s the largest and most famous street in the capital. It’s also a monument of socialist realism in architecture, and photos of the local houses will fit well into any traveller’s Instagram feed!
For example, a building that stretches from number 31 to number 4 on Kommunisticheskaya street is known as the ‘House of Harvey Oswald’. The person responsible for killing American President John F. Kennedy lived in this very house in Minsk during the 1960s.
The Lenin monument is another one to see in Minsk. However, be careful with photographing some state buildings, as it’s still forbidden. Unfortunately, this monument is one of them. Also, take care when photographing monuments of constructivism, as these too are forbidden.
When in Minsk, you must visit the Red Church of Saints Simon and Helen. It’s over a century old, though looking at it, you’ll think it’s only 200, or even 300, years old!
The National Art Museum presents an impressive collection of socialist realism. Pay close attention to the work of Byalynitsky-Birulya, and his very interesting landscapes.
‘Place for food’ is a restaurant that will introduce not so much the national cuisine, but more its products. The concept of the restaurant is the cuisine of local produce. Menu options include delicate olives with chicken, pies with three kinds of meat, Grechotto with Parmesan cheese and mushrooms and Salmon with pickled pumpkin and creamy rice. If you have space, try the baked cherries with caramel.
After lunch, stop by Komarovsky market. In the 15th century it was a swamp, and then a village in the lowland called Komarovo. Now, it’s the main food market in Minsk. In 1925, they carried out work to drain the swamp, and in 1979 they built a covered market. It was to become the central farm market in all of BSSR.
Tickets for the opera or ballet are very cheap, and the shows are excellent. Also, you’ll be impressed by the interiors of the opera house.
For dinner, you should definitely choose a restaurant with a view of the city. The highest situated restaurant in Belarus is The Viеw. It’s located at an altitude of 100m in the heart of the city.
Start your day with breakfast in the café confectioner La Crête D'Or. There’s a huge selection of desserts and breakfast for every taste. In addition, the ideal location in the center of the city allows plenty time to make the most of your time.
The historical center is where you can experience the atmosphere of the 19th century. In some places, it can feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The Cathedral of the Descent of the Holy Spirit is the main temple of the Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, not that you could tell.
Nearby on Freedom Square is City Hall. It was erected in 1600 in honor of the Minsk Magdeburg law and restored in 2003 according to old drawings.
You can also find the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary, which is across the road from the Town Hall. It’s in between the ‘stalinki’ Catholic Cathedral of the Virgin Mary, and was built in the style of the Vilno Baroque from 1700 to 1710.
This is the largest collection of famous busts of Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the revolution. People say that the Museum has almost 500 copies. If you’d like to visit the museum, it’s essential you book beforehand.
If you’ve never had sushi or pan-Asian dishes, you need to try Sushivesla. It has paintings with scenes depicting Japanese life, with windows overlooking the Avenue.
Sushivesla has great staff, food, views and can cater for any taste and mood. Try the bass with a honey and garlic sauce, Tom Yam soup with shrimp, and of course sushi — either vegetarian or classic. It’s the perfect spot to eat and try something new.
...or at least 73m closer to the stars. The National Library, not far from the center of Minsk, resembles more a spaceship than a library. As well as reading, you can go to the observation deck. The breathtaking views more than compensate for the time spent on the road!
A place to enjoy national Belarussian dishes is at Strany Talaka. Look out for the unusual exhibition of authentic objects, carefully collected over many years from different parts of Belarus.
They include samovars, mortars, axes, irons, chandeliers — glass jars decorated with burlap linen. All this gives the interior a unique edge. The interior tells the story of life in a Belarussian village. TV screens broadcast sketches of crafts, paintings of villages and the nature of Belarus.
However, the main focus is the home-cooked meals. This provides a ‘pasochki’ when meeting and parting. Homemade kvass, mors, Krambambulya, venison soup and dumplings in all its delicious and beautiful form. There are also melodious songs, Pesnyaroy bottled in the air and murmuring pleasant motives, bringing to life the atmosphere of the Belarussian province.
Stop by for a late glass of wine on the busiest street in Minsk, Zybitskaya, named ‘a Good year’. It’s the place to forget about the stresses of the day and relax with a good glass of wine. Choose from wines from Italy, France and Spain, and enjoy with delicious snacks and piano music.
Vitebsk is probably the most beautiful city in the country. It’s the birthplace of the famous painter Marc Chagall, and the place where the famous international festival of arts “Slavic Bazaar” takes place every July.
In Vitebsk, walking and taking in the sights is recommended. Pay a visit to the Church of the Annunciation — experts say it was the first stone building in the city. If you go further to the river bank, you’ll come to a long pedestrian street, which is one of the biggest in the country.
Keep going till you reach the town hall square and several churches nearby. For dinner, try Lyamus, which has wooden structures over 3 floors. They serve very tasty local food and have really friendly staff.
There’s no question you need to visit Marc Chagall Museum. It’s located at his childhood home and was built by his father at the beginning of the 20th century.