Make Minsk the first stop on your trip.
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Minsk, the capital of Belarus, is best summed up as “bombastic.” Think wide avenues lined with monolithic Soviet-era buildings. The vast squares have monumental centerpieces. Modern skyscrapers and shiny new gold-tipped orthodox churches are everywhere. The streets are clean and well maintained. Everything is in its place in Minsk. Locals say that Belarusians appreciate order in everything. In fact, an advert from a mobile company tells you as much at the baggage claim at Minsk airport. Belarus is the capital of a dictatorship after all, so none of this should come as a surprise. Minsk has a full set of everything you'd expect from a former Soviet Republic. But it has the added advantage for the visitor that it hasn't been abandoned, ignored or torn down. Instead it has been rather revered or even celebrated. Among the highlight sights in Minsk are the striking new National Library building, the main market hall and the almost-finished bright white All Saints Church. In good weather the fairground rides in Gorky Park can be a fun way to spend a couple of hours. Independence Square, with its statue of Lenin on a column, is the most photogenic of the various squares.
In fact you'll find statues of Lenin and other Communist greats all over the place in Minsk. Yet there's also a surprising number of US fast food chains. McDonald’s and KFC are a given. Cinnabon and Papa John's might come as a surprise. Our favorite place to spend an evening in Minsk is the Old Town, which is undergoing significant rebuilding. It features architecture on a much more human scale. It's the city's liveliest neighborhood in the evening. Yes, Minskers can have fun too... As long as they don't make a mess and aren't too rowdy. For dining we suggest keeping to places serving local dishes. As long as you're a fan of meat and potatoes you can eat well enough for a few dollars. Restaurants serving foreign cuisine are pricey and more about showing off than enjoying great food.
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Where to stay in Minsk
We’ve checked out all the best hotels in Minsk. There’s something for every taste and budget. You could go for some Communist-era nostalgia, a more homely feel, a renovated monastery, or a sleek new skyscraper-style hotel.
Things to do in Minsk
A city tour is a must for getting oriented. There’s plenty to do in Minsk. There are several interesting buildings to visit, like the National Library and the Great Patriotic War Museum. The main market hall is worth a visit too. Outside of Minsk, the most popular day trip is to the Mir and Nesvizh Castles. They are close to each other, so a trip to visit both is a day well spent.
What I love about Minsk...
“Minsk isn't necessarily a city one CAN love. It's more the kind of city one can find "interesting". Having lived in Prague for over 15 years and traveled throughout most of former Communist countries in the region it is especially so. The Baltic States in particular share a lot of history with Belarus. The thing that makes Minsk, and Belarus as a whole, interesting is that it's a "what if" for all its neighbors.”
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