Minsk 2 Day Itinerary

Itinerary

Flight to Minsk
Hotel Minsk
Day 1Svabody Square
Bolshoi Theatre
Island of Tears
KFC
Hero City
Museum of the Great Patriotic War
Dinner at Gostiny Dvor
Day 2City Gates
Independence Avenue
Dinamo Stadium
Belarusian National Arts Museum
Dinner at Troitsa

Attractions

1Svabody Square
2Bolshoi Theatre
3Island of Tears
4KFC
5Hero City
6Museum of the Great Patriotic War
7City Gates
8Independence Avenue
9Dinamo Stadium
10Belarusian National Arts Museum

Flight to Minsk

I Love Minsk
I Love Minsk

It’s time for a little trip. We usually go away in October and in recent years have been to Mexico, Cuba, Israel, Greece and Turkey – all places which delay the inevitability of having to deal with the cold, damp British Autumn. This year, as the old man attempts to notch up 100 countries and our destinations become more obscure, we are heading for Belarus. The weather forecast is for minus 3 degrees and snow.

Dinner Belavia Style
Dinner Belavia Style

We’re flying with Belavia Belarusian Airline, which isn’t bad, apart from the in flight meal – chicken sausages which taste as bad as they look. We arrive in Minsk on time, immigration and baggage reclaim is quick and we are soon in a taxi into town.

Hotel Minsk
Hotel Minsk

Hotel Minsk

We are staying at the Hotel Minsk, the hotel of choice back in the day; built in 1959 in Stalinist classical style. It’s a bit jaded but very clean and staff are friendly. The lobby is festooned with old photos – it’s like staying in a museum.

Hotel Minsk
Hotel Minsk Lobby

It’s already dark (and cold) by the time we check in, so we don’t venture far. We planned to go in search of a bar but discover that the hotel is built on top of an underground shopping centre, which is useful. So we buy some beer and return to the hotel. Further exploration of Minsk can wait until daylight.

Minsk at Night
Minsk at Night

Minsk Day 1

I had worried that with temperatures below zero, I would get cold in Minsk, so last week I purchased the world’s thickest (well, Primark’s thickest) pyjamas. But the Hotel Minsk isn’t skimping on the heating – last night was like one long hot flush.

Minsk

Svabody Square

We get up and set off for some sightseeing – first stop Svabody Square. One of the first things you notice about Belarus – jaywalking is not a thing. You stand and wait for the light to go green, even if this means waiting for hours when there isn’t a car in sight. Then, when the light finally does go green, still nobody moves. This is either because they’ve been there for so long they’ve forgotten where they’ve going, or because they’ve frozen to the spot and can no longer move. But we finally make it across the road and into the pretty square decorated with flowers and silver sculptures.

Svabody Square
Svabody Square

The main focus of the square is the Holy Spirit Cathedral. There aren’t many buildings of age in Minsk – the city was pretty much destroyed during WW2 and rebuilt according to Stalin’s taste in the 1950s. The the white 17th Century cathedral is one of very few buildings old buildings to have survived.

Holy Spirit Cathedral
Holy Spirit Cathedral

National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus

We pass some interesting buildings, all very similar in style before entering the grounds of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus, aka the Bolshoi Theatre.

Bolshoi Theatre
Bolshoi Theatre

Island of Tears

Onwards to the Island of Tears; an Afghan War Memorial on a small island. It depicts the sorrowful mothers and sisters of Belarusian soldiers who died in the war.

Island of Tears
Island of Tears
Island of Tears
Island of Tears

KFC

My absolute favourite of all the buildings we pass is KFC, which has a spectacularly carved communist façade – ironic juxtaposition at its finest.

KFC Minsk
KFC Minsk

I stop to take a photo of an old Russian Fiat. I ask a Belarusian man if he will take a photo of me, but my phone has died (the old man has wandered off as old men do). Undeterred, the Belarusian takes a photo on his own phone and promises to email it to me, which is very kind.

Russian Fiat
Russian Fiat

Hero City

Our ultimate destination today is Hero City. The focal point of this complex, home to the the war museum, is a 45 metre tall obelisk guarded by an trumpet wielding angel. Socialist realist art its finest.

Hero City
Hero City
Hero City
Hero City

Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War

The succinctly named Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War documents World War II from a Belarusian perspective. It’s a fascinating place with plenty of original artefacts. It tells the story not only of the war in general, but with more personal stories – like a tank crewed by 3 Belarusian brothers who were all killed together.

Museum of the Great Patriotic War
Museum of the Great Patriotic War

You follow the exhibits up several floors until you reach a huge glass dome at the top; The Dome of Victory is designed to replicate the dome of Reichstag and remembers the almost 3 million Belarusians (a third of the population) who died during the war.

Museum of the Great Patriotic War
Museum of the Great Patriotic War

We walk back to the hotel for a rest (so far today we have covered 13 miles), stopping briefly for the obligatory photo op at the ‘White Birds’.

White Birds
White Birds

Dinner at Gostiny Dvor

In the evening we go for dinner in a nearby restaurant – Gostiny Dvor. The food is OK; the old man has borsch, potato pancakes and beer and I have mushrooms in cream, potato pancakes and wine. The restaurant is completely empty. We wonder vaguely why there are neither locals nor other tourists there. The bill arrives – it’s a lot more than expected. I have drunk 2 glasses of wine and been charged for 8 wines. When I query it, the waiter points out that the price on the menu is per 50 ml and he put 200 ml in each glass. The old man, being very British, tops this chicanery up with a good tip and spends the the rest of the evening telling anyone who’ll listen that his wife just drank 8 glasses of wine.

'4 wines' at Gostinyy Dvor
‘4 wines’ at Gostinyy Dvor

Minsk Day 2

Today, we are taking a walk along Independence Avenue; the wide Stalinist boulevard (obviously during Stalin’s time it wasn’t called Independence Avenue) which runs the length of the city and contains most of Minsk’s main buildings.

City Gates

We start at the very bottom (an strictly speaking, round the corner) at the City Gates. They’re not really gates, rather, identical tower blocks either side of the road. The only difference to their structure is that one houses a clock and the other a Coat of Arms. Also, one of them is now a KFC. Another of Stalin’s iconic buildings now home to a American fast food outlet – he must be turning in his grave!

City Gates
City Gates

Independence Avenue

Back round the corner, we start at the bottom of Independence Avenue at Independence Square, with its enormous Lenin statue, and work our way up.

Lenin Monument
Lenin Monument

On to the Post Office, with a brief foray inside to purchase post cards, before veering off towards Dinamo Stadium.

Post Office Minsk
Post Office

Dinamo Stadium

The home of football team Dynamo Minsk, the stadium is a strange building, which looks like someone dropped a spaceship on top of an amphitheatre.

Dinamo Stadium
Dinamo Stadium

National Arts Museum

Next, the National Arts Museum. It’s not the best art I’ve ever seen. To be honest, it reminds me of the art display put on at school each summer ready for the GCSE examiner – and not all those kids passed!

National Arts Museum
National Arts Museum

I lose interest in continuing up Independence Avenue and return to the hotel for a break. I’m all Minsked out, which is good as tomorrow we pick up a hire car and travel further afield.

Dinner at Troitsa

We round off our visit with one last dinner at a nearby restaurant called Troitsa (Trinity) – the trinity bring Belarusian, Jewish and Tartar. The old man surpasses himself with a trinity of his own and orders 3 courses; a meat platter, soup and potato pancakes. I opt for for just potato pancakes. I love the Belarusian potato pancakes; patties of grated potato and onion, fried and served with onions and sour cream and at Troitsa they are particularly good!

Potato Pancakes at Trinity
Potato Pancakes at Troitsa

Trip taken: October 2019

Updated: September 2022

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