Minsk : The Land with Pleasant Environment and History

Minsk : The Land with Pleasant Environment and History

When one thinks of Belarus, one cannot imagine that one can spend an enjoyable stay as a tourist. But it is without knowing the city of Minsk that offers an incredible luxury for Westerners with meagre prices. Also, the city offers an incredible quality of life: many parks, cultural outings at the ballet or restaurant, the opportunity to visit a museum, go to a concert, etc. By going to Minsk, you are sure to get away from it all, out of your everyday life and what you are used to seeing or doing: great destination, it is nonetheless attractive, even if the tourist places are not as numerous as in other large cities of Eastern Europe. Read on to explore the glories hidden in the top ten places worth paying a visit when in Minsk.

table of contents

[x] close

Minsk : The Land with Pleasant Environment and History

1. Oktyabrskaya Square

The main square of the city is called universally by its Russian name, Oktyabrskaya pl (October Square: in Byelorussian, it is called Kastrychnitskaya pl). This is where opposition groups come together to protest against President Alexander Lukashenko from time to time and are where the infamous 2010 protests in the presidential election ended in violence. The revolution in jeans or the blue revolution, which failed in March 2006, was tried here too.

2. Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum

Housed in a new screaming building after leaving its old premises in Oktyabrskaya Square, the best museum in Minsk houses an excellent exhibition detailing the suffering and heroism of Belarus during the Nazi occupation. Black and white photos of civilians and soldiers can be admired to understand better the history of this city and the atmosphere that reigned for many years.

3. The National Museum of Culture and History of Byelorussia

Photo by commons.wikimedia.org

Opened in 1957, this museum informs visitors about the economy, local traditions and the history of the city and the country. Today, the National Museum holds the most extensive collection of cultural objects and monuments since ancient times. Most visitors leave the museum a bit confused (explanatory panels only in Belarusian do not help). This museum takes us on a journey into the nation's turbulent history and features a replica of the printing press used by the national hero Francysk Skaryna.

4. National Museum of Fine Arts of Byelorussia

Photo by en.wikipedia.org

This superb museum is the largest in Belarus. It has been renovated and includes an extension bathed in light at the back which presents local art, from the 1940s to the 1970s. Do not miss the work of Valentin Volkov, Minsk July 3, 1944 (1944-1945), representing the arrival of the Red Army in the city in ruins. Yudel Pen, Chagall's teacher, is well represented, including his 1914 portrait of Marc Chagall. There is also an impressive collection of icons, some great realistic representations of life at the end of the 19th century in the Russian Empire and several works by Nikolai Ge, Ilya Repin, Isaak Levitan, Isaak Brodsky, Mikhail Nesterov and Konstantin Makovsky.

5. Island of Tears ( Island of Courage and Sadness)

This island faces the Faubourg de la Trinité and is known to commemorate the war in Afghanistan where many Belarusians died. Near it, one can still see where the figure of an angel crying for not being able to save and protect the soldiers during this terrible war. Built in the form of a small church with four entrances, the monument is surrounded by tall, gaunt statues of sad mothers and sisters of Belarussian soldiers who perished in this war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan (1979-1989).

6. The Town Hall

Always near the Faubourg de la Trinité neighborhood is the Town Hall, which represents exactly what it could be during the war when it was totally destroyed. Near the Town Hall, there is the only wooden house in Minsk; this house is the only one surviving the bombing of the war, it is now a museum.

7. The National Library of Byelorussia

Photo by webhobbit/shutterstock.com

The national library is a 74-meter building with 19 reading rooms spread over 22 floors. It is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world according to which eye you look at it (it may seem horrible to some). It is estimated that there are nearly 90,000 registered readers who come every year to visit the 3.2 million books available.

8. St. Simeon and St. Helena Cathedral

Photo by Grisha Bruev/shutterstock.com

This huge building is very impressive; it is more commonly called the Red Church, it was built in 1910. Before the Second World War, it was built in a movie studio then in 1941; it returned to its original function, namely a Catholic church. It is a high place of the religious, cultural and social life of the city of Minsk.

9. Némiga Street

Photo by commons.wikimedia.org

More than just a place, Némiga Street is a place that Belorussians enjoy. It is the oldest street of Minsk, and it brings together the city center with the western part of the city. Dating back to the 12th century, it is linked the old castle to the Némiga River, which no longer exists today. It was rebuilt and today is the shopping street of the Belarusian capital.

10. Niasvij Castle

Photo by commons.wikimedia.org

Nestled in the heart of the city of Niasvij, 120 kilometers from Minsk, it is known as the residential, architectural and cultural complex of the Radziwiłł family, which was responsible for its construction from the 16th century until the middle of the 20th century. It is the only Belarusian monument listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Mecca of Belarus is five hundred meters from the Church of Corpus Christi. This colossal architecture has become one of the references for the construction and development of other types of this kind throughout Central Europe as well as in Russia.

◎ Closing

Above all, there is an atmosphere, a typical atmosphere in Minsk: the city was destroyed by the German army during the Second World War and slowly rebuilt, even if there are still stigmas here and there. The city does not have any more historic district strictly speaking, but this unique atmosphere describes Minsk, between nostalgia and desire to advance in the future. Definitely worth paying a visit when in Belarus.