Guest blog by Geerard Siereveld
When I had the opportunity to travel to Minsk in Belarus, I had no clue what to expect. Without any form of research I left for the capital of Belarus, only to be surprised. The city is buzzing and offers a whole range of entertainment: Karaoke Bars, crowded night clubs, large casino’s, cozy bars, cafes and great restaurants (people really love to go out!). The inhabitants of Minsk are friendly and even though not many people in Minsk speak English, they are patient to help you and with friendly gestures and smiles you will get a long way.
After WWII Minsk has been remodelled to the taste of Stalin: wide lanes with big sovjet palaces and buildings, all of them being lit during the evening, which is an impressive sight.
If I have to capture Minsk in one word, it would be fascinating!
As I was lucky to be shown around by locals, I have visited some hidden gems and well-known places which I can highly recommend you when visiting Minsk:
When in Minsk, do not miss the local specialities like Beetroot salad with Herring, Stew with sauerkraut and fish or meat and of course the national dish Draniki (potato pancakes served with sour-cream, salted or even smoked salmon or herring). Babka is another national Belarusian dish, made out of grated potato and dressed with fried bacon, onion and meat.
For an interesting combination of Belgian beer and Belarusian dishes, check out Gambrinius. Quit simply put: good food and great beers in a cozy atmosphere.
Gastro Pub Gambrinus
Address: Svobody Square 2
Svoi is a restaurant where the ambiance is relaxed and homey. Here you will find typical Belarusian food, such as draniki with wild mushrooms!
Address: Praspyekt Nyezalyezhnastsi 22
Besides local dishes, there’s a range of excellent restaurants, like the Italian restaurant Gallery, serving both local Belarusian dishes and Italian food. Great wine selection!
Address: Svobody Square 5
Gambling is big in Minsk: Belarus is one of the few countries in the region where gambling is legal. This attracts a lot of visitors from mainly Russia and the middle east.
Many casino’s such as XO and Royal Casino can be found on the Nezavisimosti ave. Don’t forget to bring your passport or ID, they will not let you in if you don’t have it on you.
There is no shortage of clubs in Minsk, during my stay I visited the Coyote Bar. As the name suggests it’s an American style bar with quite good food, great cocktails and a vibrant atmosphere with locals dancing on the floor and girls on the bar.
Address: Nezavisimosti ave 117
Moijito Bar is a cocktail bar sharing it’s building with Dozari nightclub and Karaoke bar. We went to Moijito on a Monday night around 9.30 pm and we were there more or less alone, so we checked out the Karaoke bar in the same building (which was good fun, locals singing local songs). After an hour we went down the stairs back to Moijto only to find out that the place was packed with partying people. Within an hour the place filled completely up with party goers. If you still have energy after Moijto, the easiest thing to do is go next door to Dozari nightclub and party until the morning.
Moijto / Dozari
Address: Nezavisimosti ave 58
Minsk nightclubs tend to have a strict face control, it is not always that easy to get in. Africa night club has a less strict policy (do avoid wearing sport shoes). This may not be the best club in Minsk, but it is very famous one packed with students and young locals. The club offers 3 bars and a dance floor where you can dance on Dance, RnB and 90’s music.
Africa night club
Address: Timiryazeva str 9
Where to sleep
During my visit I stayed in the Renaissance Minsk Hotel, located 10 minutes with a taxi from the city centre. The Renaissance is a brand new, high end hotel with many facilities (gym, spa, pool, restaurant and a bar), friendly staff and spacious rooms.
Renaissance Minsk Hotel
Address: Dzerzhinsky Avenue 1 E
If you are looking for a hotel in the middle of the centre, Manastyrski Hotel will be a good choice: located right next to the Cathedral in the historic centre, this monastery like hotel offers clean and spacious rooms for a reasonable price.
Address: Ulitsa Kirilla and Mefodya 6
Another good (and cheap) option is to stay in one of the many apartments for rent in Minsk: for around 45 euro’s you can stay in a 40m2 apartment in the middle of the city. Google search for Minsk apartments, take a look at Airbnb or check www.booking.com for other options.
Impressive, that is the word for the building of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus. Another must see is the church of Saints Simon and Helena.
The Independence square with a large monument of Lenin and the victory square with the iconic monument are also a must see, they both breath the sovjet style.
Also worth a visit is the National Library of Belarus, with its odd shapes a very unique piece of architecture. Take the elevator to the top platform and enjoy a 360 degrees view of Minsk.
A Visum is required when entering Belarus. For more information visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus: http://mfa.gov.by/en/visa/ or the website of the Belarusian embassy in your country.
Watch the travel video of Minsk, made by Geerard: