However, after Belarus introduced a visa-free period (that is expected to start in a month or so) for the citizens of 80 countries on condition they arrive through MSQ International Airport, one might start planning up a little trip to one of the Europe’s last off-the-beaten-track spots.
Here are a few suggestions on how to spend your time!
Located in the country’s heart, Minsk might make a convenient base to explore the country.
Suppose you are arriving by air in the morning at around 10 am Minsk time, a $3 bus (or a minibus) leaves from Gates 1-2 (arrivals, ground floor) of the National Airport building and it takes about an hour to get into town. The end stop is Central Bus Station from which you can take a bus or metro to your place of stay.
For a quick look around the city you might take a City tour bus that leaves from across the Central Train Station.
After some sightseeing and hotel/apartment check-in you might sample some national cuisine – the selection of places is growing.
The rest of the day might be dedicated to relaxed walks in the center – along the river in Nemiga or down the Independence Avenue exploring all its five squares on the way.
The best way to start the second day is to check out the museums and memorials.
The Pit, the memorial to the victims of Minsk Jewish Ghetto who perished between 1941 and 1943, is right in the city center, a short walk away from Yubileiny Hotel.
Not far from it is the new Museum of History of the Great Patriotic War that was open in 2014 to become one of the country’s top museums. The National Arts Gallery is also worth a visit, while the Museum of History in Karl Marks Street is only advisable to those who are very fond of old days.
When planning your visits to the museums, keep in mind that they are closed on Mondays and sometimes Tuesdays (e.g. The Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Lifestyle).
If war doesn’t seem like your kind of thing, pay a visit to Osmolovka district. Located behind the Opera and Ballet Theatre (which itself is a nice place to visit in the evenings), this post-war area was built for the army officers living in Minsk. Today it’s a nice green walking ground with lilac, chestnuts and jasmine adding to the atmosphere.
You might prefer that one to the Botanical Garden, where a long line of visitors is normally lining up at the end of May (but it’s worth it, too).
Another curious place, the Museum of Boulders, is a bit tricky to get to (Uruchie Metro Station and a walk) – but once here you will see a unique map of Belarus outlined with Ice Age rocks collected here from all over Belarus.
Your next day in Belarus might be dedicated to the UNESCO castles in Nesvizh and Mir.
Nesvizh Palace and Park Complex has been on the World Heritage List since 2005.
One of the numerous properties of the wealthy Radziwill family, it evolved from a fortification into a luxury estate by the early 20th century. And after the restoration in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the palace became a branch of the National Arts Gallery with occasional theatre performances on weekends.
The Castle in Mir, built in the early 1500s, also restored into a museum, is more for walks and landscape photography – the view from behind the little lake is especially lovely!
The two are not connected with each other ideally – just a couple of buses a day, however, there are many departures to both Nesvizh and Mir throughout the day from Minsk.
While you might or might not be fond of museum artifacts (Nesvizh Palace museum collection is considerably larger than that of Mir Castle), this tour into the province will introduce you to the Belarusian countryside, its nature and people.
Between May and October the landscape is most enjoyable, and in July and August you might get to sample red and black currant, strawberries and cherries from a babushka’s garden – old locals are most hospitable.
If you are any keen on military history or just want to see other Belarusian cities, you can take a morning train to Brest.
It’s only about 4 hours to get there by a morning train from Minsk (departure at 06.47) or about 4.5 hours if you decide upon a late start.
In Brest, Sovetskaya Street and the old blocks (late 19th century blocks) are worth a walk, and so is the Brest Fortress Memorial. The latter is actually based on the island where the historic city of Brest (Berestye) was founded about a 1000 years ago.
If you care to look into the old days of Brest, check out the indoor Berestye Museum complex – a few well-preserved streets and wooden buildings of the original medieval town.
Alternatively, directly you arrive to Brest take a walk at the Fortress Memorial, have a good bite in Sovetskaya Street and carry on to Grodno to spend a night and a morning in the country’s oldest and best-preserved historic city.
Grodno looks entirely European (a part of Belarusian history), its Old Town and New World areas still have the atmosphere of the grand past. On the fifth day, after Grodno sightseeing, take an afternoon train to Minsk and a flight out of the country.
After a night at a hotel in Brest grab a cab/shuttle bus (first departure at 08.30 am) to Belovezhskaya Puscha in the early morning.
If your breakfast is not included – pop into the National Park restaurant to check out their breakfast menu. It might be followed by a walk down one of the two environmental tracks or a bicycle ride into this oldest Europe’s protected forest.
It will not be too difficult to return to Brest by a shuttle bus (leaves at 12.10 am arriving at 13.50 which is slightly early) or a taxi and take an afternoon train (No 004Б departing at 1740, 3.45 hrs in transit) back to Minsk to take a flight out of the country.
These tips were prepared by a certified tour guide Andrei Burdenkov for BelarusFeed.
Photo credit (in order of appearance): Dimid Vazhnik, Sergey Melnik, Dmitry Brushko/TUT.BY, Vlad Sokolovsky, Rodion Kovenkin.