Minsk is the capital of the landlocked country of Belarus in Eastern Europe. This is a most interesting city with Stalinist architecture, impressive fortifications and primeval forests.
The Church of Saints Simon and Helen is also known as the Red Church. This is a neo- Romanesque church that was designed by Polish architects Tomasz Pajzderski and Wladyslaw Czestochowa. The church was named and consecrated to the memory of the children, Szymon and Helena of prominent Belarusian civic activist Edward Woynittowicz. During Soviet occupation the church was used as a cinema called the Soviet Belarus. It became once again a Catholic church in 1990 and has become a center for the revived Belarusian Greek Catholic Church.
The Museum of the Great Patriotic War offers exhibits that detail the suffering and heroism of Belarus during the Nazi occupation. You’ll find English explanations here, atmospheric dioramas and real tanks, airplanes and artillery from WW II. English-language tours should be booked in advance.
The Belarusian State Art Museum is an excellent state museum that now includes a light-bathed extension out back, featuring local art from the 1940s to the 1970s. One of the highlights is Valentin Volkov’s socialist realist Minsk on July 3, 1944, depicting the Red Army arrival in the ruined city. You’ll also find an impressive collection of icons and some great realist depictions of late 19th century life in the Russian Empire.
The Church of St. Aleksandr Nevsky is a red-brick church built in 1898. It goes with a story that during WW II a bomb crashed through the roof and landed right in front of the altar but didn’t detonate. On the grounds of the church there is a cemetery.
KGB Headquarters an entire block of central pr Nezalezhnastsi is occupied by this yellow neo-Classical building with a temple-like Corinthian portal.
On the opposite side of the street stands a bust of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the predecessor of the KGB, the Cheka.
PI Svabody is a charming square right in the heart of the Old Town. Overlooking the square is the white medieval Ratusha or Town Hall.
Northeast of the square is the Baroque, twin-towered Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, built in 1642. This cathedral was once part of a Polish Bernardine convent. The former Bernardine Church stands next door and houses the city archives.
PI Nezalezhnastsi or Independence Square which is also known as pl. Lenina, is dominated by the Belarusian Government Building, standing behind the iconic Lenin Statue.
Here you’ll also find the red-brick Catholic Church of Saints Simon & Elena, built in 1910. The church has a tall, gabled bell tower and impressive detailing. Beneath the square is the Stolitsa Shopping Center.
The National Library of Belarus is an unusual building that is shaped like a giant rhombicuboctahedron. A passport is needed to enter the main building. You’ll find a viewing platform and a cafe on the 23rd floor. The view from the top is breathtaking.
The library has a media center with over 20,000 vinyl records. There are art galleries and a book museum that includes a few editions of the Bible printed in Belarusian by Francysk Skaryna in the early 16th century. You can arrange to have a tour of the library in English.
Trinity Hill is a lovely re-creation of the pre-war buildings of Minsk. It sits on a beautiful bend of the river just north of the center. Here you can find some little cafes, restaurants and shops. A walking bridge will take you to the Island of Courage & Sorrow.
The Island of Courage & Sorrow is a small island connected to the Old Town by a walking bridge. This is an Afghan war memorial known colloquially as the Island of Tears by locals. It was built as a tiny church with four entrances and is surrounded by towering gaunt statues of the sorrowful mothers and sisters of Belarusian solders, who perished in the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan.
Saints Peter & Paul Church is an attractive 17th century church that has been restored and is the city’s oldest church. It was built in 1612, looted by the Cossaks in 1707 and restored in 1871. The interior is well worth a look at.
Pr Nezalezhnastsi is the main thoroughfare in Minsk. It runs the length of the city starting with the Belarusian Government Building and Lenin Statue.
Walking northeast you’ll see the iconic Minsk Hotel and the KGB Headquarters.
Farther on you’ll come to the city’s main square known by its Russian name, Oktaybrskaya Ploshchad or October Square. In Belarusian it’s known as pl. Kastrychnitskaya.
Here are some impressive buildings the Palace of the Republic, a concert hall and on the square is the multi-columned Trade Unions Culture Palace.
You’ll see a dark-gray building known as Dom Oftiserov or Officer’s Building with a tank memorial in the front, devoted to the soldiers who freed Minsk from the Nazis on Tsentralny Square. Not too far is the highly guarded presidential residence.
As pr. Nezalezhnastsi crosses the Svislach River it passes by two of the city’s main parks – Park Yanki Kupaly opposite the circus and Hookah Central Children’s Park with rides, attractions and fast-food kiosks.
Just across the bridge is the Museum of the First Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party in a green, wooden house on the banks of the river.
Diagonally opposite the museum is the former residence of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Toward the northeast is pl. Peramohi marked by a giant Victory Obelisk and its eternal flame.
Gorky Park is located near the Belarusian State Circus on the bank of the Svislach River. During the warm weather you can find rides and attractions here including the Observation Wheel offering great views of the city.
Woman On a Bench
Mikhailovsky Garden is a public garden located near the Railway Station. It is famous for the artwork by Belarusian sculptor Vladimir Zhbanov which have become landmarks like Woman on a Bench, Girl Under an Umbrella and Man Lighting Up a Cigarette.
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