The new visa rules allow Europeans, Americans and a number of other countries to visit Minsk without a visa for 5 days. There are no hidden charges of any sort, and people are not even required to go online and get a New Zealand ETA like I had to for my last New Zealand trip. Belarus is still a super cheap country (compared to the rest of Europe) and still has a fairly low amount of tourists.
The prices, amount of tourists and accessibility are 3 super important factors for me when booking a trip to another country. And I must say, Minsk delivered very well! It took me 4 hours to get there from Copenhagen with a small stop in Riga.
So, how to spend 5 days in Minsk?
Full day guided tour
First of all, unless speaking Russian or Belarusian, there can be a huge language barrier when going there. I highly recommend starting with a guided tour through the city, where the guide will tell you everything worth knowing about Minsk and the Belarusian history. One of the companies that I went on a guided tour with was BelAgro Travel, which consists of a super professional team. They know almost anything about everything.
I had Dzmitry with me for an entire day. Since it was just a private tour without other travelers, I felt very privileged to have him explain so many things to me. There was lots of time to ask questions, and he explained well, detailed and never ended up in a situation where he didn’t know the answer.
During my trip in Minsk I didn’t see any other tourist at all. Except for my guide speaking English really well (he had been living in the US for a few years), there was no point where I heard another language than Belarusian.
With BelAgro Travel you can be sure to see absolutely all parts of Minsk – including the hidden gems.
1 hour walking tour
However, if you’re not interested in a complete day tour, there is also the option to see the city by choosing a 1 hour walking tour. This tour is only 20 EUR, and you are guaranteed to have an English speaking guide with you. The good thing about choosing this is that it is a small group tour. This means that the group will consist of maximum 6 people, which gives you great opportunities to ask the guide lots of questions.
3 hour driving tour
If you think that 1 hour might not be enough to see everything Minsk has to offer, then I can highly recommend to choose a 3 hour private driving tour. Here, the English speaking guide will drive you around the city and show you everything that you should see. What I love about this option is that it is a private tour (you must be at least 2 people), which makes it all more flexible.
RESTAURANTS AND CAFÉS
After spending one day of visiting the major sights on the tour, you’ll also get to know which restaurants to dine at and where to go for coffee. I found my favorite coffee place super fast and also ended up eating at the same restaurant each day (of course I tried other places as well).
Starting each morning with a coffee from a café that has no name, I got prepared for the day. By doing this I gained enough energy to walk through the city for hours and inhale new impressions. At the coffee shop without a name, the owner made his own coffee recipe which includes more than 10 ingredients. The address is Vulica Kirava 11 if anyone should be interesting in trying out a completely different type of coffee. The owner doesn’t speak English and you probably won’t understand the menu (unless you speak the language of course), but he’ll gladly show you which one to choose.
My favorite restaurant experience in Minsk was going to Vasilki. The restaurant serves traditional Belarusian food in an environment that sets you back in time. When eating here during lunch time, you see that all the local people eat here as well. All types of people come here. You’ll see grandmothers gossiping, young couples and groups of friends eating here.
Another restaurant with a similar style as Vasilki is restaurant Lido, which is located really close to the food market Komarovka.
There are several authentic food markets in Minsk, which all deserve a visit. I only got to see one during my stay in Minsk, but it was fun to see how grocery shopping can be done completely different having far more choices than in a regular supermarket.
BELARUSIAN STATE CIRCUS
While you’re in Minsk, you definitely shouldn’t miss the opportunity to go to the circus. The Belarusian State Circus is a sight in itself, but the show will definitely be something you haven’t seen before. Even though the jongleur drops the cones several times, there are still amazing artists among the circus crew and you can be sure to be entertained during the entire show.
The seats in the circus obviously have different prices according to where you get the best view. Sitting in the front row isn’t actually that expensive, so while you’re there you should definitely invest in getting the full experience.
The show is divided into two parts, where the second part takes place after a short break and is all about lions and tigers. I do not support lions and tigers being prisoned to perform in a circus, but it was a huge cultural experience to see how the audience was entertained and loved the performance. Other parts of the show are super cool to watch and so different from a North European circus.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, I have made a list with my recommended places to stay at in Minsk.
Minsk was one of my favorite trips in 2017. It was like exploring a hidden gem, which is easily reachable once you get to know about this place. I am sure that the new visa rules will change many things in Minsk – once thing will be a new crowd of tourists wanting to explore the yet quite unexplored.
Thanks for an amazing trip, Dzmitry and all the people who live in Minsk. You gave me the culture experience I had been longing for.