Top 10 places to see in Minsk
1. Church of Saints Simon and Helena
Red Cathedral was built in 1908-1910 by a powerful landlord Edward Vajnilovich and his wife Olimpia, in the memory of their deceased children – Symon and Alena.
Some say that the reason why old man donated 100 000 rubles for building that place, was when Symon died and Alena was on a death bed, she asked her father to build a Cathedral in their memory.
Vajnilovich family is buried now in Kalvarijskoe cemetery. It`s a place worth visiting too: the oldest cemetery in Minsk. Some say it`s 170 years old, others say it`s 600 years old.
Red Cathedral was not always an active church. Between 1975 and 1990 it was… a movie theatre.
2. National Library of Belarus
The National Library of Belarus was founded in 1922. The current 72 m tall building was completed in summer 2006 and consists of 22 storeys. It was designed in the form of a rhombicuboctahedron (diamond) by the Belarusian architects Mihail Vinogradov and Viktor Kramarenko.
At the top of The National Library of Belarus there is also the public observation deck.
At night the facade of the library can be illuminated by more than 4600 LEDs with dynamic light scenes.
A statue of the father of Belarusian publishing, Francysk Skaryna, can be found just next to the National Library of Belarus.
3. Trinity Suburb
Troitskoye Predmestie (Settlement of Trinity) is a small district of so called Minsk old town. This place was firstly mentioned in 1067. The buildings in old town are not as old as in other old towns – these in Minsk are from 19th century.
4. Isle of Tears
The Isle of Tears was inaugurated in summer 1996 as a memorial complex for the fallen soldiers from Belarus, who died in the Afghanistan war between 1979 and 1988.
The main feature of the Isle of Tears is a small chapel, which commemorates the approximately 700 fallen Belarusian soldiers. Apart from the chapel, also a fountain statue of a young guardian angel, constantly crying teardrops, can be found here.
This is also the place where people throw coins in the fountain. Interesting enough, all coins are foreign coins, as Belarus does not have any coins. So you also see many local bank notes swimming in the fountain.
5. The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus
Minsk’s fabulous National Art Museum, or the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus to give it its full title, holds the largest single collection of Belarusian and international art in the country and is a must-see sight for anyone visiting the city. Holding individual collections of Belarusian Art from the 12th to the 20th Century, Russian Art from the 18th to the 20th Century, Western European Art from the 16th to the 20th Century and Oriental Art from the 15th to the 20th Century, the museum’s origins date back to before the war and a Resolution of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, passed on January 24, 1939, its official founding date. Starting life in the humble surroundings of Minsk’s Upper Communist Agricultural School, by 1941 the museum’s collection numbered 2,711 works of art, most of them donated by galleries in cities in Russia and Belarus.
6. National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus
The present building of the Belarusian Opera and Ballet Theatre was built in Soviet Constructivism style between 1934 and 1939 after designs of the Belarusian architect Iosif Langbard.
It is officially called: National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus.
During WWII the theatre was bombed, but luckily stayed almost undamaged. During this time it was turned into stables by the Nazis.
Between 2006 and 2009 the building and the surrounding area underwent massive renovations. The current theatre has a capacity of 1200 people.
7. Central Botanical Garden
Garden first opened in 1932, occupies the area of 153 hectares and has around 9000 plants including 2000 in the greenhouses (a beautiful collection of magnolia, lilac, georginas, gladiola, oranges and lemon trees, etc). This beautiful peaceful place is very popular amongst locals and looks especially good in a sunny day. You can easily spend a full day or a few hours in the park just strolling, having a picnic and watching fellow citizens.
8. Cathedral of the Holy Spirit
One of the most instantly recognizable symbols of Minsk is this magnificent, gleaming, two-towered Orthodox cathedral in the heart of the city. Completed in 1642 as part of a larger ensemble to serve Bernadine nuns, consecration was delayed for 40 years because of the Muscovite invasions. In 1741 the original structure was damaged by fire but later reconstructed. The convent was closed in 1852 and the building given to the Russian Orthodox Church for use as a monastery before being closed by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution. Today the church has been restored to its former glory. Look out for the famed Minsk Icon, supposedly dating from around 1500.
9. Gallery Ў
Hidden between residential buildings, Gallery Ў is a creative hub and a centre for modern Belarusian culture. The gallery is called after the letter Ў, which is unique – you can find it nowhere in the world language, but Belarusian. It attracts local intellectuals and creative types with special events such as poetry evenings, book presentations and seminars. This bohemian institution features an exhibition hall with an interesting display of contemporary art installations, a bookshop, a bright white wine bar and a handicrafts shop that sells design items and quirky souvenirs made by local artisans. From time to time it also hosts workshops and souvenir markets.
10. Town Hall
Minsk town hall (Belarusian Cyrilic: Менская ратуша) is pretty neoclassical building very popular among locals. Originally dates back till the end of 16th century. During turbulent past of Minsk the Minsk town hall was damaged, destroyed and rebuilt several times. The current structure is from 1990’s and is copy of the old city hall from 18th century that was demolished in 1861. In 2003 was redecorated again. Inside the Town Hall you can explore of Minsk through centuries. The entrance is free, but is open for visitors only on Saturdays.
Or, alternatively, you can take a City Tour red double-decker bus and see majority of Minsk sightseeing just for couple of hours.