My Favorite Things To Do Minsk - Introduction
Minsk is the capital of Belarus and a city that is very busy working through the last 100 years of history. The city (as is the country) is trying to figure out what is its identity in a post-Soviet environment with mainly Russian speaking population.
Minsk is a pleasant city (at least in summer) with wide alleys, lots of green, good weather and friendly people. I can't think of any real hassle past immigration during my time in Minsk.
Belarus just recently opened up their borders for visa-free travel to travelers coming from the West (yes even if you have a Russian visa and come from Russia).
The price level in Minsk is rather low for accommodation and local services. Good food/ coffee and drinks cost almost the same as in the US.
My Favorite Things To Do Minsk - Get Around
Minsk is fairly spread out but the city centers are very walkable. I used the Yandex Taxi quite a bit (which is an Uber affiliate). Since only cash payments are accepted I found it a bit cumbersome. Drivers were friendly and my rides fast with a price tag of under $3 usually.
Generally, traffic jams are rare in the city. Drivers drive (very) fast but somehow not aggressive.
There is public transport and metro as well but I did not get into it. Scooter and bike rental companies have appeared but without a local phone, I found it impossible.
Note that the airport is a solid one hour drive from the city center.
My Favorite Things To Do Minsk - Connectivity
The Internet is available almost anywhere and it is generally fast. I found it a bit annoying that you would need to send a code to your phone (to track your devices) before you could log in. This seems to be the modus operandi for the Belarus Telekom that runs the Internet in most places. However, once connected 10-20 Mbit is quite normal.
My Favorite Things To Do Minsk - Pollution
There is very little pollution in the air. Do not worry about this here.
My Favorite Things To Do Minsk - Things To See and Do
This is the old town city center amidst a number of Soviet-ear buildings. The orthodox churches are beautifully restored and there are great sunsets to be had here. Friday and Saturday the crowds can be menacing in the evening with live music literally at every corner.
This calm little park is perfect for a workout or a stroll to see the locals on a warm day.
The Svislach River snakes all the way through the city of Minsk. Just north of the Independence Square area, it snakes and there are beautiful running and biking paths for miles and miles.
/ Victory Park
This museum details the ravaging Second World War experience of Minsk as the city was near the frontlines for years.
My Favorite Things To Do Minsk - Eat and Drink
Finding healthy and inexpensive food can be a challenge in many former Soviet countries. So it is in Minsk. However, some clever entrepreneurs are leading the way.
There is an emerging coffee culture and the locals know how to make fantastic beer (incl. IPAs).
OK, it is not really cheap but you will get a massive amount of yummy Sushi under $20. Still a good deal!
Why Knot is an unassuming coffee shop from the outside just next door to the Crowne Plaza Minsk. However, it is just about perfect inside - minimalistic design, friendly staff, great coffee and good breakfast combiend with fast Wifi.
Stories is another contender for your breakfast dollars. They make their croissants in-house and the coffee is excellent too. Great stop.
Surf Coffee has a bit more of a hippie vibe but still boosts friendly staff and excellent coffee.
Beer Cap is right in the middle of the Independence Square area. However, it serves excellent craft beer for just $3. What a find!
Milano Bistro is a great stop for a quick bite. You can sit outside under heaters and count the supercars (most with Russian plates) parade by while you get a yummy snack.