Spa hotels with views of the nearby mountains, city-centre grande dames and gleaming glass-fronted retreats make up the Belarusian capital’s eclectic mix of places to stay. Here are some of the best.
Famous for its boxy, brutalist-era Soviet architecture and imposing statues, the Belarusian capital of Minsk is a bleakly beautiful city to explore. Still under the radar to all but a few history and architecture buffs, it’s far from austere once you dig into the local scene, with delicious traditional cuisine, cosy hipster bars and friendly locals who are always curious about the city’s trickle of visitors.
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This geographically-confused crashpad is in fact in central Minsk, right on the riverside and surrounded by a leafy green park. The China connection lies in its lofty, glass-fronted design (by the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design), with symmetrical pillars and curvaceous light fixtures that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern art museum. Rooms have Zen-feeling slatted wood partitions and glossy embroidered fabrics, plus sunken bathtubs and mosaic-tiled showers. Book the Family Junior Suite if you’ve kids in tow for children’s play mats and pops of primary colour.
Creatures of comfort and older couples seek out this swish boutique hotel, where they can relax on the cafe terrace with a coffee or dine on suede sofas in the mellow restaurant. Palatial rooms are done up in slate grey and whites. A small urban spa doles out expert facials and massages after a day at the sights. Want a taste of quirky Belarusian nightlife? You don’t even have to leave your hotel – there’s a neon-lit nightclub in the building.
This selection of simple studios and apartments – which get more characterful the more you pay – sits in a striking building styled like a factory. This reflects the neighbourhood around Oktyabrskaya and Lenin Street, once home to dozens of major factories since fallen into disuse and recently revived by Minsk’s youthful population as a centre of street art, photography studios and hip cafes. Book the four-person apartments for the most lived-in, homey feel, with comfy breakfast bars and pretty tiled kitchens.
Very few bits of Minsk feel historic, since much of it was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt by the Soviet Union. So this former monastery, on one of the city’s oldest streets, has a little more traditional charm than most – a theme that the owners have run with, installing charming wood panelling, medieval-style chandeliers and wooden shutters to frame windows. Traditional, polished wood rooms are warmed up by thick embellished rugs and cream leather seating. Pretty churches and museums outside make this a lovely area to wander.
Angular, black bunks frame exposed brick walls at this hip hostel in the north of town, close to the State Museum of History and the Opera House. As well as dorms sleeping four or eight, there are bargain double and twin rooms to snap up, set around a simple, youthful coworking area with paintbox-bright bean bags and a small yard with a lawn and hammocks. It’s fuss-free and no-frills, but you’ll meet a young crowd of backpackers and solo travellers, not least on the hostel’s self-run pub crawls and walking tours.
This elegant spa hotel, styled like a peaked Alpine lodge, has earthy textures and plush furnishings that feel like a true retreat after a day out in the city. Located outside the city’s main ring road, in its green belt, you’ll need to spring for some cabs to and from the sights, but you’re rewarded with serene architecture, outdoor and indoor pools. Throw in a mellow spa with jet-fed hot tubs and a pine-scented sauna and, with views of the alpine scene outside, this one’s great for a couple of days’ breather after exploring the city centre.
Close to local schools and parks in Minsk’s residential southwest, this smart building has spacious rooms that feel like home. Bright bedding, scatter cushions, large seating areas and – in the quadruple room – your own kitchenette, are made even homier by smart TVs and fast wifi. There’s a traditional Eastern European bathhouse with a sauna and wooden hot tub to soak in, whilst massages can be organised by the owners. A huge shared kitchen and dining room, an activity corner for kids and a shared garden all encourage you to spread out and meet your fellow guests.
With polished marble floors and a gleaming grand piano in the lobby, this is Minsk’s large-scale, high-end hotel. Smart rooms come in traditional textures of white and gold, offset by dark woods, some apartment-sized options with separate living rooms and dining tables to really feel at home. There’s a Turkish-inspired spa with a gym and steam bath, whilst the generous breakfast spread is worth the small extra fee. Most importantly you’re right in the centre, a short walk from the main train station and top sights such as the National Arts Museum.
The undulating glass facade of this box-fresh build is a sight in itself – fitting in a city of daring architectural feats. Inside is a glorious, full-sized swimming pool, a polished, low-lit cocktail bar and a glass-edged rooftop where you can take in the full spectacle of the city. Rooms are some of the most tasteful and modern in town, done up in soothing cream and coffee hues. Request one on a higher floor to enjoy lots of light and brilliant views.
Jonny Blair contributed additional reporting to this article.
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