Get the inside track on the Belarusian capital, according to the people who live there – whether you’re looking for street art, Soviet architecture or techno-fuelled raves.
With contemporary art exhibitions and a burgeoning foodie scene, vibrant street art and monumental Soviet architecture, Minsk is beginning to draw visitors as an under-the-radar city break destination. Five residents of the Belarusian capital spoke to Culture Trip about what makes their city so special: lush green parks, industrial architecture in Kastrychnitskaya Vulica, abundant museums and sensational fresh produce are just a few of the reasons they believe that Minsk has it all.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The street art scene is constantly evolving
Minsk’s street art credentials centre largely around the Vulica Brasil street art festival.“Vulica Brasil came into existence as a result of the cross-cultural collaboration between Belarus and Brazil,” explains co-organiser Mila Kotka. “Our biggest challenge was to introduce the concept of street art to Minsk, where you couldn’t find a single mural, and where graffiti and stickers were immediately scratched off the walls by the ardent street cleaners.” In the five years since the festival was first held, the city has acquired more than 50 unique murals. “The event attracts beginners as well as internationally known street artists,” adds Mila, noting that for several years in a row they had OSGEMEOS as the festival’s headliners – the twin brothers from São Paulo who number among the world’s most renowned street artists.
The festival provides a month-long residency for selected artists and architects, who then start working on their projects across the city. “The scope of projects is not limited to street art, and includes sculpture, performance, and every other means of achieving urban creativity and sustainable development,” Mila explains. The festival ends with a large open-air party with street dance battles, batucada drum orchestra, concerts, and performances. “We recently switched to the biennale format, so the next festival will take place in 2021. It will be something completely new, I promise you,” she concludes.
Minsk is a 24/7 city, and there’s nowhere better to discover this than Kastrychnitskaya
According to Artem Artashevsky, an electronic musician, Hooligan bar kickstarted the transformation of Kastrychnitskaya. “It was a desolate industrial area filled with old, outmoded factories,” says Artem. “But within a decade or so the street had turned into a vibrant centre of local life with some of the best concerts, festivals, and street food in the city.” The old tram tracks running through the street are a reminder of what this place used to be.
“I’m not going to lie, my favourite venue is also located in Kastrychnitskaya. Ok16 is a creative cluster where artists of all sorts experiment and create new projects together. Something is always happening there,” continues Artem. He recently went to Litvak Klezmer Fest and listened to frantic clarinets and Yiddish singing, and just a couple of hours later partied to a Berlin-based techno DJ next door. “The rave parties under the brand @siyanie give Minskers a taste of legendary Berghain,” says Artem.
Foodies will be in heaven
Ksenia Vyatskaya has been organising a local food festival in Minsk for the last two years. “It’s based on the concept of slow food: promoting local products and traditional ways of cooking. The festival format allows the guests to try out new food and get to know the people who grow or produce it,” she explains. She proudly announces that more than 20 farmers participated in the festival in 2019 – almost twice as many as the year before, demonstrating the growth of the festival. Inspired by village feasts, they set out a long table with cheese, butter, bread, eggs, pierogi and more. “Everyone loved it!” Ksenia says, smiling.
“What local products would I recommend?” Ksenia muses for a moment. “Vineyard snails. They are not so popular in Belarus just yet, so the majority of snails are exported – you can find them in local restaurants, though. Then, whenever you come across freshwater fish – be it carp, perch, or pike – rest assured, it’s local. Belarusian rivers and lakes are teeming with fish,” she recommends.
The cultural landscape is diverse and dynamic
Iryna Lukashenka, an art manager and co-founder of the ARTONIST creative space, highlights Minsk’s many galleries and art spaces. “The Ў Gallery is perhaps the first independent gallery in Belarus showcasing high-end contemporary art from around the world,” says Iryna. CultKorpus is the second on her list. This cultural hub occupies a former Soviet factory and hosts concerts, educational lectures, movie nights, exhibitions and jumble sales, among other things. “I admire the people who put their heart and soul into creating this space,” continues Iryna. “They did a good job: the atmosphere, the cosy courtyard and café, even their cat Chimera makes you feel like you are in the right place.”
“Of course, I can’t fail to mention the National Art Museum of Belarus: apart from its impressive collection of more than 30,000 artworks, it often has noteworthy temporary exhibitions organised with the help of young curators,” Iryna adds.
Soviet architecture and parks take you back to another era
“What first comes to mind is Independence Avenue (Prospekt Nezalezhnosti) – a long avenue with a remarkable ensemble of Stalinist architecture,” explains Nataly Nemkova, a local architect. She points out that Minsk is a home to some magnificent examples of Soviet modernism, such as the Minsk Sports Palace and the “Moscow” and “Oktyabr” cinemas. Another landmark, according to Nataly, is Vierchni Horad – a historical district of Minsk, where the Holy Spirit Cathedral and Minsk Town Hall tower above the Svisloch River.
“The Svisloch river defines the city more than anything,” adds Nataly. “The surrounding parks create a continuous green area, which greatly improves the air quality. The Svisloch is the main water artery of Minsk, a part of the Vileyka-Minsk water system, which at the time of its creation was a unique and complex project.” The river crosses Minsk from the north-west to the south-east, and is easily accessible from nearly any point in the city. “Minsk wouldn’t be the same without it,” she says resolutely.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.