Tips on travelling to Minsk from Andrei Burdenkov
How well do you know Minsk?
As a native I know it quite well but as a tour guide I know it very well. Natives and guides view the same city from a very different perspective and guides know more (especially if they are natives =).
Why should I go there?
It is a time machine, the last page of the Cold War, the last veil of the Iron Curtain. Minsk as well as the whole of Belarus is the best reflection of the good Soviet times and way of life. However, some historic heritage has been preserved and folk traditions are observed, too.
What time of year should I go?
Round-the-year destination: tourists from the East and Asia visit it in winter because some of them have never seen snow, others come when weather conditions are less severe in spring and summer and autumn. In spring and summer surely you will get more sun while bleak winter days are a very good setting to get the whole picture.
Anything special I should pack?
Nothing particularly. Donâ€™t bring toy teddy-bears!
What is the first thing you do when arriving?
Change your hard currency into local rubles and establish your base (check in).
What's the best way to get around?
In Minsk you can see most of the things on foot. Sights are mostly concentrated in two main streets along which you can go by bus.
Where would you send a first-time visitor?
Minsk center is too obvious, I would take the newcomer to the out-of-town sights: hatyn and Ozertso village.
Anything I should avoid?
Taking pictures of strict-looking buildings, uniformed people, making your point with officials with too much emotion, passing by a rally.
What is the best thing to do with children?
With the modern kids you never know! Whatever attractions there are for the local kids: Minsk Children Railway Station, Botanical Garden.
Where would you recommend staying?
New hotels look good: Crowne Plaza 5*, Garni Hotel 3*, Soviet-built ones are just fine â€“ Planeta and Yubileiny Hotels (call girls speak very poor English).
Where is the best place for lunch?
Several cafes are good in Independence Avenue and Karl Marks Street; the lunch menu is pretty cheap in most places.
Where is the best place for dinner?
For a solid dinner go to Skif (smoking place), Rakovsky Brovar, Toloka, U Frantsiska.
Where is the best place to have a drink?
They would pour one anywhere: thatâ€™s how our catering survives down here. Again, for good beers Rakovsky Brovar, U Frantsiska and U Ratushi are the best since they brew the stuff themselves.
Have you ever felt unsafe in Minsk?
No. One of the safest cities in Europe and possibly safer than the States (observations of my English tourists).
What should I bring home?
Mandatory magnets, hand-made pottery, linen cloth or even outfits, vodka, sweets or just positive emotions.