Minsk Through the Eyes of a Local: Anton’s Tips

Like A Local Guide • 23 Sep, 2015

Based in the Belarusian capital, Anton Kashlikov is the editor-in-chief of 34travel.by – an online Russian-language magazine that explores the culture of modern travel. We asked him a handful of questions about his captivating city.

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When is the best time to visit Minsk? Early autumn when it’s still warm and the streets aren’t so empty – locals have returned from their holidays and open-air parties are still happening.

minsk_by_palasatka_5Photo credit: palasatka

What are three things every visitor should see or experience?

1. You really have to find a cool local guide. I don’t mean someone who you pay to give you a guided tour of the city centre; I mean someone who will help you meet real people and see the real Minsk, tell you some local legends and show you nice places to hang out and party.

2. Visit Independence Avenue (праспект Незалежнасці) – the main street of Minsk that divides the city into two large pieces. It’s a unique example of Stalinist architecture and almost all the main sights can be found here.

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Photo credit: palasatka

3. Enjoy the nightlife of Kastrychnickaya street (Кастрычнiцкая вул). Right now it’s the most happening part of the city, with bars serving beer, Belarusian cider and local honey beer, pancake and sandwich shops, and regular open-air dance parties.

What is the best way to get around? The metro! We have one of the cheapest metros in the world – it costs just €0.25 for a single journey. Taxis also aren’t that expensive – a 10-kilomtre journey costs around €5.

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Photo credit: palasatka

What are some common misconceptions about your city? Minsk is widely known as a former Soviet state and the capital of Europe’s last dictatorship, but in reality you’ll see that it’s a contemporary, comfortable and quite rich city, especially if you only stay a few days. To truly understand the cruel and absurd nature of the local power system, you have to live here. And don’t expect to get by for a week with just $100 – restaurants and hotels, for example, are more expensive compared to Berlin, Prague, Vilnius and Kyiv.

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Photo credit: palasatka

Where can I enjoy amazing views? Take a ride on the Ferris Wheel in Gorkiy Park!

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Photo credit: palasatka

What places do you recommend for art lovers? The National Art Museum has a great collection of social realist art, among other things. If you want to see some contemporary Belarusian art, visit Ў Gallery.

Do you have a favourite green spot? Loshitskiy Park really is the best park in Minsk. The central part was renovated some years ago. Deeper into the park there’s an apple orchard and ruins of a mill where, according to local legend, a young lady hung herself because of a broken heart.

What’s your favourite way to spend a sunny day in Minsk? I love walking in Osmolovka ­– a nice neighbourhood with small houses from the 60s. When you walk there, it’s hard to believe you’re almost in the centre of a big city (by the way, Minsk has nearly two million inhabitants).

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Photo credit: palasatka

What do you like to do when the weather is bad? When the weather’s bad, I like to relax in London, a small coffee bar that also serves alcohol. They have a hidden second floor that’s really cosy. There you can drink mulled wine or a hot and spicy local cocktail called Bullshot, which I strongly recommend!

I want to try authentic local cuisine. Where should I go and what should I order? Go to Grunwald and order draniki – Belarusian potato pancakes. I like the ones with meat and sour cream. At Grunwald they also make their own homemade liquor, so try a shot of krambambulya or hrenovuha!

I’m vegetarian/vegan – help! Unfortunately Minsk doesn’t really cater to vegetarians and vegans, but I can recommend DEPO – a café/bar that serves pancakes with a good selection of vegetarian toppings. Otherwise head to Komarovka, the biggest local farmers market.

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Photo credit: CityDog.by

Can you recommend somewhere for a budget meal? Centralny Store serves inexpensive meals and the cheapest beer in the city. It feels as if you’ve been transported back 25 years or so. It’s very, very different and full of interesting people.

Where should I go for a classy night out? Eat at Tapas Bar or Pinky Bandinsky, and then head to Bar Duck bar for some drinks. If you prefer wine, go to Ў Bar or Svobody 4.

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Can you recommend some great local nightlife spots? Huligan Bar and DK Bar!

What’s a fun way to impress someone in Minsk? I like to take my visitors on a pedal boat tour on the Svisloch River. There are three or four points in the city centre where you can rent a pedal boat for very little money. Take along a bottle of wine or beer, but be discreet as drinking in public places is forbidden in Minsk.

What should I take home as a souvenir? A nice idea for a souvenir is a book of artworks or photos by local artists/photographers. You can find them at Ў Gallery and the Lohvinau bookshop, both of which are located in the same building.

If I want to get out of Minsk for a day, where should I go? Mir Castle and Nesvizh Castle are great places for a day trip. They’re located around 100 kilometres from Minsk, and you can see both of them in a single trip. I also recommend this one-day route: Minsk–Iwye–Lipnishki–Subotniki–Galshany–Kreva. You’ll see dozens of lovely old churches and the remains of two once-magnificent castles, plus you’ll be sure to meet some nice Belarusian people.

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Photo credit: palasatka

Where can I find out about local events? Take a look at CityDog.by to find out about parties, concerts and festivals (Google Translate is your friend). For more avant-garde and underground events, check out the 34mag.net website and Facebook page.

Is there anything else you think visitors should know? You need a visa to visit Belarus! It’s not that difficult to get one, but it can take some time. Be prepared to spend around €60 for a one-time visa if you’re coming from the EU.

Also, don’t worry if you find that one place has two different addresses. It’s most likely the same address written in Russian and Belarusian (the two official language of Belarus).

Finally, check out 34mag.net’s Minsk guide!

Opening photo credit: Palasatka

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Like A Local Guide is about stepping off the tourist trail and finding cool and cosy spots where locals like to spend their time. We built a website and mobile app to bring insider recommendations from around the world to your fingertips.

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