This year Belarus might welcome more foreign tourists than ever before. If you are already browsing tickets and hotels and making up a list of places to see, consider sparing a day or two to explore something outside Minsk.
Here’s a list of Belarusian towns that are totally worth visiting!
25 km from Minsk
An ideal option of a one-day trip from Minsk is Zaslavl. Some 40 minutes by a high-speed train – and here you are in another town, founded in 10th century.
The legend says that the Kievian prince Vladzimir presented Zaslavl to Rogneda of Polatsk and her son Izyaslav, in whose honor the place was named. According to another story, Vladzimir punished Rogneda and her son with exile to Zaslavl after a failed assasination attempt. Anyway, the town is ancient and very interesting.
The entire center is one big Zaslavl museum-reserve (113 hectares!) that includes the ancient settlement Zamechak with ruins of a castle, military fortifications and one of the oldest surviving temples – Transfiguration Church or Calvinist Cathedral. Another important sight is Baroque Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
If you go to Zaslavl with children, they definitely will like Mythology and Forest Museum (4, Rynochnaya St).
To unite with nature, walk to the Dehnovka area and climb the hill – it offers the best views of Zaslavl and Minsk.
Food: Our favorite place is café Shinok (Sovetskaya St.). There’s excellent food, wooden furniture, a stove and pleasant atmosphere. If you go to gather at weekend, ask about a table in advance as the café is really popular with Minsk companies.
Accommodation: In Zaslavl there are not so many places for an overnight stay – just the hotel Avenue (100A, Sovetskaya St). It is clean, quite new, with large rooms and a café. A double room, by the way, will cost € 30.
An alternative is the agriturismo Rabbit Hole (€ 35), but, in our opinion, it is better to find a place to sleep in Minsk.
How to get? The most simple way to get there is by any train in the direction of Molodechno, you need to get off at the station “Belarus”. It will be really cool if you travel by the train “Minsk – Belarus”. Why? You’ll see for yourself!
You can also get to Zaslavl by minibus and by bus.
145 km from Minsk
Babrujsk is the Jewish capital of Belarus known as the town of 40 synagogues. In Babrujsk you can climb the huge fortress ruins for as long as you wish, walk around abandoned buildings where you’re still likely to come across some WWII artefacts, see pretty cool modernist pieces (for instance, Katsnelson Mansion, Internatsionalnaya St).
Another spot that’s definetely worth visiting is the only Catholic cathedral in town (121, Oktyabrskaya St) built in 1912 in the Neo Gothic style.
The Jewish population of Babrujsk deserves a separate mention. According to 1897 statistics, more than 70% of the town’s inhabitants were Jewish. Today the number is much lower, but you can still feel the atmosphere walking around the functioning synagogue (36, Sotsialisticheskaya St).
By the way, don’t forget to count the beavers you see on your way (the word babry means beavers in Belarusian). That’s fun!
Food: For a decent cup of coffee, go to Smile Coffee (39, Konsomol’skaya St).
You’ll love the canteen Dunyasha (37, Chongarskaya St) for its huge portions of delicious food at very attractive prices.
The locals’ favorite place is surely Chyrvonaya Vezha restraunt (194/19, Pushkina St) that belongs to governmental water service company (!). It occupies the old water tower and offers about 400 dishes, billiards, hookahs, a room with a transparent cealing… If you need something more exquisite, check out cute l’histoire café (42, Moskovskaya St).
Accomodation: The Raduga Hotel (14, Shevchenko St), is a 10 room guest house. It’s located a bit far from the city center, but the prices are fine (a single room is just for € 13 with breakfast included).
Those who come by car may be interested in Vishnevy Sad Hotel (Shchatkava village) – a pretty cool small hotel located at the former manor of Dunin-Martsinkyevich. A sauna, a pool and a beautiful river landscape will cost you € 25 for a double room.
How to get? It’s a piece of cake: take the train from Minsk (there are lots of them every day). It will take you an hour and a half by the Stadler train and two hours by others. The ticket costs € 2.
If you prefer buses, you have a plenty of opportunities too. It’s a two or two and a half hour ride for € 3 by bus or public taxi.
147 km from Minsk
This ancient Belarusian town was the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Like Constantinopole and Rome, Navahrudak stands on seven hills. It is here that the great prince and the only Grand Duchy of Lithuania king Mindaugas was crowned here, the great poet Adam Mickiewicz was born and spend there his childhood. Of course, the main point of attraction in town is the ruins of the 12th castle.
It was destroyed by the Swedes in 18th century almost to the current state, there are only two crumbling walls remaining now. It is a nice place to walk and have picnic with a great view of the town from the Castle Hill.
Among other attractions there is perfectly preserved Transfiguration Church built in 1714 in the Sarmatian Baroque style. The church was built on the foundations of another catholic church pledged by Vytautas at the end of the 14th century, which, in its turn, appeared on the site of a former pagan place of worship. So imagine how powerful this place must be!
The second important building in Navahrudak is 18th centurt St. Michael Archangel Church, founded at the monastery that hadn’t survived.
Enough about religion. The poet Adam Mickiewicz was born and lived in Navahrudak before entering the Vilnius University, and therefore you should visit his house-museum (1, Lenina St). Not by chance, the concentration of monuments devoted to Mickiewicz is huge in Navahrudak. There’s, for example, the Mound of Immortality constructed in his honor – and obviously offering a great view of the surroundings.
In center of the town is a collection of nicely-looking multi-colored two-storey houses, built in the late 19th century. If you visit Navahrudak in summer, make a trip to Lake Svityaz. It is incredibly clean, with sandy beach and pine trees around, and only 20 km away from the town.
Food: The best location in terms of price and quality is café-bar Rome in the main square. The menu is great, hot meals are inexpensive and the service is fast.
Should your soul ask for something more elegant, you are welcome at the restaurant Valeria (6, Volchetskaya St). There’s classic interior, two floors, chamber banquet rooms and excellent cuisine here.
If you want to bring a souvenir from Navahrudak, buy a bottle of rice kvass in Navahrudak winery shop (6, Mickiewicza St).
Accommodation: Hotel Crocus (,57/1, 1st May St) is a nice clean place. It has orthopedic mattresses, fresh repair and lovely interiors. A triple room costs € 22, the price includes breakfast.
How to get? The best way to get to Navahrudak from Minsk by minibus (€ 2). The second option is a shuttle bus. Unfortunately, there’s no railway connection.
168 km from Minsk
The smallest and probably the cutest town of the list. At least two well-known all over the country gastronomic treats are produced here: sugared cranberries (that we highly recommend to buy as a souvenir from Belarus) and legendary condensed milk. Also annual Cherry Festival, one of the sweetest local holidays, is celebrated right here.
Be ready to spend two or three hours walking around just the main attractions: 13th century Holy Trinity Cathedral, the unique Orthodox church of the Birth of the Virgin, the Carmelites Abbey, and the ancient cemetery with the memorial column in honour of the 1791 Constitution.
There are lots of sculptures and monuments in Hlybokaye and the number is growing. The local community deserves applause for the central square reconstruction: in 2012 instead of traditional monumemt to Lenin there was created the Avenue of Famous Townsmen with 8 busts of outstanding people born here (among them Ignat Buinitski, the founder of belarusian theater, Vatslau Lastouski, a writer, scientist and politician, Yazep Drazdovich, whose art works you have to google right away, and other good guys).
Make sure to visit the local botanical park created in 1960s. It’s the second largest arboretum in Belarus where you can learn about 500 types of trees from five continents.
Food: There’s not a great variety available. We’d recommend Neon café (12, September 17th Square) – the main and, to be honest, the only place in town that is a restraunt and a night club at the same time. Locals also say that a place called Pizzeria (9, Lenina St) serves good pizza (unbelievable).
Accomodation: There are two nice hotels at your disposal: the hotel Glubokaye (7, Moskovskaya St), where you get a room for two for € 22 per night, and the mini-hotel Nord (60, Skoriny St) which is a bit more expensive, but really comfortable. There are some other variants available on Booking.com.
How to get? The best way to get there is surely by car. If you don’t have one, rent it. There are also 6 buses a day from Minsk, the ticket costs about € 4. Check the timetable here.
175 km from Minsk
It’s a pleasant and surprisingly lively town in Grodno region. Lida is actually closer to Lithuania and Poland rather than to Minsk.
Almost 40% of the 100,000 population are Polish by nationality, there are 33 industrial enterprises. Lida has been named the best place for doing business in Belarus several times.
But for most of the travelers it will be more interesting to see 14th century Lida Castle, the town’s top attraction and first stone castle on the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The castle was destroyed several times, and at the end of 19th century city authorities allowed to take it to pieces to rebuild the city damaged by fire. The castle was restored in 2010.
Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (2, Sovetskaya St) is situated next to the castle. It is the only surviving building of late Baroque style of 18th century.
If you want to plunge into the Belarusian culture and learn how to sculpt pots on a potter’s wheel, drop in at the center of crafts and traditional culture Spadchyna (12, Sovetskaya St). Take a stroll to the Mound on Lenin street, it looks very cool – the pyramid and slanting trunks of guns, a river and a beautiful park dotted with lovely benches.
We recommend visiting the famous Lidskae beer plant (32, Mickiewicza St), where the guide will show the entire process of brewing and then offer you a beer tasting!
Food: Coffee Way (6, Leninskaya St) offers burgers and hot dogs with freshly brewed coffee (latte – € 0.9, sandwich – € 1,2). In Pizza Panda (29, Sovietskaya St) huge portions and fast service are waiting for you. It’s the perfect place to have dinner.
In the evening you can go to Lida beer bar (32, Mickiewicza St). The place looks like a cozy European pub with fresh beer from the factory and an impressive menu (you should try the fore shank, a local specialty!). Better book a table in advance as this place is very popular.
Gastro bar Chekhov (1/3, Grunwaldskaya St) is suitable for those who look for something special like more exquisite menu and richer interior. On Thursday evening there are always people dancing.
Accommodation: The most obvious option is Lida hotel (1/3, Grunwaldskaya St) next to the castle. Spacious rooms are equipped with new furniture, TV, fridge, Wi-Fi. The staff is nice and can speak English. A double room will cost you € 35 here.
A cheaper option is Equator hotel (54b, Kachana St). A double room with private bathroom, a TV set and a fridge goes for € 23. If you drink too much beer on the first day, there is a SPA center in the same building.
By the way, there is a hostel called Crossroads (Radzyuka St). The conditions are really modest, but the price is ridiculous – € 14 for a double.
Polatsk & Navapolatsk
231 km from Minsk
The perfect combo for time management enthusiasts – the oldest and one of the youngest Belarusian towns at one stroke. Well, not actually at one, they are 6 km away from each other. But you can travel back and forth by public transport.
Polatsk was founded in 862 and that is why it has an absolutely special energy. You’ll feel it the moment you approach the magnificent Saint Sophia Cathedral built in the 11th century (1, Zamkovaya St). Stop at the cliff, think about some important stuff, touch the Borisov Stone and make a wish.
Make sure to visit the Convent of Saint Euphrosyne (89, Euphrosynii Polotskoy St) – one of the oldest in Belarus.
If religion is not your main interest, go have a look at something much more down-to-earth – the monument to the letter Ў (it exists only in the Belarusian alphabet) and the geographical center of Europe. It’s all at the Skoriny Avenue.
For the art lovers there is the Art Gallery (4a, Streletskaya St) with the works of modern avantgard artists or original works by Yazep Drazdovich.
Food: For example, you can have a snack at Quick Coffee. It’s a cozy coffeehouse in the city center (13, Skoriny Avenue) where you can enjoy not only good espresso or latte, but also burgers, fresh rolls and a photo exhibition.
For something more substantial, go to nextdoor Dominika (11, Skoriny Avenue). They have nice lunch menu and a great variety of beer and pizza. Talking about beer, Beerhouse is also waiting for you (4a, Druzhby St). Check out at least the interior!
Accomodation: You can doss down right next to the Convent of Saint Euphrosyne in the Sophia Hostel (20, Shmidta Alley). The prices are € 8/bed and € 18 for a double room. To warm up after a day in the Belarusian north, go to the local steam bath.
Another option is to test the new hotel Parus at the Dzvina river bank. It’s € 14 for a single room and € 24 for a double. The guests are inveted to work out at the hotel gym and then to relax in the sauna.
How to get? You surely can get here by train from Minsk (they run usually three or four times a day). Actually, it will be faster to go by minibus (€ 3 and 3 hours). Polatsk and Navapolatsk are connected by buses 5 and 10.
305 km from Minsk
If you are looking for nice weather, a powerful river, plenty of well-preserved cultural heritage sights, and relaxed atmosphere, head to the Belarusian south. Your destination is Pinsk, the capital of Polesie region.
The main attraction of Pinsk is Jesuitic Collegium (1, Lenina Square) built in the 17th century as a super prestigious academy for talented students regardless of their prosperity and social status. Walk around the building, it looks so much different: like a fortress from one side and like an open book from the other.
Now it is a pretty big Museum of Belarusian Polesie (a ticket is € 1), where you can observe lots of archeological findings, traditional costumes, a couple of paintings (e.g., Aivazovski and Pen) and even a 100 year old bicycle entirely made from wood.
Then go along a pedestrian Lenina Street till the cathedral and the Franciscan monastery (18, Lenina St). You can enter the cathedral and join the service or just see the famous Virgin or the oldest organ in Belarus. If you’re lucky enough, nice locals volunteering there may even show you around. By the way, the coolest souvenirs are sold there.
Keep walking by Lenina Street till you see the building of the gumnasium that nurtured such prominent minds like the first president of Israel Chaim Weizmann and the Nobel prize winner Simon Kuznets, than House of Orda (38, Lenina St), Palace of Butrimovich (44, Lenina St) that was disfigured by restoration, but still is very pretty. Pass by the University of Polesie campus and relax at the park.
The most terrific place in town is 2.5 km long river front. Chill by the shore and meditate looking at the boats.
Food: Frankly speaking, it’s not the town’s strongest point. We like Zolotoy Kolos (22, Lenina St) where you can have a cup of coffee with a homemade cake being surrounded by charming interior, grab a pancake or take a glass of mulled wine to go (which makes any city tour better). Here you can also get a souvenir for beloved ones: they make unique local Snickers. Speaking about uniqueness, it’s the only place where you can taste Coffee a la Pinsk (with cucumber).
For a dinner, visit Bona Sforza café (8, Pervomayskaya St). The menu has got main courses up to € 3.5, pizza up to € 6.5, wine, coffee, desserts.
Plan a visit to restraunt-club Frant for the evening to savour its coctail menu and cabaret show. It’s located in a historical building at the river bank (33, Dneprovskoy Flotilii St).
Accomodation: Pripyat Hotel (31, Dneprovskoy Flotilii St) is a good option to live in the historic center. Secured parking, fast wi-fi, fine rooms. It’s € 18 for a single room and € 21 for a double.
Volna Hotel (48, Irkutsko-Pinskoy Divizii St) belongs to sports complex and always full of hockey players. Book a room from € 10 for one bed. If you are not scared.
How to get? The simpliest way is by car. It’s a three hour road trip from Minsk (well, now you see that Belarus is not so small). You can also take a minibus (about € 3) or train (check the timetable here).
Photo credit: tio.by, photoclub.by, tut.by, onliner.by, holiday.by, maxim-nm.livejournal.com, tctroyka.by.