Belarus is not a shopping Mecca. Even Belarusians themselves would go to the neighboring Poland and Lithuania for fashion and decor shopping. At the same time, one can find the romantics of Soviet universal stores, unique designer styles, and high-quality goods from local producers among things to buy in Belarus.
So what to shop for in Belarus? Check out BelarusFeed’s guide to supermarkets, 24/7 stores, souvenirs, local brands and shopping culture in Minsk and other Belarusian cities.
Buying food – from local products to Italian pasta and French cheese – is not a problem in Minsk. The city has numerous supermarket chains: Biggz, Evroopt, Green, Hippo, Korona, Pro store, Rublevski, Sosedi, Vitalur etc.
Supermarkets in Minsk sell a wide variety of Belarusian products and ready-made dishes, as well as imported foods like fruits and veggies, groceries, drinks and spirits, cheeses, olives etc. We recommend trying Belarusian dairy products – for the record, we even have local mozzarella and parmigiano – sausages, and pastries like chocolate and zefir.
Belarus has no timing restrictions to purchase of certain types of products, unlike, for example, Finland where alcoholic is not sold from 11 pm to 7 am. However, spirits aren’t sold for some days in summer, during the graduation periods (usually between 10-15 June).
Minsk supermarket chains have their own discount programs and cards, and let buyers get cash back from purchases.
As for other big cities in Belarus, they have both supermarket chains from Minsk and smaller regional chains.
State department stores
Belarus has preserved the iconic Soviet store brands like Tsum and Gum in their original form. True, one can find them in Moscow and Kiev, too, but those department stores are full of luxury fashion brands like Prada and Louis Vuitton.
The three central department stores in Minsk are GUM, TSUM and Niamiha department store. Those are known as “the main universal stores” till now. Belarusians like to go to these places because they can buy everything in one place – from clothes and cosmetics to kitchenware and gardening stuff. Also, there’s a big variety of Made in Belarus goods.
Besides, state department stores are interesting not only for shopping. The buildings they are in have their own inimitable architecture of Soviet modern. Another attraction is their window displays that are changed each season.
Over 70% of goods sold in the state department stores are Belarusian brands. Each of the stores has year-round discounts of up to 22% on certain days of the week.
Smaller replicas of the capital’s department stores can be found almost at any city of Belarus, for example:
- in Brest – TSUM
- in Hrodna – Nieman
- in Homel – Univermag Homel
- in Mahileu – Tsentralny univermag
- in Vitebsk – Vitebski univermag
Modern shopping malls with storeys of fashions shops, food courts, cinemas and other entertainment (skating rinks, bowling, carting, concert halls, art, and expo spaces) are growing around Belarusian cities like mushrooms.
The most visited shopping malls in Minsk are Arena City, Dana Mall, Galileo, Gallery Minsk, Green City, Stalitsa, Zamok.
Minsk malls have unofficial specialization, too. For example, local brands are represented in Stalitsa, affordable casual brands in Galileo and Gallery Minsk, Zamak sells premium brands, global fashion brands like Zara and Bershka have stores in Dana Mall and Green City.
Regional cities in Belarus also have modern malls for shopping and relax like Park City in Mahileu, Gallery Grand in Brest or Green Center in Vitebsk.
When are shops open in Belarus
Shops and mall in Belarus are open seven days a week and rarely close for holidays.
If you want to visit shopping malls, you should go there from 10 am to 9- 10 pm. State department store work from 9 am to 9 pm.
Working hours of supermarkets in Belarus may range – some open as early as 7 am and close at 11 pm and later, but most common working hours for supermarkets are from 9 am to 9 pm. In addition to those, you can find a number of 24/7 shops in Minsk (see the map).
Prices in Belarus
Belarus is affordable for most travelers, especially in comparison to Western Europe.
For example, one liter of water costs less than $0.5, one kilogram of apples around one U.S. dollar, a kilogram of beef would go for $5-7.
Read also: All you need to know about Belarusian ruble
Markets in Belarus
For a more authentic shopping and warm-hearted talks with locals, go to the market! Small food markets are open in most neighborhoods of Belarusian cities, but they’re also the landmark ones, worth a visit even for the sake of sightseeing.
Kamarouka is the biggest food market in Minsk with 40 years of history. Built at the place of a former namesake village, Kamarouka’s covered pavilion is the only market building in Europe recognized as an architectural and town-planning monument.
Kamarouka is the place where one can find the best species, farmers’ produce, fresh meat, dairy, and fish. Another reason why people like this Minsk market are the cute sculptures in front of it – a horse and sparrow, a lady with a pup, a photographer and a seller (or Grandma Kamarouka as locals call this burly woman).
The newest addition is a cow – because why not?
Also, Kamarouka is probably the only market in Belarus and maybe one of the few worldwide with its own Instagram account.
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You can do shopping at Kamarouka Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 7 pm.
Zhdanovichy is another authentic Minsk market where you can see the real life of the small retail business. Plan at least half of the day for a visit as the market is located on the outskirts of Minsk. The Zhdanovichy market is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am till 6 pm.
Tax-free in Belarus
Tax-Free shopping has been available in Belarus for over 5 years.
There are more than 460 tax-free partner stores in Belarus. The VAT refund makes 12.5% of the purchase amount. The service is eligible for receipts over 80 BYN (~ 37$/€33, as of December 2018 – note BelarusFeed).
How to get a tax-free refund in Belarus:
1. Fill in a tax-free form at a shop. You need the ID for that.
NB! Be accurate while filling the form. Incorrect form – no refund.
2. Stamp a tax-free form at the customs. The form is valid three months after the purchase.
NB! If there is no stamp or it is overdue – no refund.
3. Send the form for cashless money refund. Indicate your credit card number and sign the form, and send it back to Belarus in the special pre-paid envelope (get one at the shop where you make a tax-free purchase). You will get a VAT refund within 30 days after the receipt of the letter.
NB! Incorrect credit card number – no refund. Overdue of sending form more than 6 month – no refund.
4. Receive cash refund at Minsk airport. Tax-free refunds at the International Airport Minsk 2 are paid in Belarusian rubles. Refunds are paid at the Duty-Free zone (lounges 2 and 3) after the customs control.
What souvenirs to buy in Belarus
Traditional Belarusian souvenirs are linen, straw, wood, and ceramics. For those, drop in at GUM or TSUM, Stalitsa or Kirmash, a specialized souvenir store with two floors of crafts, dolls, pottery, clothes, and other handmade products from all regions of Belarus.
Belarus is known for numerous local brands that boast high-quality and nice design. State enterprises and small businesses develop their competitive product lines sold in the CIS states and across the globe.
Just to name a few! Women’s and men’s wear (Areola, Eliz, Elema, Komintern), jewelry (Krystall, Zorka), lingerie (Milavitsa, Serge) and underwear (Svitanak, Mark Formelle, Kupalinka), footwear (Marko, Belwest), cosmetics (Bielita, Markel, Belcosmex, LuxVisage, Relouis), watches (Luch), home textiles (Belaruski lyon, Blakit, Samsara) etc.
If you want to bring some Belarusian foods, you should definitely try chocolate (Spartak, Kommunarka, Krasnyi pishevik), dairy products (Savushkin product, Babushkina krynka, Belact, Brest-Litovsk) and fish (Santa Bremor).
Accessories and clothes with Belarusian patterns – we call them vyšyvanka – have become increasingly popular in recent years. Get them at Symbal, Honar, LSTR, which are local designer brands, or from the department stores.
Belarusian designer markets
To shop for designer clothes or accessories, visit the multi-brand boutique Kancept Krama at Metropol shopping mall in Minsk. Lots of Belarusian designers in one place (more show rooms with Belarus designer brands here)!
Last but not least
Remember us saying Belarus isn’t a shopping Mecca? Well, there’s one more small thing to mind in this connection.
Don’t freak out or get upset if shopping assistants don’t greet you with a smile the moment you enter the doors. This isn’t because they are in a bad mood – it is merely our general Belarusian behavior.
Read also: 7 ways to make a Belarusian laugh
Just enjoy your shopping no matter what!
Text by Veranika Papkouskaya.