7 cities to add to your Belarus travel itinerary
Using the opportunity to visit Belarus visa free for 30 days (provided you arrive at and leave from Minsk international airport), you can explore much of this not very well known country. More than three-quarters of the Belarus population lives in urban areas. Except for Minsk, the other biggest cities of Belarus are located near borders of the country and not so close to Minsk, so it could take some time to get to each of them. Thus, to visit seven cities of Belarus, you will need at least ten days. I add my recommendations for dining and lodging only for those places I have tried and really enjoyed myself. Here is what you can see when visiting seven beautiful cities of Belarus.
Grodno is a Belarusian city you can also visit without visa arriving overland. It’s located in the north west of Belarus on the Polish border and quite close to Lithuania. The official foundation year of Grodno is 1127. Grodno is the centre of Grodno region (oblast) of Belarus with about 370 000 inhabitants.
When visiting the city, do not forget to see a beautifully renovated synagogue as a memoir of many Jews who lived in Grodno and also Kalozh church, one of the oldest in Belarus.
Where to stay: I recommend staying at Kronon park hotel with a very special feel to it, being near the city and in the woods at the same time. Its historic interior and delicious food in their restaurant add to the special feel of this place.Distance Minsk to Grodno is 280 kilometres.
Is located in the south west of Belarus on the border with Poland. It is also available for traveling visa-free arriving by land. First mentioned in 1019 as Berestye, Brest now is a centre of Brest region (oblast) with more than 300 000 inhabitants. It’s known because of Brest fortress that ensured prolonged defence against the Germans in 1941, therefore the fortress is a popular tourist destination. What I like a lot about Brest is the fact that they brought back to life a tradition of lamp lighting on Sovetskaja street. You can watch it every evening around sunset time.Check the special clock at the beginning of Sovetskaja street to learn the time when this event will take place during your visit.There are also many interesting sightseeing spots in Brest visa-free region, so take the opportunity to enjoy them all.
Where to stay: I would recommend the elegant 4-star Hermitage Hotel, situated in the heart of Brest.Distance Minsk to Brest is 350 kilometres.
Mogilev is located in eastern Belarus, close to the border with Russia. Its population is more than 360 000. The city was established in 1267 and currently is the administrative centre of Mogilev Region. Mogilev to me is something related to lions (lev) and also being the city of the Mogilev Art Museum depicted on the 200 rouble note.See also its historic town hall building. I find the Starwatcher Statue is an interesting find to visit while in Mogilev.Of course, you must see the statues of lions on the bridge over the Dnieper river during your exploration.Distance Minsk to Mogilev is 200 kilometres.
Gomel or Homiel
Gomel is the second largest city of Belarus after Minsk with more than half a million inhabitants. It’s located in the south west of Belarus close to the borders with Russia and Ukraine. I found Gomel fascinating because of two things: the first is the complex of Rumyantsev-Paskevich Residence and Park. It’s where you can find a watch tower to see it all at once, a park with walkways and views of the Sozh river, an orangery, the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, the chapel-tomb of the Paskevich family and Rumyantsev-Paskevich Residence itself.The second is the wooden architecture of dwelling houses and carved window frames, so special and beautiful.For dining, I recommend restaurant FaSol. I liked everything there, including the interior, the service, the food and the prices.Address: Savieckaja Street 36.
Where to stay in Gomel: Park Hotel Zamkovij. The hotel offers comfortable rooms, free Wi-Fi, a restaurant, a bar and other amenities. Guests would enjoy its atmosphere of home cosiness and European luxury. Address: Gagarina street 6.
Distance Minsk to Gomel is 310 kilometres.
Vitebsk or Viciebsk
Vitebsk is located in the north east of Belarus and is the centre of Vitebsk region. Its population is more than 360 000 people. The official year of the founding of Viciebsk is 974. It has become popular for being the place of annual summer International Festival of Arts and music Slavic Bazaar.You can find many stunning churches there and be reminded that Vitebsk is the hometown of world known painter Mark Chagall.When in Vitebsk, use the opportunity to visit nearby Museum-Estate of famous Russian painter Repin in Zdravnevo.It takes about half an hour by car to get there.
Distance Minsk to Vitebsk is 290 kilometres. Distance Polotsk to Vitebsk is 110 kilometres, so if you plan to visit both of them, do it in one trip.
Polotsk is much smaller than the other cities described in this article. Its population is just about 80,000 people. The city is located in the north east of Belarus and can be combined into one trip with your visit to Vitebsk. Polotsk for me is first of all worth visiting because of Saint Euphrosyne Monastery. The St. Euphrosyne Monastery was founded by Princess Euphrosyne of Polotsk in the 12th century. The St. Euphrosyne Monastery complex is a truly awe-inspiring place. I especially admire the small Church of the Holy Saviour built in the 12th century. The most remarkable feature of the Holy Saviour Church is ancient fresco paintings, completely covering the walls of the temple. In the early 1990s, a systematic restoration of the paintings began. Currently, a significant area of paintings is revealed, giving an idea of the style of the interior decoration of the church.Distance Minsk to Polotsk is 230 kilometres.
The capital and the biggest city of Belarus with about 2 million inhabitants is located in the centre of the country. Minsk was heavily damaged during World War II and Stalin decided not to restore it but build a new city from scratch. So you can enjoy the architecture of Stalin period at its best in the main street of Minsk, Nezavisimosti Avenue. I would recommend seeing a performance at the Bolshoi Opera theatre in Minsk.If you are a lover of sports, see what is going on Minsk Arena and other sport venues in the city. It’s also interesting to see the controversial building of the National Library and the great views from the top of it. Don’t forget to check colorful street art of Minsk at Oktyabrskaya Street. There are many nice places in Minsk for your lunch and dinner. I just want to mention the elegant Grand cafe on Lenina street 2 and restaurant club Usadba at Filimonova 24, located in a former manor house.
Where to stay: Small hotel Gubernski would be the right choice for those who prefer tranquility and personal comfort.It’s located in Rakovskoe predmestie, the business and cultural center of the city, with historic buildings from the end of the ХIХ century and unique places of interest. Main streets of Minsk, Nemiga and Pobediteley Avenue, are a short walk from “Gubernski”.
To reach cities outside Minsk, you can use a car. If your car has a foreign number plate, you have to pay a toll on many toll roads of Belarus. Public transport is also a good choice with marshrutkas, or minibuses, being the fastest option. Some cities can also be reached by train.
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What did you think? Have you been to Belarus? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sane