Major Tourist Attractions: Bialowieza Forest, Brest Fortress, Mir Castle Complex, Braslau Lakes, Minsk Zoo
Still heavily influenced by Russia more than two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, visiting Belarus may feel like you’ve been transported back to Soviet times. For those willing to fight through the visa bureaucracy, the country has a lot to offer, from charming towns and historic castles to moving memorials and massive monuments.
Belarusian culture closely mirrors Russian culture and the country shares stronger ties with Russia than any other former Soviet republic does. The language and cuisine are quite similar as well, although you can see some more Polish influence near the borders with Poland and Lithuania. However, while Russians have a reputation for not being very friendly, Belarusians are quite warm and welcoming. Don’t be surprised if you meet an impromptu tour guide on the street!
Throughout the country, lodging options consist primarily of mid-range Soviet-era concrete block hotels. Booking through a travel agent is often necessary as you will need to provide a letter of invitation and/or booking confirmation in order to obtain a visa. While Belarus is a large country, the train network is quite efficient and is a great way to get around.
Here are a few of the best sightseeing options on a visit to Belarus:
- Take a day trip from Minsk to the Mir and Nyasvizh Castles.
- Hear the bells rings for the Belarussian victims of World War II at the Khatyn memorial.
- Explore the massive Brest Fortress.
- See an opera at the National Opera House.
- Try the Olivier Salad, a Belarussian holiday favorite.
- Get a feel for Belarusian peasant culture at the Dudutki Open Air Museum.
- Enjoy the view of Minsk from the top of the unique National Library of Belarus.
- Get a shot of the Lenin monument in Minsk.
- Learn about Belarus’ role in World War II at the Great Patriotic War Museum.
- Wander around the park in the center of Grodno.
- Feel like a millionaire by withdrawing a million Belarusian rubles from an ATM (the equivalent of $100).
- Try a bottle of Kvass, the popular drink made from rye bread.
Address: 46 Starovilenskaya St.
Minsk 220002, Belarus
Phone: (375-17) 210-1283
After hours: (375-29) 676-0134