When you think of Minsk you may think of the Communist culture that prevails throughout the Soviet regions. While that does exist you will find little of it in the city. Rather, you will find the area to be a joyful and magical vacation destination during the holiday season.
Minsk is the capital and largest city in Belarus. It is the cultural center of the country and offers many theaters, cinemas and libraries. The city dates back to the 11th century and has plenty of historic buildings and churches.
Minsk’s sense of history mixes with its vibrant culture making it the perfect place to visit during the holidays. Here are some things you can do when you’re in town.
Minsk is THEEE place to get your holiday shopping done. The city hosts a variety of markets including the following:
- The Big Christmas Market at Pesochnitsa: This market takes place on select weekends throughout the holiday season. It’s Minsk’s biggest market and a great place to find unique items while sipping on mulled wine or hot chocolate.
- The Korpus Culture Center: This market takes place on a Saturday in early December. It is a great place to find hand made décor. You can also take a class to find out how to make your own New Year’s decorations and holiday gifts.
- The Bolshoy Modny Market: This market takes place over the last two weekends in December at the Metropol shopping center. It offers a variety of goods including clothing, accessories, handmade products and food items.
- Kolyadny Kirmash and Christmas Fair: This market is located at Kastrychnitskaya Plosca. Vendors sell out of decorated wooden chalets offering Christmas decorations and gifts as well as authentic food items such as hot pancakes, fried snails, shawarma and Hungarian rolls.
These markets are likely to host musical performances and other types of entertainment as well.
Note, in Minsk, the focus of the holiday season is the Epiphany that occurs on Jan. Therefore, you can expect many festivities, including markets, to be taking place from Dec. 23 to Jan. 6. These are the true 12 days of Christmas in this part of the world.
The New Year’s Parade
Minsk’s New Year’s Parade typically occurs on Christmas Eve. Hundreds of Ded Moroz (Belarusian Santa Clauses), Snegurochka (snow maidens) and other holiday characters march through the center of the city to the delight of thousands of onlookers.
The parade starts at Plosca Niezalieznasci at 5 PM and the characters make their way down to Sports Palace. The event is broadcasted on screens at Plosca Niezalieznasci at the Galleria Shopping Mall.
The finale of the day includes a public dance mob and fireworks. There is also a lineup of bands that provide seasonal entertainment.
Take in the Plosca Niezalieznasci
Plosca Niezalieznasci is a city center that lights up during the holiday season. It is full of restaurants that will be offering authentic seasonal treats like soups, flat cakes with meat and vegetarian filling, sausages, pig roast and sumptuous desserts.
Head to the bars to enjoy a glass of punch, grog, mulled wine or brandy.
There are also plenty of holiday activities happening at the plaza. It is not unusual to find selfie photo zones, street performers and horse and carriage rides. A Christmas tree market is also set up during the season.
Listen to a Belarus Fairy Tale
The Belarusian Thousand and One Night is a popular fairy tale that is told at Christmas time. The story is about a man named Pan Zavalnja who doesn’t like traveling but enjoys listening to stories instead.
He lives near a lake. When the lake freezes over, he offers travelers room and board in return for their stories.
Thousand and One Night is a fairy tale often performed at venues throughout Minsk including its puppet theaters. One place you may want to catch it is at the Zair Azgur Museum.
Zair Azgur is a sculptor who was active during the Soviet period. He was known for creating portrait busts of war heroes and military figures. His studio has been converted into a museum that hosts events on a regular basis.
Go to a telling of Thousand and One Night at his studio to hear a fascinating story and check out Azgur’s historical artwork.
The slopes of Lahosyk are perfect for skiing and snowboarding. They look especially lovely at night when the area is lit up with floodlights. You can see the moon and stars above you as you ski.
There is a ski resort in the area which offers lifts and all the equipment you need to enjoy an outdoor winter adventure.
Check out the City
Just walking around the city of Minsk is a great experience. This is due to its magnificent architecture. Independence avenue is known for its historic buildings like the Belarusian Government Building, the Post office, KGB Headquarters and the National Library.
Other sites worth checking out include the Soviet bas relief above the KFC restaurant and the National Theater.
While strolling through the city, you will notice that there are tons of street art to enjoy. These are the products of the city’s vibrant artistic scene.
Keep your eyes out for the sickles and hammers that appear throughout the city. These are a sign of the country’s communist rule and may be the only indication you get that you are in a Communist country. You can have fun counting these symbols and have competitions to find out which one of your friends will spot the most.
Enjoy the Green Spaces
There are plenty of green spaces in Minsk to enjoy. They are a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Park Pieramohi, Yanka Kupala Park and Gorky Park are just a few you will want to visit.
Minsk may seem like an unlikely holiday destination, but with so much to see and do, it’s clearly a city worth exploring. Which of these activities will you be checking out when you visit?
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