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- 13 May 2021, 3 nights
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Minsk is often said to be the perfect Soviet city. After near-total destruction during the Great Patriotic War, it was rebuilt in Stalin's vision, involving regimented rows of concrete apartment blocks, wide avenues and leafy parks. A few charming buildings from Minsk's pre-Soviet past remain, nestled between the brutish 1950s architecture and more modern glass exteriors. The city's atmosphere is young and contemporary, with an international food scene, upscale cafés and nightclubs that will have you dancing 'til dawn.
Hostels in Minsk range from private apartments with fresh decor to constructivist-style buildings with a place in the city's East-West history. There are plenty of Minsk hostels in the city centre close to the main cultural sights. To explore the city with your fellow hostel-goers, look for a Minsk hostel that hosts free walking tours or pub crawls. Free Wi-Fi and bed linen are often provided too.
Minsk's neighbourhoods each have a distinct personality, often rooted in the period they were built. Central Minsk, or Tsentralny District, is where you'll find the majority of the Soviet monuments, and it's a great base for exploring other parts of the city. The Trinity Hill District is the city's oldest surviving neighbourhood, and the perfect place to go to immerse yourself in pre-war architecture. Asmaloŭka neighbourhood is a quiet 1949 military area in the centre of Minsk, where its residents are mostly secluded in their own charming oasis. For street art, cafés and bars in an old industrial area, head to Leninsky District.
There are lots of historical and cultural sights in Minsk. A walk along the 15km Independence Avenue (Praspyekt Nyezalyezhnastsi) takes in the uniform buildings of the Stalin Empire and the Mastatstva Art Gallery, ending at Independence Square. Here you'll find the Church of Saints Simon and Helena (or the Red Church), built in the early 1900s, and the imposing Supreme Soviet of Belarus building, the country's parliament. Minsk has the dubious honour of housing one of the world's 'ugliest' buildings, the National Library of Belarus. Whatever you think of its exterior, its observation deck has beautiful city views.
The Minsk metro is the easiest way to get around. Buy a purple token from the desk, drop it in the machine and get on the train. Bus 100 will take you the length of the central road, but stops aren't well-marked. If the metro won't get you to where you're going, a taxi will. Minsk National Airport receives international flights, and it's about an hour by train and bus to the centre.