Dating back to the 10th century, Minsk is the capital of Belarus and one of Europe's oldest cities. But it presents a surprisingly modern aspect today, with most of its historic buildings having been flattened during World War II.
Minsk was rebuilt as a showpiece Soviet city and little has changed since then. Wide boulevards and squares lined with grandiose block-style buildings along the Svisloch River, interspersed with war memorials and Soviet symbols.
There are nightclubs and casinos full of mirrors and lights; restaurants with steel and glass levels; theatres oozing baroque both on and off-stage; and a variety of incredibly themed health spas where waterfalls cascade into indoor pools.
The present of Minsk is interesting but so is the past. Because of its central eastern location between Poland and Ukraine, this city has been a European battleground over the centuries, suffering at the hands off the Russian Tsar's troops in the 1600s, Peter the Great and Sweden in the 1700s, Napoleon, and then Hitler.
This humid, damp city has precipitation on most days of the year, with wet summers and snowy winters. The climate in Minsk is, however, moderate with an average January temperature of 21°F (-6°C) and an average July temperature of 64°F (18°C).
Winters (December to February) are mild, with snow likely, while summers (June to August) are warm and usually damp; two thirds of the annual precipitation falls during the summer months. May to September is the warmest time of year, while fog is common during the autumn and spring.
The best way to get around Minsk is on the fast and efficient Metro system. However, it does tend to be very crowded. To access places not served by the Metro there is a good system of trams, buses, and trolley buses, which run from about 5.30am to after midnight every day. It is wise to avoid peak hours.
Taxis tend to be expensive, and should be booked by telephone from reliable, official operators. Taxis flagged in the street tend to be private and may rip off unsuspecting visitors. State taxis are yellow and metered. Ensure meters are turned on when departing. Drivers prefer to negotiate fares before you board.
Minsk is not exactly a sightseeing city, but it makes up in interest for what it lacks in traditional tourist attractions. A Stalinist city, Minsk has a unique atmosphere which is appealing to those seeking a novel destination.
Worthwhile tourist attractions in Minsk include the imposing Cathedral of the Holy Ghost, dating back to 1642, one of only a handful of historic buildings surviving in the city; the Chelyuskinites Park, a very old-fashioned amusement park providing some outdoor fun and a pretty botanical garden; the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which showcases the horrors of World War II, including a model recreation of a Nazi concentration camp; the National Museum of Culture and History, which chronicles the long and turbulent history of Belarus; the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus, a striking white landmark; and Victory Square, which includes a moving war memorial.
Minsk is a comparatively safe city and getting around is easy while sightseeing: many of the main attractions can be visited on foot, and reasonably priced public transport fills in the gaps for travellers.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination