Belarus Holiday Planning Guide
A Belarus holiday can include idyllic cornflower fields, vast forests, and charming villages of a country that blends modern progress with rich history. Tour the financially prosperous and socially progressive capital city, traipse through national parks, and catch sight of the continent's largest mammal, the European bison. Visit ancient castles, and view demonstrations of ceramic making and blacksmithing. Learn how World War II impacted this Eastern European nation at the many monuments and memorials paying homage to those who served. Because of Belarus's isolation from the rest of the region, visitors to the country are often approached with curiosity, but warmly greeted by the locals. Known for its rich cultural heritage, the nation hosts a plethora of festivals throughout the year, allowing visitors and locals alike to enjoy the arts.
Places to Visit in Belarus
Regions of BelarusMinsk Region
: Home to the country's capital, this region offers something for every traveler: museums, theaters, and malls in the buzzing city, and lakes, villages, and historical ruins in the slow-paced countryside. This makes a great starting point on your Belarus vacation.Brest Region
: Although once destroyed by World War II conflicts, today the region is home to a thriving cosmopolitan area and offers numerous opportunities for classic Belarus sightseeing, including locations around the city and countryside with historical ruins like fortresses and monasteries. Grodno Region
: Also known as Hrodna Region, the area boasts a uniquely Polish influence and offers tourists a look into old-world Belarus through historical sites untouched by the destruction of World War II.Vitebsk Region
: Rich with national parks and nature reserves, this region makes a great destination for an outdoorsy Belarus holiday, with plenty of hiking, fishing, biking, and more.Nesvizh District
: Lovers of architecture will enjoy Nesvizh District, an area filled with delightful historical and cultural sights and buildings from the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
Cities in BelarusMinsk
: Refreshingly free of mass tourism, the capital Minsk still boasts a wealth of attractions like churches, libraries, museums, and theaters--making it a great addition to any Belarus itinerary.Brest
: Step back in time at Brest, a city known for its rich medieval history and cultural influences from Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and the Soviet Union.Nesvizh
: A cultural tour of Belarus wouldn't be complete without a visit to Nesvizh. The birthplace of literary celebrities like Yakub Kolas and Kumza Chorny, the city is also known for its celebrations of the arts and several historical World Heritage Sites.Grodno
: Also called Hrodna, the city is home to 26 various festivals and sporting events throughout the year, as well as numerous arts establishments like theaters, museums, galleries, and more.
Things to Do in Belarus
Popular Belarus Tourist AttractionsNational Library of Belarus
: Along with the largest collection of Belarusian prints, this impressive institution also includes a fitness center, children's playroom, and observation deck with a beautiful panoramic view of Minsk. Memorial Complex Brest Hero Fortress
: Located on old battlefields, the complex includes the remains of a 19th-century fortress and commemorates the Soviet resistance against German invasion on June 22, 1941.Minsk-Arena Complex
: Catch a local sporting event during your Belarus trip at this complex, where everything from ice hockey to bike races are held. Alternatively, just explore the restaurants and saunas on site.Nesvizh Castle
: Add this World Heritage Site to your Belarus itinerary to see the former home of one of the most important clans of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy. The complex includes a palace, town hall, monasteries, and more.Church of Saints Simon and Helena
: Dedicated to the two children of the church's patrons, the two small towers are overlooked by another large tower representing the parents' grief at the children's premature deaths and today features pieces of artwork and a replica of a Nagasaki bell. Mir Castle
: Featuring parks, ponds, a chapel, and exhibits, this World Heritage Site was built with beautiful Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles and allows tourists to explore the mid-18th century Rococo interiors.Victory Square
: Minsk's Soviet-era square includes a museum of national history, a park, and a tall granite monument remembering those who died in World War II.Island of Tears
: Remember the Belarusian soldiers who died during the Soviet Union's decade-long war in Afghanistan on this artificial island in Minsk. The monument features a sculpture of a guardian angel and a memorial chapel surrounded by statues of mourning women.Gorky Park
: Dating back to 1800, the oldest park in Minsk offers lots of space to roam as well as an amusement park, observatory with a planetarium, ice skating rink, and river where visitors can rent a boat.Dudutki Museum Complex
Dudutki Museum Complex: Located on the river Ptitch around a 19th-century mansion, this open-air museum allows visitors to experience a recreated Belarusian village environment with old-style bakeries, blacksmiths, pottery workshops, and more.
Planning a Belarus Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Belarus with Kids
While Belarus might not seem the most obvious holiday destination for families, it boasts a huge array of outdoor activities to keep children entertained for days, if not weeks. Lakes, hills, valleys, mountains, and caves fill the countryside, offering plenty of Belarus vacation ideas for kids and adults. Vitebsk Region
is filled with national parks and makes a great starting point. Keep an eye out for historical structures dotted throughout the landscape, although many are in ruins after past wars. When the countryside starts getting too rugged, head to any of the popular cities for delicious meals and exciting entertainment venues.
Things to Do in Belarus with Kids
The National Library of Belarus
includes a children’s room, and if you visit at night, a light show plays across the building's facade. Sports fans might enjoy catching a game at the Minsk-Arena Complex
, where restaurants, saunas, and relaxation rooms are on site for any family members more interested in chilling out. Enjoy a day of fun at Gorky Park
, where, in addition to the pathways and flowers, you'll find an amusement park, observatory with a planetarium, and ice skating rink, plus several affordable cafeterias.
When you're ready to venture beyond the city, check out Mir Castle
, a World Heritage Site with impressive architecture and decoration, all surrounded by parks and ponds. Another historical Belarus place to see is World Heritage Site Nesvizh Castle
, the former home of one of the most important clans of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy housing a palace, town hall, monasteries, and more. Finally, get involved at Dudutki Museum Complex, an open-air recreation of a medieval village. Kids can watch a blacksmith create his next masterpiece alongside old-style bakeries, pottery workshops, and more. Some interactive exhibits are available, too.
Before heading back to the city, try to take advantage of some of the outdoor activities on offer, like hiking and mountain biking. A large variety of trails are available to suit any skill and endurance level, including easy hikes for small children.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Belarus
Accommodations for children under eight years old is free at most Belarusian hotels, and the same goes for tourist attractions and public transportation, so remember to ask before booking or buying tickets.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Belarus
Cuisine of Belarus
Belarusian food is heavily influenced by surrounding countries like Lithuania, Poland, and Russia, so you'll have a wide variety of hearty options on your trip to Belarus. Dishes usually consist of meat and vegetables, with mushrooms being a highlight. Do not be surprised to see mushrooms on every menu, as mushroom hunting is a traditional pastime with Belarusians.
Shopping in Belarus
Whether you're looking for high-fashion clothing or hand-crafted souvenirs, Belarus offers a shopping experience for all visitors. Larger cities like Minsk and Brest boast large shopping malls and brand names along with supermarkets. Small villages in the countryside, like the ones found in Minsk Region
, make great places to find souvenirs of your Belarus vacation. Nesting matryoshka dolls, wooden spoons, wooden boxes, and linen pieces are common products.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Belarus
History of Belarus
With some of the oldest archeological evidence of humans located in Belarus, history dates back to pre-recorded times and some experts believe the area was inhabited 10,000 years ago. Recorded history, however, does not begin until the 6th century CE, with the settlement of Slavic tribes.
In the 13th century, the country joined the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually the Russian Empire from 1795 to 1918. Numerous historical attractions like Mir Castle
attest to the imperial era, though many landmarks were largely destroyed during the invasions and wars to come.
Belarus briefly claimed independence after the fall of the Russian Empire before the Soviet Union took over. Destruction came at the hands of Joseph Stalin and then Nazi occupation during World War II, when over 800,000 Jewish citizens were executed. Germans burned nearly 10,000 villages, deported nearly 400,000 people for slave labor, and razed historical and cultural monuments. Despite the conditions, one of the first uprisings of a Jewish ghetto against the Nazis occurred in 1942 in the battered country. True to the robust Belarusian spirit, a powerful and effective resistance movement started. Hiding in the rugged terrain, the resistance caused heavy damage to the German army's infrastructure.
Nonetheless, the country suffered enormous damage and much of the population was lost in the devastation. After massive amounts of reconstruction, cities and villages are thriving again, and Belarus declared its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990.
Customs of Belarus
Belarusians are generally warm and welcoming, and when you meet locals, a friendly handshake is customary. If you are fortunate enough to be invited to a local's home during your holiday in Belarus, do not be surprised when your hosts present bread and salt as a gift upon arrival.
Holidays & Festivals in Belarus
Belarus hosts a large number of festivals and holidays every year; among the most popular is Labor Day on May 1, when the working class is celebrated and parades fill the streets of villages and large cities like Brest
. Just about a week later you can take part in the enthusiastic Victory Day celebrations on May 9, commemorating the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
Belarus Travel Tips
Climate of Belarus
Plan to dress warm on your Belarus holiday, as seasons here are on the cold side. Affected by the Baltic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in its northern location, Belarus experiences rather chilly summers, with some warm days appropriate for t-shirts. Winters can be bitter, so come prepared with heavy sweaters and gloves if visiting then.
Transportation in Belarus
Getting around any of the larger cities is a snap with the taxi and public bus systems. If your Belarus itinerary takes you outside urban areas, the railway is your best bet: reliable and extensive, it includes stops at over 2,100 destinations in the country. Bus routes also cover the nation, but this is a considerably slower method of travel. Due to Belarus's small size, domestic flights are not available.
Language of Belarus
While the official language of the nation is Belarusian, most people speak Russian and some younger people do not speak Belarusian at all. If you can speak Russian, it is generally easy to converse with the locals.
Tipping in Belarus
Tips are not expected in Belarus and service charges are not usually added to bills; that said, a tip is welcome for exceptionally good service. About 5 percent is acceptable in restaurants, although taxi drivers and hotel staff may not accept your generosity.