Things to do for Christmas and New Year in Minsk
THINGS TO DO FOR CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR IN MINSK
Why would anyone bother to take a long flight or train ride to Minsk? For many, the only reason for such an endeavour would be a well-preserved ancient urban architecture, or some European-level museums, or major music festivals, or at least a little-known wonder of the world. However, Minsk does not have any of that – and yet it attracts those who like visiting less-known cities or have business and family ties. This guide can be handy to those who are planning to visit the capital of Belarus for their Christmas and New Year holidays.
Minsk City Tour buses will take you around the key sightseeing attractions with audio guides available in eight languages. The company has come up with two special New Year offers:
New Year bus for kids aged 3-10. The programme for little passengers includes games, contests, songs, prizes, and sweet treats in the company of Ded Moroz & Snegurochka (Grandfather Frost and Snowmaiden). The New Year bus will operate on 23, 25, 28, 30 December 2016 and on 3 January 2017. Pre-booking by phone is required.
Check for more information on what to do in Minsk when you are traveling with small children.
New Year bus for adults will take you to a country homestead. Entertainment includes local stories and legends, a tour around the residence, tasting Belarusian delicacies, a campfire, a souvenirs hut, and even dances. You can try the Belarusian hospitality on 5 January 2017 – but make sure to make a booking in advance.
Souvenirs and cats
Those who will not make it to the souvenirs hut on the New Year bus can choose souvenirs in the kiosks near the Minsk Old Town Hall (Pl. Svabody 2A) or in major department stores (GUM, CUM, Handliovy Dom na Niamizie).
Moreover, on 24-25 December, E-City (vul. Dzianisaŭskaja 8) will host Artisanship Secrets handcrafts fair with designer clothes, accessories, souvenirs and other unique hand-made items.
Check to find out what souvenirs are worth bringing from Belarus.
On 22-31 December, the New Year fair will take place at BelExpo National Exposition Centre (vul. Janki Kupaly 27). It’s worth a visit not only for a sneak peek at the latest achievements of Belarusian industry but also because the Centre itself will be demolished in January to clear space for a real estate project.
Belarusian pets will also be heavily involved in the festivities. Cat’s Museum officially declared a festive season open from 1 December through the end of January 2017. 16 cats around a properly mounted Christmas Tree, twinkle lights and thematic handcrafts will wait for you at Praspiekt Dziaržynskaha 11.
With all the music artists busy at private or company parties, no big gigs are on schedule in the festive period. Visit Graffiti Club (Zavulak Kalinina 16) to celebrate Christmas with the N.R.M concert and see the remains of the once legendary Belarusian rock band. Check out the club’s other activities at graffiti.by.
Young Belarusian bands play every day in TNT Rock Club (vul. Revaliucyjnaja 9)
More information on Minsk’s music scene at openbelarus.by.
Belarusian State Puppet Theatre (Vul. Engelsa 20) will premier “Christmas Stories” based on Charles Dickens’ Christmas Books – a sentimental fairly-tale with songs and ghosts directed by Igor Kozakov who has a reputation of an avant-gardist. The play will be staged on 24, 25, 26, 30 December and on 2, 7, 8 January twice a day at 1100 and 1400. The ticket price includes a ring dance under the Christmas tree with Grandfather Frost and Snowmaiden.
Kids from the age of 3 are likely to enjoy watching and getting involved in the play turned into a game “The Wolf and The Seven Little Goats.” The performance will take place on 28 December 2016 and 3 January 2017 at 1100 and 1400.
Janka Kupala National Drama Theatre (Vul. Engelsa 7) is Belarus’ oldest professional theatre with the star artistic director Mikalai Pinihin. The merry and phantasmagoric “Christmas Eve” after Nikolai Gogol will fill the evening with festive Christmas themed adventures. The play will be with simultaneous translation into English on 24 December 2016, and into Russian on 26 December 2016 and 8 January 2017.
“Pinsk Nobility” is a must-see for those interested in getting to know the Belarusian national theatre tradition. Based on the signature masterpiece of Belarusian literature in combination with immaculate directing and acting, the play stands out among drama classics. Simultaneous translation into English will be available on 20 December, into Russian – on 28 December and 5 January.
Plays by famous foreign theatres can be watched on a big screen with subtitles at Theatre HD in Minsk: 21 December 2016 – National Theatre Live “Hamlet: Cumberbatch”; 24 December 2016 – Comedie Française “Romeo and Juliet”; 28 December 2016 – Bolshoi Theatre “Nutcracker”.
For more details about theatres in Minsk go to: openbelarus.by
Ice hockey fans can attend three Dynamo Minsk home matches at Minsk Arena. Everything is serious here: Belarus president’s favorite sport, a coach from Canada and major rivals from Russia: 3 January 2017 – vs SKA St Petersburg, 5 January 2017 – vs Severstal, 7 January 2017 – vs CSKA Moscow. Beer drinking is allowed only inside the arena’s bars – already an achievement in Belarus. Beer is not allowed during football (soccer) matches in this country.
More details about sports in Minsk at openbelarus.by
Although Belarus is world No 1 with the highest alcohol consumption per capita, it is not easy to spot a bottle of fine wine or premium whisky in an around-the-corner grocery. Make sure to head to a hypermarket or specialized chain shops such as Vino&Vino, Vino, Stopor.
There are 4 wine bars in Minsk. Khoroshiy God (Vul. Zybickaja 6) can be perfect for those liking to taste fine wine in a warm and cozy ambiance. It boasts the largest and top quality wine carte in the city.
Vinny Shkaf (Vul. Revaliucyjnaja 30) and Svobody 4 (Pl. Svabody 4) offer cheaper wines. The bars are ideal for those who like dancing and having fun like there is no tomorrow.
Ў-Bar (Praspiekt Niezaliežnasci 37a), also the venue for a bookstore and a modern arts gallery, is popular with local intellectuals and creative minds. You never know what you can expect here - a quiet evening out or a DJ-party.
If you are a beer lover, your destination should be Vulica Hikalo 3 – a cluster of 3 thematic joints: Gvozd beer restaurant, Clever Irish Pub and the recently opened Craftman offering a good variety of craft beers.
The always-crowded Druziya (Friends) brewery restaurant is popular with both the locals and tourists, who fancy live cover bands, tap beers and a dancing floor. A useful addition is a souvenir kiosk where you can buy a Belarusian embroidered shirt.
The trendiest streets for parties and open bashes in Minsk are Kastryčnickaja (Oktyabrskaya) and Zybickaja. The former is home to Enzo restaurant (signature burgers), DEPO (pancakes and locally made cider), and Laŭka (sandwiches). All the venues share the same address: Vulica Kastryčnickaja 23. The area is slightly off the central routes, hence popular for a unique ambiance.
Zybickaja Street is simply a cluster of drinking and partying joints of all kinds. Beer: Staromestny Pivovar (Vul. Hercana 4), Gambrinus (Pl. Svabody 2), Beercap Barshop (Vul. Hercana 10). Wineries: Khoroshiy God (Vul. Zybickaja 6), Svobody 4 (Pl. Svabody 4). Cocktails: Cherdak (Vul. Zybickaja 9), Banki-butylki (Vul. Zybickaja 6), Tumany (Vul. Zybickaja 9) and many others. Very few people could leave the area unrested.
Minsk’s oldest brewery Alivariya invites to its museum and beer tasting excursions: History Route, Styles Guide, and Aromas Guide. Some tours are available in English. Book a tour online at alivaria.by or by phone: +375 29 500 17 55.
Check openbelarus.by to learn more where to eat and drink in Minsk.
From 24 December 2016 through 14 January 2017, Grandfather Frost’s residence will be located at the Stalin Line Museum, 20 km off Minsk. The location sounds definitely weird: just imagine Santa Claus residing on the Mannerheim Line or the Maginot Line! But this is Belarus – the country at the crossroads of everything, even what cannot cross in principle. The open-air entertainment programme includes sweat treats, pancakes, a wishes capsule (made from an artillery shell) and a souvenir photo (you will hardly forget the trip).
If you really fall in love with goats after watching The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats play, your next destination should be DAK farm. It has plenty of little goats, offers tours around the farm and the last but not least the goat milk tasting. Pre-booking is required.
If your religion allows, you can take part in Kaliady, one of the most interesting pre-Christianity Belarusian fests to celebrate winter solstice at the Belarusian State Ethnic Architecture and Customs Museum in Stročycy. You will not get bored: concerts, master classes, quests, circle dances and even fortunetelling.
Outdoor activity fans should head to the mountains ski resort in Siličy. It has everything an active traveler needs: hotels, equipment rental, elevators, routes, snowmobiles and an ice ring. All included New Year and Christmas packages can be booked here: silichy.by
Text: Kirill Dubovsky
Photo: Siarhei Hudzilin