Belarus Belarus

Essential Minsk

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

First mentioned in the 11th century, a couple of centuries later Minsk became part of Lithuania and, in the 16th century, of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Annexed by Russia in the 18th century, Minsk became a provincial center and, after the formation of the Soviet Union, the capital of the Belarusian Soviet Republic.

Following the Nazi invasion in June 1941, Minsk was heavily bombed and occupied a few days later. Under Nazi control, half of Minsk’s population perished and the town became the site of one of the largest ghettos in Europe, believed to have housed some 100,000 Jews. In the final months of the Second World War, in the fights between the Nazi and the Soviet armies, the city was virtually reduced to rubble.

After being recaptured by the Red Army, Minsk’s historic center was gradually rebuilt with Stalinist-style monumental public buildings, wide boulevards and square.

For custom luxury travel and tours to Minsk and Belarus, please contact one of our travel experts.

Download a PDF itinerary here.

ITINERARY

PRICING FROM

$1,575 per person, based on two guests traveling together. Please contact Exeter International for specific pricing and availability. 

Day 1
Arrival | Arrival Minsk, Belarus

Arrival in Minsk. You will be met by your private driver who will be waiting for you just outside of Customs, after you pick up your luggage. The cost of your flight is not included in your trip. Flight details are TBA. Transfer to your centrally located hotel.

While we often think of Minsk and Belarus as part of the Russian sphere of influence, it is truly more historically part of the Lithuanian and Polish world, culturally and historically. Minsk was part of Lithuania and in the 16th century, of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Annexed by Russia in the 18th century, Minsk became a provincial capital and, after the formation of the Soviet Union – the capital of the Belarusian Soviet Republic. Following the Nazi invasion in June 1941, Minsk was heavily bombed and occupied a few days later. Under Nazi control, half of Minsk’s population perished and the city became the site of one of the largest ghettos in Europe, believed to have housed some 100,000 Jews. In the final months of the Second World War, in the fights between the Nazi and the Soviet armies, the city was virtually reduced to rubble. After being recaptured by the Red Army, Minsk’s historic center was gradually rebuilt with Stalinist-style monumental public buildings, wide boulevards, and wide squares.

This afternoon, your guide and driver will meet you in the hotel lobby for an overview tour of the Belarusian capital city and its Soviet architecture. You will visit Independence Square, which some locals still call Lenin Square because of the former Soviet leader’s statue standing in the center after all these years. More than any other former Soviet Republic, Belarus has left almost all Soviet monuments intact which makes it rather unique; this is something you don’t even see in Russia today.

Not far away, you will later see the Red Roman Catholic Church. Actually, called the Church of St. Simeon and St. Helena, this beautiful house of worship was built in the early 1900s, only to be closed by the Soviet authorities a couple of decades later. It has been recently renovated and is again functioning as a religious center.

Continuing along Independence Avenue, you will see the former KGB building – a yellow Neo-classical structure with imposing colonnade. In the park across the street, one of the few remaining in the former Soviet Union busts of Felix Dzerzhinsky – the founder of the secret service which was the predecessor of the KGB, can still be seen. Dzerzhinsky was Belorussian Jewish, and he is respected to this day in the country.

Later you will venture farther north to visit Victory Square with its grey obelisk and the eternal flame honoring the heroes of World War II. Also here, you will see the recently rebuilt Minsk City Hall which again stands on the same spot it was erected back in the 16th century. Just steps away, St. Mary’s Cathedral was built in the

1700s as part of a Jesuit Monastery. After Minsk became part of the Russian Empire and the Jesuit order was banned, the cathedral became part of the local diocese. Under the Soviet regime, the cathedral was closed and fell into disrepair. Recently, the cathedral has been restored and now houses religious services once again.

Exeter Services: Airport Transfer, Vehicle, Driver & Guide (4 Hours)

Hotel: DoubleTree Minsk

Day 2
Minsk | Minsk Minsk, Belarus

This morning your guide will meet you in the hotel lobby for a full-day tour of the city’s main sights with private car and driver. This morning you can cross the Svislach River to visit the small Troitskoe Predmestye neighborhood, which was once Minsk’s Old Town. Rebuilt in the style of the 17th – 18th century, it is now dotted with small cafes, restaurants, and craft shops and is a great area to explore on foot. Also here, you may also see some of the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches and cathedrals which have miraculously survived the Second World War.

Nearby, you will also see the Island of Tears – a monument dedicated to the victims of all wars. It is designed in the form of a chapel decorated with statues of mourning women. Also on the bank of the Svislach River, your guide will point out the apartment building in which Lee Harvey Oswald – a former Marine who defected to the Soviet Union, lived for several years in the 1960s. He even married and had a child before returning to the United States for the alleged assassination of President John Kennedy.

Continuing your tour, you can make a stop at the scenic Yanka Kupala Park with its famous fountain, and the Museum of the Great Patriotic War. The museum was opened shortly after Minsk was reclaimed from the Nazi army, but before the official end of the Second World War in May 1945, making it the first of its kind. The museum’s impressive collections of over 80,000 items include art, photographs, military uniforms and banners, as well as military equipment and soldiers’ personal effects.

Finally, you might want to enjoy some time in the National Art Gallery, which features collections of icons, sculpture, and applied art, including pieces by famous Russian painters like Vasnetsov, Repin, Levitan, and Makovsky. The museum is best known for its Chagall collection who was actually Belorussian and born not far from Minsk. The collection also features the family portraits of the Radziwill family, famous in the US for its connection to the Kennedy family. Most people are surprised to know that the Radziwills are actually Belorussian by origin and not just Polish. This is the perfect place to start the discussion of the Radziwills, as tomorrow you will visit their palace and castle in the countryside.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: DoubleTree Minsk

Day 3
Minsk – Pleschenitsy | Minsk – Pleschenitsy – Minsk Belarus

This morning you will head out into the countryside to see two of the most important sights in Belarus: the Radziwill family palace in Niasvizh and their nearby Mir Castle. Both are wonderfully restored.

A one-hour drive through surprisingly verdant Belarus will bring you to the idyllic town of Niasvizh, where the Radzilwill noble family built their palace in 1583. Now a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site, the palace has been authentically brought back to its original splendor. The palace was rebuilt many times and displays features of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods. Don’t miss the ancient porcelain and crystal collection, original parquet floors and intricately carved wooden interiors.

A twenty-minute drive from Niasvich is the village of Mir and the famous Mir Castle. Originally built in the 16th century, the Mir Castle displays wonderful Gothic elements as well as other architectural styles ushered in over the centuries. It’s an enchanting castle complete with five towers and the remnants of a mote. We love the atmospheric restaurant in the basement of the castle, which features wonderful mushroom soup as well as light salads like grilled chicken Caesar. It’s the perfect stop for a bite to eat on your day in the country. (Lunch cost is not included in your program)

Later today, you will transfer back to Minsk and your hotel for an evening at your leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: DoubleTree Minsk

Day 4
Departure | Departure Crowne Plaza - Minsk, Belarus

This morning, your driver will meet you in the hotel lobby for the private transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

Exeter Services: Transfer Only

Meet a ballerina in St Petersburg
Extraordinary Experiences
VIEW VIEW page

Extraordinary Experiences

Discover our insider access Extraordinary Experiences.

VIEW PAGE
Exeter Experts Feb 2019
The Experts
VIEW VIEW page

The Experts

Meet the Experts that will make your trip extraordinary.

VIEW PAGE
Rovinj, Istria
View Our Destinations
VIEW VIEW page

View Our Destinations

Our specialty is in the countries that link East & West, both in Europe, and between Europe & Asia.

VIEW PAGE
Family travel
View Our Trip Types
VIEW VIEW page

View Our Trip Types

How do you like to travel? View your choices here.

VIEW PAGE