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I was pleasantly surprised by Minsk. It’s located in Belarus. Yes, that’s a separate country from Russia. Don’t worry, you’re not the first to ask. I came in with low expectations, thinking that because it’s such a small town it would have a bunch of characteristics left over from its Soviet Union days. Not to mention, it was brutally destroyed by war. On the outside, of course the Soviet style remains. But, when you explore deeper inside, you discover an Eastern European town that has a lot of charm to offer. The city is modern and progressive, despite its reputation.

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Old Town is a pretty area with an array of pleasant cafés, and Traetskae Pradmestse is a tiny yet adorable re-creation of Minsk’s pre-war buildings built on the river. Both great to walk around. They’re colored in pastels, most likely why I like that area so much. Interestingly, the city’s architectural styles mix rather abruptly, even randomly, between modern, old, neoclassical, Stalinesque... It’s easier to see consistency and understand the character within smaller areas. A very important place to me is the Zaslavsky Jewish Monument that commemorates the murders of Minsk’s Jewish population during the war, including many of my relatives.

Restaurants: The View (literally the best view in the entire city), Kuchavel (so. good.), Gallery, Bistro de Luxe (for breakfast or brunch, cute interior), Tuse (club/restaurant, social, fun).

Cafés: Guru Coffee, Schastye Zdes (vegetarian, raw, yum).

Bars: Sweet and Sour (no photos allowed, which is chic, first pic below), Embargo (cool speakeasy style bar, second pic below), Vinny Shkaf (Wine Bar), Bessonitsa (Insomnia).

Boutiques: LIU JO, Top Luxury, Top Select, Tandem.

Beauty: Zvezda (higher end and prettier version of Sephora).

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