Things to do in Minsk – Minsk to Vilnius by Train

Minsk is the capital city of Belarus which is part of Europe but not the European Union.  In fact Belarus is more Russian than European.  Things to do in Minsk include;

  • Minsk City Gates
  • Victory square
  • KGB headquarters
  • Palace of the Republic
  • Red Church of Minsk
  • Isle of Tears and Minsk Old Town
  • Holy Spirit Church

There are lots of hotel options in Minsk, however they are on the expensive side.  I recommend you try Airbnb in Minsk.

Train from Vilnius to Minsk

Vilnius, Lithuania to Minsk, Belarus direct train

There are regular trains from Vilnius to Minsk which take around 3 hours.  These trains are modern but fill up quickly.  For this reason I recommend you buy your ticket a few hours or even a day in advance.  If you take the overland train from Vilnius to Minsk you must buy a Belarus visa in advance.  As a result, a Vilnius to Minsk day trip needs to be organised well in advance.

Check out the train schedule to help plan your trip.  Lastly, it’s possible to visit Minsk without a visa but you must fly in and out of Minsk airport.


Minsk City Gates

Things to do in Minsk - Minsk City Gates

If you do arrive in Minsk by train, the first thing you’ll likely see are the Minsk City Gates, and they are very impressive structures.  When I saw these I felt the hassle of getting the visa was worth it.  Similarly to the gates of Odessa, these make a grand entrance to the city.

Victory Square

Things to do in Minsk - Victory Square

The main square of Minsk is called Victory Square.  It celebrates the victory during World War II.  In fact, there is a Victory Square underground which has a memorial to the fallen Soviet soldiers throughout the war.  In addition, there’s an eternal flame in front of the obelisk.  Did you know there’s a similar eternal flame in Sofia, Bulgaria as well as Sarajevo, Bosnia.

KGB Headquarters

Things to do in Minsk - KGB Headquarters

When you visit the former Soviet Union, you must visit the KGB Headquarters.  You cannot enter but it’s permitted to take photos outside.  Opposite the KGB headquarters is a fairly priced, Belarusian restaurant called Vasilki (Васильки).  You must try the draniki, machanka and dumplings.  Lastly, there’s a local drink made from rye bread called kvas.

GUM Department Store

The original Ushanka hat I am wearing is from the GUM department store.  For just €10, this will make a wonderful gift or souvenir of Belarus.  At the GUM department store are several floors full of Belarusian products as well as clothes and souvenirs.

Palace of the Republic and Km 0

Things to do in Minsk - Minsk Km 0 and Palace of the Republic

In the center of Minsk is a km 0 marker.  When you see this marker you know you are in the exact center spot of Minsk.  The center of Minsk is located on Kastrycnickaja Square adjacent to the Palace of the Republic.  Finally, the majestic Palace of the Republic building is a government building used for important meetings.

Red Church of Minsk

Things to do in Minsk - Red Church of Minsk

The red church of Minsk is officially known as Church of Saints Simon and Helena.  Its architectural style in Romanesque and it was built a the start of the 20th century.  Due to its bright red color it’s considered a top Instagram spot in Minsk.  Did you know there is an equally Instagram worthy blue church in Bratislava, Slovakia?

Minsk Circus

Things to do in Minsk - Minsk Circus

The Minsk Circus building dates back to the 19th century and it was the first stationary circus in the Soviet Union.  The building was destroyed during World War II but has since been rebuilt.  Today stands a very picturesque circular building which is still used as a circus venue.  For this reason, check the schedule to see what’s on when you visit.

Independence Square

Things to do in Minsk - Independence Square

Independence Square was known as Lenin Square during the Soviet era.  As a matter of fact it’s one of the largest squares in Europe.  It’s a very picturesque square which is surrounded by impressive Soviet era buildings.  Furthermore, there’s an underground shopping mall beneath it.

Island of Tears and Minsk Old Town

Things to do in Minsk - Island of Tears

The Island of Tears is connected to Minsk old town by a small footbridge.  This small island is a war memorial dedicated to all the Belarusian soldiers who died during the 9 year soviet war in Afghanistan.  It’s worth noting that from this small Island you can admire wonderful views of old town as well as the Palace of Sports.  Another must see area is Minsk old town (Troitskoye Predmestie) which is full of historic buildings as well as bars and restaurants.

Holy Spirit Church and Cathedral

Things to do in Minsk - Holy Spirit Church

In the center of Minsk is the picturesque Holy Spirit Church and Holy Spirit Cathedral complex.  I recommend you walk around this complex as it’s extremely picturesque.

Day Trip to Mir Castle UNESCO Site

If you have extra time in Belarus I recommend a day trip to the Mir Castle complex, which is a 1-2 hour drive outside the city.  Mir Castle has recently been restored and is a UNESCO world heritage site.  You can take a bus from the eastern bus terminal which passes by the castle.


How to get from Minsk to Vilnius

Train from Minsk to Vilnius

The train to Vilnius leaves from the right hand side of the train station therefore you don’t need to go in the station, unless of course you need to buy a ticket.  A ticket is around 14 euros and the trip takes less than 3 hours.  When you get to the Belarus / Lithuania border, the Belarusian officials will get on the train and check your documents before you can leave.  Then on arriving in Vilnius, your documents will be checked in the train station, Lithuania is an EU and Schengen country.

Vilnius to Riga

2019-01-01T14:37:07+00:00December 16th, 2016|Belarus, Eastern Europe|13 Comments


  1. Christine February 15, 2017 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    I just learned that U.S. citizens can now enter Belarus and stay for five days without a visa. This is wonderful and opens up the opportunity to visit more cost effectively. I do plan to go so your article is very timely. What I like about your posts is that you give a lot of details, especially the cost of things. This is very important to the traveler on a budget. Really enjoyed reading this and will save it for future access.

  2. Jennifer February 15, 2017 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Wow, that is such an inexpensive train ride from the UK! I would have to visit the KGB headquarters, so cool. The history and architecture is beautiful and quite unique.

  3. Penny February 15, 2017 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    I’m currently in Russia and I so wanted to visit Minsk. The lack of time however has made it impossible. I planning on doing it on another trip if I ever get the chance. You never know. My philosophy is to go wherever the wind blows me!

  4. neha February 16, 2017 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Surprisingly, for the first time I heard about Belarus, that there are so many places to visit and things to do here. I like the list, particularly the Island of tears. A memorial for the soldiers would be a must visit in my list 🙂

  5. Swati & Sam February 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Belarus looks like a charming city and 10 euro flight from UK is really a deal. Pizza is costlier than that… just kidding 🙂 Would like to add this to my list of places to visit.

  6. Katie February 16, 2017 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Well looks like you had a great time! I need to find €10 flights please!!!! It is on the bucket list, i am opening sky scanner right now 🙂

  7. Tamason Gamble February 16, 2017 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    Minsk is a place that I will be honest with you I have never thought about exploring. After heading Pheobe on friends talking about her then boyfriend heading off to an overly cold place it has never been somewhere I have considered for a break. Perhaps it’s time to actually look into what there is to see and do there.

  8. Riely February 17, 2017 at 3:43 am - Reply

    I would love to go to Minsk one day and see the city gates in their glory. Such cheap transportation costs for you! Unfortunately, It would cost a lot more travelling from North America, but from your post it seems worth it! I would love to walk around the Lenin square. Thank you for your detailed post.

  9. natalie February 18, 2017 at 12:26 am - Reply

    We travel with the kids and I have to say that the KGB headquarters would be such a cool thing to see! The hat is of course a must. What fun!!

  10. Hamish October 26, 2017 at 12:56 am - Reply

    Does anyone know if it is possible to land in Minsk (arrange for the 5 day visa free option which I’m eligible for) then travel to Lithuania overland via the border crossing? I’m travelling on Australian passport.

    • James Smith October 26, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Hamish. It should be, when you are in Minsk book your train ticket to Vilnius as soon as possible from the Minsk train station. You get a good view of the Minsk city gates from the train station too!

  11. John October 30, 2017 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    How do you get around the issue of a letter of invitation if you plan to arrive and leave on the same day? (From Vilnius) I don’t intend to stay in Minsk overnight?

    • James Smith October 30, 2017 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      That’s a good question. You could pay for the invitation from the hotel but not actually go.

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