Grodno region has many cities and towns that look more European than Soviet. The Great Duchy of Lithuania was formed on these lands. Later, it turned into Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and even in the XX century, between WWI and WWII, it belonged to Poland. That's the reason why all the medieval castles and most of the oldest Catholic churches are located here. Want to see something different from Soviet architecture in the capital? Prepare for a day trip from Minsk: to Lida.
There are at least 3 different dates that are considered to be the city's birthday. In 1180, the Lida settlement was mentioned as a part of expanding Dainov Dutchy, with “lida” meaning “deforested field” in the ancient Baltic language. In 1323, the Lida Castle was founded. In 1590, Lida was granted with Magdeburg right and got its coat of arms – a lion and a pair of crossed keys.
Town’s fate was full of ups and downs. It belonged to Lithuanian dukes, Polish aristocrats, a descendant of Chingis-khan, Russian emperors, Napoleon's colonels, Nazi troops, USSR, and, finally, Republic of Belarus. Today, more than 100 000 people are living here. Out of them, 49% are Belarusians, 35% are Poles, and 11% are Russians, making Lida a second town in the country, where less than half of the population is Belarusian. There are at least 3 places worth hitting in Lida: the castle, the brewery, and the church.
In 1323, the Great Duke of Lithuania Gediminas, who’d also set Vilnius, laid the foundation for Lida Castle. Legend says, he called it after his beloved daughter Lidia, who’d committed suicide after experiencing unrequited love. It was sieged and damaged by many armies until the huge fire in Lida in 1891. Citizens almost unbricked most of the castle walls to restore the town. For the last 30 years, the government is bringing the castle back from memories. Medieval reconstructors use its grounds for tournaments. One of the towers is an armory-museum with an exposition of torture equipment at the attic. The entrance fee is 10 BYN (~5 USD/EUR).
Nosel Pupko founded his brewery in Lida in 1876. It’s one of 4 major players of the Belarusian beer market with more than 10 sorts of beer. “Lidskiy Kvas”, a non-alcoholic beverage, can be found in any shop in Belarus and is popular in neighboring countries as well. The tours are hard to organize, so I’d recommend planning your trip to Lida after booking a certain date for the brewery tour. There can be up to 15 participants, and it’s becoming cheaper by the dozen. Individual tour costs 34 BYN (17 USD/EUR), and twice as cheap if you have 10 pals with you. If you’re not eager to go for a 100-minute-long tour, check the factory brew-pub for all the varieties of “Lidskoe”.
The church is an excellent example of Baroque architecture. No significant changes were made since its construction in 1770. It’s famous for hosting the “Mother Mary” icon, that was brought to Lida by first missionaries – Franziskainers in 1376. If you walk around the church, you will find the Lida foundation memorial stone and a monument to Francisk Skorina, the first Belarusian typewriter. If you like religious objects, I would also recommend you visiting XVIII century St. Josef Church.
There are at least 2 different ways to get to Lida. Train to Grodno departs at 7:02 daily and takes 3 hours to bring you to Lida. Buses for Lida depart from the central bus station at 9:40. The bus station and the train station in Lida are 600 meters away from each other, precisely in the city center, and just 1 km away from the Lida Castle. Trains to Minsk leave at 17:18 and 19:01, the daily bus goes at 18:20.
The Ministry of Culture announced Lida to be Belarusian cultural capital in 2020. For 10 years, the “Cultural Capital” initiative has been highlighting the local cultural heritage and organizing art and theater events to promote it to Belarusian and international tourists. Lida gives a beautiful and calming experience, while you’re exploring its must-visit spots. I hope this guide will help you to organize a day trip from Minsk to Lida.
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