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The Upper Town is a great place to start a tour around Minsk. Places of interest like the Trinity Suburb, the Island of Tears, and the Yanka Kupala Museum are within walking distance. There are several museums and churches to visit with free admission. It feels more cozy than old, at least before you know the history of the place. Let me be your guide to Minsk Upper Town. And, if at some point sightseeing becomes too hot, cold or dreary, just add a revolutionary barhopping to your itinerary.
Any Minsk citizen from pre-millennial generations can not recall any memories connected with the Townhall. The original building was demolished due to old age in 1857 and reconstructed 150 years later! I don’t know anybody from Minsk who has been inside the new building. Without booking in advance you can check its Minsk history-related exhibitions only on Saturday. Its free admission attracts many budget travelers. One day, I will see it with my own eyes as well. The Museum of Minsk Horse Tram and the Museum of Carriages have separate tickets, but both tell you about the evolution of public transport in Minsk. Both let you sit in the vehicles and feel the vibes of the XIX century, at least with your bottom.
The Private Money Museum «Groshy» has an impressive collection of coins from Belarus and abroad. «Strana Mini» Museum of Miniatures will let you see 19 of Belarusian most popular sightseeing spots without actually traveling there. "Vankovich Museum" exposes the interior of a typical XIX century middle-class family house. The main exhibition is not so special, so you are better off checking the temporary exhibit and take a few moments of rest in a small yard. The only interesting thing in the "Music and Theater Culture History Museum" is the building itself - the legendary house of masons was often visited by Belarusian historical figures.
"The Holy Spirit Cathedral" appears on any set of pictures about Minsk. According to a legend, the main icon of Saint Virgin Mary was found floating in the river in 1500, and since then, she became a patron of Minsk. You can even recognize her on the Minsk coat of arms. If you turn right after leaving the cathedral, you will get a chance to see the Belarusian Orthodox Church History Museum in the Church of the Holy Bishop Cyril of Turov. And if you turn left and walk a little bit back, you will see the closed archive building in the former Saint Joseph Church.
"Catholic Cathedral of Saint Virgin Mary" in front of the Townhall has an Austrian organ, 18th-century frescos, and archive photos of it being used as a basketball playground and judo ring. In both Cathedral and the Basilian monastery part of the building is used as a music school, so do not be surprised when you hear non-christian classical music around them.
You never know which exposition is up in the «University of Culture» Art Gallery, in the Palace of Republic" basement, but free admission makes it worth checking out. The «Savitsky Art Gallery» might be a bit more depressive with its pictures related to WWII and Chernobyl.
The "Cat Museum" may sound like a great attraction for taxidermists or very traumatic experience for children. In reality, it is just a cat-cafe with more than a dozen of meowing puffballs and some cat-related artwork and games: no guided tours, just petting. If you draw a cat, and you do it well, the picture might get into the exhibition.
I love Centralny so much that it becomes hard to build logically connected sentences. I asked a lot of people from different countries: no other city has a 30 meters long bar stand at the window. Take your order, stand where you like, and watch the city-life passing by. "Centraĺny" is a dive-bar in the precise city center, where you meet all types of people. You can find there ladies with kids eating cakes, professors taking shots of vodka with tomato juice, theatergoers discussing a play and having a dessert; punkers and rockers drinking beer and singing songs. It has Soviet-art decorations on the ground floor and a grocery store upstairs. Signature coffee «Oscar» with egg-white cream, cinnamon, and a drop of cognac is my second favorite welcoming drink to my foreign friends after schchavel shots in "Banki-Butylki".
The last thing to mention in the guide to Minsk Upper Town sightseeing is the souvenir shops. There is a bus decorated in the USSR style on the hill near the Holy Spirit Cathedral and a set of wooden counters near the Townhall. Their goods and prices differ, so both are worth visiting.
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