Globalisation changed many things in Belarusian daily life, especially in big cities like Minsk. Old-fashioned small local shops around the corner are gone for good. In most cases, modern practical chain stores replaced them. However, in the middle of Minsk, there is still a place with a soul, where ordinary grocery shopping can turn into an unforgettable authentic experience. Check out my shopping guide for Komarovka Market in Minsk and don’t miss the best shopping spot in the city.
Komarovka Market is named after a village that was located at the same spot. It belonged to a famous Radzivil lineage, till the Napoleonic Wars, when it was bought by one of the Minsk noblemen – Stanislav Vankovich. It was always inhabited by the poor. In the 20th century, the village became a part of Minsk. Komarovka’s surroundings were covered in swamps, which probably gave the village its title. The first part - Komar - means a mosquito, the insects widespread around any swamp. In the 1920s, the swamps were dried. City started expanding, and soon there was a need for a good supply of farmer products. The marketplace was opened on the 20th May of 1980.
Nowadays, to reach the grocery store, you would first need to pass several shopping centres. A classical weekend for many Minsk citizens would be to spend all day at the market, shopping for clothes, and then buying food at the grocery part. The latter is divided into the “Otkrityi Rynok” - an open-air market, and “Krytyi Rynok” - a covered market.
In front of the entrance to this part, you can see a fountain and a set of statues around it. If you want to make a short shopping stop, it might be a good idea to let your kids wait for you there, taking pictures, or just enjoying their young years. Meanwhile, you will have some time to explore the open-air market. Although it’s an outdoor market, there are still covers above each of the selling lines, so don’t be afraid to go there even during the rain or snow.
The first section that you’ll see is filled with fruits and veggies from the local farms. The rule of the thumb here is that if you see a queue with more than four participants, the vendor is selling something outstanding at a reasonable price. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll encounter a line of more than ten people in front of a legendary old couple, who resell the “not so good-looking fruits” from the chain supermarkets. Their prices are usually two times below average. If you continue going deeper along these lines, you’ll reach several stands with herbs and rare weeds, handpicked and dried by the grannies, who sell them. A couple of steps further is the beginning of the fish and seafood department. Bargaining is not common in Belarus, but you can always try to practice your skills.
The main market building is considered to be a historical memorial due to its design; such a shape without pillars is a unique project for European architecture. At the main entrance, you can see a statue of sunflower seed seller, feeding the pigeons around her. In the winter, her old and wise eyes are watching the kids playing around a huge Christmas tree, which is erected yearly in the middle of the square.
Start exploring the covered market from the right side of the bottom row. There you’ll get a chance to try different types of homemade butter, cheese, and cottage cheese. After that, you’ll get to a department where several major dairy companies are selling their goods. Middle lines are full of different meat products, followed by the pastry and bakery shop in the left part of the market. You can also go around the first floor to see small shops representing food factories from different parts of Belarus. If you’re living in Minsk, and need ingredients for oriental cuisine, there are several spice shops and Indian food stores as well. No options for bargaining here, but many small cafes are offering cheap snacks to satisfy your hunger.
The market is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 17:00. It’s located in a five minutes walking distance from Yakuba Kolasa subway station. If you come in the morning, you’ll have more options and less crowd. However, in the evenings, you may encounter some special offers. Make your shopping choices wisely or visit several times over a couple of days to get the best deals, after checking out the shopping guide for Komarovka Market in Minsk .
Cover picture © Credits to iStock/arkady2013
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