For many years Belarus has been hitting top-places in the charts of the most impoverished countries in Europe alongside Moldova and Ukraine. At the same time, prices here are higher. Clothes, toiletries, cosmetics, and furniture get 10-30% more expensive after passing customs from the EU to the EACU – the Eurasian Customs Union. Even affordable international brands like Zara or H&M opened their shops in Minsk only at the end of the second decade. Local brands are of good quality and natural but are either poorly designed in the Soviet way or more expensive due to small production. There is no such thing as a shopping street in Minsk. To find out where to go shopping in Minsk, let me be your local guide.
The economy is a survival strategy for the whole nation. One of the reasons behind Belarusians having the most significant amount of EU visas per capita is regular shopping tours to Lithuania and Poland. Buying in bulk means big sales and VAT reductions, which make transport and visa costs seem like a bargain. With Poland ceasing visas for shopping and obliging big shops not to work on Sundays, the number of Belarusians going shopping abroad at least once per year reduced to 10% of the population. Another popular shopping source – the Chinese Ali Express online shop – became useless after the government taxed every post package with a value above 22 Euro. So where do Belarusians go for shopping in Minsk now?
Niamiha Street is the closest to be called a shopping street in Minsk. Although it’s not really a pedestrian street, you can avoid public transport by crossing the bridge between the department store “Na Nemige” and the “Nemiga 3” shopping center. The Niamiha renovators originally planned to turn it into the main shopping street for Minsk citizens and tourists. Although a lot of things didn’t go according to the plan, it was almost true for 20 years after “Na Nemige” was launched in 1991. Now people visit this old-fashioned labyrinth mostly for old-school Belarussian brands. Don’t be surprised if you’re leaving from a different entrance than the one you came in through. This is also a part of the nostalgic atmosphere. The "Galleria" shopping mall nearby offers the usual international brands.
"GUM" (“u” is pronounced like in “Gucci”) was the first department store to be built in Minsk in 1951. The acronym stands for Governmental Universal Shop. The store looks like a museum mistakenly filled with counters and household goods. It’s worth visiting, even if you don’t plan to shop. If that’s the case, also check the café hidden in an art gallery on the second floor on your way to the toys department. Located precisely in the city center, GUM is a great place for last-minute souvenir shopping. If you walk along Independence Avenue in the direction of the train station, in the next building you will find the oldest sweet shop from the “Kommunarka” factory and the oldest book shop in Minsk.
"CUM" or "Central Universal Shop" is ironically less central than "GUM", although it’s located on the same Independence Avenue. Like other department stores mentioned, it offers household goods and clothes mostly from traditional Belarusian brands. The “Moskovsko-Venskiy” trade center highlights the stores of young Belarusian labels. If you’re not a claustrophobic shopaholic, you’re welcome to visit “Impulse,” “Passazh,” “Siluet,” and “Monetochka”, which are shopping centers around Komarovka Market. Each of them is a sample of the traditional markets, with chaotic, random shops offering you any goods from canvases to Turkish fur-coats.
Before 2006 people living on the outskirts of Minsk were mostly shopping in big markets. Now, these markets are replaced by huge shopping malls like "DANA" at Vostok metro station, or "Arena" near Minsk Arena in the Vyasnyanka neighborhood. If you don’t want to venture that far when choosing where to go shopping in Minsk, department stores and shops from this guide should be enough to fulfill your requirements.
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