Having recently opened its doors to tourists, Belarus can seem like an intimidating country to visit for wheelchair users. However, thanks in great part to the public space design of former Soviet Union countries, Minsk, the capital of Belarus, is surprisingly accessible.
In this post, we’ll cover the many wheelchair accessible things to do in Minsk, along with tips for getting around.
Important: Make sure to understand entrance policies before traveling to Belarus. Our guide on the Visa Policy in Belarus: Avoiding Denial at the Border is a great starting point for helping you to prepare.
Wheelchair Accessible Things to do in Minsk
The twelve items in this list coincide with our sister post, Belarus Uncovered: 18 Unique Things to do in Minsk. Since the information here primarily focuses on wheelchair accessibility, be sure to read our other article for more details about the history in the places discussed below.
1. Kamaroŭka Market
The Kamaroŭka Market is a fun stop in Minsk. Located in a district outside of the center and surrounded by Soviet-style architecture, soaking in the culture of the area alone is worth the trip.
The Kamaroŭka Market is divided into two parts- indoor and outdoor- both of which are accessible.
From the main plaza, the entrance to the outdoor market is entirely flat. To get to the indoor market, there’s a ramp on the front, leftmost side of the building. There’s also a ramp that leads internally between the indoor and outdoor markets.
2. Enjoy soda from a Soviet vending machine
How neat would it be to tell your friends that you drank soda from a Soviet vending machine? In Minsk, the opportunity is yours for the taking.
There’s a Soviet-style vending machine in the market that’s one of the few remaining in Belarus. The vending machine is located within the outdoor market, on the left-hand side, when you enter from the street.
There aren’t any steps around the vending machine, so you’ll be able to go right up to it. The coin slot and buttons are within fairly easy reach from a chair.
3. National Library & Observation Deck
The National Library and Observation Deck are quite the sight to see. There are two ramps on either side of the front stairs to the library. Here, you’ll be able to enjoy views of the library from the foyer. However, you need to sign up for a library card to go any farther.
After you’ve seen the foyer of the library, head back outside and around the sidewalk to the very backside of the building. Here, you can take an elevator up to the lookout tower.
You’ll need to take two elevators to get to the lookout tower.
The first elevator is only for those with limited mobility, to get up to the ticket area. The second elevator is used for all visitors to get to the top of the tower.
The lookout tower is a two-story area, but only the lower, 22nd floor is accessible. This is the indoor part of the tower which has signs describing what you’re looking at. It also has a little café, if you’re looking to grab a bite to eat.
Travel Tip: The elevators can get crowded on weekends when the sky is clear. Therefore, try to visit during the week if your schedule allows.
4. Explore the center of Minsk
The historical center of Minsk consists of the upper town, Zybitskaya Street, and the Trinity suburb.
All of these areas can easily be explored without a vehicle, as sidewalks (and wide ones at that!) are prevalent.
The only area where you could encounter difficulty maneuvering around is on Zybitskaya Street. Between restaurant patios, bushes, and cars, your best bet is exploring from the road. Since it’s a side street, there isn’t much traffic.
When you’re in the Trinity area, make sure to visit the Island of Tears monument. This was built by the mothers whose sons either died or are still missing from the war in Afghanistan during the Soviet times.
5. Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater
The Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater is located in the center of Minsk, on the opposite side of the river from the upper town. Surrounded by a grandiose plaza and park, it makes for a great area to explore by wheelchair.
When facing the theater from the front, there’s a ramp around to the right side of the building.
6. Gorky Park
The Gorky Park is one of many parks in Minsk. In fact, Minsk is one of the greenest capitals in Europe!
Paved sidewalks crisscross through Gorky, which also has an amusement park and snack stands to grab some popcorn or ice cream.
The Gorky Park is located in downtown Minsk and borders a portion of the river. Thanks to plenty of wide paths, the park is fully accessible.
Do you enjoy getting off the beaten path? If so, make sure to visit Minsk from May – September so that you can visit the Sandbox.
The Sandbox is an outdoor street food and entertainment venue that’s in a former Soviet factory yard. Getting to the Sandbox by foot is possible from the center, but it will take you close to 30 minutes and involves a few underpasses that can be tricky to navigate with a wheelchair.
We recommend having someone drop you off at the entrance. Since the entrance isn’t well marked, this is what you’re looking for:
The Sandbox venue itself is accessible with pavement throughout. However, it can get crowded at peak times (weekends and evenings), making it more difficult to navigate between the food trucks.
8. Oktyabrskaya (Kastryčnickaja) Street
Oktyabrskaya Street is another one of the off-the-beaten-path kind of wheelchair accessible things to do in Minsk. This district is made up of one, long road that was formerly a factory area. It’s now home to a university, bars, cafes and street art.
Portions of Oktyabrskaya Street have uneven sidewalks. However, you can hop over to the road, which barely receives any traffic.
Make sure to visit the colorful mural made by Ramon Martins, which is the largest mural in the world that was painted by one person.
9. Explore Independence Avenue
Talk about wheelchair accessible. Independence Avenue could very well beat any street that you’ve ever come across for its accessibility. In many areas, the sidewalk is large enough to be a two-lane road.
Why were the sidewalks built so wide?
To accommodate an entire city’s worth of people who were required to attend Soviet parades.
Nowadays, Independence Avenue is the perfect place to spend time exploring, enjoying views of Soviet-style architecture and wandering around Independence Square.
The avenue is 15 kilometers long and runs through the heart of Minsk.
Of the many wheelchair accessible things to do in Minsk, make sure that GUM is on your list.
GUM is a former Soviet department store. However, step inside and it’s easy to forget those times are gone between the employees’ uniforms and the old toys and trinkets sold there.
The first floor of GUM has a flat entry from the road. To explore the upper levels, there’s a self-service elevator at the far end of the store.
11. Lido Restaurant
Calling all foodies! Lido is an excellent place to try Belarusian cuisine since it’s a cafeteria-style restaurant. This means that you can load up on a variety of dishes and do so at a low cost.
We went to the Lido by the Kamaroŭka Market, although there’s also one in the center. For the Lido by the market, there’s an elevator leading to the second floor where the cafeteria is located. There’s also an accessible restroom on the first floor.
Our favorite part about Lido (aside from stuffing ourselves silly) was the decor. The restaurant has a traditional, village-like feel to it.
12. Kebab Mile
To round off our accessible things to do in Minsk, let’s talk food again.
Kebab Mile is located beside the Minsk Market. It’s famous for the best kebabs in Minsk, with shops open 24/7.
This is a particularly hopping place at night, with music and people hanging out on the street. The pedestrian street is flat and brick. It’s a great option if you’re looking for an authentic, cultural experience!
Accessible Restrooms in Minsk
There are a few wheelchair-accessible restrooms in Minsk, all in the form of portable toilets, except at Lido. Below are the locations we came across:
- Lido Restaurant
- October Square
- Gorky Park
- Portable toilet near Groshi Museum of Money (branching off from Zybitskaya Street)
A Note on Underpasses
Minsk has a lot of underpasses.
From our experience, the underpasses all had an accessible entry, however, you may have to try once or twice to find it. The reason being is if there are two entrances to an underpass (most commonly on the corner of a road), oftentimes only one of the entrances has a ramp.
The same goes for when you try to exit an underpass- only one side may have an accessible exit.
It’s also worth noting that while the underpass ramps are generally better than countries such as Moldova, they’re still steep and oftentimes without a railing.
Accessibility on the Minsk Metro
They say that the metro in Minsk is accessible.
Our advice to you- don’t try it.
Some entrances/exits have ramps. Some metro stations have elevators. All have a ledge between the platform and metro.
The possibility of you getting stuck at a metro stop and having to metro stop hop until you find a suitable exit is a real possibility.
Minsk offers an array of wheelchair accessible things to do. We hope this post has inspired you to visit both the more common points of interest and the off-the-beaten-path gems in Minsk. If you have questions about accessibility in Minsk or already have experience traveling there, leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.