Sport and healthy lifestyles
Despite all the attempts to compact Minsk and build it up, the city continues to stay quite green. Even the very downtown still boasts several large parks with paths unpaved with asphalt. Besides families with children, carefree students and photographers shooting yet another love story, you will certainly meet healthy lifestyle buffs: joggers, cyclists—and perhaps someone on a yoga mat, too.
Victory Park (Pobediteley Avenue) is one of the largest Minsk parks with an artificial lake in the center. It features 15 miles (25 km) of walking trails and almost 2 miles (3 km) of bicycle paths. On top of that: a basketball court, a tennis court and a small playground with workout equipment for adults and children.
Another landmark for the jogging Minskers is Polotsk Park. It is located between Karbysheva and Sedykh Streets in the Zelyony Lug neighborhood. The trail runs along the Slepyanka Water System canals with cascades, pools and islands—definitely no monotonous landscape to tire the eye with.
Other places suitable for jogging/running include Loshitsky Park, Gorky Park, Chelyuskintsev Park, Svisloch embankment (if asphalt pavement cannot scare you), Zelyony Lug forest park, Pavlov Park, running trails around Chizhovka and Tsnyanka Water Reservoirs.
Should you need company when jogging, you’ll find it at the Nike Run Club and in the #followminsk movement that emerged four years ago to help everyone get in shape for the Half-marathon. The latter has been taking place in Minsk annually for six years in a row now. On this day the capital city residents find themselves in one of the two groups: those who run and those who hate it all because of the traffic difficulties such a mass race comes with.
If canonical running is not your thing, Minsk offers something even more fun—Bison Race extreme running with obstacles, dirt and all other attributes to awaken primitive instincts.
Cycling and electric scooters
The city streets have no dedicated lanes for cyclists. Well, technically there are, but only one, short and often ignored by vehicles—from Kuibyshev Str. to Yakub Kolas Str. Cyclists aren’t allowed on the city roads, which is why they cycle on sidewalks (there are dedicated cycling lanes in some parts of the city) or bicycle paths; in case a pedestrian crossing bears no special marking, cyclists must dismount when crossing it.
The main bike path of Minsk is a little over 16 miles (26 km) long and runs across the entire city—from the elite Drozdy village to proletarian Chizhovka. There are few points with food and water, as well as shadows along it. The combination of these two factors is definitely not to be ignored on a hot day.
Minsk also offers several smaller bike paths perfect for leisurely cycling: paths around the Tsnyanka Water Reservoir and in Loshitsa Park.
You can judge about Minsk’s bike- and scooter-friendliness by the outcomes of an experiment conducted a year ago by the editorial team of The Village Belarus.
The most popular bike and electric scooter sharing service in Minsk—“Kolobike”—works through the app. Prices: bike—50 kopecks (~¢25) for 30 minutes. Electric scooter—BYN 1 (~¢50) to start/15 kopecks (~¢7) per minute.
Bike sharing is popular among Belarusians, so you are likely to find an available bike even in the most remote areas of Minsk like Shabany.
If you need a bike for extreme cycling or, say, a scooter, check out SpeedyGo rental service (the website is available in English), based in the downtown (37A Independence Avenue). Prices: scooters, BYN 20 (~$10)/2 hours, 45 rubles (~$22) per day; bicycle rental starts from 5 rubles ($2.5)/hour, 15 rubles ($7.5) per day.
Each Minsk neighborhood has at least three swimming pools, which creates the illusion of choice. But in practice, all have their own nuances, so a “quick/cheap/high quality” combo simply doesn’t exist.
If you like to ‘swim big,’ there are four 50-meter pools in Minsk:
- Water Sports Palace (2A Surganov Street)
- Belarusian State University of Physical Culture (105 Pobediteley Avenue)
- Belarusian National Technical University (9 Bogdan Khmelnitsky Street)
- City Center of the Olympic Reserve (3 Heroes of 120th Division Street).
Important notes: the impressive size of the pool does not guarantee your swimming lane will be free—several of them are usually reserved for athletes or booked by companies. Some pools require advance booking, others are subscription only; still others only reserve a few sessions a day to for ‘stranger’ swimmers (i.e. not students and not-athletes). All these matters need to be clarified in advance by phone.
If you need a chlorine-free pool, consider the ‘austere’ departmental option: the pool at the Armed Forces Sports Committee (3A Krasnoarmeyskaya Street) or the one at ‘Penguin’ Swimming Training Center (also the warmest, but there’s a caveat—largest concentration of children; 1 Griboyedov Street).
If you are looking for a pool more for the soul than for the body, head to the 5-star President Hotel (18 Kirov Street); in addition to the pool itself, you’ll also find a jacuzzi, sauna and hammam. Or to ‘Beijing’ Hotel (36 Krasnoarmeyskaya Street) with Minsk’s best-lit aqua zone with panoramic windows; they offer an all-inclusive subscription—sauna, swimming pool, jacuzzi plus gym.
In summer, “Olimpiysky” Sports and Recreation Complex (2A Surganova Street, same venue as the Water Sports Palace) offers a good outdoor pool, more precisely—three of them in different sizes (one filled with mineral water). Beach chairs, a volleyball court and several outlets with drinks and ice cream are at your service.
Open water areas are still at “Lebyazhy” Waterpark (120 Pobediteley Avenue), Dreamland Waterpark (80 Orlovskaya Street) and Robinson Country Club (P28 road, ‘Minsk-Molodechno’, exit toward “Yunost,” 4 mi/7 km from Minsk Beltway). Still, the line between sports and recreation at the latter is so fine that you can easily forget that you went there simply to do a few laps in the pool—and accidentally find yourself at a restaurant, then on a massage table, and finally in a jacuzzi with mineral water.
Most state-run pools have a ‘watchdog’ lady to check if a ‘body’ intending to enter the water is wet. Do not ignore this requirement.
There are plenty of gyms in Minsk: you can google and easily find a couple near your home/office. A few tips for those requiring more than just a gym close to the office or home.
If you are a connoisseur of quality equipment, try the 24/7 ‘GYM24’ (7A Pobediteley Avenue; 3B Dzerzhinsky Avenue). The rooms are equipped with 90 professional machines by Life Fitness, Hammer Strength and Technogym. This gym’s perk is the view overlooking the Island of Tears. At the same time, the gyms are able to maintain a very democratic pricing policy—an unlimited monthly subscription starts at BYN 29 (~$14).
Another gym in the same area is F1 Fitness (4 Pobediteley Avenue) whose coaches’ professionalism is praised by picky Minskers. On top of the workout equipment, there is a ring for boxing and sparring.
Falcon Club Fitness (20 Pobediteley Avenue) is perhaps the most pretentious in the city; you should go there if you want to feel a bit like a celebrity.
The capital’s iconic Moby Dick Gym (16 Oktyabrskaya Street) is located on one of Minsk’s main party streets. Five years ago, it was established by four musicians; gradually the gym developed into a fight club (the coaches include Vitaly Gurkov, Brutto band singer and multiple Thai boxing world champion) and a café (with protein shakes)—that’s how Moby Dick evolved into a full-fledged urban space worthy attending if you wish to feel Minsk hipster culture.
Besides indoor gyms, Minsk offers several workout grounds with good equipment. The largest are located in Marat Kazei Park (Kuibyshev/Yanka Kupala Streets intersection), Pavlov Park (Yugo-Zapad [South-West] neighborhood, Beletsky Street). A small, but the workout area in demand among cyclists is located near the bike path on Pobediteley Avenue, on the Svisloch River embankment (114 Pobediteley Avenue).
Other sports to do
Minsk winters are longer than summers, so we suggest mastering two main wintertime types of fun: skating and skiing.
The city’s main indoor skating rink is in the building of the main sports arena, Minsk Arena (111 Pobediteley Avenue). Not just a skating rink—a skating stadium with a 400-meter long track. Minsk-Arena features other sports facilities, such as one of Europe’s best cycling grounds (Velodrome) that offers badminton, table tennis, mini-football, basketball and volleyball grounds apart from cycling. If you prefer being a spectator to doing sports, follow event announcements—Minsk Arena constantly hosts championships (including World and European events): cycling, figure skating, boxing, ice hockey.
Other skating options include Chizhovka Arena (19/2 Tashkentskaya Street), the Ice Sports Palace (27 Pritytsky Street) at “Zamok” Mall. An outdoor skating rink (under a marquee) is open in winters on the Svisloch River bank (Nemiga Street).
There are no mountains in Minsk—but there are skiing centers. You can find everything European ski resorts can offer: skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing (a ‘demo version’ of it, let’s put it this way). One of them—“Solnechnaya Dolina” (Sunny Valley; 45 Korzhenevsky Street)—is located within the city limits. Another (and last) advantage of this ski center is low prices. There are two slopes (one for training and one for sports), both equipped with ski lifts, as well as a snow park with ski ramps and shapes to do jumps and tricks. Riding the slopes of the “Solnechnaya Dolina” will definitely be enjoyed by novice amateurs—but certainly not professionals.
A better ‘bet’ for pros would be “Silichi” (Minsk Oblast, Logoisk Rayon, Silichi village, 20 miles/32 km from Minsk) or the neighboring “Logoisk” (Minsk Oblast, Logoisk Rayon, Logoisk Village Council, 36). Both sites offer tracks of various difficulty with skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing opportunities, equipment rental and overnight stay at a hotel with a restaurant and even a spa.
If skiing and snowboarding is not your thing, think about recreation in the “Raubichi” Olympic Training Center (Minsk Rayon, Ostroshitsky Gorodok stop, 12 miles/19 km from Minsk), which is perfect for cross-country skiing and freestyle (well, why not!). “Raubichi” boasts nice infrastructure: three hotels, a restaurant, a café, a pizza place, saunas and banyas.
* All prices are autumn 2019.