Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis

Luxury shops and stylish boutiques are not commonplace in Europe’s only remaining dictatorship, as the average income remains well below that of other Western European nations. However, there are some interesting and unique handicraft stores in marketplaces across Belarus.

These stores typically sell a wide range of indigenous, folk-related products, such as matryoshka dolls, hand-painted wooden spoons, and knick-knacks fashioned from straw and flax. Jewelry boxes and linen goods, such as tablecloths and napkins, are also popular, in addition to Belarusian ceramics. Locally-produced chocolate is of good quality, with the most popular brands being Kommunarka and Spartak.

Within Minsk, there are shopping mall-style complexes, including Bigzz, a large center located in the heart of the city, and Korona, a two-floor facility selling everything from underwear to dictionaries. For a more traditional day of shopping, check out one of the many major, local markets located around Belarus. The most popular is the Dinamo Stadium Market, where imitation sports gear and odd paraphernalia is the norm, while the recently renovated Komarovsky Market, one of the city’s oldest markets, is also worth a visit.

If you can’t find a fitting gift or souvenir at the markets or malls, head to one of the numerous arts and crafts stores and treat those back home to a local painting, tapestry, or custom-made piece. The best places for gifts in the capital are Ruchnaya Raboto (Surganova 50, Minsk) and Minsky Vernisazh (next to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Minsk), which specifically cater to tourists.

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