Brno in the South Moravian Region is actually the second largest city in Czech Republic. But it is my understanding that it is not an extremely popular tourist destination: despite the fact that there are so many things to do in Brno, I did not see tourists crowding anywhere. Well, except the main square 😊 And people here speak more German than English, which is no wonder as the city is close to the Austrian border.
Even I would not have gone there if it was not for Kromeriz Castle: I saw the pictures of the castle on google and decided that I have to see it 😊 And it was more convenient to get to Kromeriz from Brno than from Prague. In addition, I hoped to go to either Telc or Trebic that are close to Brno, but I never did. Frankly, it were my last days in Czech Republic, and I was out of money 😊 That’s why I did not climb the domes of churches in Brno, however cheap it was. Luckily, as the historical center of Brno is small, I did not need to use buses or trams, so I walked everywhere and saved at least some money 😊
Anyway, I ended up going to Brno and I can say that it is a lovely city, and an underestimated one.
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I was not very lucky with the weather in Brno. The day I went to explore the city was cloudy and it rained when I got to Špilberk Castle. Well, it was sunny and warm in the morning, but the weather changed quickly. And on the day I left Brno it rained again 🙁
How to get from Prague to Brno
This one was easy: Regiojet has buses that go to Brno. The road takes about 2,5 hours and my ticket cost 6,5 EUR. Please, keep in mind that there are several bus stations in Prague: for Brno buses depart from UAN Florenc.
When in Czech Republic, I travelled around the country by the Regiojet buses only (and train occasionally 😊). They are comfortable, with English speaking assistants, and have free Wi-Fi on board. In addition, their website allows to book tickets in advance (and I really like this 😊), and there is no need to print the tickets: having them on your phone is enough.
Where to stay in Brno
While in Prague, I stayed in a hostel with 6 other ladies in the room. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing bad to say about the hostel, but even at the planning stage I knew I would need some privacy. So in Brno I booked a hotel: it was for a couple of nights only. And I wanted my personal bathroom 😊
Hotel Europa was the only one that met all my demands. It is central, offered rooms with private bathrooms and breakfast, and it was the cheapest one 😊 Unfortunately, I do not see it available on Booking anymore, so in the map below there are some other options. If you can find it anywhere else, I would recommend booking it.
Things to do in Brno
I started my day by visiting Lužánky Park. The main reason is that it is really close to the hotel, and I try not to miss any opportunity to walk around a green area. The park is very lovely, with flowers around a rivulet and benches. When the day is hot, it is a perfect place.
Botanical Garden of the Faculty of Science
I have read about this garden in the brochure on my desk in the hotel room and immediately decided that I should visit it. I went there and I was not disappointed 😊
As the name suggests, this garden belongs to Masaryk University and students take care of it. The entrance is free, only for the greenhouses you have to pay. Frankly, as the lady selling tickets did not speak English, I couldn’t understand which one of the greenhouses could be visited, so I just gave up as we could not understand each other. And something else: the lady selling tickets is at the entrance to the greenhouses, not to the garden itself.
The garden is small, but beautiful: there are many-many flowers of different colours, but my favorite place is the pond with water lilies. If you want selfies, this place is perfect.
Špilberk Castle is about 1 km away from the botanical garden. Well, the complex is quite big so you will need a couple of hours here.
The castle had a turbulent history. It was built in the 13th century but did not serve long as a residence. In the 15th century it was turned into a proper fortress and, despite being neglected and resold, it carried out its duty to defend Brno quite diligently. But the castle is mostly known as a prison. It started as a place where the most dangerous criminals were kept to do hard work, but gradually turned into a ‘political’ prison. Some French and Polish revolutionaries, Hungarian Jacobins, Italian Carbonari were imprisoned here. During the World War II Czech patriots were kept here, but for many of them it was just a transfer point before moving to other prisons and concentration camps. Many of the current buildings are actually additions in the process of turning the castle into prison.
This gloomy history ended in 1960 when Brno City Museum opened here. And now the main exhibition tells mostly the prison part of that history, with many objects that belonged to prisoners and historical papers. The casemates in the lower part of the castle, dark, cold and scary place, still keep that atmosphere of fear and despair. At one point of time prisoners (I do not know when) were not kept in the casemates anymore but moved into the castle itself (their cells are part of the permanent exhibition).
Now to the tours of the castle. Visitors are allowed to see basically the whole castle. The tour that includes access to the permanent and temporary exhibitions, casemates, the tower (for panoramic views) costs 280 CZK. If you don’t want to see the whole castle, you can opt for visiting the places above separately:
– the permanent exhibitions: 150 CZK
– the tower: 50 CZK
– the casemates: 90 CZK
– the bastion (available on request only): 100 CZK.
More info on opening times and admission is here.
Now to my impressions of the castle.
When I approached the castle, it started drizzling, and by the time I bought the ticket (I chose the tour that allows to see the whole castle) and went inside to start the tour it was raining cats and dogs and lightnings with thunder were really frequent. And I decided that starting with the casemates was a good idea.
I went down the stairs and entered the first casemate. It was dark and damp down there. As it was raining, I was the only person there. I moved from one part of the casemates to another. Frankly, it was a bit scary to walk in the cells, some bigger, others smaller, were inmates were kept tied to wooden platforms, as their guards drank beer and wine in better rooms. As I walked the long dark corridors with cells, I could hear heavy rain drops hitting the earth. I entered one of the cells and suddenly remembered the Supernatural series where ghosts haunt the place of their death and, trust me, many people died here. I thought that there should definitely be at least one ghost here and then, BUM! There was a loud crack of thunder, and I was out the place quicker than my brain realized I had to do it 😊
After this a bit scary experience everything went fine 😊 I went straight to the main building with permanent and temporary exhibitions as it was still raining. Like I said before, there is a huge collection of historical documents about the inmates, their possessions, old garments, objects, weapons, etc. And the cells of prisoners with recreated furnishings were open to visits. It was very interesting, actually. I expected to see at least something that reminded of the time when it was a royal residence (as in Karlstejn castle, for example), but there was nothing. The exhibition is big, so I spent a couple of hours here.
After the exhibitions I went up the tower. It stopped raining, but it was gloomy, windy and cloudy, so I just took a couple of pictures and went back to the main square.
As the castle is on the hill, I walked around it a bit, but I did not see anything of special interest.
Church of St. James
After visiting the castle, I headed down the hill to the city center. One of the most notable buildings here is the Gothic Church of St James. It was founded in the 13th century and the interior is white with tall columns. I liked the church, it’s very simple, no excessive decoration.
You can climb the tower; the fee is 50 CZK.
And some of the interesting tourist attractions are around the church. One of them is the statue of a knight on a horse with extremely long legs. It is a more or less modern sculpture of Moravian Margrave Jošt: it was placed on the square in 2015.
And then there is an ossuary.
When I saw the entrance to the ossuary next to St James Church, I thought that seeing the bone chapel in Kutna Hora was enough and did not get in. This ossuary is the second largest in Europe after the catacombs in Paris: more than 50,000 people are buried there.
After visiting the church it was the right time to finally see the main square of Brno. Just like the squares in other Czech cities, this one is big and long and is surrounded by shops and restaurants. There is a Plague Column erected to show the gratitude of citizens for the end of the plague.
A very interesting detail is the Astronomical Clock. Well, it is very different from the clocks in Prague and Olomouc: it looks like a black bullet. It is a new addition, put there in 2010 and strictly speaking it is not an astronomical clock, but just a clock. I circled around it, but could not understand how it works 😊 There are four openings in the clock and balls move inside and every day at 11 AM a ball falls out and the lucky tourist can take it home as a souvenir 😊
Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul
I saw the towers of this church from afar and even if it’s was late already, I decided to go there. The interior is beautiful and spacious and the windows with glasswork definitely stand out. Its towers are 84 meters high, the fee to climb them is 40 CZK.
The bells of the cathedral ring every day at 11 AM instead of midday. There is an interesting legend explaining it: Swedes surrounded the city during the Thirty Years’ War and promised to leave it if they failed to take it till midday. So they in Brno rang the bells one hour earlier.
Where to eat in Brno
Yes, I have a really nice restaurant to recommend here! It is a brewery U Třech Čertů (translated something like ‘At three devils’). Well, I do not drink beer, so I can only assume that theirs is good 😊
What I liked there is the food: it is de-li-cious! And it is my understanding that it is mostly locals who go there as no one spoke English. They have an English menu, but I could clearly see how uncomfortable they were trying to talk to me. Nevertheless, this did not discourage me 😊 and they did not refuse to serve me. I ordered a vegetable salad and luciferovy vidle (which can be translated as Lucifer’s pitchfork) and just look what I got! 😊
To say that I was surprised is an understatement 😊 The portion is huge and I could not eat everything 😊
Other things to do in Brno
As I basically had one day to explore Brno, there are some attractions that I missed. Below are some places that can be of interest for tourists.
The ossuary I mentioned above is just one part of the underground of Brno. Nuclear shelter 10-Z not far from the Špilberk Castle was intended to save the most important people of the city and the region in case of bombings. Under the vegetable market on Zelný trh there is an underground labyrinth with cellars, alchemist’ lab, a tavern and many other curious places. Under Dominican Square (Dominikánské náměstí) there is an exhibition of the mintage craft and the development of some parts of Brno.
Moravian Art Gallery
Modern art lovers, this place is for you! They exhibit many works of Czech artists from 1945 and later periods. More info on opening hours and admission fee is here.
I saw this place in the recommendations at the hotel. Obviously, this villa is quite a thing in Brno. The house was built in 1926 and due to its modernist architecture became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. The tours are guided, and, according to their website, are so popular that visitors need to book them a couple of months in advance. More info on opening hours and admission fees is here.
It is the National Theatre of Brno. If you decide to stay at Hotel Europa, you will pass by it every day. What I liked most about the place is the square in front of it and the park around. And the fountain! I do not know how fountains like this one are called 😊 The water dropping from the upper bar formed different words and showed current time. Unfortunately, when I made the pictures it rained so everything is dark.
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