Moravia region’s capital and the second largest city in the Czech Republic, Brno, has become an attractive destination recently. After Prague, where the city center is always crowded by tourists, Brno is much more pleasant, calm and friendly. Although you can see many industrial buildings and not really good looking housing projects when arriving in Brno, the city center is very nice as there are places worth visiting. And, if you like good food and wine, this is a place to be! I visited Brno twice and really enjoyed it. Here is a quick guide to Brno, where you will find my tips on what to see and do in Brno, how to get there and where to stay. If you are interested in my food experience in Brno, then you will need to wait for the next post. 😉
What to See and Do in Brno
Have a Romantic Walk Around Petrov
Upon your arrival, one of the first things that catch your attention will probably be the St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral located on Petrov hill as its two spires are visible from anywhere in the city. The entry is free and you only need to pay a small fee for visiting the towers and crypt. After the visit of the cathedral, you can enjoy a walk in the charming narrow streets around the Cathedral or in the adjoining park, where people get together for a picnic, walk their dogs or dance salsa.
Check Out the Functionalist Houses
If you like modern architecture, you shouldn’t miss the functionalist houses. You can follow a tour from the city center in order to see the main highlights, ending the tour a functionalist Era café. If you want to see only the main functionalist highlight, then it would be a UNESCO site Villa Tugendhat, but remember that you need to book your visit quite in advance (even 2 months in advance).
Explore the Špilberk Castle
The Špilberk castle was built in the 13th century by the king Přemysl Otakar II. and served not only as a royal castle but also as a military fortress and prison. Nowadays, the castle hosts Brno City Museum where you can see some exhibitions. During the summer months, you might see some concerts or theater in the courtyard. What I found interesting, was the visit of the large casemates that used to serve as a severe prison for the worst criminals and political prisoners from the Austrian empire. After the visit, you can have a beer or homemade lemonade in the Babinský bistro.
Taste Moravian Wine and Slivovice
In case you aren’t aware, Czech Republic also produces wine that the locals can be proud of! 😉 And the best conditions for wine production are in the South of Moravia. This is why you need to taste the wine in the local wine cellars, wineries, café’s or restaurants. My favorite Czech white wine is semi-dry or dry Rulandské šedé (Pinot gris) or Pálava (sweeter wine with litchi and mandarin aromas). Concerning red wine, I like Modrý Portugal that reminds me Southern wines. Another thing you need to try in Moravia is Slivovice, kind of brandy made of plums. Although people make it at home, if you prefer to try quality drinks, visit the Rudolf Jelínek degustation bar and shop.
Chill in the Parks
Brno has some nice parks to have a walk or relax. After the parks around Petrov and Špilberk castle, I felt in love with the park called Lužánky – a huge park that is said to be the oldest public park in the Czech Republic. Anybody can find their place to sit down and enjoy some calm moment. The locals do group exercises here, walk their dogs or kids, study or sunbathe. Another nice place to chill out is Tyršův sad, which is a smaller park not far from the city center. You can admire and smell nice flowers here, or just come here to make a break and read a book.
Do Some Shopping
There are many shops in the center of Brno, from gift shops to fashion. The main shopping corridor leads through Česká street and Masarykova street. Head to Česká street for Baťa shoes and nuts in chocolate or yogurt in the shop called Sušené ovoce, oříšky, cukrovinky at the end of the street. You may get some Moravian Parmesan (the Czech version of Parmesan that can even be exported to Italy) in the shop called Gran Moravia in Radnická str. There are also some shopping galleries in the center of Brno, such as Špalíček or Vaňkovka.
Visit the Traditional Market
Almost every day (except Sundays and winter time) since the 13th century, there has been a market on the Zelný trh (Cabbage Market) square. You can get some fresh fruit or vegetables from the local producers. The stalls stay until early afternoon, so it is always better to come in the morning.
Try Czech Specialties
While there are many new restaurants offering various types of cuisine in Brno, you can still find some places where you can try some Czech specialties such as for example Svíčková, Spanish meat rolls, roasted pork knee, schnitzel, goulash, potato pancakes, cucumber salad or fried cheese. Be sure to check out my tips for eating out in Brno!
Go for a Cake
The first time we went to Brno with my friend, we spent some time in the cafes, not only having a drink but enjoying some nice cake. You need to know that the Czechs like to eat cakes. You may see many places called cukrárna, which is a place where to get some sugar in the form of a pastry, cakes, pancakes or ice-cream into your body together with a cup of tea or coffee. You can find my tips on such places in the next post, so stay tuned! Be sure to try some Czech pastry such as for example Medovník or Marlenka (honey cakes), Borůvkový koláč (blueberry pie) or štrůdl (Apple strudel).
Brno is a city with a young spirit and is home to many unique bars and clubs. In the evenings, the city center starts to be alive as the bars are getting crowded. You will find some nice bars in the Běhounská, Dvořákova and surrounding streets. If you want to try some original cocktails, go to Bar, který neexistuje (Bar that does not exist), if you are looking for some electro swing, drum ‘n’ bass or indie electronic music, then try a bar called Kabinet Múz. If you feel like dancing, head to the Metro music bar or Fléda, for gay night to Depot. If you are more into rock, try Paterlord. For those who would like some jazz, Stará pekárna would be the place to be. During the summer months, you can even catch some open air concerts.
How to get to Brno?
Brno is accessible via plane, as there is a small airport. From the airport, you can take a bus nr. 76 that runs every day from 5:30 until 23:30. From Prague, you can easily get to Brno within +/- 3 hours’ train/bus drive. My tip: The comfortable yellow buses of Student Agency run every 30 minutes between Prague and Brno.
Where to stay?
Remember that if you go to Brno, it is always the best to stay in the city center or in the near surrounding. Why? The center is the prettiest part and usually, there is not that much see beyond the city center. I can recommend a beautiful Hotel Ricc in an old style where we stayed with my friend and felt like princesses.
Be sure to avoid streets like Francouzská, Bratislavská and its surroundings. This was an error we did when we booked brand new 4-star hotel for a reasonable price. The Old Town Hotel was very nice, had friendly staff, but was situated in an ugly quarter and not a really secure quarter, although 15 minutes of walk from the center. Fortunately, we had car and bikes to go to the center, so for us it was ok, but I wouldn’t recommend this hotel to solo tourists or people who like to enjoy fully their stay.
Have you ever visited Brno? How did you like it? What are your favorite things to see and do in Brno? Let me know in the below comments!