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The relatively small city of Olomouc sits in the heart of Moravia, right on the Morava River. Often ignored by visitors, Olomouc might actually be a better destination than Prague if you’re looking for something unique in the Czech Republic.
With its fairytale cobblestone streets, castle, and museums, it’s no surprise that tourism is a major business in Prague. However, as a result, Prague often gets crowded, and prices are higher than everywhere else in the country. Olomouc, on the other hand, has about one tenth of the number of local residents (only 100,000 compared to Prague’s 1.28 million) and only a small fraction of the visitors. The result? A chance to explore a historical city up close without having to elbow tourists for space.
It’s always hard to predict what the weather is going to be like in Prague. Even in summer, it’s possible for temperatures to be in the low 30s one day and down into the teens two days later. Weather in Olomouc is more stable, with lots of sunshine and warm days between June and September. And while Prague summers can often be rainy, Olomouc is known for rainy Junes but sunnier months after that.
Sure, there are tons of incredible festivals in Prague, but Olomouc is home to some very unique ones. In April, Olomouc hosts a cheese festival. It also hosts an “Ecological Days” festival (for everything green), a Garden Foods festival (think finger foods galore), and a film festival that is all about science films.
Olomouc’s Holy Trinity Column is a very unique Baroque monument built in the early 18th century. Moravia was struck by a plague between 1713 and 1715, and the column is, at least partly, a sign of gratitude built once the plague ended. It is also one of the few single monuments inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Prague certainly has its share of local restaurants, but if you’re hoping to try some authentic Moravian cuisine, Olomouc is the place to go. Olomouc lent its name to Olomoucké syrečky, an aged cheese well known for its very strong smell that has been made using the same recipe since the 15th century.
While Prague’s Charles University might be oldest university in the country, Olomouc’s university follows close behind. Because the town is small and the number of students high, Olomouc actually has the highest density of students of any city in Europe. While this might not sound all that great, with a lot of young people comes a vibrant nightlife: tons of pubs and cafés, great bookstores, and many attractions oriented to those full of energy.
While Prague has many magnificent buildings, it does not have any significant historical fountains. Olomouc, on the other hand, has six, perfectly preserved ones decorated with Roman mythology images. The oldest one, the Neptune fountain, dates back to 1683 and sits right in front of City Hall.
Olomouc was at the center of the religious fight that took over the country in the 14th and 15th centuries. The heavy influence of the church is obvious in the significant number of Protestant and Catholic churches in Olomouc – the highest density of churches of any city in Czechia. Stop by Saint Maurice Church to see one of the largest church organs in Europe, then head to 11th-century Saint Wenceslas Cathedral, located inside the castle grounds.
Prague’s public transportation system is extensive and very well managed, but getting from one attraction to the next might require several switches between buses and trams and even the metro. Olomouc, on the other hand, is small enough that you can explore it on foot. This also gives you a better chance to see its cobblestone streets, hidden architectural gems, and unique corners you could miss in a larger city.
Olomouc is the heart of the Hanakia ethnic region. The Hanakia or Haná are an ethnic group with its own dialect and very distinctive costumes and dances. Their folk music is particularly popular in Olomouc, and you should be able to catch a performance or two when in town.