Referred to as ‘Little Vienna’ and the ‘Hidden Heart of Europe’, Brno is the second largest city of the Czech Republic. With its beautiful architecture, long history, many green recreational areas, and an international atmosphere, it is one of the most interesting cities in the country too. Check out these top things to see and do when in town.
Brno Lake is the biggest recreation area of the city, surrounded by beautiful forests and fields. On the banks that are closer to the city center, there are a number of hotels and restaurants, while the side further away is a rocky shore where the Veveří Castle stands. Locals enjoy the man made spot during the warmer days of the year by relaxing on the beach, biking and hiking, or canoeing on the lake, and taking part in awesome cultural events such as the international fireworks shows in May and June. In the neighborhood of the lake, there is also a zoological garden with 1,450 animals where the polar bears are the most interesting residents.
Veveří Castle is located above Brno Lake; tall, proud and beckoning visitors to its spires. The castle is thought to be built in 13th century, however, according to the legend, its history is even longer. During its more than 800 years long past, the castle grew from a small hunting lodge to one of the largest castles in the Czech Republic. Today a huge historical complex with exhibitions, cultural events, and beautiful surroundings, it is also one of the most damaged castles in the country, with ongoing reconstructions.
Špilberk Castle was build in the mid-13th century on a steep, rocky hill in the center of the city by the Czech king. Over time it has been both a symbol of safety and protection as well the oppression of citizens, first as a royal castle and later on a baroque fortress; the most rigorous prison of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and in the end a barracks of the occupying army. Today, it is a national heritage monument that plays a role in the cultural center of Brno by hosting the City Museum.
Lužánky is the biggest and oldest park in Brno and was founded in 18th century by Emperor Joseph II. In the park, there is a beautiful neo-Renaissance building that was formerly a casino, a gorgeous fountain and historical monuments aplenty. The whole area is full of trees and flowers, with many playgrounds, tennis courts, and an artificial river that is modeled on natural water that actually had run on exactly on the same pattern in previous times. Lužánky also held a spectacular celebration of Napoleon’s birthday in 1809, when Brno was occupied by the French army doing war with Austria. Today, the park is perhaps the best place for a spot of relaxation in the city center of Brno.
Náměstí Svobody is the main square in the Brno city center. Every day, it is full of locals enjoying their morning coffee in one of the cafes, and Czech beers and Moravian wines in the pubs in the evening. In this cozy atmosphere of the historical square with beautiful townhouses around, there is one interesting modern monument that is often the subject of jokes. It is a black stone, hailed as an astronomical clock, although not really living up to its name as it is just a normal clock, and built at a cost of 450,000 euros. Every day at 11am, the clock releases a glass marble that can be caught from one of four openings and kept as a souvenir.
This bars curious moniker, Bar, který neexistuje, literally means ‘The bar which does not exist’ and it is one of the coolest pubs in the Brno city center nominated for many awards, not least of all the Czech Bar Award for the best bar in the country. Many locals and international students spend their evenings here, in a hip atmosphere with talented and friendly bartenders. The cocktails are highly recommended, one of the best ones is the Zombie drink – try it if you dare.
St. Peter and Paul Cathedral is one of the landmarks of the country and one of the most important sights in Brno, that’s image is even pictured on Czech coins. The architectural past of the cathedral goes back to the 11th century, when a Romanesque chapel was built in the spot, and rebuilt into a basilica two centuries later, remodeled in the Gothic style. Later, the church was badly damaged during the Swedish siege of the town. Interestingly, after reconstruction in 18th century the building stayed largely unchanged, meaning the interior of the temple is distinctly baroque, whereas from the outside it is Gothic
Villa Tugendhat is the only example of modern architecture in the Czech Republic recorded on the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage sites, and an icon of functionalist style. Designed by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and built in the 1930, thes villa is today a tourist attraction for which tickets have to be booked at least two months in advance because of the huge interest. The building is located in a wealthy neighborhood of Brno and used to be a property of the Tugendhat family, who fled the country one year before the outbreak of World War II.
Kraví hora is a mountain as well as a recreational area in Brno. There is a nice park, where many people come on a warm days for a stroll, to lie on the grass, or for a run. It has also several playgrounds, a swimming pool with a whirlpool and a sauna, and one of the biggest attractions in town: the Brno Observatory and Planetarium. It offers a great journey in time and space to discover the solar system, underwater life, a microworld, and much more. There is also the Observation Deck that shows off the magical day and night views of Brno with the help of portable telescopes.
Úvozna is not a typical Czech cuisine restaurant, but a place serving delicious burgers. However, they do use Czech products: daily fresh meat from local butchers, pastries from a family bakery in Brno, home-made croquettes and onion rings, sauces inspired by family recipes, and, of course, excellent Czech beer. Those who love sweets will be happy to find waffles with ice cream on the menu too. The restaurant’s interior reflects a fascination with American culture, with the registration plates from different states as decorations on the walls.