The visit to Brno was made in connection with a press trip together with Visit the Czech Republic, but all thoughts and opinions are (as usual) my own.
I wake up from the noise before the alarm clock has time to ring. Outside the window in the darkness at Kåltorget, commerce has already begun. Fruit, vegetables, flowers and nuts from all over the region are being lifted up for display on the dignified stalls. An elderly lady with well styled silver hair walks around carefully examining broccoli after broccoli. When there is such a splendid selection, one has the opportunity to be selective. It's so genuine and so wonderfully non-touristy that I'm glad I woke up from the noise and got to experience Brno waking up from its beauty sleep. Because Brno is not only a genuinely nice city, but here beautiful architecture meets innovative pub life and lots of exciting cultural events. All within easy walking distance of the old town centre.
Brno is a bubbling city with 400.000 inhabitants in the southern Czech Republic, in the region of Moravia (Moravia). Here in the Czech Republic's sunniest region, wine is big business and although beer is still the Czech Republic's most popular drink, you will be met here by several wine bars with local wines on the menu.
The easiest way to travel here is via Austria's capital, Vienna, because Prague is not Brno's closest big city. It's Vienna. And it shows. Stately buildings with exciting restaurants and cafes line the tram-filled streets, and on Kåltorget, a slightly odd statue of Mozart as an 11-year-old stands proud. The whole of Brno scents of Vienna. But with a cool twist. Brno simply offers a whole smorgasbord of things to see and do – everything from historic sites to underground passages to really cool, innovative and wacky experiences. And maybe also a little equivocal...
Brno was founded as early as 1243, but the strategic location between the rivers Svitava and Svratka has been shown to have been inhabited much longer than that. Despite all the wars, bombings and invasions over the centuries, many of the beautiful old buildings still stand. Of course, there are modern buildings in the old city center, but there are significantly fewer of them than in the central parts of Stockholm.
Peter and Paul Cathedral
After an early visit to the cabbage market, I head up the small one kullen Petrov to Peter and Paul Cathedral (Katedrála svatého Petra a Pavla). Actually, there has been a church on this site since the 13th century, but during the Swedish siege in 1643, the church was burned down. Perhaps not one of those historical moments that a Swede feels proud of. A little more than 100 years later, however, the current cathedral stood in place. A grand piece with clear Gothic features that looks out over Brno from above like a guardian angel in the morning mist.
Today, the Peter and Paul Cathedral is one of the Czech Republic's most famous historical buildings and has even earned a place of honor on the Czech 10-krona coin. A beautiful cathedral in a beautiful place that you should not miss if you are in Brno. Walk around the cathedral and take in the view, visit the beautiful interior or climb the stairs in one of the towers to take in the view.
To get the best view of the Peter and Paul Cathedral at sunrise, I move on to the next high hill. Right at the edge of the old town of Brno, you will find Spilberk Castle. The castle was built in the 13th century as a royal castle, but over the centuries has been transformed into everything from a military citadel to a notorious prison. Today it probably feels more like a fortress than a fairytale castle. The most popular guided tour is to the casemate where you can visit the dungeons from the Habsburg era.
Even if you (like me) cannot visit the castle during its opening hours and take a guided tour, you can always take a walk around the castle and enjoy the view of Brno from above. It's really not a shame either.
The bone house
At the other end of the old town, at St. James Church (Church of st. James), an inconspicuous little concrete staircase leads down to one of Brno's newest historical sights. One of the sights that made the biggest impression on me and also made me a little uncomfortable.
In an old city there is a lot of history, so when they were going to rebuild in the block by the church in the early 2000s, they did an archaeological investigation just to be safe. And what they found was more than astonishing. Under the square by the church lay the remains of over 50.000 people. A forgotten gigantic burial chamber. Europe's second largest ossuary came to the surface.
The skeletons are mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries, a period when not only plague and cholera ravaged the city, but also many years of grueling war. Walking around down here in the bone house is both a little scary and incredibly fascinating. I can't help but almost want to hold my breath down here, just in case some tiny particles of plague remain in the confined air.
Old town hall
Right next to the cabbage square, I pass through the unexpectedly modern indoor market to its courtyard. Here is the city hall, one of the city's oldest buildings. The town hall began to be built around the same time as the town was founded in the 13th century, and after many reconstructions and renovations, today the white tower stands in the middle of the town like a proud queen in check. View Brno from above in the 63-meter-high tower or stop to see two of Brno's weirdest sights – the dragon and the gate with the curved phial.
The dragon from Brno is said, according to legend, to have tormented the farmers of the area and eaten their cattle, before they managed to kill the beast with a cunning Trojan poisoned morsel. Today, the dragon hangs stuffed in the entrance of the town hall. Dragon or Nile crocodile? You can decide that yourself. The alternative story is that the "dragon" is a forgotten gift from a foreign envoy. But the first version is much more imaginative.
The other slightly quirky sight that you shouldn't miss is the pompous gate under the town hall tower and its curved phial. Legend has it that the city wanted to make a really grand gate for the town hall, but the poor artist commissioned to decorate the gate was never paid. As a bitter revenge, he therefore twisted the middle phial just before delivery. Before anyone discovered this, the decoration had already been set up and the artist had left town.
Nuclear shelter 10-Z
On the way from Spilberk Castle I pass by Nuclear shelter 10-Z. Once a top-secret place, now a very special hostel and museum. The old World War II shelter does not flaunt its heritage. After the war, the bunker was taken over by the communist regime and rebuilt to protect 500 people from a possible aerial bombing. Fortunately, the shelter never needed to be used, but was left untouched. As a time capsule of a bygone era of unrest in Europe.
Today you can go on a guided tour of the almost completely untouched bunker, or maybe even sleep overnight if you're up for it. Not something that attracted me, but it will definitely be an experience (or nightmare?) to remember for life.
If you want to see more pictures, I recommend that you visit Maria at Fantasy Dining, who made one visit inside the shelter.
In Brno, culture is a big part of daily life. So big, that every year the city spends about 30 million euros on museums, theaters, art, sculptures and festivals. Add to that the fact that Brno is a bustling cosmopolitan and intellectual university city, where a fifth of the city's inhabitants are students, and you find an innovative artistic melting pot. There are simply things happening in Brno all the time. It's no wonder that the Czechs themselves like to choose Brno over Prague for a weekend trip with a cultural focus.
The cabbage market, the Parnassus fountain and Mozart
For hundreds of years have The cabbage market (also called the Vegetable Market) offered the townspeople the fruits, vegetables and flowers of the local farmers according to the season. During Christmas, when the vegetable season has come to an end, the square blossoms again into a cheerful Christmas market.
In the middle of the square stands a large fountain, which from a distance almost looks like it was created from expanding construction foam. The Parnassus Fountain is supposed to represent a cave with the hero of Greek mythology Heracles, fighting against the three-headed dog Kerberos. A very special fountain, which requires you to walk around to fully experience it.
Here at the Cabbage Market you will also find one of Brno's slightly more unusual statues. Outside Reduta Theater in one of the corners of the square, there is a statue of Mozart. The statue is a memory of Mozart playing here as an 11-year-old. But this is no classic Mozart statue. What meets you is a statue with the body of a boy, but with the full-grown Mozart's face and an angel's wing. A statue that you can't help but raise your eyebrows a little at.
The "four villas" - Jurkovic Villa
On the outskirts of Brno, you will find the "four villas" - four family villas in different parts of the city with different characters and styles, which show what a wealthy family could look like in different eras. The most popular villa is the spectacular and unexpectedly modern Villa Tugendhat, designed by Mies van der Rohe. However, unfortunately this villa was closed when we visited, so we visited Villa Jurkovič instead.
Villa Jurkovic is not a modern villa, but was already built in 1906 by the architect Dušan Samo Jurkovič. He built the house for himself and his family in a flamboyant Art Nouveau style. This is a house that can almost be described as a well-decorated, asymmetrical gingerbread house. Winding plants, window bars, ceiling decorations and murals are mixed in this colorful building. In my eyes, the house is most beautiful from the outside, so spend some time walking in the small garden before entering.
Mährentorget and the equestrian statue
The Moravian Square (Moravské náměstí) is one of Brno's largest squares and here you will find not only the stately St Thomas Church and the palatial Moravian Gallary, but also the equestrian statue of Jost of Moravia. Not many tourists care who Jost was and why he rides a horse. I have probably never seen a statue that so many tourists have left giggling. This statue may look like a completely ordinary statue from the side, but the statue has a somewhat equivocal secret. What it is? I will neither tell you nor (God forbid) show it in pictures. It must be a secret that you can discover for yourself when you come here for a visit.
Freedom Square and the Astronomical Clock
The large triangular Freedom Square (Náměstí Svobody) with its grand buildings is both lively and slightly noisy. It's almost so messy that it doesn't feel like a square, but more like an intersection. Across the square, the trams rumble by, so you have to look out before you cross the square. The trams don't stop for anything.
At one end of the square stands another of the city's quirky sights - the astronomical clock. The statue itself does not look like a clock at all, but more like a black marble cucumber. The different parts move at different speeds, but it is impossible to get a grip on what the watch is actually showing. It is said that even the artist behind the astronomical clock couldn't read the clock, so I don't spend too long trying to figure it out. An interesting detail of the astronomical clock, however, is the glass balls that are released from the clock every day at 11 o'clock. From one of four holes, a ball is randomly released each day. But why 11 o'clock you might wonder?
The statue was erected to commemorate the retreat of the Swedes from Brno in 1645 during the Thirty Years' War. Another memory that you might not feel so proud of as a Swedish tourist in Brno. During the Thirty Years' War, the Swedes besieged Brno for several months. However, a Brno resident managed to secretly hear that the Swedes had been ordered to call off the siege at 12 o'clock the following day, if they did not manage to capture the city before then. The cunning Brno residents therefore rang all the city's clocks at 11 o'clock and tricked the Swedes into thinking that the time was up. Brno was spared and still today the city's bells ring at 11 o'clock instead of 12 o'clock.
And you – if you can't bear to get up at dawn to poke one of the astronomical clock's four holes to catch a glass ball, you can buy them at one of the official tourist offices.
See you during the clock!
Don't go too fast or you might miss it! The most famous meeting place in Brno is a tiny little old man sitting on a clock on Česká street. The small bronze statue is called Adam Čekač - "waiting Adam" and is only 20 centimeters high. When you wait here you are never alone, Adam makes sure of that. Perhaps Brno's smallest statue, but certainly not the least memorable.
So what do you say? When will we see you during the clock in Brno? Because Brno is a city that you will find me in more than once!
Read more about the gastronomy in Brno i 6 restaurants and bars in the gastro city of Brno.
Have you been to Brno? What did you think were the most memorable places and sights?
Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.