Speaking of the Czech Republic, most people probably think of Prague. Who wouldn’t know the famous city of a hundred towers, located in the heart of Europe with beautiful architecture and rich history? Little do they know that the second biggest Czech city, Brno, has a lot to offer as well and it’s much more budget-friendly than its famous sibling.
Where to begin
Walking from the main bus or train station, you will find yourself on the Masaryk Street
, which is a major street connecting the stations with the main square, called Freedom Square. If you take the first left on Masaryk Street, you are about to discover the first hidden gem of the Moravian metropolis.
Discover mummies in a Capuchin Crypt
Right on the tiny Capuchin Square, you will find a Capuchin Monastery
from the 17th
century with a crypt
hidden underneath it, where the monks used to bury their brothers and the benefactors of the Order. Thanks to the unique ventilation system, the bodies of the deceased went through a process of natural mummification. For 70 CZK (35 CZK for students with ISIC), you can explore the crypt and the mummified bodies of deceased Capuchin monks
. The crypt is open daily throughout the whole year except Christmas and Easter and with a ticket, you also get a printed guide in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Polish, Hungarian or Chinese.
Buy local products on the Cabbage Market
Continuing in your journey towards the centre, you will soon reach the Cabbage Market
, which is a favourite place for many locals. In this little square, you can find many local farmers and crafters selling their vegetables and home-made products
. If you are more into architecture or history, you can explore the Moravian Museum or look around the Parnas fountain – both situated on the Cabbage Market. If you fancy a bit of curious exploring, head to the Labyrinth under the Cabbage Market
. For 160 CZK (80 CZK for students), you can explore the city’s medieval underground
, which was open for public only back in 2011. The official guide is in Czech, but don’t worry, you can get an English, German, Russian, Italian or French audio guide, which will lead you through the whole tour. The entrance can be found on Zelný trh 21.
Wind down a bit in the famous Denis’ Gardens
After passing a famous alternative theatre scene Husa na provázku
and walking a few sets of stairs, you will reach one of the two most dominant buildings of Brno, the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul.
You can enter the cathedral for free and then walk to the Denis’ Gardens
, where you can sit down, chill out, enjoy the view and maybe even sip on some wine as many locals do.
Admire the city from the top of the Old Town Hall tower
When you are done relaxing in one of the most iconic parks of Brno, I advise you to get back to the Cabbage Market and turn left to go and see the Old Town Hall
. Apart from offering an outstanding piece of gothic and renaissance architecture, the Old Town Hall also provides you with a great and budget-friendly opportunity to see the city from the top. For 70 CZK (40 CZK for students), you can climb up the tower
and admire the young and vibrant city from a birds perspective. The tower is open every day except for November when it’s only accessible to the public from Fridays to Sundays.
Brace yourself for an obscure experience under the Church of St. James
If you make your way back to the Masaryk Street
and continue on your way, you will soon arrive at the Freedom Square
– the biggest and most popular square in Brno. You will find lots of restaurants, cafés and beautiful buildings, but if you want to experience something truly exceptional, continue onto the Rašínova Street to find the Church of St. James
. When you look at it, the Church of St. James probably seems like any other Czech church, but the looks are deceiving. It was revealed by an archaeological exploration in 2001 that under the church and its surroundings, there is an ossuary containing the remains of 50,000 people
, which makes it the second biggest ossuary in Europe
On a hill, we go again to see the castle
There are two more things I haven’t mentioned that every local in Brno would tell you to check out. The first one is undoubtedly the main dominant of the city – Špilberk Castle
. Previously a fortress, a castle and a prison
– nowadays a museum of the city
of Brno – Špilberk is a must-see for every tourist. Not only do you get some of the best views over the city and you can learn something about the history of Brno, but as many sights in this city, even this one has a little secret to itself. As previously said, Špilberk Castle
used to be a prison and some of the worst criminals were held and tortured in the castle’s dungeons
. Sadly, they only offer a tour with a guide in Czech, but you can still explore the dungeons on your own with an English, German, Italian, Hungarian, Spanish, French, Polish or Russian paper guide for 90 CZK.
Finish it off with a UNESCO gem
If there’s anything Brno can be truly proud of, it’s Villa Tugendhat
– one of the pioneering prototypes of modern architecture in Europe designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
, nowadays a symbol of European modernism and functionalism. The construction works started in 1928 and in 2001 the villa was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
. Villa Tugendhat is not just a breath-taking piece of architecture. For us Czechs, it’s a symbol of a great deal of our history, because it suffered severe damage during the World War II
., it was used by the Gestapo
as their Brno headquarters and most importantly, Václav Klaus and Vladimír Mečiar, the political leaders of Czechoslovakia, signed the document that divided our country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia
right in this building on the 26 August 1992.
The chance of getting inside the villa is small – it is booked as far as three months in advance
. However, even if you didn’t think about booking a tour beforehand, you can visit the gardens
and admire the UNESCO site from outside.