Hi! Welcome to Brno
The Czech Republic’s second city might not be as showy as Prague, but we like it that way. The capital of Moravia, the south-eastern third of the country, it’s a laid-back, studenty sort of place that would rather have a friendly, rambling chat over a beer or two than shout over yet another huge tour group or stag party.
It’s a place with a young population; a city of unusual stories, hidden surprises, art, music, fantastic food and drink, weird ideas and quirky inspiration; an international city without the bustle and stress. So let’s explore, shall we?
I’m only here for a day or two. Give me a Top 5 Things To Do.
Take a walk around
The centre of Brno is easily walkable, mostly pedestrianised, and home to some weird and wonderful stuff. The best way to get an overview of the city before you go exploring yourself is to join one of the free walking tours that start at 11 am every day from the large, black astronomical clock on the main square, náměstí Svobody. The tour takes around 90 minutes and is a great introduction to the main parts of town.
Alternatively, pick up one of the Use-It maps and just head on out! You can get the maps from most hostels and a number of bars, and they’re a pretty cool resource.
Grab a coffee
Brno is a paradise for coffee lovers, with scores of independent coffee shops selling amazing blends sourced from every corner of the globe. Whether you just need to pop in for a quick shot of espresso to keep you fueled up, or you’d rather linger over your drink (with a slice of something delicious to go with it, of course!)
Monogram Espresso Bar, Café Pilát, Mitte (which is also a fantastic hostel), V melounovém cukru, Punkt and many, many more are here to be discovered, as well as Industra, located in a reclaimed industrial space that, as well as having one of the best coffee places in town, hosts second-hand markets, gigs, and meet-ups of all kinds.
Chill out in a park
After all that wandering, you’ll want something a bit more relaxing, right? Well, Brno has plenty of green spaces in which to sit, meet friends, sleep, play music, throw a frisbee around, eat, drink and generally chill out.
Lužánky is the largest park in the city and the oldest in the Czech Republic, and a great place to hang out. In the summer it’s the site of a couple of small independent music festivals and arts fairs, so explore and see what you can find.
Otherwise, Kraví hora, at the end of the number 4 tram line, is home to an outdoor swimming pool with stunning views over the city, so you can cool off from the sun before heading back into town refreshed and ready for more.
Have a drink
Ah, it’s the end of the day. What better than a delicious Czech beer or three? Luckily, Brno is home to some of the country’s finest microbreweries, so head to Na Stojáka or Lokal U Caipla and join the locals lounging around on the square outside.
This entire part of town is now somewhere everyone comes to hang out with a beer from early afternoon and on into the evening. Also, it’s right on the doorstep of the Jacob Hostel, one of the most popular in town.
Otherwise, investigate the Lucky Bastard Brew Pub; try the unusual selection in Zastávka; or head to the JBM Brew Lab pub for beers, ales, stouts and lagers from places such as Belgium, the USA, and Russia… as well as Brno of course!
Every night is the new Friday night
Being a city with a massive student population, it seems natural that Brno would be a centre for art, music and the like, and so it is. No matter what night of the week, you’ll find something going on.
There’s a host of independent cinemas showing the latest releases, ‘60s classics, documentaries and more; theatre groups, both local students and international actors; music venues ranging from vast halls to tiny back rooms of pubs; bars with programmes including everything from pub quizzes to stand-up comedy and open mic nights… you name it, you’ll find it here.
Awesome! What if I’m here a bit longer?
Explore the culinary and cocktail scene
Over the past decade or so, Brno has established itself as one of Central Europe’s best places to eat and drink. Cocktail places, led by Bar, který neexistuje and their sister venue, the surreal Super Panda Circus, as well as the elegant, late-night Rotor, mean that beer is never your only option.
There’s been a foodie revolution as well. Retro Consistorium has some seriously impressive takes on the classics, and we’ve also got some of the best street food, burger kitchens, classic Czech cuisine, Vietnamese places, bistros and coffee shops the Czech Republic has to offer.
Vegetarian? Vegan? Yep, we’ve got you covered there as well. Try the Nofish & Chips, the Not Dog or the Kimchi Burger at Forky’s, or head over to Die Küche at Kabinet Muz (which is also a great bar and music venue, by the way). A little outside the centre, you can find Tři Ocasci, a co-operative vegan bistro, coffee shop and venue, specialising in all things Fair Trade.
You should probably do this before your lunch, to be honest… The Capuchin crypt is home to the naturally mummified remains of scores of people from Brno’s history, from military leaders to mayors and, naturally, Capuchin monks. Leaning over and staring into eyes that have seen nothing for 400 years is unnerving, to say the least.
Looking for something even more sinister? The 10-Z nuclear fallout shelter on Husová is the place to be. Buried deep in the hillside under Špilberk castle, it was where a select few people would have been allowed to retreat to in the event of nuclear war. Now open to the public, put on a guard’s uniform, grab a gas mask and discover how the world could have been horribly different…
Check out the festivals
Establishing itself as a culinary hotspot has meant that a number of food and drink festivals happen throughout the year in Brno. Beer festivals, naturally; wine festivals, yes; but also a varied selection of others.
A chilli festival, microbrewery weekends, burger festivals, goulash festivals, “extreme food” celebrations and many more besides. New events are springing up all the time, so chances are there’ll be something going on!
Take a cruise
Jump on either tram number 1 or 3, get off at Přístaviště and simply follow the crowds down the hill to the lake. Walking around the banks of the lake, the numbers eventually thin out as you realise that this is where Brno comes when the sun comes out.
Sunbathers, swimmers, volleyball players, dog walkers, or just groups of people who fancy a barbecue and a couple of beers in the sunshine are all here. Take the boat from the dock at the southern end of the lake and lazily zig-zag your way up to the top end and Veveří castle, or simply join the locals in chilling out by the water.
If you come to Brno in winter, you’ll see that just because it’s cold doesn’t mean that people stay indoors! There are a bunch of markets that are set up on the many squares in town at the beginning of December, each providing something slightly different.
On the main square, the traditional Christmas market takes place, complete with giant tree and nativity scene. Zelný trh is the place to go for a glass of delicious (and deceptively dangerous) Turbomošt, a warming drink invented in Brno by the guys who founded Bar, který neexistuje (see above).
Moravské náměstí plays host to ice skating and a huge ferris wheel, and across all three there are live music stages with bands playing everything from folk, to rock, to jazz, to… well, you name it.
That’s cool. But I want to use Brno as a base. What’s round and about?
There’s plenty to keep you occupied in the city of course, but if you fancy seeing a bit more of the surrounding area, here’s a few ideas.
Firstly, we’re proud of how many Unesco World Heritage sites we have dotted around the region. Let’s take a look at three of them, beginning with the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape.
Spreading across almost 300 sq. km., this collection of chateaus, vineyards, castles, nature reserves, forests, ponds and lakes is one of the most gently beautiful landscapes Central Europe.
The difficult-to-pronounce town of Kroměříž is where you can find a mighty Baroque palace dating from 1664. The crowning glory of the palace are the Pleasure Gardens, very rare and very beautiful examples of the art of the garden. Walk through the rose gardens, the orchards, between ponds and fountains, rotundas and sculptures.
Třebíč, around an hour from Brno, has an ancient Jewish quarter; well-preserved and the largest in Europe, a maze of narrow lanes, two synagogues, and a beautifully fragile-feeling cemetery. As well as this, Unesco recognises the 12th century Basilica of St. Procopius, covered in stunning frescoes and decoration.
Had your fill of culture and looking for something more adventurous? Try the Moravský kras, a network of caves to the north-east of Brno. It’s easily accessible by hopping on a train to the nearby town of Blansko, around 25 minutes away, and then taking the Krasobus into the hills. Jump on the boat and take a trip on the underground rivers in the cool and the dark as an escape from the summer heat.
If you’d rather self-propel, Brno has a number of bike-sharing schemes (the pink bikes of Rekola cost 18kč, about €0.70, for 30 minutes) so you can explore the edges of town more easily. It’s one of the most popular ways for the student population to get around the city, so feel free to take advantage.
This is just a short rundown of all that Brno has to offer. So forget Prague, and come and meet the friendly locals down in Moravia. We’ve got a lot to show you.