When people talk about cities in the Czech Republic, Prague tends to steal the show. There are plenty of good reasons for that – Prague is easily the biggest, most vibrant metropolis for many miles around.
If you’re looking to escape the craziness of Prague and check out some of the country’s smaller cities though, Brno is a perfect choice.
Formerly the capital of Moravia, the city is home to around 400,000 people, so it’s no tiny hamlet.
In fact, Brno is a great destination for anyone interested in sampling great beer and wine, eating delicious food, and just enjoying a more chilled-out vibe than in the capital.
The city has gained a bit of a reputation as a ‘student town’ due to the high student population here, but there’s a lot more to Brno than that, and the influx of young people has led to a thriving nightlife scene and budget-friendly prices.
In fact, even the New York Times was impressed by Brno. High praise indeed.
Basically, Brno is a great place to embrace the atmosphere of a Czech city and spend a few days away from the crowds and high prices of its Bohemian cousin, Prague.
What can you see here?
Brno hasn’t got a huge reputation for being a tourist destination. It doesn’t get the same rave reviews as Prague, or smaller destinations like Cesky Krumlov, which is a shame because it has so much to offer.
It’s a bustling 21st Century city, mixed with gothic architecture and landmarks that are well worth checking out.
The Church of St. James
The Church of St. James is probably the city’s most iconic building, and from its position perched atop a hill in the town centre it can be viewed from all around.
It dates back to the 13th Century and is a gorgeous structure inside and out. Another cool feature of this church is its ossuary which contains the remains of more than 50 000 people, making it the second largest of its kind in Europe after Paris.
It’s open from 9:30 to 18:00 Tuesday to Sunday, and entrance costs between 70 and 140 CZK.
Also dating back to the 13th Century, Spilberk castle offers some pretty breathtaking views of the city from its high vantage point.
It also has a rather illustrious history, including a stint as a jail. Nowadays, the site hosts regular events like festivals and is a great place to spend an afternoon. Entrance is 50-120CZK.
Prague has had a long and unfortunate history of being caught in the middle of messy wars, and Brno’s 10-Z Bunker is evidence of this.
The structure was built during the Second World War to provide shelter from American and Soviet bombs, and was later used during the Cold War as an emergency nuclear shelter.
It was designed to hold around 500 VIPs for three days in the event of a nuclear attack, during which time they’d hopefully be able to piece their country back together.
Nowadays, with Brno facing a somewhat smaller risk of nuclear annihilation, the bunker is open to the public. You can check out the structure independently, or sign up to a tour group. It’s open from 11:30 to 18:15 Tuesday to Sunday, and the entrance fees range from 80 to 130CZK.
Food and Beers
As a Czech city, Brno is of course deeply committed to ensuring that its visitors have an ample supply of good food and quality beer at their disposal.
Despite being half the size of Prague, Brno actually has a huge amount of options in this department, and it would take a long time to work through all of them. Here are a few of the highlights:
Home to Brno’s very own beer, the Starobrno Brewery is located close to the centre of town. The bar is just down the street, and offers visitors the chance to enjoy such traditional Czech delights as pork knee and goulash.
In addition to its gastronomic offerings, there’s a wide range of beer on offer, which should be enough to keep you busy for at least a few hours. Located in a bustling open space, the beer-garden spirit is strong here and it’s a rowdy and sociable vibe.
It’s a bold name, alright, but BBK lives up to it with a selection of mouth-watering burgers and sides. Somewhere between fast food and a gourmet restaurant, BBK is a little on the expensive side, but this is reflected in the quality of the meals.
It’s located right in the centre of town, just a minute or two away from the train and bus stations.
Described by the New York Times as having ‘the very best cocktail list in the country’, this cocktail bar certainly has a reputation to live up to.
It’s not easy to locate – the bar is hidden behind a nondescript door in the town centre, and for those who don’t know what to look for it’s basically invisible.
Once you’ve managed to gain entry, you’ll likely be blown away by the lavish, speakeasy-style décor and exquisite selection of cocktails. It’s not cheap, with drinks coming in around the 180CZK mark, but for what you get it isn’t extortionate either.
As a bar, it’s definitely worth checking out. As an experience, it’s unmissable.
So, next time you feel like taking a break from the craziness of Prague and enjoying a more laid-back vibe with a ton of great things to do, why not take the trip to Brno? It’s only around two hours on a Student Agency bus, and should cost less than 10 euros.