If you’ve read our post 5 Reasons to Visit Brno, you already know that the second largest Czech city is worth your time. Here are the top 10 things you shouldn’t skip during your stay.
Špilberk is a 13th century castle on a hill in the very center of the city. It’s surrounded by gardens which you can enter from several different points so wherever you find yourself in the center, the castle is never far. The underground casemate, once the harshest prison of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is now one of the places most frequented tourists and it often hosts torture expositions. The castle features permanent as well as temporary art exhibitions and hosts festivals such as the Summer Shakespeare Festival.
Old City Hall
The history of this former city hall dates back to the 13th century. Like so many buildings in the city center, this one too has a few legends connected to it. One of them explains why one of the five small towers over the entrance is leaning, the other one explains why there is a mounted “dragon” (the city symbol) hanging from the roof and yet another legend speaks of the huge wooden wheel on a wall right behind the entrance. Today, the Old Town Hall serves as the office of several institutions, like the Greek Society in Brno and its court hosts cultural events several times a year.
The dam right outside of the city, commonly known as Prygl in the Brno slang, is a recreational area in almost any season of the year. In summer, locals and visitors attend the sunny beaches of the reservoir and in winter, when the whole surface of the 7.6 million m³ freezes over, it becomes a popular skiing and sledging area. Most of the year the dam also provides an alternative way of city transportation as many people from the surrounding towns take the steamboat to go to work in Brno and many tourists use it to reach the Veveří Castle or just to go on a short cruise. Each October the dam features a very popular 14,1 km race Vokolo Priglu.
Asking what the most famous villa in Brno is? No doubt it’s this functionalistic building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the Tugendhat family. The only original piece of interior preserved until today is the semi-translucent onyx wall and the garden is just as impressive as the villa it belongs to. Villa Tugendhat is not only part of the UNESCO World Heritage, it’s been also inspiring the popular culture like Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room.
Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul
This Baroque and Gothic-revival monument (called also Petrov) stands in the very center of the city. You will have to conquer a small hill but believe us when we tell you it’s absolutely worth it. Its architecture is humbling and it wouldn’t be a Brno sight if there wasn’t a legend wrapped all around it. If you find yourself around the city center at 11 AM any day of the week, you’ll hear the “midday” chimes from Petrov. During the Thirty Years’ War, when the Swedish army was laying siege to the city the Swedes promised to break off the siege if they haven’t conquered Brno by midday on August 15. And so, it was decided to ring the bells one hour earlier and the Swedes were fooled into calling off the attack. Every year, the Brno Days are celebrated featuring a parade of the historical armies.
The main square of the city represents the very center of Brno, which – in fact – is almost in the south of the city. The square itself isn’t as captivating as is the case in other Czech cities, however, there are more than a few individual elements of interest. The Renaissance building of the House of the Lords of Lipá is one of them, although if you want to be really stunned, you have to walk on the other side of the square to the House of the Four Idiots, a 19th century curiosity built by a Jewish industrialist and decorated with 4 huge statues of…well…idiot.
Probably the most controversial sight of the square is the astronomical “clock” built in the recent years. The criticism is due to the high sum paid for its construction and maintenance, for the fact that not even the author of the work could properly explain how to find out what the time is using this clock and las but not least, due to the peculiar shape of the statue resembling a phallus.
Mendel Museum of Masaryk University
The area of this museum was featured in another of Simon Mawer’s book – Mendel’s Dwarf. Mendel, abbot and the father of modern genetics lived and worked in the precincts of the Augustinian abbey in Old Brno where the museum is located. As you could probably guess, the Mendel Museum is a scientific museum. It is located on a square which has also been named after the scientist, however, it’s by far the only place of interest on the square. Not so far away there is the famous Starobrno beer brewery!
The botanical garden and arboretum of Brno belongs to the Masaryk university and it’s a beautiful oasis of peace with outdoor collections as well as greenhouses and gardens. You can learn here about different types of forests, aquatic and wetland vegetation or be awed by the tropical collection.
The Capuchin Crypt is not for everyone, but it is impressive! It’s a 17th century funeral room of Capuchin friars whose bodies have been mummified by the airing system and the geology of the place. The entrance room of the Crypt is the final resting place of Roman noblewoman St. Clementaine.
The dominant feature of the Vegetable Market in Brno is definitely the Baroque Parnas Fountain built in the 17th century and depicting scenes from the Greek mythology. The Reduta theatre on the east side of the square is the oldest theatre building in Central Europe and you’ll know you’re close when you see a little dancing Mozart statue on a pillar. You might also like to enter the labyrinth under the square formerly used as a cellar.
Have you brought your kids? Here’s a list of places to go with children in Brno!