Culture, architecture and a peculiar dialect, that’s Olomouc, the capital of the ethnographic region Haná or Hanácko (Hanakia in English).
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Olomouc is a gem. Just about one hour by car from Brno and two and half to three hours from Prague, this charming city is like a movie that you want to watch over and over to notice all the interesting details. You can come here many times and notice new things every time. In this article, I’d like to show you all the main sights as well as the details you shouldn’t overlook, I’m going to give you some useful tips (like parking) and there’s going to be a tiny riddle!
Table of Contents
Olomouc, the true center of Moravia?
Olomouc or as the locals say – Olomóc or Holomóc is the heart of Central Moravia and of the region of Hanakia (Hanácko) which gave name to the very distinctive dialect of Czech which becomes almost unintelligible in some villages of the region.
Listen to the dialect called hanáčtina.
This Moravian metropolis used to be a natural center of Moravia for several hundreds of years. Not only thanks to its location but also to the university of great reputation, the religious life and the local cultural life. It attracted artists and business people from all over Europe and its past political and economic importance reflects in the overall architecture.
Even after Brno took over as the capital of Moravia, Olomouc still keeps attracting many for its unique ambient and hosts many events. Probably the most famous ones are the botanical exposition Flora Olomouc, the International Organ Festival, the choral festival Svátky písní Olomouc – Festa Musicale, the Flamenco Festival or the Olomouc Halfmarathon.
Going around Olomouc
Where to park
If you come by car and don’t have private parking at your hotel (for example, when you come to Olomouc just for one day), remember you cannot drive to the very center. No worries though as parking is available very close, the center is small (everything is easily accessible on foot) and there are trams.
There’s supervised parking on tř. Svobody which is literally just around the corner from Olomouc main square. You can pay by the hour but whole-day parking is also cheap, it’s currently 200 CZK (2023). Here’s the map:
Some parts of the city are divided into zones, the parking fees differ. There’s a guide in English explaining the system.
Using public transport in Olomouc (trams and buses) is comfortable, practical and easy. You can get one-ride as well as long-term tickets and even SMS tickets are available. Senior citizens over 65 can use public transport for free. You can find all the information about the Olomouc public transport in English on this website. And if you need to search connections from one place to another for a specific time, this is a good app.
Let’s do some sightseeing
We start in the center of Olomouc, the Upper Square (Horní náměstí). The Town hall is the dominant of the city and the symbol of its former importance. The city hall features expositions on the history of Olomouc and also an astronomical clock called orloj in Czech.
Every day at noon, the orloj puts on a whole show, so be on time because people start gathering around the astronomical clock even ten minutes before it starts.
Let’s stay around the Town hall for a while longer. You can join a tour to the Town hall tower. It’s free of charge and the tour takes about 30 minutes but you cannot go whenever you want. Usually, there are 4 tours a day in summer, two before and after the main tourist season and the tower is closed in winter. You can find the updated info here.
First stop on the tour up is St. Jerome’s chapel which is a small chapel known for the fact that it leans slightly to one side and there’s no right angle. And here comes the small riddle I promised you. Do you know what the following year above the entrance to the chapel is? You can find the answer at the very end of this article.
Next stop is the small exposition dedicated to the astronomical clock. Among other things, you can see the Fabricius’ astrolabe which was used in the clock until the end of the 19th century.
From here it’s up those 145 wooden steps to the tower. The higher you get, the narrower and older the staircase. The railing is pretty low and with large gaps so I don’t recommend this tour for children younger than 3 years and generally for young children I’d say take them only if you’re absolutely sure they’ll behave. Once on the top everything’s safe, there’s a thin wired fence all around with several windows through which you can make photos and enjoy the view. You can see not only the city but also the basilica on Svatý Kopeček or the Hradisko Monastery.
The 18th century Column of the Holy Trinity is a feature of the square you can’t overlook and it has been a World Heritage Site since 2000. This 35 meters tall column features over 40 statues! It was sanctified in 1754 with the empress Maria Theresia present.
The Church of St. Maurice is one of the most valuable late Gothic buildings in Moravia. Its organ constructed by J. E. Heintzler and M. Engler is one of the largest organs in Europe. You can also visit its tower.
There are several significant fountains at the Upper Square and around. Caesar’s Fountain is the largest one and comes from the mid 18th century. As the name suggests, the horse-riding statue is of none other than the Roman emperor Gaius Julius Caesar who – according to the Rennaissance legend – founded Olomouc. In his hand the statue’s holding the founding document of Olomouc.
Merkur’s Fountain comes from the same time and it’s the last from a series of six Baroque fontains in Olomouc. Hercules’ Fountain is 40 years older and it commemorates the victory of the Austrian army over the Turks at the battle of Viena in 1683.
One thing tourists remember from the Upper Square are the bronze statues of giant turtles. They are the part of the newest Arion’s Fountain from 2002.
Even the Lower Square features fountains – Neptun’s Fountain representing the ruler of the seas and Jupiter’s Fountain. Another impressive dominant of this square is the Marian Column from the beginning of the 18th century.
Around the castle
The Olomouc castle was first mentioned in 1055 in the famous Kosmas’ Chronicle. In 1306 it became the place of death of the last member of the Přemyslid dynasty, king Wenceslas III (Václav III.).
The most important part of the castle is the Gothic Dome of St. Wenceslas and a partially preserved Roman palace.
Flora is an exhibition center and it’s a complex of gardens, parks, greenhouses and the botanical garden. It hold temporary as well as permanent expositions. Some of the most significant parts of the complex are Orangerie, Rosarium, Palm greenhouse, Cacti greenhouse, tropical greenhouse.
Other places in Olomouc
Walking towards the Wenceslas’ Square you can admire the St. Michael’s Church and St. Jan Sarkand Chappel. Jan Sarkand was a priest who was tortured to death in 1620 and canonized by John Paul II. in 1995.
The Art Nouveau Vila Primavesi features comes from the beginning of the 20th century and represents a blend of Viennese and British Art Nouveau.
If you counted correctly, you’ve notices that we mentioned only five Baroque fountains (and one modern). The sixth fountain is on the Republic Square (Náměstí republiky) and it’s the Fountain of the Tritons.
Cross the river Morava north from the castle and you’ll reach a hill called Hradisko with the Hradisko Monastery on its top. This former Premonstresian and Benedictine monastery has been declared a cultural heritage in 1995 and occupies the Olomouc military hospital.
Take your children to the Fortress of Knowledge, the interactive museum in a former military warehouse. Explore the wonders of the human brain and the Enigma machine or visit the digital planetarium. Right infront of the fortress you can hop on the Ološlap – the bar on wheels in which you can drink beer and discover Olomouc at the same time.
And, when we talk about Olomouc, we mustn’t forget to mention the famous the mature curd cheese or olomoucké tvarůžky (although they actually come from the nearby village Loštice) and its museum. Tvarůžky are probably the smelliest thing you’ll encounter on your trip to Czech Republic, so don’t miss the opportunity so learn about its history and to see how they’re made.
Geocaching in Olomouc
Maybe you know that the Czech Republic is a Geocaching Superpower. There are caches everywhere and they take you to beautiful and interesting places. Olomouc is a perfect town for geocaching, just take your pick:
And so, one of the places you can get to know thanks to geocaching in Olomouc is the narrowest house in town (and the house next to it is probably number two)…
…or to the historical gardens:
Where to Stay in Olomouc
Olomouc offers lots of different types of accommodation. There are low cost as well as luxury hotels, apartments and hostels.
And for those who are looking for the best deals on accommodation in Olomouc:
Where to Eat in Olomouc
Coffee Library is our number one to go in Olomouc. They have a large selection of the most amazing looking desserts and savory snacks and they cook on workdays. The food is really good and you can sit outside or inside.
Kafec in the historical Vila Primavesi has a very tasty menu based on sweet and savory waffles (but not just them) but its main asset is the garden. You will hardly find a more beautiful place in Olomouc to enjoy your lunch.
If you’re a fan of fine dining, you’re in the right place. The Entrée restaurant has been a real bomb in the past few years. It’s chef Přemek Forejt became a huge star all over the country thanks to his unorthodox ideas and the way he leads this establishment.
Restaurant u Mořice is a more traditional place with a variety of meals to accompany with local beer and wine and also some desserts. And you can find it at the Church of St. Maurice.
Answer to the riddle
The year is 1488. It’s because in the 15th century it was not uncommon to write the number 4 as the number 8 “cut” in half.
Olomouc is a beautiful city worth visiting. And how about discovering other places in Moravia?