Brno, Czechia’s second largest city, was a wonderful surprise. Little did we know when we booked a few nights in this fabulous little city, just how much fun we were going to have.
The main purpose of our visit was to break up our journey between Vienna and Prague. The train journey between the two actually wasn’t that arduous, but we thought that since we were passing through, we’d see what what on offer.
Our flying visit very quickly turned into one of the travel highlights of our entire year. What we found, to our complete surprise, was a lively, progressive, youth-oriented city that was trying hard and succeeding to be a brilliant city break destination. With so many attractions, excellent cafes, bars and restaurants and a full programme of events held throughout the year, Brno could very well be travel’s next big thing.
In this post, we’re going to present to you just some of reasons why we think you should visit Czechia’s quirky second city.
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Things We Love About Brno
For a small city, Brno is packed full of great things to see and do. From ornate, roman catholic churches to modern, welcoming bars and restaurants, Brno is a perfect city break destination.
1. The Views From the Old Town Hall Observation Tower
Address: Radnická 8, 602 00 Brno-střed, Czechia
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We always like to start a visit to somewhere new by climbing an observation tower to get a lay of the land. We didn’t exclude Brno from this rule.
The 63-metre high Old Town Hall (Stará radnice) offers some great panoramic views of the city below, including many of Brno’s top attractions. You could almost plan out your entire itinerary from this one spot! Entry is a nominal 70Kč (multiple concessions, 50% discount with a Brnopas) and allows access to a gallery, exhibition and historic halls.
As you enter, look out for a preserved crocodile hanging from the ceiling. Legend has it this “dragon” once terrorised the city. By the looks of it now, its reign of terror is well and truly over.
2. Brno’s Quirky Astronomical Clock
Address: nám. Svobody, 602 00 Brno-střed, Czechia
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If anything captures the quirky nature of Brno best, it’s this astronomical clock (Brněnský orloj). The controversial monument, made of black marble, took three years to build at the cost of 12 million Czech crowns.
Firstly, let’s get it out of the way. Yes, the shape is a bit phallic, isn’t it. It’s actually supposed to resemble a bullet, but you can draw your own conclusions as to whether or not the brief was met.
Curiously, despite its name, it’s not an astronomical clock at all. It’s just a clock. It was built to commemorate a famous and unlikely victory the citizens of Brno had over invading Swedes in 1645 as part of the Thirty Years’ War. After three months of failed sieges, a Swedish general decided to give in if the city hadn’t fallen by noon that day. Faced with this ultimatum, the citizens of Brno put the town clock forward an hour at 11am, so that it read noon. Sure enough, the Swedes retreated.
Now, at 11am each morning, a glass marble is released from the clock from one of four openings. Whoever catches it gets to keep it as a souvenir.
Also, rather wonderfully, the cathedral bells still chime 12 times at 11’o’clock, in a nod to the city’s resilience and creative thinking.
3. The Brilliant Museum of Romani Culture
Address: 67, Bratislavská 246, Zábrdovice, 602 00 Brno-střed, Czechia
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The Romani community have been much maligned throughout their entire existence, and particularly since their initial migration from India. Their story is told in compelling detail at the Museum of Romani Culture, a short walk from the city centre.
The permanent displays are absorbing and engaging and tells of a misunderstood community that has faced persistent persecution. There are over 25 thousand objects, displayed creatively across several rooms. While most of the exhibition tells the full story of the Romani struggle, there are also displays celebrating Romani art and craftsmanship. The experience is supported by the use of an immersive audio guide.
As well as the museum, the building plays host to lectures, concerts, a range of events and temporary exhibits and academic research. It’s fabulous that such a building exists, where it can serve the needs of locals, but also reach out to those unfamiliar with the community’s history and social contributions.
Entry to the museum is 80Kč or free with a Brnopas. We totally recommend it!
4. A Dedication to the Installation of Public Art
Spend an hour or two in Brno and you’ll start to notice you’re not alone.
The city centre is graced by the presence of several statues & sculptures, each offering an intimate, and sometimes controversial or even confusing insight into the city’s personality.
Take for example Courage (Odvaha) by Jaroslav Róna on Moravian Square (Moravské náměstí) which depicts a knight mounting a horse with unusually long legs. From afar, the length of the legs is noticeable, but the sizable limbs actually isn’t why this piece prompts conversations. Stand underneath the statue and glance skywards and you’ll discover a saucy surprise.
5. The birthplace of Czechia and Slovakia is a modernist marvel
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the first examples of modern architecture in Europe. Built between 1928 and 1930, it was designed with a pioneering ‘less is more’ principle.
The architectural significance aside, the villa is also the site where leaders from the former Czechoslovakia came together to sign declarations that split the country into two and created modern day Czechia and Slovakia.
There are a variety of tickets on offer – if you’re just interested in seeing the building from the outside, you can buy a ‘garden and exposition’ ticket, whereas if you want to get inside, you’ll need to book into a guided tour. Head to the official website to see the options and to book.
6. Lots of great value accommodation to choose from
Since Brno isn’t yet the tourist hotspot it deserves to be, hotel prices are still very competitive. This means finding cheap deals on high quality accommodation is normally very easy (scroll down to the Plan & Book section to see our hotel picks).
As well as hotels, there are lots of homes and apartments to choose from too. We chose a petite, but fully-functional apartment* about five minutes walk from the city’s attractions. We really liked the modern decor and colour scheme and the contemporary layout and design choices. Despite the size, there was a complete kitchen, full-sized bed, bright & clean bathroom and comfortable living area.
7. The Awesome Night Life
Brno is a university town with a large student population (nearly 90,000), so there are plenty of great places to go for a night out. While it’s perhaps not up there with the likes of Ibiza and Ayia Napa, Brno does have more than its fair share of pubs and trendy cocktail bars.
Neither Jade nor I are particularly used to going out at night, but even we were lured by Brno’s nighttime offerings.
We visited two bars, both contemporary, filled with cool, young people and both doing things their own way. 4rooms (4pokoje) was welcoming and unpretentious, serving bespoke cocktails and an ever changing menu of food, whilst the Bar That Does Not Exist served very reasonably priced classic cocktails in a modern speakeasy setting.
Find out more: Read about 4rooms and the Bar That Does Not Exist in our post on the best Veggie-Friendly Cafes, Bars & Restaurants in Brno.
8. A Plethora of Cool Cafes and Restaurants
Brno is home to several hipster coffee shops and veggie & vegan friendly bistros serving food that defy the Czech/Eastern European cuisine stereotypes. While you can of course find more traditional places that stick to serving meat and veg staples, they are also easily avoided in favour of more modern eateries.
Our favourite cafe was Skøg Urban Hub, a space filled with young hipsters drinking artisan coffees whilst working on their Macbooks. Our favourite restaurant was Soul Bistro, serving thoughtful, tasty goodness amidst minimalist decor.
Find out more: You can read more about these and other cafes and restaurants we visited in our guide to the best Veggie-Friendly Cafes, Bars & Restaurants in Brno.
9. Lots of Fabulous Churches to Visit
Brno has several fabulously decorative Roman Catholic churches to visit and entry to most is free of charge.
While the churches themselves are wonderful in their own right, there are a couple of hidden surprises in store for those keen to explore a little further.
Underneath the baroque Church of St James is Europe’s second largest ossurary, where it is thought 50,000 people were once buried. Today, the remaining bones have been arranged in a curiously artistic way. Combined with careful lighting and music specially arranged to accompany the display, the Ossuary at the Church of St James is not to be missed.
10. There’s always something interesting going On
During our short visit, we were surprised by the high number of events taking place. Across the city, all available space was seemingly being used for visiting or temporary exhibitions whilst local authority/community groups were holding events celebrating and highlighting different aspects of Brno’s populace.
We tried our best to frequent as many of these events as we could, visiting art galleries and museums and dropping by a World Music event in one of the city’s parks where, as well as being entertained by a variety of music, were fed a platter of vegetarian food completely free.
The main square, Freedom Square (náměstí Svobody), is often home to events that are easy to take part in. During our trip, a food and wine festival was being held. The official Brno Tourism website has a calendar of events on, so check it before your visit.
11. The Christmas Lights Stay Up All Year Round
We’re not sure whether the lights hung over the streets of Brno are actually Christmas lights that are left out all year. Whatever their purpose, they certainly make evening’s in Brno a little more vibrant and festive.
12. The Excellent Art Galleries & Museums
I’m not massively into galleries and museums, but even I was impressed by Brno’s range of thirteen cultural institutions.
Since we were only in town for a couple of days, we could only make it to parts of the Moravian Gallery (Czechia’s second largest art museum), which is split across four sites. Pražák Palace, considered the main building, and is home to temporary and permanent collections of art spanning several different categories and genres. It is also home to a spiral slide which patrons are encouraged to make good use of.
We also popped across the road to the Museum of Applied Arts, which at the time was hosting an interactive exhibition on nineties pop culture. Rows of functioning video game machines sat alongside sets of roller boots on pedestals. It was pretty cool. This grand building is set to close until 2020, whilst it receives so much needed renovation work.
Admission fees vary, with some buildings offering free entry, and others charging nominal fees. Some institutions, like the Moravian Gallery, offer a long series of possible discounts (including half price entry if you show in Ikea Family Card of all things), so do make sure you have a look through the list before you pay full price.
Plan & Book your visit to Brno
In this section, we’ll go through how you can plan and book your visit to Brno.
Trains to Brno
Brno railway station (normally referred to as Brno hl.n.) is on a major international railway line with direct connections to places in Czechia and further afield. If you’re travelling from Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna, the train will be the best option for you.
Travelling by train from Prague to Brno
Prague, the Czech capital, is a direct 2.5 hour train ride away from Brno, therefore flying into Prague and catching a train to Brno is a great option and might also end up being better value.
Both Czech Railways (České dráhy or ČD) and the Austrian-Czech high-speed service, Railjet run services between the cities. Standard fares are very cheap and upgrades are surprisingly not much more, so do consider upgrading, particular on the much more lavish Railjet services.
Booking your train tickets in advance not only brings peace of mind, it also often means you pay the lowest fare. To find the best value train tickets to Brno from anywhere, we recommend Trainline*.
Since trains produce significantly less CO2 than planes, taking the train is a Responsible Travel Choice.
Flights to Brno
Brno has its own international airport and has year-round incoming flights to/from London and Munich. There are also seasonal flights to/from several destinations around the Mediterranean Sea.
Skyscanner* is a great place to start your search for the best prices on flights to Brno. They compare fares from multiple airlines and travel agents all at once.
Transfers from the airport
Bus E76 (N89 at night) will take you from outside the departure terminal into the city centre in just 20 minutes. Tickets (25 CSK) can be purchased from a vending machine in arrivals or from the driver using cash or contactless cards.
Buses to Brno
If you’re travelling on a budget and your origin is fairly local, travelling to Brno by bus is a great option. The journey from Vienna is particular competitive with journey times at only 90 minutes.
If you’re travelling from Poland, there are lots of bus services offering seats at practically unbeatable prices. Journey times though are pretty lengthy.
Search and compare bus fares with Busbud*, which offers comprehensive and up-to-date timetable and ticket price information for destinations all over the world.
Taking public transport is a Responsible Travel Choice, as sharing your journey with others is much better for the environment than taking journeys by car.
Getting around Brno
Brno is very compact and very easily explored on foot.
The city centre is pretty flat, so those with limited mobility should get around fairly easily, though watch out for the occasional cobbled street.
The Brnopas is an inexpensive tourist card offered by Brno Tourist Information Centre that includes free or heavily discounted entry into most of Brno’s attractions. Provided you plan on visiting at least three attractions per day of your visit, it’s well worth investing in one.
You can buy a Brnopas at one of the three tourist information centres (Radnická Street, Panenská Street or at the railway station) or you can buy one online on the Go To Brno website.
Hotels and Holiday Homes in Brno
Brno has plenty of great places to stay during your visit, meeting a wide variety of budgets. Accommodation money goes a bit further in Czechia, so bagging a great deal for a higher end room is normally be quite easy.
We’ve had a good look around through the available hotels and we think the following selection are worth your consideration:
- Barceló Brno Palace: A grand building right in the city centre, housing contemporary rooms at surprisingly low rates*. There’s free wifi and complimentary access to the on-site sauna. This property takes extra steps towards sustainability. Find out more*
- Sono Hotel: Housed inside the city’s premier music venue, this hotel goes for super-modern and minimalist aesthetic. Prices are are very reasonable* and the getting into the city centre is very easily done by tram. Find out more*
- Design Apartment: We stayed in a compact and smartly designed apartment* during our stay. It was quiet and comfortable and suited us very well. The location was also great, with the city centre just a short walk away. Find out more*
For general accommodation searches, we recommend Tripadvisor*.
Activities, Tours & Excursions in Brno
To find out which activities, tours and excursions are available in Brno, we recommend GetYourGuide*.
There’s even more to see in Brno
So, there we have it! Just some of the reasons why we think Brno is a brilliant European city break destination. Whilst Brno might not have the big name attractions and charming architecture of Prague, it’s worth remembering that Brno also doesn’t have the queues, crowds or tourist traps of Prague either. For the time being at least, Brno is a fabulous way to get a true sense of what Czechia is like, without having to wait in lines and without having to pay inflated prices.
Despite packing as much into our visit as we could, we still only scratched the surface of what this awesome city offers. For example, we didn’t visit the the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul which dominates the city’s skyline, nor did we visit the city’s famous castle atop Špilberk Hill. Tugendhat Villa, the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site where the leaders of Czechoslovakia signed the documents that divided the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia was also missing from our itinerary.
1 thought on “Brno, Czechia: 12 Reasons Why You’ll Love This Quirky Second City”
We went to Brno about three years ago. Thought it was fantastic second city with great south Moravian countryside and lovely towns just an hours drive if you feel like a more rural experience.
But Brno was great, quirky interesting and full of very friendly people.
Some great unusual shops and good markets .
We stayed at the Grandezza hotel, great value for a really terrific hotel with a mix of Art deco, Modern and Communist , sounds odd but really works. Really nice restaurant too although there are plenty of others in Brno. Out front is the amazing fruit and veg market in the square . Only problem with Brno is getting there, a weekend from London is not practical but if you have a couple more days its a great place. Do leave time to visit some of the amazing nearby towns and remeber this is south Moravia, wine country and the Moravians take their wine as seriously as the Bohemians take their beer , some really lovely wine especially light refreshing summer varieties . All in all another reason why Czechia away from Prague is Europe’s hidden gem