Brno is the Czech Republic’s second largest city after Prague, and, for those of you who have been to Prague, a welcome escape from the bustling bus tours and sightseeing hordes found in the capital city. Don’t get me wrong, I love Prague with it’s romantic bridges, medieval towers and spires, and large city amenities. But if you’ve been to Prague, why not get out and explore more of what Czech has to offer? In Brno you’ll find a relaxed atmosphere, stunning architecture, beautiful parks, delicious food, cheaper prices, and far fewer tourists.
Best Sites in Brno
Like Prague, Brno has an excellent public transport system that will deliver you fairly close to anywhere you need to go in the city for a low cost. You’ll also discover a thriving and vibrant city center with plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment options that make for a perfect visit. Somehow Brno has not really made it on the tourist trail yet even though it is home to a thriving international University population using English as a common language. So what is there about Brno that makes it a unique and exciting travel destination? Good food and drink, a friendly and open community, and even a UNESCO World Heritage Site await the wanderer that should leave the well trodden tourist trail to Prague.
On our recent visit we chose to go for a more romantic weekend and booked the suite, complete with fireplace, at the Santander Hotel. We splurged a little but the hotel was still less than 100 euros. The Santander is renovated early 20th century villa that has been expertly designed and fitted out. The rooms were comfortable and stylish and our beautiful fireplace was ready to drop a match and enjoy the crackling warmth on a cold winter’s night. Breakfast is included and was one of the better I’ve had in quite some time. Of course there were the usual yogurts and cereals, meats and cheeses, but the staff went even further offering omelettes or scrambled eggs. Both were delicious as were the espressos and cappuccinos!
Aside from wanting the added ambiance of the fireplace, we chose the Santander for its location. Perched at the edge of a forest and just on the edge of the downtown, it was easily accessible by car, had free private parking, and was across the street from a bus stop with several lines stopping at it. So with the car parked and our bags safely stowed in the room, we were ready to hit the town. Our first step was the bus stop and buying a 24 hour pass. This ticket can be used by a small family on the weekends and will get you anywhere most tourist go for less than four euros for 24 hours. We bought our ticket from the driver of the bus and were on our way.
The bus conveniently dropped us off, after a 10 minute ride, at Mendlovo square, a hub of sorts for trams and buses reaching most of the city. But more importantly, this square is the home of the famous Starobrno brewery which has been pumping out the golden brew since the 13th century. I consider this a must for anyone visiting the city. The beer is excellent, with several varieties on tap to try out, including one or two seasonals, most of which is being piped directly from the brewery to the restaurant. If you’re not a beer drinker, my condolences, but the the food in the restaurant is first class as well, so you won’t feel too left out. Please, while you’re there, have a nice steaming bowl of brewer’s soup for me, it is out of this world!
From the brewery, it is an easy bus ride up the hill to the castle overlooking the town. Hrad Špilberk was initially built around the same time as the brewery, but has since been rebuilt (as so many castles have). Today, visitors can walk along the casemates, explores the towers and dungeons, and visit the city museum. Plan about two hours for your visit. You can enjoy a nice hike down the hill and into the old town (or climb back aboard the bus) where you can spend several hours exploring the cathedrals, ossuaries, old city hall (can you find the crocodile?), freedom square with it’s astronomical clock (be there at exactly 11:00!), and of course, sample more beer.
In fact, if you’re hungry for lunch, you won’t do wrong to visit one of the other breweries in town, Pegas Brewery is just around the corner from the 13th century Church of Saint James. Geocachers, be aware, there is a cache nearby! Find and log the cache then head into Pegas for another beer and a tasty lunch with daily menus at around four euros. You won’t leave hungry.
Wherever you decide to spend your time in Brno, you really need to plan on a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Villa Tugendhat, the architectural exemplar of prewar Europe and one of the most studied of world modern architecture. I’m not an architect, engineer, or even a building contractor, but I found the visit here to be fascinating and well worth the effort required to make a visit. If possible, you should book your tour well in advance (two or three months if possible), but don’t be dismayed, depending on the season you may still be able to walk up and join a non-English speaking tour. Don’t worry, you’ll get a printed English guide that matches up with the tour of the house.
Back in our hotel, we lit the fire and settled in for the night reflecting on all Brno has to offer at so much less expense than Prague.
Brno is on the major rail routes between Scandinavia and the Balkans with direct Eurail connections from Berlin, Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. Or you can fly in cheaply via Ryanair or Wizz Air from London. Bus routes are also cheap and readily available out of Prague. By car, Brno is easily reachable on the very driveable Czech highway system, just be sure and buy a vignette before venturing out onto the motorway.
Santander Hotel is our pick if you are driving into Brno, otherwise, you would do better to find a hotel in the town center easier to reach from the train station, like the Grandezza.
Pisárecká 269/6, 603 00 brno-Pisárky, Czech Republic
Zelný trh 314/2, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic