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Brno is surprisingly rich in sights, including a designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with many of the sights situated in its historical centre full of Hapsburg homes, opera houses, communist concert halls and incredible icons of functionalist architecture.
Brno also has an old world atmosphere, due to its trams and unique inter-war buildings. The beguiling mix of Soviet and Austro-Hungarian Empire past comes to life, rewarding the visitor with pretty churches and a fascinating old quarter. In the city square alone, called Namesti Svobody, there is a fantastically eclectic mixture of architecture that ranges from Moravian baroque, Hapsburg neo-renaissance and communist-era functionalist architecture.
The city has two castles – Špilberk and Veveří – but also two town halls. The city’s Old Town Hall is guarded by a two-metre dragon – a symbol of the city connected with a legend associated with the City of Brno. Brno is a cultural and festival hub: the city has the oldest theatre building in Central Europe – the Reduta Theatre at Zelný, and, as a result, the city has a long theatre tradition.
The Moravian capital is also gateway to the vineyards of South Moravia, a region sprawling with quaint villages and hundreds of vineyards. Nearby to Brno are the major Moravian wine-producing towns – Mikulov, Slovácko, Velké Pavlovice and Znojmo.
Brno is within an easy reach of Moravia’s karst region – perfect for seeing the country’s limestone caves as well as the medieval castle of Pernstejn. South of Brno you will find an array of pretty villages, towns and castles along the River Dyje. Towards the west you will find the town of Znojmo packed with medieval frescos. Znojmo is a great place to start an exploration of the Podyji national park.
Brno has compressed a lot of history into a small city. The battle of Austerlitz took place just outside the town. Gregor Mendel invented modern genetics in the town’s Abbey of St Thomas (where you can now stay – as it is a Pension) and Sigmund Freud was born in the region. In the 1920s, it was a leading centre of functionalist architecture, and, given its location near Vienna, the city also has its fair share of Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg era buildings.
The spirit of the city’s halcyon inter-war years s shown in the UNESCO World Heritage listed Villa Tugendhat, the home of of Greta and Fritz Tugendhat from the years 1929–1930, designed by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It is possible to see the house more or less as Mies Van Der Rohe designed the house as it was in the 193os as the building underwent monumental renewal and restoration work over the years 2010–2012, with the interiors are equipped with exact replicas of the original furnishings. Its popularity means you have to book a place on its tours long in advance.
Start with a walking tour of the city on the city’s main square, Namesti Svobody. The square is home to a mix of architecture that ranges from neo-Renaissance to functionalist era buildings. Walk down Masarykova, go right up Panska and left into Radnicka to reach the old town hall, with its gothic portal topped with a crooked spire.
A crocodile, known locally as the “Brno dragon”, dangles from the courtyard ceiling. The legend surrounding the Brněnský drak claims that the beast was tricked into eating a carcass stuffed full of lime after which it rushed to the river Svratka to drink water causing the lime to expand and its stomach to burst.
Špilberk Castle dominates the Brno skyline. It’s a fantastic place to visit as it was a royal castle when first built and then converted into a Baroque fortress and prison. It was known as the Dungeon of Nations because of its list of people rebelling against the oppressive Habsburg regime. Its dungeons are fascinating and the ramparts and grounds are also worth exploring.
UPM is the excellent Museum of Applied Arts (Husova 14) housed in a graceful neo-Renaissance building shows you all the cultural influences on Moravian art through the centuries.
Another castle worth visiting is the gothic Veveří Castle which today is a popular venue used for social and cultural events. The Cathedral Of St. Peter And Paul is situated on the Petrov hill and the iconic twin spires are depicted on the Czech 10Kč coin.
Brno and Moravia are a region characterised by its deeply rooted folk culture as well as a great classical music tradition. The city of Brno also has a reputation for classical music, being the home town of the composer Leoš Janáček, the composer and folklorist, who was deeply inspired by Moravian folk music, using it to create an original, modern musical style. Make sure you attend a Janáček concert if you are in Brno.
From its perpendicular walls to a wooden bridge, Pernstejn Castle looks exactly what you would imagine a classic medieval gothic castle. It’s a short walk from Nedvedice station – a one-hour train ride from Brno.
The Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape UNESCO World Heritage site is a large cultural-natural complex close to Břeclav and Mikulov, a striking landscape that married Baroque architecture and the classical and neo-Gothic style of the castles of Lednice and Valtice with countryside designed according to English romantic principles of landscape architecture. It is over two hundred square kilometres – one of the largest artificial landscapes in Europe.
+ Information about Brno
Below you can see some extra information and travel tips, you are welcome to leave comments if you have travel ideas you want to share.
Good restaurants in Brno
Good food and drink are great value in Brno. The South Moravia region is renowned for its great local beer and wine. Sip the strong Pelhrimov beer or try the locally brewed beer such as Dalesicke. Make sure you get a taste of Moravian white and red wines as well as the local slivovice (plum brandy). As an accompaniment, make sure you try utopenec (Czech tapas of onions and peppers encased in sausage meat), snacks such as hermelin (strong cheese kept in oil, served on bread), korbacik (cheese strings), “beer balls” (paprika covered cheese balls with gherkins and bread) and masovy knedlik (meatloaf tapas).
Brno has its share of quirky establishments to eat and drink: Vytopna (ul. Hlinky 34) serves beers on a model train and the Air Cafe (ul Zelny trh 8) is an airforce themed bar full of memorabilia. The Pivnice u Poutnika (Starobrnenská 16/18) is in a medieval courtyard full of local Moravians. Cellars are a way of life in Brno and are host to many bars and beer halls, including the The Pub (Behounska 9), which has pour-your-own beer on your table,as well as numerous Vinotekas (wine bars).
Špaliček is Brno’s oldest restaurant and is located near the Cabbage Market. Serving excellent Moravian food and wines, this restaurant is fantastic for an authentic atmosphere. Spolek is a bohemian restaurant that serves interesting soups and salads as well as excellent wines. A great place to relax with a drink is Pegas, a beer cellar at Jakubska 4 with its own microbrewery. Varna, at 3 Solnicni, is more lively and even stages jazz and musical performances.
Wine tradition in Moravia goes as far back as to Roman times, and the Moravian “Napa Valley”, Velké Bílovice, is nearby. When you fly to Brno, make sure you try the local wine grapes: Veltlínské zelené, (grüner veltliner in German) and ryzlink rýnský (rhein riesling). However, you also won’t be disappointed by reds: Modrý Portugal, Frankovka, Zweigeltrebe. For something a little sweeter, there is vina slamove and ledove, made respectively out of grapes dried on hay or picked when already frozen.
Hotels in Brno
Brno has a range of hotels to suit all budgets.
Barceló Brno Palace hotel is located in the heart of the city on the edge of Brno’s Old Town – one of the most luxurious hotels. The hotel is a mix of 19th-century architecture with contemporary and romantic rooms. The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul and the Špilberk Castle and other numerous historical sites are just a few steps away.
Hotel Grandezza is located in the centre of Brno near the Vegetable Market and is a boutique hotel. With a stunning a hand-painted glass ceiling and marble mosaics, it is one of the most luxurious places to stay in Brno.
The Hotel Royal Ricc is located in a pretty historic building near the Gothic cathedral, on Starobrněnská Street, one of the oldest streets in the city. This four-star hotel prides itself on a rich family history reaching all the way back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
For a taste of the inter-war golden age of Brno, try the Hotel Slovan, Lidicka 23 built in a functionalist style, but with a hint of the later Communist style. The restaurant with a Bugatti car theme.
If you are on a budget, but totally different, try the Penzion Na Starém Brně, a small, but atmospheric Augustinian monastery, famous as the Augustinian monastery, where Gregor Mendel was an abbot, and where he defined his theory of gene heritage. The pension has five compact rooms are bare bones but clean and comfortable, located right on the central Mendelovo Square (Mendelovo náměstí).