When we visited the Czech Republic we wanted to see more of the country than just Prague so we decided to start our visit in the second largest city of Brno. Here are seven things to do that are walkable from the city center!
1 – Visit the 10 Z bunker
One of my favorite stops in Brno, the 10Z bunker was a highly classified nuclear fallout shelter from 1959 built to protect the area’s political representatives. Currently the Bunker serves as a museum every day except Mondays and as a milk bar on the weekend. We visited the milk bar for lunch and drinks and found the set up inside to be very interesting. Chairs and tables are scattered throughout the bunker along with fallout shelter furnishings and memorabilia. To get a server, there is a telephone in various rooms to call someone to come see you. For a small fee you can take a self-guided digital tour of more of the bunker but we opted to explore the many rooms of the milk bar for free instead. The underground network of rooms is large enough to house 600 people for up to three days and in the case of a nuclear attack, admission is free!
2 – Explore the Church of St James’ Ossuary
The Ossuary under the Church of St. James is definitely worth the visit (140 CZK for adults , about 6 USD ). First you need to stop by the desk to get a time for your tour. Although it is a self guided tour unless you speak Czech, a limited number of visitors are allowed to enter at a time. The Brno Ossuary is the second largest underground ossuary in Europe coming in behind the catacombs in Paris, France with an estimated more than fifty thousand people buried here dating back to the 17th century. It began as a small three chamber crypt and was expanded multiple times throughout the years to accommodate the many victims of the plague and cholera. Visitors can explore a few rooms with the bones displayed along the walls. Overall the tour takes 15-30 minutes.
3 – Wander the Labyrinth under the Vegetable Market
Underneath the square where they hold the vegetable market is a series of medieval cellars with tunnels connecting them. It is a guided tour in Czech but there are audio guides included in the tour price of 160 CZK for adults (~7USD) in many different languages so you can easily follow along. The tour took us through a labyrinth of tunnels each displaying different aspects of medieval society. The main use of these underground cellars was for food storage. Other rooms showed the different types of lighting techniques used to illuminate the underground caverns, an apothecary’s workshop, an underground pub, and an exhibit on torture instruments used in the square above.
4 – Check out the Astronomical Clock
Situated in Brno’s Freedom Square ( náměstí Svobody), a strange rounded black structure can be seen on the edge of the square. The puzzling structure is actually a astronomical clock symbolizing the resistance and bravery of the city of Brno. The story goes that in 1645 the city was under attack by the Swedish army. After a 112 day siege, the Swedish general decided that if they didn’t take the city by noon they would retreat. The defenders had the church bells ring at 11 am instead of noon, tricking the attackers causing them to retreat one hour earlier. Today at 11 am, which is “Brno’s noon,” a marble will come out at the bottom in one of four openings as a souvenir for one lucky tourist.
5 – Explore Spilberk Castle
Situated on the top of the hill, Spilberk Castle dates back to the 13th century. Through the years the castle served as a military fortress until it was transformed into a prison for serious criminals and political prisoners. When we visited in the fall, the interior exhibits were closed but there was ample opportunity to explore the grounds as well as the park surrounding the castle.
6 – Climb the Old Town Hall Tower
The Old Town Hall is the oldest preserved building in Brno’s city center dating back to the 13th century! The climb to the top of the 63 meter tower was not difficult with rooms to stop in along the way to read some of the history about the Old Town Hall itself and the town of Brno. From the top there are 360 degree views of the town from above. We could see the Cathedral, Spilberk Castle and even the balcony of our hostel! You can buy tickets from the tourist office just beneath the tower to climb for 70 CZK for adults (~3 USD).
7 – Visit the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul
This prominent cathedral sits on the top of Petrov hill and can be seen from many places in Brno. The cathedral has been the main church of the Bishop of Brno since 1777 but the history of the church dates back to the 12th century. It is free to explore the interior of the church and enjoy the gothic architecture on the exterior.
A few tips for planning your Brno visit…
We had a great time exploring Brno, here are some tips from our experience:
- Everything in the city was very walkable! We stayed in a hostel in the city center and everything on this list was within a twenty minute walk.
- There are multiple train/bus stations throughout Brno. While I was travelling from Prague, Czech Republic, Kim took a bus from Wroclaw, Poland and we ended up arriving at different stations and had to meet at the hostel. If you are trying to get to the city center Hlavni nadrazi is the main railway/bus station.
- When we visited in the fall, many of these attractions were closed on Mondays, one of the two full days we were there! The hours often varied by season so be sure to check in advance and take this into account as you plan your visit–don’t make the same mistake we did!
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