After exploring Prague and Karlovy Vary, the last stop in our Czech trip was Brno, a town we knew almost nothing about, besides seeing some intriguing photos of it and learning some interesting facts about it at the International Travel Trade Show (ITB) in Berlin. Besides, it is the second largest city in Czechia and a college town, so it seemed a lot like our home town in Romania – Cluj-Napoca. 😊
The journey from Prague to Brno takes about two and a half hours by FlixBus, and the ticket prices start from as low as 5 euros, depending on the number of days left until the trip and the number of seats available. The coaches are equipped for best comfort and the route is on the highway, so it’s fast and easy if you choose this option. We reached Brno in the evening after a light rain and decided to walk from the bus station to our apartment – it only took us about 20 minutes.
We stayed in a prime location Airbnb apartment, between downtown and the fortress.
The place was on the top floor of an old building specific to the area and there wasn’t a lift, so we had some good cardio trainings climbing up and down the stairs, trainings that were warmly welcomed after tasting lots of Czech sweets, way more than was the case. Although the exterior of the building had not been renovated, inside the apartment everything was very modern and comfortable, including a balcony and a kitchen so we had the opportunity to cook our own meals – a real local’s experience!
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On the evening of our arrival, we just had enough time to admire a few central streets that were beautifully lit and then went shopping in a supermarket open until late at night (something we like in the eastern states, as opposed to Austria or Germany where shops close in the evening and during weekends).
Genetics was born here
The next morning, we went to explore the city on foot. Our first stop was near the place where we were staying, at the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady (Bazilika Nanebevzetí Panny Marie in Czech), a magnificent Gothic church that is almost 700 years old.
Nearby is the Monastery of St. Thomas, where a century and a half ago lived Gregor Mendel, the monk who laid the foundations of genetics.
His experiments with pea beans showed how traits are inherited from one generation to another. Now there is a museum here dedicated to his work, but unfortunately it was closed when we visited.
Delighted to discover a place so important for modern science, hidden in this provincial town, we went up the hill to the old fortress that was defending the settlement centuries ago. This ridge in the middle of the city reminded us somewhat of the Citadel of Cluj, but the one here is much better maintained.
There are numerous alleys that intersect all the way up, and we were lucky to catch a very fine spring day, when all surrounding nature seemed to be reborn, bathing in the warm sun. The narrow paths were buzzing with people, accompanied by many children and dogs, and everyone was enjoying this long-awaited season.
The area is ideal for relaxing, taking long walks, letting the warm wind to caress your face, watching the happy birds and bees playing through the young leaves and first flowers. It’s also a great spot to take pictures of the city from above and… for selfies. 😊
After a few minutes of walking uphill through the park, we reached the recently renovated castle, which is open for visitation. Once again, we were very lucky: it was the first week of the year when the castle was open on Mondays. It seemed like few people knew about this: we were the only visitors and very happy about it – it was super quiet everywhere and there were no crowds in our photos.
Some renovation works were still ongoing on one side of the building, so we could only visit two sights. We got to climb in a tower that was sheltering an old clock, built by extraordinary craftsmen many centuries ago.
From there we could admire the entire city of Brno and thought once again just how charming it was, very well kept, even in the communist era residential buildings were built at the outskirts of the city so the old center remained intact, keeping its historical atmosphere.
Then, our visit at Špilberk Castle continued with the old cellars, where 100 years ago was one of the most important prisons in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, keeping some of the most dangerous criminals, convicted for high crimes.
It was an interesting experience, the place is a bit creepy if you think about its past, but it offers a different perspective on life after seeing the terrible conditions those people had to live in (for a short time).
Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul
While walking down from the castle towards the city center, we reached a small park called Denis Gardens (Denisovy Sady in Czech), from where a wonderful view opens up over another part of the city.
Of course, we had to sit there for a while on a bench and obviously (duh!) take some pictures. We got to admire the building of the old railway station, thinking that, regretfully, many of the more recent constructions are only functional and no longer have the elaborated decorations customary to the 19th century.
Then, we entered the Cathedral of St. Peter & Paul, one of the symbols of the city, where of course we also climbed the tower. The ticket office is upstairs, so if you get there, it is pointless to walk confused around the church to look for the pay desk, like we did. 😊
From the top you can see the entire historical center, with its extraordinary buildings raised during the imperial period, most of them renovated now and looking beautiful.
Although it doesn’t show the grandeur you’ll find in Prague, the heart of Brno gives you the same feeling of immersion in the old center of Europe, with its elegant and sophisticated vibe, where even the usual shops and homes are carefully maintained and beautifully decorated.
Brno Old Town
After admiring the historical center from above, we went to properly explore it on foot, walking up and down the charming streets of the pedestrian and semi-pedestrian area and being very pleased with what we saw. Some of the streets reminded us of Bratislava, where central paved streets are only shared by people and trams, an idea that we find very good and practical, as it makes the area more breathable, and walking without having to watch out for cars becomes a pleasure.
There are numerous palaces and old buildings in the area, big and small churches, as well as countless shops, cafes and restaurants.
We stopped for a bit in Zelný Square, where to our surprise we found stalls selling fruits and vegetables, besides modern terraces for tourists. We learned that Christmas and Easter Markets of Brno are also held here.
After walking around the old streets for a few hours and enjoying the beauty of this little town we discovered almost by accident, we finally stopped in the Freedom Square (Náměstí Svobody in Czech), to rest at a terrace over a glass of local beer, while admiring the extremely relaxed people passing by.
Following the madness of the Czech capital with thousands of tourists on every street, it is a real pleasure to sit here and enjoy the beauty of this quiet town, without permanent agitation around you.
As it was getting dark, we returned to our apartment for a short nap, because very early the next morning we had to leave for Bratislava and Vienna. Our getaway to Brno was quite short and we only got to taste a small part of what this charming town has to offer, but it made a very good impression and we would love to come back.
There isn’t too much to do here, but the few attractions are worth visiting and if you want to relax and enjoy Czech cuisine, drinks and architecture, it can be a really good destination. One thing we left for a future visit is the Zoo – if we went this time, we would’ve spent all day admiring the furry cuteness and not have anything to share about the rest of the city in this article. 😊