10 Top Tourist Attractions in Brno & Easy Day Trips
The Czech Republic's second largest city after Prague and the capital of the state of Moravia, Brno has a long rich history that dates back as far as prehistoric times. While evidence of the communist era still dominates the city's outskirts, dig deeper and you'll be rewarded with a number of splendid historical sites and attractions, including the 13th-century Spilberk Castle, the Dietrichstein Palace, and the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, widely considered one of the country's most important historic buildings. Home to many of the country's most important government institutions, Brno - a university town with numerous educational establishments - is also an important convention, entertainment, and cultural center, boasting many fine concert venues, sports halls, and racetracks, including the famous Masaryk Circuit.
See also: Where to Stay in Brno
1 The Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul
Perched atop Petrov Hill in the heart of Brno, the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul is considered a national cultural monument and remains one of the city's most important attractions due to its splendid architecture. Highlights include its exquisite Baroque interior, as well as the 84-meter-tall twin towers added at the start of the 20th century (the main part of the building dates from the mid-1700s). Try to time your visit to coincide with the ringing of the midday bells, which in fact sound at 11am (legend has it this early peel successfully tricked attacking Swedes into ending their siege). Another highlight is a chance to see the remnants of the original city walls buried underneath the cathedral, as well as its interesting old crypt.
Address: Petrov 9, 602 00 Brno 2
2 Špilberk Castle and the Brno City Museum
Dating from the 13th century, Špilberk Castle (hrad Špilberk) was built by Czech King Pøemysl Otakar II and has served many roles over the years, including those of royal castle, fortress, and prison. Today, the castle is home to the Brno City Museum with its fine permanent and frequent temporary exhibitions. Permanent exhibits focus on the architectural history of the castle and its role as a prison, as well as the history of Brno. Concerts, theatrical performances, and other cultural events are held in the castle's courtyard throughout the summer, and visitors are also encouraged to climb the lookout tower for its fine views over the old city.
Address: Špilberk 210/1, 662 24 Brno
3 Moravian Karst and Caves
Famous for its cool air and stunning caverns, the Moravian Karst and Caves are a must-visit when in Brno. The Karst area covers some 100 square kilometers and contains more than 1,100 known caves and gorges, four of which are open to the public for self-guided tours (trails are clearly marked indicating their level of difficulty). For the truly adventurous, a number of less-traveled caverns can be visited with a qualified spelunker as a guide. Highlights include numerous interesting stalagmites and stalactites easily viewable from the well-lit passageways, as well as an excellent boat tour along an underground river. Also of note is the Macocha Abyss, a deep chasm overlooked by viewing platforms and footbridges, and with numerous excellent walking trails. About 25 kilometers north of Brno, the caves are always popular with tourists, so be sure to book your visit in advance.
Address: Skalní mlýn 65, 678 25 Blansko
4 Editor's Pick Tugendhat Villa
Built by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Tugendhat Villa is considered one of the most extraordinary examples of modern architecture from the early 20th century. In a posh residential area, it was constructed in 1930 for Fritz Tugendhat, after whom the building is named, and is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Incorporating some of the most modern technology and concepts from that time period, the villa - the first masterpiece of modern architecture to be built on Czech soil - is famous for its unique open-plan structure and use of materials such as onyx, chrome, travertine, and ebony. (English language guided tours are available but due to the Villa's popularity, should be booked well in advance.)
Address: Černopolní 45, 613 00 Brno
5 Dietrichstein Palace and the Moravian Museum
The Dietrichstein Palace (Dietrichstinsky Palac), built in the early 17th century for Cardinal Dietrichstein, is typical of Brno's splendid baroque architecture style. Today, the palace houses the excellent Moravian Museum (Moravské zemské muzeum), the country's oldest museum (and one of the largest) and home to more than six million historical artifacts. The museum's five permanent exhibits cover a wide range of topics and time periods, including prehistory, a Moravian village in the Middle Ages, and minerals and mining, as well as offering a comprehensive overview of the region's more recent history, including fascinating displays relating to WWI and WWII.
Address: Zelný trh 6, 659 37, Brno
6 The Church of St. James and the Brno Ossuary
After the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, Brno's other most important religious structure is the pretty 14th-century Church of St. James (CzechKostel svatého Jakuba). Now a National Cultural Landmark due to its important architecture and historical artifacts, the church features an old gothic crucifix, early 16th-century reliefs (including one of the crucifixion of Christ), a number of interesting tombstones, and a Baroque organ. One of the most startling features is the Brno Ossuary. Revealed during an archeological dig in 2001, this vast collection of human bones - estimates suggest the remains of around 50,000 people were found, making it the second largest after the famous Catacombs of Paris - is as chilling in scale as it is in the unusual way the collection is displayed, including collections heaped in archways and used as decorative displays and ornamentation.
Address: Jakubské náměstí, 602 00 Brno
7 Veveří Castle
Just 15 kilometers northwest of Brno's city center, Veveří Castle's good looks are enhanced by its commanding position high above the River Svratka. Founded in the 11th century, this stunning structure's present appearance features numerous additions and changes made up until the medieval period. After changing hands and nationality many times - the castle was once even owned by wealthy English landlords, and hosted Winston Churchill in his younger years - the castle lay dormant for decades, but thanks to recent renovations is certainly worth a visit. Highlights include the palace building with its vast loft and dining room, its fine frescoes, and collections of furniture. (English language guided tours are available.)
Address: 664 71 Veverská Bítýška
8 The Moravian Gallery in Brno
Widely regarded as one of the most important art galleries in the Czech Republic (it's also the second largest), the Moravian Gallery in Brno (Moravská galerie v Brně) was founded in 1961 and is spread among a number of the city's most important historical buildings, including Pražák Palace, the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Governor's Palace. The museum houses an eclectic mix of visual arts including paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Other highlights include a large display of photography and applied arts, as well as graphic design (the museum has hosted an international graphic design contest since 1963).
Address: Husova 18, 662 26 Brno
9 The Capuchin Church and Crypt
While one of the smallest of Brno's churches, the lovely old church
in Capuchin Square was built as part of the Capuchin Monastery. Featuring fine Baroque statues made by Jan Adam Nessman around 1765, the church is also famous for its crypt, established in the 17th century and another of the city's unusual collections of human remains. Upon entering, you're faced with the bodies of numerous monks who, after being laid to rest, were naturally mummified by a combination of the site's unique soil and ventilation system. Although a little chilling, it's a fascinating display, and one that's explained in detail through a series of interesting exhibits.
10 The Old Town Hall
One of Brno's most important historic buildings, the Old Town Hall (Stara Radnice) dates back to the early 13th century and is notable for its many fine architectural flourishes. The building was home to the city's administrative offices until 1935, and one of its oldest highlights is a Late Gothic gate, an elaborately decorated masterpiece created by Antonín Pilgram in 1510. Another highlight, the court arcades, were added later in the 16th century (come summer they, along with interior rooms such as the Crystal and Fresco Halls, as well as the old Treasure House, can be toured). If you're up to it, be sure to make the climb up the 63-meter-high tower with its panoramic views over Brno.
Where to Stay in Brno for Sightseeing
We recommend these convenient hotels in Brno, close to the old town and the city's other top historical attractions:
- Barcelo Brno Palace: sophisticated luxury, great location, light-filled lobby, stylish decor, large rooms, on-site fitness center and sauna.
- Hotel Grandezza: four-star boutique hotel, beautiful Art Nouveau-style building, overlooking the Market Square, grand foyer with a painted glass ceiling, luxurious bathrooms.
- Best Western Premier Hotel International: affordable rates, professional staff, comfy beds, free access to the saltwater pool and hot tub.
- VV Hotel: budget pricing, central location, modern decor, breakfast is included.
Day Trips from Brno
Once you've discovered all Brno has to offer, spend a little time exploring the surrounding area. Just 67 kilometers southwest of Brno is the lovely old Moravian city of Znojmo, perched on the banks of the Dyje River. Founded in the early 13th century, the town is home to some beautiful medieval architecture, including the Gothic Church of St. Nicholas, the tower of the City Hall, and nearby Znojmo Castle, a baroque chateau built on the foundation of an 11th-century fortress, which today serves as a museum and gallery.
Also worth seeing is the historic town of Olomouc, 78 kilometers northeast of Brno and one of the larger cities in the Czech Republic. Dating from the 10th century, Olomouc boasts some beautiful old architecture, as well as an active arts and cultural scene that includes the Moravian Theatre, the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, and numerous museums and galleries. Also of interest is Ostrava, a former mining town worth visiting for the Landek Park and Michal Mine. Although a two-hour drive northeast of Brno, it's worth the journey for its fascinating account of the history of mining in the area, as well as a chance to descend to a coalface and experience the working conditions of miners firsthand. A little detour worth taking before heading back to Brno is to Karlova Studanka, an 18th-century spa town in the Jeseniky Mountains built around a number of cold springs considered therapeutic due to their high levels of iron. Beautifully laid out with wide streets, parks, and gardens, this picturesque town is famous for its wooden architecture, its mountain peak, and its numerous waterfalls and rivers.