I’ve been to Prague many times and I’ve even explored quite a bit of the Czech Republic but for some reason I never made it to Brno.
Brno is the second biggest city in the Czech Republic and the capital of Moravia so it’s not an off-the-beaten-path destination – although for some reason many people never find the time to visit.
With Prague and Cesky Krumlov being so popular it’s not surprising that few tourists ever make their way over to the South-Eastern end of the country.
In my opinion that’s a mistake and there are so many different things to check out and things to do in Brno that I would definitely recommend visiting if you ever get the chance.
Easy to reach from nearly every major city in Central Europe, Brno is packed with interesting architecture, historic sites, churches, a castle and even a popular brewery.
Whether you’re just looking for a quick one or two day trip from Prague or you want to explore somewhere that many tourists choose to skip, Brno is definitely somewhere you’re going to want to check out.
The Best Things to Do in Brno
The Old Town Hall
What the Brno Old Town Hall lacks in size it more than makes up for in unique design and interesting features.
It’s not the biggest Old Town Hall by any means but it’s the oldest building in the city that isn’t a church or religious structure and right on the front is a picturesque Gothic Gate.
Look closely at the gate and you’ll notice that one of the spires at the very top is curved and not exactly as straight as the others.
This is because there’s a story that the mason who built the gate wasn’t paid in full and decided to leave a nice gift behind so that everyone would remember the misdeed done by the city.
Even today it’s possible to see that the spire is curved and now everyone will continue to remember about the mason who wasn’t fairly compensated his work.
At the top of the Old Town Hall tower you can take in an incredible view of the city down below and head inside to the tourist information on the ground level if you want a map or some more information about what to do.
The Green Square and Cabbage Market
Every day in one of the main city squares the Cabbage Market is held.
Don’t get the wrong idea, this market doesn’t just sell cabbage and you’re actually able to choose from a wide variety of local fruits and vegetables along with honey, jam and even specialized juice and coffees from certain vendors.
It’s quite a big market and if you’re spending a few days in the city it’s a good place to check out to grab some fresh produce for a quick snack or even for breakfast depending on what you’re in the mood to eat.
Another interesting feature that you’ll find right in the center of the square is a fountain that’s more than 320 years old and is covered in different scenes that you might recognize from popular Greek mythology.
If you’re looking for something even more unique there is actually an underground part to the market that you can explore with a guided tour.
On the guided tour you’ll be able to walk through the different passageways and all the other tunnels right beneath the square and you’ll learn how food was stored in the past as well as get a better idea of the history of winemaking in the area.
The tunnels actually offer quite and interesting experience and it’s definitely something worth checking out for anyone interested in learning more about the history of Brno while strolling deep underground in medieval passageways.
The Phallic Clock
Just a few steps away from the Cabbage Market is Freedom Square and it’s here where you’ll find the interesting and popular phallic clock.
Right in the center of the square is a 5.5 meter tall phallic shaped granite structure that acts as a clock in the most peculiar way.
Each of the different pieces of the structure turn and you’re able to tell the time just by looking at the different positions of each piece.
This interesting structure was actually put in place by the city officials that somehow came to the conclusion that it would help promote tourism and bring more people into the city.
It’s actually quite symbolic as well and it acts as an homage to the siege that Brno underwent during the Thirty Years War in 1645.
Basically what happened was that a Swedish General boasted that he would be able to capture the city before the bells at the Petrov Church were rang for noon.
Well, what actually happened was that the army defending the city rang the bells an hour earlier and the Swedish army ended up recruiting without any shots even being fired.
Today, at 11 in the morning every single day the clock chimes in memorial and a marble is dropped through the structure into one of the openings at the bottom.
There are holes that you can stick your hand through and you even have a chance at catching the marble that gets dropped through, which apparently is really good luck although when I was there I didn’t even see anybody trying.
Either way, it’s a pretty cool structure to check out and the surrounding square is quite interesting and picturesque as well.
The clock has actually become one of the unofficial meeting points for the locals in the city and regardless of what time of the day you visit you’re bound to find people milling about and waiting for their friends to arrive.
Freedom Square (Namesti Svobody)
Freedom Square is another one of the large and popular squares in the city centre.
The square is very busy during the day as many of the city trams have stops here and the entire thing is lined with restaurants, cafes and small shops that encourage people to visit.
Surprisingly this is also the biggest and one of the oldest squares in the entire city and it was previously known as the Lower Market, acting independently of the Cabbage Market with a focus more on physical goods rather than produce.
Lining the square are a series of historic houses and important buildings that give a glimpse into the past of Brno.
Many of the buildings date back to the late 19th and 20th century, although in the middle of the square you can find a plague column from the Early Baroque period dating back to around 1689.
Freedom Square is a very lively place to visit and throughout the year many different public events are held here so there’s always something going on.
I would definitely recommend checking out the square and taking your time to admire all of different buildings so you can really appreciate it the small architectural details that went into the designs of each one.
Should you be lucky enough to visit during the warmer summer months I would also recommend grabbing a beer or cold drink and just sitting for a while to relax and watch the crowds of people walk by.
The Starobrno Brewery
A quick tram-ride away from the city center is the Starobrno Brewery.
At the brewery it’s possible to go on a guided tour of the brewery itself and there’s also quite a good restaurant on site where you can enjoy a cold beer while sampling a selection of traditional Czech appetizers and main courses.
There has actually been a brewery standing in the same place since 1325 but it wasn’t until late in the 19th century that the name Starobrno came to be.
Every year for the past few years the brewery has been able to produce more than 1 million hectoliters of beer and in 2009 it became part of the Heineken beer company.
I find it appear to be quite good, one of my favorite beers in the Czech Republic, and if you’re a big beer drinker then I would definitely recommend checking out the brewery and eating at the restaurant as well.
Standing high above the city is Spilberk Castle, one of my favorite things to do in Brno.
I really like it because the whole castle is surrounded by a network of trails and it’s quite a big green space so close to such a busy city centre.
The view from the top is incredible and at the castle itself there are a series of different museums and attractions that you can check out.
As for the castle, it has acted as the seat of the Moravian Kings for hundreds of years and has been used as a defensive structure during many of the conflicts that plagued the city.
In more recent history it was turned into a prison and many people were actually tortured here so you can even go check out the torture rooms and the old torture tools at one of the museum’s inside.
I would recommend visiting early in the day if you want the place to yourself or waiting until closer to the sunset so that you have a great view of the city with the sun setting behind you.
From the city centre it’s approximately a 15 minute walk to reach the very top of the castle and the hill isn’t very steep at all.
The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul
Another one of the massive structures that dominates the city skyline is the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul.
If you took the bus or train to reach the city then you definitely noticed a dark cathedral standing high up on a hill overlooking the surrounding area and it’s one of the most awesome churches I would say in the entire country.
This cathedral is also known as the Petrov Cathedral and it’s the same bells in the clock tower that were rung at 11 o’clock in the morning as a way to trick the invading Swedish army into leaving earlier than they were supposed to.
Today, it’s possible to walk around the interior for free and for a small fee you can climb up to one of the spires for one of the best views of the city down below.
Surrounding the cathedral is an old defensive wall and it makes for a great place to walk around while also being able to enjoy the view in a more serene and historic setting.
The Church of Saint James
The Church of St James is another interesting and historic religious structure in the center of the city and you can find it just up the street from Freedom Square.
This church is actually a Czech National Monument and the original Church in the same place was first built all the way back during the 13th century.
The one that’s standing there today is nearly five hundred years old and features a Gothic architectural style with a very picturesque central tower.
Underneath the church is where you’ll be able to find one of the largest ossuaries in Europe where it’s possible to check out the remains of more than 50,000 different people.
When you are visiting the church don’t forget to keep an eye out for a small little man positioned on the southern side of the tower with his butt exposed and smiling face looking towards the crowd.
Explore the Parks
All throughout the city centre are many different small parks and green spaces that offer a little bit of privacy and serenity away from the busy streets.
Luzanky Park is one of the most famous in the city and is actually the first public park that was ever opened in the entirety of the Czech Republic.
There are many different parks and even small gardens that are worth checking out and if you’re visiting during the warmer months it’s a good idea to grab a snack and have a nice picnic in the shade of one of the countless trees that you’ll be able to find.
Go to a Museum
Anyone interested in learning more about the history of Brno and the Czech Republic should definitely head to one of the many museums in the city.
Some of the more popular museums include:
Personally, I’m not a fan of museums myself but they’re still a good place to visit if it’s raining or if you’re looking to learn more about the history and culture of the city.
Is Brno Worth Visiting?
In my opinion – definitely yes.
Brno is one of those off-the-beaten-path destinations that turns out to be a lot more amazing than you would have ever guessed.
It’s filled with picturesque buildings, beautiful streets, a wide variety of different cafes, lots of green spaces and it’s quite easy to access from both Prague, Bratislava and Vienna.
The actual city center area isn’t that big and it’s possible to see it all in just a few days so I would recommend spending at least two nights there but you really don’t need much more than that.
During the school year it becomes even more of a lively place as tens of thousands of students return back to university and turn the sleepy city completely around into something more upbeat.
I had a really great time visiting Brno and I’m positive that you’ll have a great time as well so I definitely recommend checking it out if you ever get the chance.