Brno, Czech Republic – Tourism in Prague is growing exponentially by the year, while Cesky Krumlov, in South Bohemia, has become a textbook example of mass-tourism. But apart from these two well-known destinations, how do other Czech cities compare? Brno, the Czech Republic’s second largest city, is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for those who seek to explore and discover a lesser-known side of the Czech Republic.
Home to over 400.000 people, including 35.000 foreigners, Brno is also known for being a bustling student city – comparable to Wroclaw in neighboring Poland, for instance – with many universities, higher education institutions and colleges located within the city. In 2017, more than 720.000 tourists visited Brno, compared to less than 600.000 the previous year, while the South Moravian region as whole, where Brno is located, hosted more than 2 million visitors, both domestic and foreign, in 2018.
In recent years, Brno has been embracing its steadily increasing attractiveness for both domestic and foreign tourists, and is also making plans to boost investment in the growing and promising industry. In a 2017 survey (in Czech) analyzing Brno’s growing appeal, over 1.500 tourists were asked about feedback regarding their trips and experiences in Brno, revealing many interesting facts about the Czech Republic’s lesser-known largest city.
Who are the tourists visiting Brno?
According to the study, nearly 90% of the surveyed tourists came from other European countries, including more than half from the Czech Republic’s closest neighbors such as Germany, Austria, Poland, and Slovakia. Domestic tourists, mostly from the Moravian region, were also frequent visitors to the regional capital. Families with children made up the bulk of the domestic tourists in the region, while non-Czech visitors were dominated by young adults travelling alone or in small groups.
And although the Moravian capital has become an increasingly attractive destination for international business seminars and industrial fairs, the vast majority of trips (80%) were motivated by personal or recreational purposes, according to the study.
What are the most popular tourist attractions in Brno?
The city center is by far the main tourist destination in Brno, so compact that many of the main sites and attractions are within walking distance from each other. In the aforementioned survey, Czech and foreign tourists of all ages and categories listed their favorite sights to visit in the Czech Republic’s eastern capital: here are the main attractions you shouldn’t miss if you’re adventuring yourself into the charming sites of Brno.
Náměstí Svobody (Liberty Square), also referred to by locals as ‘Svoboďák’, is the historical main square of Brno’s city center, and focal point of the city’s activity. There, you’ll be able to find the notorious Brno Astronomical Clock, which has become the victim, due to its shape, of many phallic nicknames. Every day at 11 am, it releases a glass marble, a symbol of and tribute to the strength and courage of Brno during the Swedish siege of the city in 1645. On Liberty Square, and apart from the numerous restaurants and cafés, you’ll also find the famous Plague Column and Skacel’s Fountain.
Built in the 13th century and the city’s most famous landmark, Špilberk Castle overlooks Brno and is a staple of the city’s skyline. This beautiful Medieval castle conceals a gruesome and tragic past as a notorious prison and military institution, only a short time after its construction. Today, Špilberk is one of the visitors’ favorite sights for its city museum, charming surrounding gardens and romantic walking paths.
Petrov refers to the castle-like area surrounding the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul, which is another one of the most prominent and visible structures of Brno’s skyline. Petrov offers one of the greatest views of the entire city and is also a very pleasant place to sit, relax and enjoy the calmer part of the city.
Zelný Trh, translated to English as the Cabbage or Vegetable Market, is a square in the city center home to a vegetable market that has been in function since… the 13th century. That’s where you will find the Holy Trinity Column as well as the Parnas Fountain, built in 1615 and considered as one of the most prominent Baroque monuments in Brno.
One of the must-see attractions of the city of Brno, Villa Tugendhat was the place where Czech and Slovak leaders acted the divorce of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Villa Tugendhat is also world-renowned for its unique modern architecture and design and astonishing gardens. Due to its high popularity year-round, making a reservation ahead of your visit is highly recommended.
The Church of St. James’ Ossuary
Discovered in 2001, the ossuary in Brno is widely considered as the second largest in Europe right behind the catacombs in Paris. The site, reminiscent of the renowned Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora near Prague, contains over 50.000 skeletons that were placed there between the 17th and 18th centuries
According to the study, a vast majority of tourists visiting Brno were satisfied with their visit, with 75% of them saying they “most likely” or “definitely” planned to return to the city. Although Brno remains overshadowed by the international appeal of Prague, an increasing number of domestic and foreign visitors are no longer strangers to the charm, beautiful sights and laid-back atmosphere of the Czech Republic’s Moravian capital.
Lorna Radtke is a student of international relations and European politics at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, and has previously also lived in Austria. Her desire to dive into European politics began during her secondary education years in the United States, her home country. Eager to pursue her interest in media and journalism by researching intriguing topics and writing original articles, she joined the team of Kafkadesk contributors in April 2019. Feel free to read Lorna’s latest articles!