09 Feb Czech Republic: One Day in Brno
If you spend a bit of time travelling around Central Europe, you start to see a bit of a pattern with the cities you visit. You have the pretty main square where you’ll find cafes where you can sit and people watch, the surrounding narrow streets have even more cafes and restaurants as well as family run shops selling local produce, and then up on the hill you have the castle which gives you great views of the old town as well as the newer suburbs in the distance. Prague, Krakow, Bratislava and many other cities in the region have this same layout. Even though they are similar in some ways, they all have a unique atmosphere, their own regional cuisine, and local beers which all need to be sampled!
Brno is the Czech Republic’s second largest city and I must confess that the only reason I visited was to stop for a bite to eat while driving from Budapest to Prague. Brno has that same style you see everywhere but with its own take on it. The main square is a mixture of old and very new. Modern glass structures sit amongst Habsburg era beauties. Some people might hate to see modern buildings in an historic town and while I think it’s a nice change, grand historic buildings is what makes Europe Europe for me.
The old town in Brno is quite small so you can cover a lot of ground quite quickly. There are a number of pretty little squares hidden around the town, some of which have unusual columns and fountains. The old town is probably the best place to stop and eat and you’ll find a few pub type places serving cheap traditional food along side more modern restaurants. Wherever you go you’ll be able to try a local Czech beer but seeing as the region around Brno is the Czech Republic’s largest wine producing region, it’s a great opportunity to try one of the Moravian wines.
Walk off all that Czech food by trekking up to Spilberk Castle. During the Astro-Hungarian empire, the castle was used as a prison for political prisoners (and hardened criminals) from around Europe. Now it’s a museum where you can find information on the history of Brno but I think it’s worth visiting just for the views of the city. You can look over the old town, including great views of the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, and then in the distance you can see the many communist era apartment blocks.
Of course if you have the time, you could spend days exploring the whole city but the few hours I spent there were more than enough to get a feel for the place and entice me into wanting to go back.
Brno is a two hour drive from Prague, a bit less than that from Vienna, and one hour from Bratislava. So you could easily do a day trip from one of those cities or do a stopover when going between the cities. It’s about 3 hours from Budapest which I think is a bit too far for a day trip but it works out perfectly if you’re driving between Budapest and Prague. A word of warning though if you are driving, don’t forget to buy a vignette sticker from a petrol station once you get to the Czech Republic as this is required when driving on their highways. It completely slipped my mind and I got pulled over by Czech police and had to pay a 50 euro fine. Oops! I won’t forget that again.
This guest post was written by Andrea who is an expat living in Paris and is the author of travel blog Destination Europe. You can subscribe to the RSS feed and follow her on Twitter @destinationeu.