Brno, Czech Republic is one of the most interesting cities you can visit in Central Europe yet it’s often in the shadow of more popular nearby destinations: Prague, Vienna or Budapest. But this second-largest Czech city offers plenty of attractions and is definitely worth your time.
The list of all the best things to do in Brno and its diversity might actually surprise you: from beautiful and interesting architecture to ossuaries, from amazing cafe scene to bunkers – the city has it all and every reason to visit Brno is a good one.
It actually took me a while to finally get to Brno (considering the Czech Republic is my most-visited country and I’ve been there countless times) but when I finally went there I quickly fell for the place.
I enjoyed it so much that Brno has quickly become one of my favorite cities and now I try to be there at least once a year, even if just to enjoy the vibe of the place and to wander around.
If you plan your Central European itinerary don’t miss Brno. The city is conveniently located on the main routes between popular destinations (on the way from Prague to Vienna/Bratislava/Budapest) so visiting Brno really is super easy. And once you are there I can guarantee you will fall for the place too as it’s simply impossible not to enjoy Brno.
Table of contents
- 1 Where is Brno, Czech Republic
- 2 Why visit Brno
- 3 How to get to Brno
- 4 How much time for visiting Brno
- 5 Where to stay in Brno
- 6 How to get around Brno
- 7 Things to do in Brno
- 7.1 Wander around the center
- 7.2 Visit the Capuchin Crypt
- 7.3 Shop at the Vegetable Market
- 7.4 Relax at Denisovy Sady park
- 7.5 Visit the magnificent cathedral
- 7.6 Find the hanging crocodile
- 7.7 See the city from above
- 7.8 Discover the culinary scene
- 7.9 Enjoy the main square – Náměstí Svobody
- 7.10 See the quirky Clock Machine
- 7.11 Discover funcionalist architecture
- 7.12 Visit Brno ossuary
- 7.13 See the grotesque man on the horse sculpture
- 7.14 Have a beer at Výčep Na Stojáka
- 7.15 Explore 10-Z Bunker
- 7.16 Go up to the Špilberk Castle
- 7.17 See the play in one of the theaters
- 7.18 Visit UNESCO-listed Tugendhat Villa
- 7.19 Find the statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- 7.20 Go for day trips
- 8 Final thoughts on visiting Brno
- 9 Travel Resources
Where is Brno, Czech Republic
Brno, the city of almost 400.000 inhabitants, is located in the southeast part of the Czech Republic, not far from the border with Slovakia and Austria. Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is around 200 km away from Brno, Vienna is 130 km away, and so is Bratislava.
Why visit Brno
Brno is truly one of the most underrated places to visit in Europe. Even is the city has a long history (it was founded in the 11th century, you still can find there many remnants from medieval times), it’s easy to say Brno is one of these perfect Central European cities with beautiful architecture and an undeniable vibe so distinctive for the region.
Fans of modernist architecture (especially its functionalist trend) are in for a treat in Brno, some of the buildings are perfect examples of this style, with UNESCO-listed Tugendhat Villa being a cherry on top.
Since Brno is an important universities city (with an estimated 100.000 students living here) you can expect numerous events, plenty of places to hang out at (including numerous cafes and bars), and a vibrant atmosphere. And this atmosphere is one of the top reasons why Brno is worth visiting.
How to get to Brno
Brno is very well-connected with all the main cities in the region so getting there is actually really easy.
Both the main train and bus stations are located in the central part of the city (the train station is literally across the street from the Old Town).
How much time for visiting Brno
You can visit all the Brno attractions in one day really, especially since the majority of them are located not far from each other.
But still, I would recommend staying in Brno for a few days, to enjoy the atmosphere of the city, to discover the place at a leisure pace and to use Brno as a base to explore Moravia – the surroundings of Brno are also full of attractions you don’t want to miss!
Where to stay in Brno
Brno has plenty of accommodation options to choose from, for each taste and price range. I would recommend staying somewhere in the center to be near all the attractions, though.
Here are some of the recommended places to stay in Brno:
- Royal Ricc (8.5/10 on Booking)
- Hotel Pegas Brno (8.8/10 on Booking)
- Jacob Brno (8.9/10 on Booking)
- and more!
How to get around Brno
Since most of the attractions are within a walking distance from each other (with the exception of Tugendhat Villa which is still reachable by foot) most likely you won’t need public transport to get around.
But if you do, there is a fine network of buses and trams that can get you around. You can find ticket machines on some of the tram stops (like at the main train station), you can also buy tickets at kiosks.
Things to do in Brno
And now, if you are wondering what to do in Brno, here are some of the best attractions of the city, in no particular order.
Wander around the center
The central part of Brno, as well as the area a bit beyond that, is perfect for wandering around. The pedestrian center is lined with beautiful architecture so make sure to look around to notice all the details on the buildings (and there are many of them).
The main street is Masarykova, connecting the train station with the central square – Náměstí Svobody (Liberty Square). It’s always busy with people, lined with shops and with a tram line going through it so be careful when walking the street.
Even if the street was the main trade route already in the 12th century, most of the buildings you can see here date to the late 19th/early 20th century when Brno went under major renovation.
But even if Masarykova is the most important street in central Brno, every other lane you can find in this part of the city has its own charm. Be sure to wander around a bit to see the beauty and to feel the vibrant atmosphere of the city.
Visit the Capuchin Crypt
Church of the Finding of the Holy Cross doesn’t look very special from the outside but it hides some real wonders. Dating back to the mid-17th century, this is a great example of Czech Baroque architecture. A great addition to the Capuchin monastery complex was the library that still today is home to a few thousand items and has its original Baroque furniture.
The main reason to visit the church is a bit morbid, though. The crypt under the church was used as the burial place for friars, noblemen, and benefactors of the Capuchin Order. The place is open to visitors, besides human remains you can see there richly decorated caskets from the period and other religious artifacts.
I wouldn’t recommend visiting the place for those of you who are sensitive, for others, it might be a truly interesting place.
Shop at the Vegetable Market
Zelný trh (Vegetable Market) is a traditional marketplace and one of the most important squares in central Brno. It’s been operating since the late 12th century (even earlier than the city was founded) and has been specializing almost since the beginning, making it one of the oldest continuingly operating markets in Central Europe.
Still today this is the best (and largest) place in Brno to buy fresh produce all year long. You can also get there some local street food, coffee, and ice cream. The numerous deckchairs are strewn around invite you to sit down, relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the place.
The square itself is also interesting, with some of the most beautiful buildings in Brno (like Reduta National Theater – the oldest theater in Central Europe, the Moravian Museum, or Hotel Grandezza.
Right in the middle of Zelný trh take a look at Parnas fountain – a Baroque masterpiece from the end of the 17th century. If you wish to visit Brno underground, dating back to medieval times, you can find the entrance on Zelný trh too.
Relax at Denisovy Sady park
On the edge of the Old Town, you will find a small green oasis – Denisovy Sady (Denis Gardens), named after the French historian Ernest Denis. This is a perfect place to slow down and relax a bit during your Brno sightseeing.
Not only the park is very pleasant, but it also offers some lovely views of Spilberk Castle, Husova street and modern parts of the city. Right in the middle of the park, there is the obelisk commemorating the end of the Napoleonic Wars, you will also find a colonnade with a fountain there.
From Denisovy Sady you can go for a short walk along the old city fortifications.
Visit the magnificent cathedral
The Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul is one of the most distinctive Brno landmarks, dominating the skyline of the city. It is literally impossible to miss it.
Located on Petrov hill, the building originally dates back to the 12th century. Over the years it had changed its look, being a real mix of styles with dominating neogothic.
The interior of the cathedral is in the Baroque style. Inside you can visit the treasury and the crypt – the only part of the cathedral in the original Roman style. It is also possible to go up the tower to see the panorama of the city.
Find the hanging crocodile
When you visit Brno be sure to stop in the local tourist info center, located in the Old Town Hall. You can find there plenty of brochures about the city as well as local souvenirs.
Right at the entrance to the tourist info center, you will notice right away a weird creature hanging from the ceiling. Yes, that’s a crocodile.
One of the city legends says that once upon a time there was a dragon that threatened the city and its citizens until eventually, a brave butcher had an idea how to slay a monster. It is said that the hanging crocodile is actually the remnant of the said dragon and it’s shown in the Old Town Hall to commemorate the legend.
See the city from above
One of the best viewpoints to admire the panorama of Brno is in the Old Town Hall (the oldest functioning secular building in the city).
To get to the observation deck you need to climb 174 stairs but the effort is rewarded with great views of the city, with landmarks like Spilberk Castle or the cathedral clearly visible. You can also admire the beautiful townhouses central Brno is full of.
On the way to the top, you can learn more about the history of the Old Town Hall, dating to the mid-13th century.
To get to the observation deck you need to cross the passage with the hanging crocodile, the entrance is on the left side.
Discover the culinary scene
Brno has an excellent culinary scene and eating out here is a real treat. If you are looking for some local cuisine my favorite place for Czech dishes is U Třech Čertů restaurant (they have two locations, at Starobrněnská and Dvořákova streets, both in the Old Town).
If you are looking for cafes to relax in and get your dose of caffeine Brno won’t disappoint you either. The place is packed with some great cafes serving tasty coffee and delicious sweets to go along with. The best source of information and recommendations for Brno cafes is the European Coffee Trip website, over the years I found so many great places thanks to it.
Enjoy the main square – Náměstí Svobody
Náměstí Svobody (Liberty Square) is the heart of Brno that is vibrant and busy with people all day and all year long. The square was created in the 13th century in the place where three trading routes crossed and since then has been the main hotspot in Brno.
Some of the most beautiful and important buildings surround the triangular square: classic beauties such as the Renaissance Dům pánů z Lipé or Dům U Čtyř mamlasů as well as the building of Komerční bank (a perfect example of functionalist architecture). In the true Central European fashion, you can also find there the Baroque plague column from 1689.
Náměstí Svobody hosts numerous events throughout the year and is home to the Christmas market and Christmas tree in the holiday season. But even if there is nothing going on, the square is still bustling with people, enjoying the numerous cafes ad restaurants around or relaxing on the deckchairs.
See the quirky Clock Machine
Brno has one of the quirkiest city clocks you will ever see – it looks more like male private parts (or a giant bullet) than a thing to check the time. Its unique shape is supposed to commemorate the defense of the city against the Swedish army during the Thirty Years’ War but you will make your own judgment when you see it.
The clock is a fairly new addition to the city’s scenery, it dates back to 2010 and is made of polished black granite. Each day at 11 a.m. the clock releases a glass marble into one of the four holes. If you are lucky to catch it you can be a happy owner of a unique Brno souvenir.
You can find the quirky clock at the main square Náměstí Svobody. Don’t expect to easily read the time on it though, it’s more like a weird addition to the cityscape than a useful object.
Discover funcionalist architecture
The main focus of Brno’s architecture is almost always on grand, detailed buildings from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries that the central part of the city is full of. But Brno is actually a really big player on the functionalist architecture scene and you will find so many examples of this style all over the place, including the Old Town.
Functionalism was a popular architecture trend in the 1920s and its main purpose was to design buildings based on their purpose and function. In fact, Czechoslovakia was one of the main countries that used this style of buildings, besides Brno, you will find functionalism in Prague or Zlin.
Some of the more significant functionalist buildings in Brno include Komerční bank on Náměstí Svobody, Avion Hotel on Ceska street or Bat’a Shopping Center on Malinovského Náměstí.
If you are interested in functionalism in Brno and would like to see more of this style be sure to stop by in the tourist info center and get a free brochure with a map and descriptions of the buildings. You can also download it here.
Visit Brno ossuary
Did you know that Brno has the second-largest ossuary in Europe, after Paris? I was surprised by that fact too!
You can easily visit the said ossuary during your trip to Brno, it can be a good addition to the morbid tour after visiting the Capuchin Crypt. The entrance to the ossuary is located next to the Church of St James, at the corner of Rašínova street and Jakubské náměstí.
The first graveyard in this location dates back to the 13th century but over the years it was not enough (especially when the plague hit the city) and the remnants from the cemeteries were moved to ossuaries. It is estimated that around 50.000 people were buried in this very place in Brno.
The place you can see today is rather small but surely impressive with neat rows of skulls and bones. During your visit, you will be accompanied by the sounds of music composed especially for this place, which only adds up to the overall atmosphere of the place.
See the grotesque man on the horse sculpture
One of the most interesting sculptures in Brno is the funky vision of the man on the horse, located on Moravské náměstí, in front of the Moravian Gallery. Designed by the contemporary Czech sculptor Jaroslav Róna in 2015, the statue shows the Moravian Margrave Jošt who lived in the 14th century.
The horse is grotesque with unnaturally long legs and an eerie face and the sculpture is an allegory of Courage.
Don’t be surprised if you see people laughing and taking pictures up from between the horse’s legs. Better check the view yourself, I bet you will laugh a bit too.
Have a beer at Výčep Na Stojáka
Výčep Na Stojáka is one of the best bars in Brno. What makes it special is the whole idea of drinking beer while standing (that’s also what the name means).
When the weather is warm the whole area of Jakubské náměstí (behind the Church of St James, where the bar is located) is packed with people hanging out, standing (or sitting on the ground) and drinking beer. The atmosphere here is exquisite and there is no better place to enjoy the afternoon/evening after all the Brno sightseeing.
Since Czech beer is pretty amazing you can be sure that you will try some fine drinks here, especially that Výčep Na Stojáka serves the golden liquid from some smaller craft Czech breweries.
Explore 10-Z Bunker
Right in the center of Brno, under Spilberk castle, you will find the WW2 bunker.
After the war ended it was briefly used for the wine store only to return to its original function to protect the most important dignitaries of Brno and its surroundings. The place, designed to host up to 500 people who could have survived there for three days, was actually never used.
A few years ago the place was opened to the public and so today you can tour the place (with a group or independently) and get to know it properly, including details such as diesel unit, filter room, or telephone exchange. You can even spend a night in the bunker – click here for details.
Go up to the Špilberk Castle
One of the most distinctive Brno attractions is Špilberk Castle, located on top of the hill with the same name right across the Old Town. It dates back to the 13th century but its importance grew rapidly in the 17th and 18th centuries when the place became a military fortress. Over the years it also worked as a jail, one of the harshest in Europe.
Today Špilberk Castle is home to the Brno City Museum and often hosts events such as concerts, festivals, or theater plays.
It’s definitely worth going up the hill, not only to visit the castle but also to admire a beautiful panorama of Brno and beyond. The park surrounding Špilberk Castle is also one of the most pleasant parts of central Brno and a perfect green oasis in the heart of the busy city.
See the play in one of the theaters
Since Brno is a vibrant city with a great cultural scene you can enjoy numerous events taking place here.
One of the best ways to experience the cultural side of Brno is to go to the theater. Two of the best ones are located right in the center, on the edge of the Old Town: the Mahen Theatre (Mahenovo Divadlo) and Janáček Theatre (Janáčkovo Divadlo).
The first one, the Mahen Theatre, opened in 1882 and back then was the first theatre in continental Europe with fully electric lighting. In 1919 the institution became the main scene for the National Theater Brno and still, today is known for its high-quality plays and popular actors.
Located only a few steps away, Janáček Theatre focuses on opera and ballet performances. When the place was opened in the mid-1960s it was the biggest and most modern theatre in Czechoslovakia. The recently renovated area in front of the building was designed to relax and enjoy the city vibe.
Visit UNESCO-listed Tugendhat Villa
Among all the amazing examples of the functionalist architecture in Brno there is one place that was awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site titles.
Tugendhat Villa was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and finished in 1930 as the first private house of its kind in Czechoslovakia. The design, used technology and materials were unique for its time, making the building so very special. Everything here works in perfect harmony, creating a wonderful living space.
Visiting Tugendhat Villa is possible but getting a ticket is rather difficult (I haven’t managed to score one yet, despite my numerous tries, and only managed to visit the gardens). I recommend booking one as soon as you decide to visit Brno.
Tugendhat Villa is located a bit away from the center but it’s definitely worth a small detour to see this masterpiece.
Find the statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
In December 1767, a very talented 11-year-old boy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, gave a concert in Brno’s Reduta theater. 241 years later the famous composer returned to the city in the shape of a unique statue presenting a boyish figure with the adult Mozart’s face.
The statue is located in the corner of the Vegetable Market, in front of the Reduta theater.
If you look closely you will notice a few interesting details about the statue, such as only one angel wing on Mozart’s back (the symbol of his tragic end) or his nakedness (meaning his desire for freedom). This is such a low-profile yet interesting statue so don’t miss it when you visit the Vegetable Market.
Go for day trips
Brno is a wonderful base to explore the surrounding Moravia region – one of the interesting parts of the Czech Republic. You will find there so many gems, such as UNESCO-listed sites, historical towns, wine regions, and real wonders of nature.
Some of the most interesting day trips from Brno include Trebic (with two UNESCO sites), Lednice-Valtice palaces (another UNESCO site), Punkva Caves and Macocha Abyss, towns of Mikulov and Znojmo, and many more.
If you like you might also jump across the border to spend one day in Vienna or Bratislava.
You can easily visit most of these places using public transport which makes traveling around very easy.
Final thoughts on visiting Brno
As you can see above, Brno really has a lot to offer and you certainly won’t be bored or disappointed when visiting the city. I truly believe this is one of the most underrated cities in Europe that can easily compete with the famous nearby capitals.
The diversity of things to do in Brno can appeal to every traveler and the vibrant atmosphere of the city is so easy to enjoy. Honestly, it’s really hard not to fall for Brno, it’s this gem kind of place that you don’t expect to find yet it quickly impresses you.
Doesn’t matter how many times I visit Brno, my heart will always start beating faster when I approach the place.
When you travel between Prague and Vienna/Bratislava/Budapest don’t miss Brno. Even if you have only a few hours it’s still worth stopping here, to get a taste of the city, to walk the main street of the old town, to shop at the Vegetable Market, and to sit down in one of the cafes.
I bet you will fall for the city just like I did.
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