It’s no surprise there are places I like returning to. Those with beautiful architecture, great cafes and vibe yet still not widely discovered by tourists. I like returning to walk familiar streets, read a book or catch up on writing in favorite cafes and remembering why I fell in love with the city in the first place.
One of those destinations is Olomouc, Czech Republic – a city that can be a very good alternative to overcrowded Prague.
When I heard a new boutique hotel has opened it was already a very good reason for me to visit Olomouc for the 5th time (especially that I was in nearby Cieszyn for few days anyway). What started as an excuse turned out to be my highlight in Olomouc but more about that later.
Even if I would gladly spend my whole time in Miss Sophie’s I did go out and enjoyed Olomouc probably more than ever. It was a warm, June weekend and city was welcoming with its winding lanes, outdoor cafes and restaurants and a relaxed pace. That’s exactly what I needed!
Table of contents
- 1 Short history of Olomouc, Czech Republic
- 2 The best things to do in Olomouc
- 3 The UNESCO gem in Olomouc
- 4 The coolest astronomical clock you will ever see!
- 5 A baroque masterpiece
- 6 Intelectual vibe and cafe culture
- 7 Art in Olomouc
- 8 Miss Sophie’s – the best accommodation in Olomouc
- 9 Pictures that would make you want to visit Olomouc right away
Short history of Olomouc, Czech Republic
Olomouc is located very conveniently on the main railway line from Prague to Ostrava and further to Poland and Slovakia. There are frequent train connections in every direction and the journey from the Czech capital should take you a little bit over 2 hours. You can visit Olomouc as a day trip from Prague but you can as well stay there longer and enjoy a picture perfect city (and the most charming hotel I’ve ever been to!). If you travel from Krakow to Prague (or the other way around) Olomouc is a perfect stop.
The city was founded in 11th century and very quickly it has become one of the most important towns in the area, becoming the capital of Moravia in 1187. The golden age lasted till 17th century and Thirty Year’s War when Olomouc lost its importance and the capital title to Brno.
Together with industrialization and the new railway line opened in 19th century the city got back on track but didn’t manage to regain its position. Today Olomouc is the 6th biggest city in Czech Republic with a big students population (around 25.000) as it’s a home to the second oldest university in the country (founded in 1573) – Palacky University.
The best things to do in Olomouc
All my previous visits to Olomouc were rather brief. It was just a stop on the way somewhere else and even if I enjoyed the city I always had to run to catch the train to another destination. This time however Olomouc was my destination and I could take things easy and enjoy the city to the fullest.
Even if I had the whole weekend I still didn’t manage to see all I wanted to. Partly I blame my slow travel mood that activates in such charming places and partly I blame Miss Sophie’s Hotel that I wanted to spend as much time as possible in.
My absolutely favorite thing to do in Olomouc is just aimlessly walking around, taking the random streets here and there and enjoying the atmosphere of the place. The Olomouc Old Town is the second largest historical monuments preserve in the Czech Republic (after Prague) and there are plenty of opportunities for seeing jaw-dropping, picture-perfect places. Every second lane is just the prettiest, with pastel houses, unique details or arches spread between buildings.
Olomouc Old Town is a peculiar mix of architecture style: the majority of what you are about to see was built in renaissance and baroque – probably the most splendor styles – but you will also find gothic or modernist buildings around.
The UNESCO gem in Olomouc
The heart of the Olomouc Old Town is Horni Namesti – Upper Square. That’s where you will find the most precious monument of the city – the Holy Trinity Column that’s been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as “one of the most exceptional examples of the apogee of central European Baroque artistic expression”.
The column was built in the first half of the 18th century to show the gratitude for ending the plague that has been going around in the region – this tradition is very much Central European as you will see similar, but not so reach, columns in numerous places across southern Poland, Czech Republic or Slovakia: Kutna Hora, Kłodzko, Banska Stiavnica or Kosice to name few.
But the Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc is special for one more reason: it was built only by the local artists and craftsmen and all the saints you can see were connected to the city. It surely is an impressive structure and while you’re here be sure to peek inside the small chapel built in it.
The coolest astronomical clock you will ever see!
As much as the Holy Trinity Column makes an impression on every visitor (including me) still my favorite place in Olomouc Old Town is Orloj – the astronomical clock located on the side of the town hall.
To be honest I don’t really understand the hype on the astronomical clock in Prague – it’s pretty but way too overrated. The one in Olomouc however is really spectacular! Not only it’s much bigger but also it gives so much better show!
The original clock was built here in the same period as the town hall itself, in the 15th century, but it was sadly destroyed at the end of World War 2 (on the pictures it looks amazing!). The clock was reconstructed in years 1947-1955 in one of my favorite styles – Socialist Realist.
It’s such an unique gem! Instead of saints we have proletarians of all kinds and everything is decorated in the golden mosaic. Be sure to hang around the clock at noon to see its play! During my recent visit the town hall was renovated (and covered) but you could still enjoy the clock’s show.
A baroque masterpiece
Another gem of Olomouc is Church of Saint Michael – a real baroque masterpiece! It doesn’t look all that special from the outside but once you step inside you will be moved to another world. The interior is incredibly beautiful and you would need at least few minutes to admire all the details and frescoes.
While you’re there try to find a small corridor on the right that would let you to the tower with a beautiful view over Olomouc Old Town. It’s free of charge, all you need to do is turn off the light after your visit.
I’d recommend you going there rather in the morning that in the afternoon – the later you go, the trickier it gets with the sun (and dirty window).
Intelectual vibe and cafe culture
Since Olomouc is the students city there is this intellectual vibe floating around. As a result you have numerous small bookshops and charming cafes to relax at. Again my favorite was a small cafe located on the ground floor of Miss Sophie’s as it was just the prettiest and filled with locals.
You should look for free Use-it map (I got mine when checking in) as this is the best source of information about all the best places in the city. I’ve been using those maps wherever I can as they were created by locals and never disappointed me! Another perfect source of information about cafes is European Coffee Trip who has a page dedicated to Olomouc.
Art in Olomouc
To my great surprise Olomouc has also a pretty decent art scene. There’s some street art here and there but the place I was dying to see (and didn’t have time after all) is the Museum of Modern Art.
I still need to return to see the exhibition (that’s supposed to be really good) but there’s already one special piece literally hanging outside. The most famous and controversial Czech artist David Cerny whose works can be seen around Prague (and one in Liberec) chose this place to show his newest piece – a very realistic man hanging from the cornice of the building.
Every now and then he swears loud and clear and starts moving along the cornice. It looks really creepy and fascinating at the same time. The majority of passers-by, including me, stopped to observe the scene and laughed out loud when the hanging guy exclaimed his loud and juicy swear at the end of his journey. David Cerny’s art will never stop to surprise me!
Miss Sophie’s – the best accommodation in Olomouc
And then there is Miss Sophie’s Hotel. From now on it is already a very good reason for me to visit Olomouc as this was literally the best boutique hotel I’ve ever been at. For the first time ever I took the later train back home as I loved the hotel so much I postponed leaving it till the very last moment (and I checked out at 11:55am…).
The room was spacious, the bed was huge and so comfy and the small kitchenette came in very handy. Everything was carefully planned there, all the details were perfect. But my favorite part was the best armchair ever – I spent the whole evening and the whole morning just sitting there and reading / writing. Staying at Miss Sophie’s was such a peaceful, relaxing time, a perfect addition to my slow travel time in Olomouc.
Pictures that would make you want to visit Olomouc right away
Once you’re tired with beautiful but overcrowded Prague you should visit Olomouc as it makes a perfect alternative to the capital. I even dare to say you can find in Olomouc most of what you’re looking for in Prague, minus the crowds and more budget friendly. Below you can see even more pictures that would hopefully inspire you to visit Olomouc soon!
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Disclaimer: my trip to Olomouc was in partnership with Miss Sophie’s Hotel but as always all opinions are my own and I’m really thinking of returning to this beautiful hotel soon!
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