The reason we all flock to the north of the Czech Republic is clear. There’s the capital city of Prague, picturesque beer-making towns and for what you can get as a tourist, it’s amazingly cheap and cheerful.
For something a bit different we recommend heading south and venturing into the Moravia region to visit its capital city of Brno. This university city is just a one-and-a-half-hour bus trip from our expat home of Bratislava and as we discovered is full of hidden delights!
Tourist friendly but not overrun with tourists (so no queues!)
The main bus station is very central, it’s not a huge city and as soon as you enter the city, you’ll see St Peter’s Cathedral with its very distinct gothic towers sat atop of Petrov hill.
We researched things to do before we got there and were pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to navigate, how friendly everyone is and how cheap tours and entrance fees are.
There are signs directing you around and we found that walking was by far the best way to see Brno, and for all you sustainable travellers out there walking only uses your own body fuel! They do also have a tram network which seemed regular and not to dissimilar to places like Vienna.
Hoopla Tip: There are more flights to Vienna from the UK and other European destinations and it’s easy to get to the main train station from Vienna’s airport with trains running to Brno.
Also Regiojet buses are cheap, friendly and you get a free tea, coffee, hot chocolate and movies for the journey!
One of the biggest draws to the Moravia region is wine. It’s such an important part of the make-up of Brno with wine production happening here from as early as the 13th century.
The Czech Republic is largely known for its beer, but it is fast becoming popular for its thousands of vineyards which are mostly in the south of the country close to Brno.
A 30-minute drive from Brno are award winning wineries like Trpělka & Oulehla Winery. There are also tour companies that operate days out to wineries, something we’ve personally not done but it would be a nice way to learn about the region and their love of wine.
Wines that are common to the region are Gruner Veltliner, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Saint Lauren, Muller Thurgau, Welschriesling, Pinot Gris and Blaufrankisch.
We found that it’s also easy to sample the goods by just going to Brno’s wine bars of which there are plenty to discover. On Dvořákova 1 you can find justWINE, a funky wine bar where you can go for casual drinks or private wine tastings.
Castles and Capuchins
If there’s something that this part of the world is known for aside from alcoholic beverages, it has to be show-stopping castles, cathedrals and crypts.
Brno’s most prominent attraction is the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul which sits atop of Petrov Hill, which incidentally also gives you a beautiful view over the city. The cathedral is gothic in style and has some amazing stories, including how it played its part in stopping a Swedish siege!
13th century Špilberk Castle is a vast complex which sits on another hill of the same name. Although it was used as a castle in the traditional sense it’s best known for being one of Europe’s most gruelling jails holding many a political prisoner during the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Capuchin Square located just around the corner from the bus station is the best spot to marvel the Cathedral. It’s part of the old town and it has a morbid attraction below your feet in the form of a Baroque Capuchin crypt. You can pay to go on a self guided tour of the crypt and see mummified bodies of monks of the order and prominent families throughout Brno’s history.
Hoopla Tip: Entrance to the cathedral is free, but you will have to pay to enter the castle (90 Kč) and the crypt (80 Kč).
You might need a stiff drink after that, so we recommend spending an evening in one or two of the city’s award-winning cocktail bars.
Controversially bars like Super Panda Circus have been awarded the best cocktail bar in the country over bars in Prague. A hidden bar, you either must book a table or be there early as they don’t serve you unless you have a table. This is theatre, experimental cocktail making at its best and is a must-see, must-do experience!
For a more laid-back, maybe mid-afternoon cocktail stop is 4 Rooms (4pokoje). This place is open for lunch and into the night. It serves food as well as some inventive cocktails. It’s a fun bar to hang out, family friendly during the day and the staff are amazing as well as knowledgeable!
Hoopla Tip: Super Panda Circus opens at 6pm so be sure to queue on time if you haven’t booked a table.
Independent eateries and shops
Did somebody say cookies?! Well, yes, they did and they can be found in the old town on Mečová 8 at Susenkarna Momenta!
This was recommended as the best cookie shop around and it lived up to that title. An independent shop with all kinds of goodies including fresh meringue, chocolate chip cookies and lavender biscuits. We went a little sugar crazy in this shop!
Nearby is the Cabbage Market, one of the city’s main squares. This was the town market with a series of underground cellars to keep produce in. Nowadays there is still a market outside in the warmer months selling fruits, vegetables, flowers and local delicacies.
Next to here you will find an indoor market space with chic cafés and an events space. On our visit there was a vinyl and tape fair, so we were in our element as we’re old enough to remember having vinyl records the first-time round…
Hoopla Tip: If burgers and craft beers are your thing the indoor section of the Cabbage Market is where you’ll find that. Alternatively, Soul Bistro is super vegan friendly!
The old town is picturesque but roam the city and find all kinds of architectural gems from various eras.
Modernist designs like the Tugendohat Villa by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe were innovative in their design and is now an important historical monument. The political leaders of Czechoslovakia met there to sign the document that divided the country into the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. It now serves as a museum where you can get guided tours, but they must be pre-booked!
Alternative Tours and Day Trips
Finally, around Brno you’ll discover there is more to the city than meets the eye. There’s a whole underground world to navigate! Explore underneath the Cabbage Market with a tour of Brno’s labyrinths, the Mint Master’s Cellar and Europe’s second biggest Ossuary (a crypt made of bones and skeletons).
Another great opportunity while you’re visiting Brno is to take a day trip to Veveří Castle and Brno Dam. It’s easily accessible by public transport from the city centre and you can take a trip on a boat across the reservoir or check out if they’re having special events here like wine tastings or fairs.
Hoopla Tip: You can buy an individual ticket for the underground tour of the labyrinths or buy a combo ticket to see all three attractions which are located around the city centre.