Heading to the Czech Republic soon? Skip Prague and instead consider the budget-friendly and laid-back city of Brno. Check out my list of the best things to do in Brno to learn why this underrated European city should be on your radar this year.
Whether you’re exploring Europe solo, enjoying a city break as a couple or you’re visiting Czech Republic as a family, Brno is a great choice that offers plenty of things to do without breaking the bank. The city itself is small but beautiful and offers a fun and energetic buzz without crowds of tourists. I spent one week in Brno last September – for Traverse 22 – and had the best absolute best time.
The weather was warm, the food was tasty and the city was welcoming, leaving me feeling safe at all times as a solo traveller. Thanks two a two-day conference and four days of fun tourism experiences, I’ve managed to put together a list of the best hidden gems and things to do in Brno.
Table of Contents
Climb the Old Town Hall for Stunning 360-Degree Views of Brno
The views at the top of Brno’s Old Town Hall are the perfect way to welcome you to this beautiful city. In fact, it was actually the first thing I did when I arrived in Brno! Inside the historical building, you can learn all about the history of Brno, before climbing the 63-metre tower (a relatively easy climb!) for views over the courtyard and the rest of the city.
Find Brno’s Famous ‘Dragon’
One of Brno’s most famous legends is about a dragon that terrorised the city and killed their livestock. No one knew how to kill this dragon until a butcher had the bright (and random) idea of hiding a large amount of caustic lime in some animal hides. This tricked the dragon into eating it, where it exploded and killed the dragon.
You can find it in one of the small passageways that lead away from the courtyard beneath the town hall – although the reptile hanging from the ceiling is quite clearly a crocodile!
This is just one of many fun and interesting legends of Brno.
Take a Day Trip to Lednice Castle
Just a 45-minute drive outside of Brno is the stunning Lednice Castle, based in the beautiful South Moravian countryside. Though I’d recommend definitely taking a day trip here, I’ll also say that it would be well worth spending a few slow days exploring the South Moravian Region or the pretty town of Lednice.
Lednice Castle/Chateau is the second most visited attraction in the Czech Republic. You can tour inside the castle via a number of different tours (ask for Wendy!) or explore the beautiful formal gardens and palm house.
You can also combine your day visit with a trip to Valtice Castle which is just ten minutes away. I’d recommend allowing at least a day for each though!
Try and Catch a Marble From Brno’s Astronomical Clock
By visiting Brno’s astronomical clock at exactly 11am, you have a one in four chance of catching a marble that can double up as a unique souvenir from your trip to Brno. Found in Freedom Square, the odd-shaped clock isn’t technically astronomical in any way shape or form, but the clock stands to commemorate Brno’s victory in avoiding a siege during the Thirty Years’ War.
Basically, the general of the Swedish army swore to withdraw his men if the city did not fall by noon, as Brno refused to surrender. So the locals actually changed the city’s clock to read an hour early, leaving the army to leave at 11am instead (thinking it was noon).
This is why a marble is released in the astronomical clock every single day at this time, with four openings for the marble to appear – except it’s always random.
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to succeed, as there were already people waiting at every opening when I arrived to try. But you may have better luck – just get there a little early!
The clock also does not look like a clock. In fact, it looks quite phallic…and it isn’t the only phallic symbol to spot in the city!
Take a Photo of the Phallic Surprise Beneath the Statue of Courage
Just another fun and phallic thing to do in Brno is to visit Moravian Square and find the notable statue of a knight in armour sitting on a horse with unusually long legs. Stand beneath it for a cheeky surprise..and another one of Brno’s fun legends.
Discover Brno’s Accidentally Mummified Monks at Capuchin Crypt
Not one for the faint-hearted, the 18th-century former monastery is home to dozens of mummies laid to rest. The crypt offers the opportunity to learn more about the monks and the lives they lived. However, the bodies shouldn’t be mummified. The process happened naturally due to the geological composition of the ground and the ventilation in the cellars.
Though the mummies are on clear display and can be quite jarring to see, the former monastery is a fascinating place to visit – if you have the stomach for it. The tiny crypt hides beneath the streets of Brno, beside a pretty courtyard in the heart of the city.
Experience Super Panda Circus
Okay, so this is technically a bar and it’s not really a hidden gem anymore but it sure is quirky. Super Panda Circus is a bar that brings all the theatrics: from the deco you can admire as you drink your tipples to the games you play to actually choose your cocktails.
This unique bar is heaps of fun. You can only attend in small groups and have to ring a curious doorbell outside to gain entry. Once inside, you can choose to order traditional drinks or play a game based on character and choices. With the latter option, you pick a character out of eight or so presented to you at the start, then you are led upstairs and shown to your seats. On an iPad, you read through a story and select different choices to progress. The bartender then creates cocktails based on your choices.
Though the bar is small and slightly pricier compared to most places in Brno, it is definitely worth the experience, if even just for a couple of drinks!
Check out (or stay in!) the 10-Z Bunker
I bet you didn’t know that Brno has its very own air-raid shelter – nor that you can sleep there! 10-Z Bunker was originally built during World War II and later turned into a wholesale wine store in 1946. Just two years later, it was shut down by the communist government. Nowadays, it’s used as a tourist attraction/historical building where tourists can see inside…or stay overnight.
One of my friends stayed in the hostel during our time at Traverse 22 and she told me it was very interesting, to say the least!
Pay Your Respects in Europe’s Second Biggest Ossuary
Another one for you dark tourists out there: Brno Ossuary is an underground ossuary which is home to the remains of around 50,000 skeletons – making it the second largest ossuary in Europe. The first is, of course, the Paris catacombs.
You might find this fact a bit odd when you visit and experience how small it is, but this is because the size of the ossuary is based on how many skeletons are there – not how big the room(s) are physically! Brno Ossuary is a truly peaceful place that can only be visited on a small guided candlelit tour.
Take a Boat Trip to Veveří Castle
Veveří Castle is a stunning former royal castle set within Brno’s Podkomorské woods. Parts of the castle are abandoned and left to ruin, revealing stunning Gothic architecture. This makes it truly a site that stands above the beautiful woods. Though you can book tours to explore inside, I enjoyed pairing my visit with a boat trip around Brno Reservoir. I would recommend doing the same: by taking a boat trip to the castle, you can really appreciate the architecture when it finally comes into view above the reservoir.
Stargaze at the Brno Observatory and Planetarium
Did you know that Brno has its very own planetarium? This state-of-the-art venue is based in the pretty Kraví hora Park, and has an astronomical observation point and planetarium. If the night sky is too cloudy, there’s plenty to watch and see in the digital planetarium too. There’s also a wonderful collection of galaxy art in the basement and rocks & fossils on display.
Check Out the Labyrinth Under the Vegetable Market
Brno sure is popular for underground places! The Labyrinth under the Vegetable Market is a fascinating exhibition set eight meters underground.
By a 40-minute guided tour, tourists can discover a variety of medieval cellars such as a historical wine cellar, an alchemist’s workshop and even an old pub. Each recreates exactly how they would have looked back in the Middle Ages. Note that tours aren’t super regular, so it’s worth planning ahead for this one.
Admire the Stunning Architecture at Tugendhat Villa
You might be surprised to learn that Tugendhat Villa is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The villa is actually one of the pioneering prototypes of modern architecture in Europe and was built between 1928 and 1930 for a wealthy and influential couple from the Tugendhat family. The villa is now famous for being an icon of modernism and for its revolutionary use of space and industrial building materials.
You can visit Tugendhat Villa via three different tours: the extended circuit, the basic circuit or a tour of the gardens. You can also visit the gardens and exhibitions on the technical floor of the villa free of charge and without a tour.
Explore (And Watch a Sunset At) Špilberk Castle Špilberk Castle
Set at the top of a hill in Brno (plan ahead for this: it’s a tough walk and taxis will not take you all the way to the top!), Špilberk Castle offers stunning views across the city. The best view is definitely during sunset. This castle was originally a royal castle, built in the 13th century. But by the 17th and 18th centuries, it was used as a fortress – and then a prison! As well as regular events and exhibitions, you can tour the castle to visit areas such as the prisons and the castle fortifications.
Visit Vila Stiassni, Brno’s government villa
It may not look like much from the outside, but Vila Stisanni is a pretty place, with wonderful and unique design choices inside. The building was built for textile factory owner Alfred Stiassni but is nowadays commonly known as the government villa. This is due to the use of the Czechoslovak government’s business in the house in 1946 and how it was used to accommodate prominent guests in later years. A basic tour takes guests around the stately building, to explore the private family rooms and learn about their history. There are also pretty gardens to explore and a tasty cafe on site.
Find all these spots on my handy Google Map here!
Things to do outside of Brno, Czech Republic
If my list of 15 great things to do in Brno isn’t enough, there are many fun things to do in the region surrounding Brno too. The beautiful South Moravian countryside surrounding Brno is a must if you have time. This stunning region is famous for its wine production and its two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape and Tugendhat Villa back in Brno. You can also take an adrenaline-filled trip to Punkva Caves or explore the historic Pernštejn Castle, where productions such as Wanted and Van Helsing were filmed.
Brno is a relatively unknown destination for a fun European city break – but in a good way. This means it’s affordable, authentic and free of tourist crowds. The trams are really cost-effective and fun way to explore Brno – although you can explore most of it by foot. It’s also great for all types of travellers: couples, friends or families. Whether you want to indulge in the culture and good food within the city or head further afield for a slower tour of Czechia’s wine region, you can do it all with a trip to Brno.
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