When you hear travelers talk about the Czech Republic (Czechia), you’ll hear “Prague” almost every time. While Prague deserves to be talked about so much ( it’s one of our favorite capitals in Europe), it’s not the only destination in the country. Brno, the second-largest city, is a highly underrated destination in Moravia, a region in the south of the country. In this post, we share our reasons for visiting Brno and explain what makes it so great.
Visiting a city and experiencing all its attractions are a driving factor in determining whether a visit is worth it or not. However, you have to consider more than just the city itself. For instance, is there another destination nearby? Are there plenty of day trips outside of the city? And, of course, since we like to be budget-conscious travelers, is it affordable?
The answer to all of those questions is a resounding yes! So, let’s talk a little bit about when to visit Brno and then we’ll dive into the things to do in and around the city.
Brno is just a couple hours by train from Bratislava, Slovakia. Being so near to one another, it’s a great idea to combine Brno and Bratislava into your itinerary. Check out our guide to Bratislava before you go!
When to Visit Brno
Any time of year! But some times are better than others…
To be more specific, we loved Brno during our long visit in February. That said, it could have been better. How? We received multiple snowfalls (very beautiful), accommodation was cheap, and there were very few tourists to crowd our days out and about.
So, what was the issue? A lot of things were closed!
Granted, it’s to be expected from a city like Brno. It’s not a major tourist attraction year-round like Prague or Budapest, so things like walking tours aren’t running during the cold, winter months. Understandably so.
But again, aside from some things being closed, our offseason trip was perfect.
We think you could really hit the jackpot by visiting around April or early to mid-autumn. Shoulder season is never a bad idea. Attractions will be open (there are a TON of castles and chateaus near Brno), tourists will be fewer than in the summer, and the weather will be a true delight.
Regardless of your timing to Brno, we’re certain you’ll enjoy the city and surrounding countryside. When driving in this region (which you must do), the time of year doesn’t really matter; it’s always beautiful.
Visiting Brno – Things to Do
From the enchanting square and mysterious alleyways to some of the best day trips in Europe, let’s talk about some amazing things to do in Brno!
Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul
First and foremost, this is the most breathtaking building in Brno. The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul reaches to the clouds, easily standing out from the rest of the city.
The church dates back at least one thousand years but, of course, it began as a much smaller structure than what we see today. The tall towers that make this cathedral so unique were added in the early 1900s.
Entry is free but a trip up the towers will cost a small fee. It’s more than worth it. The views are unforgettable. Grab a picture of Špilberk Castle on the opposite hill. Very picturesque!
The most interesting fact? The noon church bells ring at 11 am. We’ll let you have the fun of figuring out why!
The other main attraction in Brno, Špilberk Castle sits atop the opposite hill of the cathedral. It has served many purposes over time, but perhaps most memorable, it has served as a prison for centuries. From times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the early Nazi occupation, Špilberk Castle has been a place of extreme imprisonment and labor for civil and political criminals.
Špilberk Castle is famed for its “castemates,” which are rooms with no windows. You can visit these rooms and learn about the prisoners who served time within. In fact, there are multiple exhibitions to visit while walking around Špilberk Castle; however, some of them are closed in the offseason! It’s a good idea to do research ahead of time to see what’s open at Šilberk Castle during your visit.
The entry fee is around $4 USD. That’s an awesome price!
Exhibitions aside, the castle grounds are the perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon stroll. The walk up the hill is scenic and there are places to rest along the way. Be sure and snap a photo of the cathedral from the walls of the castle!
Brno Ossuary and Church of St. James
Lying under the Church of St. James, visitors can witness one of Europe’s largest ossuaries. It’s said to hold over 50,000 people. You’ll find the entrance next to the church, down some stairs.
While it may not be the happiest venture for tourists, we think it’s an important part of Brno’s history and worth witnessing. There are English information cards so you can understand the history behind this ossuary, which was only rediscovered in 2001!
Read more about ticket prices and opening times before you visit!
But don’t forget about the Church of St. James! You can enter for free and marvel at the immaculate art and architecture inside.
The Astronomical Clock
Sure, it’s been called lots of different names due to its peculiar appearance, but at the end of a day, it’s a clock that’s sure to draw a crowd. Just like many other European cities!
This clock is special, however, as it spits out a marble at 11 am. You can bet a crowd will gather to catch it. Maybe you’ll be the lucky one!
While the clock was an expensive installation and has received plenty of praise as well as plenty of criticism, it’s still part of Brno. So, as a visitor to this city, you should check it out!
It’s practically impossible to miss this attraction, as it’s located in a lovely square. So, at the very least, walk by and check out the beautiful buildings instead.
Day Trips from Brno
We mentioned Bratislava earlier in this post but that’s in another country. What about day trips within the Czech Republic? There are so many!
In fact, we’ve detailed our driving excursion (map included!) from Brno. From quaint, renaissance-style towns to UNESCO Heritage Sites, we cover a fun-filled day in our Brno day trip post!
Most importantly, we recommend renting a car and exploring on your own! You’ll save a ton of money on tours and have the freedom to go where you please. Driving in the Czech Republic is very easy! Trust us, driving in the UK and Italy was much more stressful than here.
The highways are well maintained but better yet, the backroads are so rewarding. Head to Kayak, rent a car and enjoy.
We were able to rent an automatic transmission (typically more expensive than a manual in Europe) for just $26 USD for two days. It was a great deal! We were able to explore the entire region of Moravia as well as a fair bit of Bohemia.
As a matter of fact, we dedicated an entire day to seeking out some amazing castles in the Czech Republic.
Being a good distance from Prague and visiting in the offseason, we had the road to ourselves fairly often and could stop when we please. Whether it was to stretch our legs or enjoy the view, driving is the way to go!
Back in Brno, we can’t complete this post without mentioning one of its best parks. Like every city we visit, one of the best ways to spend some time is wandering the park with locals.
Brno’s Park Lužánky is a nice little escape right within the city.
Koláče and Starobrno
And last but not least, we’d like to mention one of our favorite foods from the Czech Republic: koláče.
Koláče isn’t a specialty in Brno, but we just want to emphasize the importance of trying one of the best pastries in Europe.
And if you are looking for something unique to Brno, then look no further than Starobrno brewery and its refreshing pale lagers. The history of this establishment is enough reason to visit the brewery, as it predates the 14th century. Brewery Tours are available!
You’ll find an ample amount of all things delicious in Brno. You’ll love the price tag too.
Brno Free Walking Tour
We always list free walking tours first when we write about European cities. They’re an amazing way to learn about the city firsthand while meeting a local as well as fellow travelers. However, we did not get to experience a walking tour in Brno since we visited in February.
We are so sad we missed out on this but we recommend you to take the walking tour if you visit during the right season. Their reviews are fantastic! Read more about MyTourBrno and find the right time to go!
Summary of Visiting Brno
We hope we’ve cast a good light on Brno, a less-traveled gem in the Czech Republic. From all the nearby castles and chateaus to the intriguing and sometimes dark history right in the city center, Brno stands as a destination on its own. Whether you’re visiting for a day or staying the night, we hope you enjoy your time in Brno as much as we did.