There are many great things to do in Brno. This is one of the most underrated cities in Europe, not getting a fraction of the tourists that the Czech capital, Prague, gets. I actually loved it – in fact, while I can definitely see the magic beauty and the romance of Prague, I ended up enjoying my time in Brno way more.
Brno is home to the largest university in the Czech Republic, and as like all university cities, it is young, multicultural, international, relaxed and incredibly friendly.
But if you think it’s just about the vibe, you are mistaken. There are many interesting places to visit in Brno – churches, squares, markets and more.
Curious to find out more? Then continue reading – here I will highlight the best things to do in Brno, and some tips that will help you to fully appreciate this beautiful city.
The Best Things To Do In Brno
Start with a walking tour of Brno
A walking tour is a great way to get yourself acquainted with a new destination and it goes without saying that one of the best things to do in Brno is to start with a guided tour. With that in mind, exploring Brno on foot and seeing the main sites up close, plus seeing how parts of the town transition from one to another, gives you a good insight into the city.
Walking tours of Brno often focus on the Old Town and the surrounding area – for good reason.
It’s here you can see sights such as the 13th-century Vegetable Market Square, the Reduta Theater – which has seen performances by Mozart through its many years of existence – the Old Town Hall and the Parnas Fountain to name but a few.
There are lots of different walking tours you can embark on. These range from self-guided routes to expert-led adventures; there are even some free walking tours of Brno that you could join.
I recommend this Historic Downtown walking tour. It lasts two hours and goes to the most important attractions in the city center, such as the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Liberty Square and Freedom Square, and the Vegetable Market.
Climb the tower at the Old Town Hall
Called Stará radnice in Czech, Brno’s Old Town Hall is the city’s oldest surviving secular building. Situated on Radnicka Street, the oldest part of the Old Town Hall dates back to 1240.
It began life as a municipal office from 1373 and operated as such until 1935, when the office moved to a nearby building in Dominikanska S,quare now known as the New Town Hall.
The gothic portal of the Old Town Hall its small towers is beautiful. One of them looks like it is melting. According to history, the artist who had to carve it was annoyed for a delay in payment and decided to carve it this way to show he could even mould stone.
Over its almost 800-year lifetime, various additions and alterations have been made to the Old Town Hall. In particular, in 1577 the building’s tower, its oldest portion, was raised in height, with an observation deck fitted.
Today visitors can still climb the 63 meters (over 206 feet) to the top for a view out over Brno Old Town. It’s free of charge and totally worth it. If you go in December, you’ll be able to admire the Christmas markets of Brno that take place in the square right below, too.
Visit the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul
Nicknamed “Petrov” by locals – the same name as the hill on which it sits – the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul is one of the main landmarks of Brno.
There aren’t many places in the city where you won’t be able to see it from; it’s an impressive sight, with spires standing at 84 meters (275.6 feet). In fact, the church is so symbolic that it is of national significance, appearing on the 10 koruna coin.
The cathedral itself has a long history, dating back to the 11th century and built on the site of a pre-existing church. Centuries of renovations and rebuilding work on the cathedral meant that it was not fully completed until 1909.
Due to the many years of construction, the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul features a variety of architectural styles.
The oldest part of the interior – a box tabernacle in the Marian Chapel – dates to 1652, comprising ornate Baroque decorations, while the exterior is solidly Gothic in appearance. If you have time, it’s possible to head up the tower for a sweeping view of the city.
Check out the Functionalist Buildings
This is probably one of the most unique things to do in Brno – and in fact, the best place in the Czech Republic for that. Fans of architecture and design shouldn’t miss out on seeing some examples of Functionalist architecture, of which there are many in the city.
If you’re new to it, the basic design principles of Functionalism is that buildings should be created based on their use, with minimal adornments and a focus on practicality and, of course, function.
That doesn’t mean that the aesthetics of Functionalism are boring, however – the lack of opulent ornamentation is made up for by streamline minimalism and bold use of materials, color and space.
Examples in Brno include Hotel Avion, designed by Bohuslav Fuchs, Cafe Era by Josef Kranz, and the UNESCO-recognized Villa Tugendhat.
For those particularly interested in Functionalism in Brno, it would be worth seeking out a tour or guide that specializes in architecture of the city.
Make sure to also read my post Where To See The Best Examples Of Functionalism In The Czech Republic.
Visit the magnificent Villa Tugendhat
The landmark Villa Tugendhat was a pioneer for modern architecture in Europe. Designed by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for Greta and Fritz Tugendhat, the villa was built using reinforced concrete and other industrial building materials.
At the time it was well known for its use of these materials and its use of space, with Mies focusing on his design principle “less is more.”
Mies utilized an iron framework, a technique being used for skyscrapers elsewhere, and employed one giant sheet of plate glass for a wall that reached from ground level into the basement.
Natural textures throughout, including tropical wood and onyx, took center stage as opposed to paintings or other decorative objects.
Mies also worked with interior designer Lilly Reich for the furniture and other aspects of the building; two chairs – the Brno chair and the Tugendhat chair – are still in production to this day.
Villa Tugendhat is a UNESCO World Heritage site and can only be visited on guided tours that you can book directly via the official website. You have the option of picking the basic tour, which lasts 60 minutes, and the extended tour which lasts 90 minutes. I advice to book well ahead as it gets sold out on a regular basis.
Visit Freedom Square (Náměstí Svobody)
Freedom Square is situated in the historic center of Brno. It’s long been a hub of activity in the city, with people meeting and taking a break with a coffee or simply people watching.
The triangular square is edged by historic buildings; it’s here that you’ll find the Klein Palace, which was built for a wealthy family in the late 1840s, and the House of the Lords of Lipa (both of which are open to the public).
At the center of Freedom Square is the 1679 Plague Column, which is decorated with saints and prominent residents of Brno who helped during epidemics of that era.
Depending on the time of year, various events take place in the square, from Christmas markets to local food fairs and even musical performances.
And Moravian Square (Moravské náměstí)
Another of Brno’s prominent squares, Moravian Square – sometimes called “Moravák” locally – is actually the second-largest in the city and is made up of two parts. Divided by a busy road and tramway, one side features a leafy park area, while the other is a paved portion.
The paved area is located in front of the Church of St. Thomas, and features an eight-meter high statue of a knight on a horse with unsettlingly long legs.
This depicts Jobst of Moravia, the ruler of the region from 1385 to 1411 (hence the square’s name), and is an allegory for courage. Don’t be surprised if you see people trying to take a look at the underside of the horse – there’s something humorous there.
While this paved area sees an ice skating rink and food vendors in the winter, the newly redesigned park area of Moravian Square is a place to hang out in summer, with people often relaxing on the lawn.
Go to the Ossuary at the Church of St. James
Part of the Church of St. James, the Moravian Ossuary is the second-largest repository of bones in Europe. It was so well hidden underground that it was only rediscovered in 2001.
Since its founding in the 17th century, the Moravian Ossuary has become the final resting place for an estimated 50,000 people, the bones of whom are laid out in organized – sometimes elaborate – rows and stacks.
Why was it built? Well, there was a cemetery at the Church of St. James, but at the time it lay within the city walls and couldn’t be expanded.
Because of this, once a body had been buried for around 10 years, they would exhume the grave’s original inhabitant and place their bones in the ossuary, placing a recently deceased person in the grave instead.
The ossuary has been open to the public since 2012, but because it’s a religious property, a certain amount of respect is required, and so only 20 people at a time are allowed in.
And the Capuchin Crypt
For more macabre things to do in Brno, don’t miss out on the Capuchin Crypt. Behind the charm of the pink facade of the Capuchin Church lies a cellar full of mummified monks.
To get there, you have to make your way through some winding passageways beneath the church, passing by – among other strange things – the corpse of a woman who was buried alive accidentally.
At the Capuchin Crypt itself, you’ll see the remains of 24 friars who were placed here between the mid-17th century and the late 18th century. Lying with a stack of bricks for a pillow, the monks are clad in simple robes and sometimes clutch crucifixes or rosaries.
The Capuchin friars’ vow of poverty meant that coffins were seen as a luxury, and so the bodies of the deceased were instead laid out on the dirt floor.
However, a combination of dry air and the composition of the soil resulted in the excellent preservation and mummification of the bodies. Written above the friars’ remains is the eerie inscription, common to crypts such as this: “What you are now, we once were. What we are now, you will become.”
Check out Zelný Trh aka the Cabbage Market
Daily fairs and markets have long been a staple of this square, which is also known as Vegetable (or Cabbage) Market Square. It’s actually been in use since 1190 – longer than the city itself has been established – and has been running continuously ever since, even during the Communist era when private commerce was banned.
Locals today still come to pick up a wide variety of fresh produce, including vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, plants, seeds, bread and flowers.
If all of that food makes you feel hungry during your trip to the square, then you’ll be pleased to know there are a number of street food stalls and small local restaurants edging the outskirts of the market.
Other things to note at this historic portion of Brno is the large Baroque monument situated here: the Parnas Fountain and the late-17th-century Dietrichstein Palace, which is home to the Moravian Museum.
Go to Špilberk Castle
Set high on a hilltop overlooking Brno is the Špilberk Castle. Construction on this imposing fortress began in the first half of the 13th century, commenced by Přemyslid kings and finished by Otakar II of Bohemia (a member of the same dynasty) to protect the town of Brno and the lands of the Czech people.
Over the years, Špilberk Castle was developed from a royal stronghold into a large Baroque citadel. As part of the Austrian Empire, the castle was home to a specially constructed, notoriously harsh prison that housed many state and political prisoners from the mid-18th to the late 19th century.
Today the castle remains culturally important to Brno, being – alongside the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul – a landmark of the city.
The grounds are interesting to stroll, while the interiors of the castle are home to museums and various historical collections. There’s even a cafe up here if you fancy a bite to eat.
Check out the statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Reduta Theater is one of the most important buildings in the center of Brno. Springing from a tavern built here in 1605, the building later extended to house ceremonies, gatherings and eventually was repurposed for theatrical performances only.
Its age is impressive enough, but it has an even more famous connection.
In 1767, a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart arrived in Brno with his family, having fled a smallpox epidemic in Vienna. Aged 11 years old at this time, Mozart performed at Reduta Theater alongside other child prodigies of the day and “excited everyone’s imagination” according to a diary entry of one audience member.
Outside the theater, a statue marks this early performance by Mozart. It depicts the composer as an 11-year-old boy, but wearing the wig hairstyle that older Mozart is most famous for.
Enjoy Brno’s culinary scene
One of the best things to do in Brno – and really any time you take a trip to a new city is to take a deep dive into its gastronomy. This foodie haven has a thriving culinary scene, from traditional, long-standing restaurants to more modern cocktail bars and international-inspired eateries.
Dishes to look out for while you’re eating your way around the city include tatarák (beef steak tartare) and vepřo knedlo zelo (pork, cabbage and bread dumplings). A good place to try local cuisine is Stopkova, on Ceska 5.
Aside from the more traditional dishes, you can also find high-end sushi and mouth-watering Mediterranean food to sate your stomach.
Enjoy nightlife in Brno
As well as food, Brno is also good for nightlife. This is thanks partly to its population of approximately 89,000 students attending the city’s 13 universities – many of whom, of course, are going to be on the look out for fun times on nights off.
In Brno, you’ll mainly find bars packed full of beer-drinking locals. One of the most popular is the above mentioned long-running Stopkova Plzenska Pivnice – an authentic pub with local dishes to pair with your Czech beer.
There are also late-night clubs where you can dance the night away, chic cocktail lounges (e.g. Super Panda Circus), as well as gig venues and operatic performances taking place throughout the week. There’s quite literally something for everyone.
Check out Brno Christmas Markets
I leave this for last as it’s strictly seasonal, but if you are visiting the Czech Republic in the winter, one of the best things to do in Brno is checking out the Christmas Markets.
There are many scattered around town – the most famous one is the one in the square behind the Old Town Hall – and the nice thing is that they are way less touristy than those in Prague – it’s mostly locals shopping, enjoying food and drinks and buying presents.
There even are covered markets – which is great since it can get terribly cold in December.
For more information on places to visit and things to do in the Czech Republic, make sure to read these posts: