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How to get the most out of Brno in one day

We all hate it when our trip is coming to an end and we’re running out of time. You’ve got just a few days before you head home but still so much you want to see. With just one day, you could do worse than visit Brno in the Czech Republic. What’s that, you don’t anything about Brno? Let’s fix that straight away!

Brno is the second-largest city in the country, located about halfway between Prague and Bratislava. Those two capital cities are popular in their own right and should be included on any itinerary of the region. So is it even worth visiting Brno? Absolutely!

Why Brno is worth visiting

A sign indicating the entrance to the Brno Capuchin Monastery and crypt with the cathedral in the background.
Within five minutes of arriving in Brno you’ll arrive at the Capuchin Monastery and Crypt. The city’s cathedral lurks a little further up the hill.

Dragons, mummies, castles, labyrinths. Brno is full of unusual and strange things to do. It’s like a fairy tale come to life, just waiting for you to jump inside.

As soon as you step out of the train station, you’re in the city centre and among Brno’s many attractions. The first you’re likely to come across is a Capuchin monastery. £4.30 grants you access to a handful of cramped rooms housing the mummified remains of some of Brno’s most prominent former residents. If that description doesn’t tempt you (and why wouldn’t it?), nearby is the city’s cathedral.

Sitting on top of Petrov Hill is the ominous Gothic structure of the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul. Head around to the back entrance where, for a small fee, you can scale the tower’s winding staircase. The climb isn’t too demanding but the view of Brno from above might leave you a little breathless. The balconies at either end of the cathedral’s attic overlook the city’s old town, giving you an opportunity to gather your bearings before venturing further into Brno. Although the ledges are barely wide enough for one person and it feels a little precarious perched on the edge looking down.

Once you’ve safely navigated your way back down the tower, an ideal next stop is the Vegetable Market. Also known as the Cabbage Market, this is where you can get another taste of the unusual things to do in Brno. And I’m not talking about the fresh fruit and vegetables on sale.

Brno Underground Labyrinth

Piles of bones in Brno Underground Ossuary and a tower of skulls in the foreground.
The ossuary in Brno is the second largest in Europe and part of the city’s underground network of attractions.

Lurking 212 steps beneath the market stalls is ‘Labyrint pod Zelným trhem’. This maze of passageways is one of six underground sites around Brno, each giving you a glimpse into the city’s past. As well as the labyrinth, you can explore reservoirs, a bunker and the second-largest ossuary in Europe. The rest of the underground sites are scattered across the city, with three in or around Spilberk Castle.

An inconspicuous door on the far side of the market square serves as the entrance to the labyrinth. After making your way down, you’ll be surrounded by near darkness. As you proceed through Brno’s underground, you can learn more about its past. At special events, you can even try some of the local wine they used to store down there. And if enjoying a drink six metres underground doesn’t tempt you, the labyrinth is also where you’ll find an alchemist’s laboratory and a cage of fools.

Brno Ossuary

If your visit to the Brno labyrinth gets you eager for more underground exploration, your next stop should be the nearby Ossuary.

You might be wondering what an ossuary is. I wasn’t sure before my visit, so just in case I’m not the only one and you’d like to know too, an ossuary is a room that contains the bones of dead people.

Okay, that description doesn’t sound too inviting and as an attraction it sits in the murky realm of dark tourism. Visiting an ossuary isn’t for everyone and Brno has plenty of other locations for you to explore. Ones that are above ground and without dead people. Although that is a bit of a running theme in the city.

If you’re curious enough to venture down to the ossuary, the entrance is outside the church of St. James. It’s not easy to see and I completed at least one full lap outside the church before I figured out where to go. To help you avoid the same mistake, look for a set of steps to the right of the church entrance. Once you’re at the bottom push the door hard (it didn’t budge when I tried, so I thought it was closed and almost gave up a second time).

Beyond the information boards occupying the entrance area, you can explore more of the tunnels of the Brno underground. Calming music plays as you stroll through the crypt, adding to the somewhat surreal experience. The ossuary is the final resting place of an estimated 50,000 people, which is second in number only to the Catacombs of Paris.

Brno Old Town Hall

The silhouette of a hanging crocodile in the shadows of the entrance to Brno Old Town Hall.
What’s that lurking in the shadows of Brno Old Town Hall? Dare you go have a look for yourself?

The ossuary and Brno’s underground labyrinth aren’t the only unusual things to do in the city. The Old Town Hall, now home to the visitor information centre, is another popular stopping point. The building itself isn’t anything especially awe-inspiring or unusual. The real attraction is looming above you as you step off the street through the arched entrance.

Peering up, you’ll encounter a giant crocodile suspended from the ceiling. It’s supposedly a dragon that used to roam the area, terrorising locals. Now it greets visitors looking for the information centre.

Above the Old Town Hall is a 63-metre tower with 360-degree views overlooking the rooftops of Brno. You probably won’t see any dragons up there (but don’t rule it out in Brno), however you can get a better idea of the layout of the old town.

In the heart of the historic centre is the triangular-shaped Liberty Square. Cafes and fast-food restaurants populate one end of the square, while the other side is lined with artfully designed pastel-coloured buildings. Several sculptures dot the square as trams rumble through the middle among the throngs of passing locals.

Spilberk Castle

Spilberk Castle under a blue sky.
The history of Spilberk Castle is as deep as the rest of Brno. Plus you get great views of the city!

Sitting above Brno is Spilberk Castle. The 13th century monument has been a fortress, a prison and now forms part of the Brno underground network. Among the highlights are a bunker and two former water tanks that now serve as jaw-dropping exhibition spaces showcasing sculptures from the city’s past.

Inside the castle you’ll learn more about its history as you stroll through the courtyard, towers and chapel. A museum by the entrance is another good source of information as you read up on local legends. Make sure you don’t miss the castle prison (“casemates”), which was used from the mid-1700s and is said to be haunted. Because what site in Brno doesn’t involve the dead?

From the south-east side of the castle grounds, you can gaze over the city. The tower of the Old Town Hall and the dark Gothic structure of the cathedral are the easiest to pick out. Peering over the wall on the opposite side of the castle, you should spot the abbey where Gregor Mendel, an Austrian scientist and friar from the 1800s, lived and conducted his experiments. He is most famously credited as being the founder of modern genetics and you can learn more about his work by visiting the museum next to the abbey.

Best restaurants in Brno

A burger and fries with a tankard of beer at Uvozna burger restaurant in Brno.
The burgers at Uvozna are as good as they look. And even better, they’re cheap!

Brno is home to over 60,000 students and any city with a large student population is known for its thriving nightlife and cheap places to eat. To find a reasonable place to eat in Brno you’ll have to get away from the popular historic centre. Very close to the castle grounds is an unassuming bar offering great food and better prices. Úvozna prepare a selection of stacked burgers with a side of fries for just £6.50 on their daily menu. Add in a tankard of beer and you can grab a hearty lunch that won’t eat too deep into your expenses.

The centre of Brno is full of cafes, so you won’t be short of options when it comes to looking for a good coffee. You’ll find Monogram Espresso Bar opposite the Capuchin Monastery, less than five minutes from the train station. Depending on your arrival time, it could be the perfect place to grab a coffee and a slice of cake before beginning your exploration of Brno.

Brno one day itinerary

Cabbage Square Market in Brno Old Town on a sunny day and the cathedral in the background.
Brno Cabbage Market sells more than just cabbages. The square is filled with stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, while on some days you can get your hands on some local craft products.

To get the most out of your day trip to Brno, here’s a suggested itinerary.

1. Brno bus and train stations

Buses and trains both arrive south of Brno’s historic centre and that’s where most people begin their visit.

2. Monogram Espresso Bar

A quick stop for a mid-morning coffee and maybe a slice of cake before venturing out to discover the best of Brno.

3. Capuchin Monastery

Learn about some of Brno’s most famous former residents. The crypt is found through a narrow alleyway to the side. Entrance is relatively inexpensive but it’s small and a few rooms of mummified remains isn’t for everyone.

4. Petrov Hill & Cathedral of St Peter and Paul

Climb up the hill towards the Gothic cathedral overlooking Brno’s historic centre. From here, you can get your bearings before further exploration.

5. Cabbage Market

Follow the streets down from the cathedral into this spacious square and peruse the stalls of fresh fruit, vegetables and crafts to get a taste of daily life.

6. Brno Underground

In the corner of the market you’ll see the entrance to the Brno underground labyrinth, deep beneath the city’s streets and a glimpse into its past.

7. Old Town Hall

Two minutes around the corner you’ll have another opportunity to gaze across Brno from above. The tourist information centre is downstairs as you enter. Don’t miss the local dragon hanging above you!

8. Liberty Square

Listen for the rumbling of the trams and follow them to the heart of the historic centre. Take a moment to admire the buildings and monuments at the far end of this triangular square.

9. Church of Saint James and Ossuary

Another short walk leads you to one of Brno’s churches, while below is the second largest ossuary in Europe. If a heap of bones doesn’t tempt you then, like with the mummified remains in the Capuchin Monastery, maybe it’s best to give it a miss.

10. Úvozna burger restaurant

After all your exploring it should be the perfect time to stop for lunch. Cheap tasty burgers await at Úvozna. It’s around a 20-minute walk from the church, or, if you’re feeling the need to rest your legs, tram number 4 takes just eight minutes.

11. Spilberk Castle

Now you’re re-energised after lunch, head towards the castle above Brno. It’s a 16-minute walk all the way to the top.

12. Mendel’s Abbey

From the castle you can admire the views across Brno. Below you’ll see the museum dedicated to Gregor Mendel’s studies and the abbey where he lived. It’s just a short walk down the hill to arrive.

13. Return to the station

If you still have some energy left in your weary feet after a day discovering Brno, it’s around a 25-minute walk back to the station. You can also take tram number 1, which takes 10 minutes. Once you’re back in the centre, grab a pastry or one of Brno’s tempting coffees before you leave.

How to get around Brno

Yellow and pink buildings in Liberty Square in the centre of Brno Old Town with people walking through the middle and tram lines running down one side.
Liberty Square is in the centre of Brno Old Town and on the main route for buses and trams.

The centre of Brno is easily walkable and most of the highlights mentioned here are just a short stroll from one another. Aside from Spilberk Castle and the cathedral on Petrov Hill, the city centre is very flat. Even those two climbs aren’t too much of a challenge.

However, if you want to make things easier on yourself, Brno has a network of trams and buses to help you get around. Most of the main lines run through Liberty Square and will take you where you need to go.

How to get to Brno

A narrow street leading to St. Michael's Gate in Bratislava with a blue sky overhead.
St. Michael’s Gate in the centre of Bratislava is one of the many highlights around Europe’s smallest capital city.

Brno is an ideal day trip from either Prague or Bratislava. You can see a lot of the city in one day but if you prefer a more leisurely stay, the centre has plenty of accommodation options. Prague to Brno by train usually takes two and a half hours. On the bus, you’ll arrive in just under three hours, so it means an early start if you want to see as much as possible in one day. From Bratislava, both the bus and train to Brno take about an hour and 45 minutes.

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