Brno, the Czech Republic’s second city, has ‘irresistible charm’
Not many people make it to the Czech Republic’s second city, yet its charm is irresistible.
While Prague is packed with stag dos and Irish pubs, Brno (pronounced ‘bruh-no’) has modern art galleries, higgledy-piggeldy narrow streets with historic buildings and endless restaurants serving traditional potato dumplings, goulash and local beers. It’s vibrant, affordable and compact — you’re never much more than a 20-minute walk from anywhere.
Where to stay
The hand-painted glass ceilings in the lobby of this former bank make a grand first impression. It’s now a boutique hotel with smart, cosy rooms as well as spa treatments and pleasant views across the market square. Doubles from £87 (grandezzahotel.com).
Base yourself at Grandezza, a boutique hotel housed in a former bank
Despite its name, this hotel may not be for everybody. A whirlwind of neon and storytelling, it describes itself as ‘20 per cent hotel, 80 per cent experience’ and has cinematic-themed rooms with iPads which narrate a story played on speakers.
Rooms also have bubble machines, picnic baskets and swings. Doubles from £100, when quoting ‘Daily Mail’ (anybody.cz).
Enjoy spectacular views of the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul (pictured background) from the Art Deco Avion Hotel
A short wander from Freedom Square, this Art Deco boutique hotel has spectacular views of Spilberk Castle and the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul on the Petrov hill, which can be seen from the terrace. Beds are comfortable, breakfast generous and the staff friendly. Doubles from £86 (avion-hotel.cz).
Built during World War II, this air raid shelter and unused nuclear bunker is now a 50-bed hostel near the city centre. It may be a rather peculiar place to stay on a weekend break, but its history and friendly staff make up for any austerity. B&B doubles from £55 (10-z.cz, booking.com).
What to see & do
Visit the castle
Take a guided tour around Castle Spilberk, pictured, to learn about its ‘harrowing’ history
The history of Castle Spilberk is harrowing. Take a guided tour to learn all about its troubled past, including its use as a brutal prison in the 13th century and as a Nazi barracks during the World War II German occupation. Take a break at the castle’s hilltop café afterwards. Admission free; tours £3-£6, spilberk.cz.
Even more harrowing is the underground ossuary at the Church of St James, which was rediscovered in 2001. It contains the bones of more than 50,000 victims of plague, cholera and war. Entry £5, gotobrno.cz.
The Museum of Applied Arts houses an architecture and design exhibition but also showcases a vast collection of art from the present back to the Middle Ages. Don’t miss the Robot Cafe which recreates a portrait of you in your cup of coffee. (moravska-galerie.cz).
Take in the best views of the city from the Old Town Hall’s tower, which can be found near the imposing Freedom Square (pictured)
Straddling the city’s most imposing square Namesti Svobody (Freedom Square) and the cabbage market, the Old Town Hall’s tower has the best views of the city. Entry costs £2.50 and it’s open until 10pm. Afterwards, take a wander through the cabbage market’s wooden chalets, which also sell artisanal crafts and street food. (gotobrno.cz).
Where to eat
Lokal u Caipla
This restaurant is the place to sample giant portions of schnitzel for about £7 along with a local beer. Note the hungover diners if you visit on a Sunday. (lokal-ucaipla.ambi.cz).
A strong contender for the best restaurant in the whole of Brno, its menu focuses on a fusion of European and Asian cuisine.
Fine dining at a fantastic price, a three-course meal with a cocktail will set you back about £30. I suggest going for the tender pork belly followed by soft and warm chestnut cake. (elementbrno.com).
The Bar That Doesn’t Exist
Enjoy a cocktail at The Bar That Doesn’t Exist, which has a ‘relaxed speakeasy’ vibe
More than 1,000 bottles of spirit perch proudly on the ceiling-high glass bar in this relaxed speakeasy. Packed with leather sofas, chandeliers and guests sipping on delicious cocktails for just £7. (barkteryneexistuje.cz).
This vegan bistro in the old part of the city will make you forget you’re eating only plant-based food. Head to the upstairs restaurant if you’re sitting in or grab and go downstairs. About £7.20 buys a range of delicious dishes like shwarma, rice bowls, burgers and curries. (forkys.eu).
Return London-Brno flights are priced from £52 (ryanair.com). For more tourist information go to: visitczechrepublic.com.