In the beginning of May we (Tina, Joro and our friend Lubo) decided to spend a week in the Czech Republic visiting the two biggest cities in the country – Prague and Brno. Our first destination was Brno. As you can’t however fly directly into Brno from Sofia, we took a train from Prague. It takes about 3 hours nice and slow ride through the countryside. Despite being the 2nd biggest city in the country, it turned out to be pretty slow and not well-discovered by tourists.
Surprisingly, our Airbnb was in a very central spot overlooking one of Brno’s main sights – St. Peter and Paul Cathedral. Btw, if you are looking for a place to stay in Brno, we definitely recommend the apartment we stayed at – great location, spacious, clean and affordable!
By the time we got there and after a day on airplanes and trains, we were pretty tired and hungry. Overcast and rainy, we had nothing to do but hunt for a nice dinner place. Oh, and what a place we found! My dear friends, U Třech Čertů is the place to eat awesome food and drink quality beer.
Speaking of bars and pubs, our Brno stay can be described as a constant bar-hopping. Here’s our Brno bar recommendations list.
- Bar, který neexistuje – best cocktails, best burgers, great beer.
- Výčep Na stojáka – great beer, super social, you’d better be prepared for standing up.
- The Pub – nothing fancy, but you can tap your own beer (good beer!) on each table and enter a contest with beer drinkers in several countries around Europe.
- SKØG Urban Hub – fantastic cappuccino, delicious lemonades and home-made deserts.
On the next day we headed to Brno’s historic center. It is pretty small and you can easily do the beaten path for half a day. Soon enough, we decided to head to the peripheral areas.
I really wanted to visit Tugendhat Villa, which is seen to be a classic example of Bauhaus architecture. Unfortunately, you had to make a reservation well in advance which of course, I hadn’t. So, Tugendhat Villa – next time. As we were in the area, we decided to explore the neighbourhood around the villa, which was actually quite nice – neat and tidy houses, nested into picturesque backyards.
It was a long weekend due to some national holidays, and there was the traditional Prague Marathon that same weekend, so Brno was, least to say, all ours – sometimes it felt like walking around a ghost town.
Staying true to ourselves and not really having a plan in place, we kept wandering around. After spending some time over a beer (of course, what did you think) in the park, we found the Brno Planetarium in Kravi Hora neighbourhood. To be honest, I don’t know how good the documentary was, but I can definitely say that the chairs were nice and cosy and the place pretty warm. Perfect for an afternoon nap. Joro says that it was good only towards the last 10 minutes, so I hadn’t missed much.
This is exactly how Výčep Na stojáka feels and looks like. If you’re visiting in spring or autumn, just pack a warmer jacket and you’ll be fine. Everyone stays outside most of the time, these folks are tough.
Opera, operetta, ballet, musical, drama – you can definitely choose from the rich repertoire of Brno theatres which actually consists of three main buildings. The one pictured below is the Janáček Theatre – the youngest of all three. We didn’t use it for its purpose, Tina rather decided to do pushups at its beautiful gigantic concrete steps which btw, are perfect for people-watching.
Brno definitely allows for careless walks in its lovely green parks. Špilberk park is the most famous one and it was declared a cultural heritage, together with the Špilberk Castle. Some of us enjoyed the kids corner in the parks the most.
Brno is regarded as a students city with about 90 000 students and I-don’t-know-how-many-universities. The side benefit of this is that it is incredibly cheap and has a ton of bars. Beer is usually cheaper than bottle water! Read that as: Brno is Joro and Lubo’s heaven. After a few pretty sweet days there, we were ready to head to Prague.
Welcome to Prague – beautiful, without any doubt Prague is a home to a number of famous cultural attraction including the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square with the Prague astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter, Petřín hill and Vyšehrad. Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. This, along with the relatively affordable flights and rather inexpensive accommodation, has turned Prague into one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
In contrast with our experience in Brno, where at times live had just stopped, there are places in Prague that make it hard to breathe, it’s just so overcrowded. But as with many other places, Prague too tastes much different once outside Staro Mesto.
We first went to Náplavka Riverbank – the Czech version of a beach party. If you have only limited time in Prague, do come to Náplavka. The majority of folks in Prague work until 4pm and the place gets buzzing early in the afternoon and is quite lively till late in the evening. There’s always somewhere you can squeeze in to sit on a ledge and watch the beautiful sunset over a glass of beer (of course, it’s the Czech Republic after all).
After the must-see places were crossed off our list, it was time to explore the less-known and overcrowded ones. The great thing about Prague is that it’s fairly small and we set on main means of transportation being on foot. So we walked pretty much all of Prague’s distant and not-too distant neighbourhoods.
In a relatively distant from the historical center neighbourhood is one of the must-see beer gardens in Prague. Letna Beer Garden has arguably the best view over Prague and is the perfect place to chillax after a nice stroll around the city.
Another personal favorite is the Karlin district. Nearly destroyed in the 2002 floods, it has risen since like a phoenix and turned into one of the hippest part of Prague. Make sure to stop by at Muj salek kavy cafe for some pretty amazing coffee and small bites. Food here was really really delicious!
You can then head over to the National Memorial on the Vítkov Hill. It overlooks Zizkov district with the TV Tower famous for the crawling babies art installation by the controversial David Černý sculptor. You can actually see many of his works around Prague. Side note: that same tower is said to be one of the ugliest TV towers in the world.
The walk itself around the memorial and Zizkov district is quite nice too, so once you’re done with Karlin, definitely stop by the Zizkov district.
Right in the foot of the TV Tower is located the Botas 66 shop. Botas 66 were the only sneakers available under Communism and now the footwear of choice of local hipsters. Also, a perfect Prague souvenir. I am a proud owner.
Joro and Lubo decided on an early morning photo walk over the historic old town before all selfie sticks have woken up. And what a different, lovely Prague is revealed. The very early mornings are the only time when you can actually take non-overcrowded pics of otherwise splendid Charles Bridge.
Prague feels good. It’s the perfect size not to lose your personal sense of belonging and has a ton of hidden gems to take you away from the touristic craziness. If you’re looking for more tips from locals, check out Taste of Prague.
Absolutely by chance we understood that the World Ice Hockey Championship was happening while we were in town. As it turned out, it’s quite a big deal for the locals. It was rather difficult to find tickets and mission impossible for a game of the national team. However, we were lucky and managed to get pretty decent seats for one game.
Trust me, to be able to attend a game of ice hockey in a country where the game is a national sport is quite an experience. The city was jam packed with fans from all over the world, proudly wearing their national flags.
We saw Sweden – Germany and even though none of us had any idea of ice hockey, it was a really memorable and fun experience. We were learning the rules as the game progressed (yay Internet!) and that combined with the amazing atmosphere in the fully packed O2 Arena was the perfect ending of our little trip.
Ok, conclusions time. Prague, Brno? Yes to both! These are two places 200km apart that offer two very different experiences. If you’re into cheap beer and laid back, slow city environment, Brno is definitely your place. We liked it better too. Prague, however has its own spirit and we hope we’ll be back in both one day. After all, there’s a race track in Brno’s outskirts…