Free City Walk Brno: What to See and Do
Free city walk Brno with walking directions and lots of extra information about what to see in Brno. This city walk takes you to top attractions and also to lesser known places in Brno. This self-guided walk is ideal if you want to see the sights of Brno without hassle and without losing your way. You will need one morning or afternoon if you just walk the route but if you want to include a visit to the castle, the ossuary and the mummies, you will need a full day.
Free City Walk Brno: what you will see along the route
Astronomical clock, House of the Four Idiots, Church of St. James and the ossuary, narrowest hotel in Europe, mint master’s cellar, mummies in the Capuchin monastery, maze of medieval cellars under Zelny Try, Moravian Museum, St Peter and Paul Cathedral, 10-Z bunker and Spilberk Castle.
Free City Walk Brno
START: Svobody Namesti (Freedom Square)
FINISH: Spilberk Castle
1. Start: Svobody namesti
Svobody namesti is Brno’s main square, triangular in shape and pedestrianized. In the middle of the square stands a plague column dating back to the seventeenth century. Plague columns, also known as Marian or Holy Trinity columns, are found all over Central Europe and commemorate plague epidemics, their victims and survivors.
The square is surrounded by buildings of different architectural style. At number 9 the building of Komercni Bank, a striking example of functionalist architecture. When it opened in 1928, it was frowned upon: a modern building with an all-glass front next to historic buildings was probably a bit too futuristic. The building, still an eye-catcher, is open to the public during office hours.
At number 74 stands Dum u Ctyr Mamlasu, the House of the Four Idiots, an appropriate name. Four larger than life-size figures support the building with one hand while they the other hand holds up their underpants.
At number 86 is Dum z Pane Lipe, the House of the Lords of Lipe, beautifully decorated with sgraffito, which was added only in 1938.
The shining black pillar on the square is a work of art that is open to multiple interpretations. It is made of polished granite, six meters high and its shape is reminiscent of a phallus. This artwork is an astronomical clock. However, even with the help of the manual it is difficult to determine the exact time. Yet, you will know when it is eleven o’clock: small marbles roll out of the four openings.
2. On the north side of the square, take Rasinova Street on the right is St James Church
St James Church has a beautiful baroque interior and gravestones of well-known residents of Brno. The tower is 94 meters high and has a funny surprise on the south side: a man showing his bare buttocks to passers-by. The crypt of the church contains the second largest ossuary in Europe (the largest is in Paris). The Brno ossuary contains the bones of 50,000 people. (about the same amount as the ossuary in Sedlec near Kutna Hora). Most bones belong to victims of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) or to those who succumbed to the plague or cholera.
A guided tour takes approximately 30 minutes.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am-6pm, closed on Mondays
3. Continue Rasinova street until Moravske namesti on the right.
The bronze equestrian statue on Moravske namesti is eight metres high and shows a knight in armour sitting on a horse with remarkably long legs. Stand between the horse’s front legs and look up to its head (you can easily see why).
4. Take Solnicni street opposite Moravske namesti and first street left Ceska street
At Ceska 20 is the Avion Hotel in functionalist style. It stands on an extremely narrow building plot and the architect had to be creative with the limited space. The rooms are arranged around a central core over five floors. There is a cafe on the first and second floor. The facade has large windows with opal glass and ceramic cladding. Mirrors and light coming in through the large windows and glass block skylights create a feeling of space.
‘Waiting Adam’ is the smallest bronze sculpture in Brno. The little man sits waiting on a metal bar next to the clock in Ceska street
5. Continue Ceska street until Namesti Svobody and take the first street to the left Koblizna street and walk to the end
At the junction of Koblizna and Janska Streets is the Bata department store, built in 1930 and commissioned by Thomas Bata, the shoe tycoon. The plan was for a 23-storey building that would become the first skyscraper in Europe. Problems with the groundwater and a soft soil spoilt the original design. It is still a tall building but one with only eight floors.
6. Walk back to Svobody Square and into Janska street. Continue its extension Panska street. This street leads to Dominikanske namesti
Dominikanske namesti 1 is the entrance to the subterranean vaults of the mint master, Mincmistrovský Sklep. The coins for Brno and Moravia were minted here in the Middle-Ages. The exhibition tells about the profession of mint master and how coins were minted. As a souvenir you can have your own silver coin minted.
Open: Friday to Monday 9.30am-6pm
7. Walk back through Mecova and Panska and turn left into Masarykova street. Take the fifth street on the right and you will get to Kapucinske Namesti and the Capuchin Monastery.
Masarykova is a lively shopping street. The Capuchin Monastery is at Kapucinske Namesti 5. The main attraction of the monastery is the mummies. The deceased monks were not embalmed, but preserved in a natural way; fifty vents in the crypt allowed for a constant draft. The bodies dried out and were preserved without embalming. The crypt was primarily intended as the final resting place of the monks, but people who financially supported the monks through donations were also interred here. True to say, they also hoped for a better afterlife because they were laid to rest next to the godly monks.
One of the mummies is a noblewoman who was most likely buried alive, because she lies in a cramped position with her arms and legs twisted. When the city was struck by the plague or other contagious diseases, the dead were immediately buried without waiting for three days to ensure clinical death. This noblewoman was probably unconscious, which was recognized as being dead. Judging by the position she is in, she must have woken up to find out she was buried alive.
At the far end of the crypt, behind a wrought iron gate, is a hall in which the monks were interred, or rather put in two rows next to each other. Each has a stone as a headrest. Some are still wearing their habit. They were taken to the crypt in a coffin with a hinged loose bottom so that the coffin could be reused for the next burial.
Open: April 1-October 31, Monday to Saturday 9am-noon and 1pm-6pm, Sunday 11am-5pm
November 1 – March 31, Monday to Saturday 10 am-4pm and Sunday 11am-4.30pm
8. Leaving the crypt, turn left to Zelny trh, the Cabbage Market, where the daily vegetable market is still held.
In the middle of the market is a fountain dating back to the seventeenth century. In the days before Christmas, carp, the traditional Czech Christmas dish, swam in the fountain basin.
On the square is the Reduta theater where Mozart gave a concert in 1767 at the age of eleven. In front of the theatre is a sculpture of Mozart. It is a black bronze placed on a five-meter high pillar. The statue shows Mozart as an angel with one wing, balancing like an acrobat on a clavichord.
The maze of corridors and cellars under the square can be visited on a guided tour. These medieval cellars were used as a cool storage place for wine, beer and fruit and vegetables. During the war it served as an air raid shelter. There is also an alchemist laboratory where doctors, pharmacists and alchemists worked in the Middle Ages and made Brno famous all over Europe.
An old wine cellar and pub are reminders of the region’s wine tradition. There is also a replica of the pillory that was in the market square in the seventeenth century. Finally, the guide tells about the penalties imposed on sellers, artisans and traders who cheated or ripped off their customers.
Visit the underground cellars on a thirty-minute guided tour.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 9am to 6pm, closed on Mondays
9. Turn into Radnicka Street on the north side of the square. On the left is the Old Town Hall
The entrance to the Old Town Hall is through a gate with a crooked middle turret: a joke and retaliation of the bricklayer for not getting paid the agreed amount.
The Old Town Hall is now the tourist information Centre. Get here a map of Brno and information about sights and activities in the city. Book here a guided tour to visit villa Tugendhat.
The ‘Brno dragon’, which was in fact a crocodile, dangles on the ceiling at the entrance of the tourist office. Long ago, this crocodile terrorized the city. A butcher gave the beast a bag of lime to eat. After the crocodile devoured this, he got thirsty and drank so much water that he died.
10. Walk back to Zelny Trh, turn left into Petrska. This street leads to the Peter and Paul Cathedral.
A striking building on the Zelny Trh is the Dietrich Palace, built in the seventeenth century when five houses had to be demolished for this Baroque bishop’s palace. The building now houses the Moravian Museum, a regional museum about the history of Moravia. It has a collection of six million objects. The museum specializes in Czech literature, music, theater, geology, botany and Moravian folklore. The Children’s Museum with special programs is great fun for children.
The interior of the Peter and Paul Cathedral is worth looking at. The eye-catcher is the 11-meter high altar with sculptures of Peter and Paul. Climb the tower for a bird’s eye view of the city. Halfway up is a museum with religious artifacts such as chasubles embroidered by nuns and gem-encrusted monstrances.
11. Turn left into Biskupska Street, this is the continuation of Petrska, turn right at the traffic lights. This is Husova, a busy road. Take Pelliciva Street on the left which will take you to Spilberk Castle.
On Husova opposite number 12 is the 10-Z bunker, the code name for the nuclear bomb shelter which was originally built as a shelter against American and Soviet bombings in World War II. From 1946 to 1948, the wine wholesaler Lowy and Smid used the cellars for wine storage but the property was confiscated in 1948 when the Communists took over. The regime earmarked it as an air-raid shelter in the event of a nuclear war and made the bunker suitable for 500 Party officials who could survive here for three days should a nuclear war break out.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 11.30am-6.15pm, closed on Mondays. Visit is only possible with a guided tour with pre-book tickets from the tourist information office or book online
Biskupska has stately houses with elegant facades. At number 11 Pelivova there is a house in Cubist style.
Spilberk Castle is located on a steep hill and looks more like military barracks than a fairy-tale castle. In the course of time, it had several functions: royal residence and barracks in the 19th century and during the Second World War. Climb the watchtower for a breathtaking view of the city. Today, the castle is home to the Municipal Museum of Brno with a permanent exhibition of the city’s monuments and history.
Open: daily 9 am-5pm
END of the city walk Brno
City Walk Brno with a Guide
Join a guided walking tour for the city walk Brno, if you don’t feel like going on a do-it-yourself city walk. The advantage is that you do not have to find your way in Brno and another advantage is that the guide is a fount of knowledge and tells about the history of buildings and statues along the way.
Two guided city walks
1. Brno: Historical walk through the center, duration 2 hours. View the walk here
2. Brno: Thematic walk, duration 3 hours. You choose from three themes: Functionalism in Villa Tugendhat, History and Architecture or the Legends of Brno. View this walk here
Travel to Brno from Prague
Brno can be easily be visited on a day trip from Prague. The city is located 250 km southeast of Prague. The Intercity train runs from Prague to Brno in two and a half hours. By car you can drive to Brno via the D1 / E65 in just over two hours. You leave Prague via the Nuselsky most (Nusle Bridge). You will need a toll vignet for motorways and highways in the Czech Republic. Parking in Brno city centre is for permit holders only, but there are many parking garages just outside the centre.