How to Spend an Offbeat Day in Brno
July 05 2016
Brno, Czech Republic’s second city, is a relatively non-touristy destination, and definitely an underrated Central European city. Small enough to walk almost everywhere, but with a large student population, it has a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere, but still has a lot to offer.
There are plenty of cool cafés, nice restaurants, and unique shops, as well as a few offbeat, hidden spots that you wouldn’t be able to find just from walking around town. Here’s an itinerary for spending the perfect, offbeat day in Brno.
Start your day off with breakfast at one of Brno’s most hipster cafés, popular with students tapping away at laptops. They serve homemade smoothies, good quality fair-trade coffee from The Barn in Berlin, and several breakfast plates, at least one of which is always vegan. Stay for a little while longer and see how the vibe changes as the morning crowd filters out and the event hall next door starts to become busier, in preparation for the inevitable evening festivities.
One of the newest attractions in Brno, 10Z is also one of the quirkiest. Originally built as a wine cellar, this network of tunnels beneath Špilberk Castle was confiscated in 1948 by the government at the time, and expanded and adapted for use as a nuclear fallout shelter. Recently, it was opened to the public after extensive refurbishment, and you can now explore the various spaces and corridors that were originally used for power generation, public meetings, water storage, sleeping, washing, and cooking facilities. There’s a café at the end, where they serve food and drinks that would have been typical in the Cold War era.
Located inside a former malt house, this spacious gallery houses a changing collection of contemporary and modern art, mostly by local artists. Its aim is to serve as a connecting point between artists, collectors, and the public, and not only includes gallery space with works on display, but also studios for artists to work from, giving it a nice sense of community.
This achingly cool café with a distinctive Scandinavian design serves up some excellent coffee, as well as a couple of soups, salads, and other savoury dishes. Stop by for a bite to eat amid a crowd of beautiful, young people, perhaps topping it off with one of their rich and decadent hot chocolates – more of a desert than a drink.
Take a tour of the hidden underground world below Brno’s oldest square, and you’ll see where food and wine used to be stored for the markets, as well as where the city’s dissidents were imprisoned and even tortured. It takes just a half hour, taking you from one side of the square to the other, but it is well worth it to get a glimpse into the city’s long and diverse history.
Built in the late 1920s, this prototype of modernist architecture in Europe is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and of great historical importance in Czech history, as it was where the agreement was signed in 1992 to split Czechoslovakia into the two modern-day countries it is. An appointment to enter the villa itself requires booking three months in advance, but you can always just turn up and enter the gardens, where you’ll get great views of the iconic building.
Rock up to this friendly and cool, if slightly weirdly decorated restaurant, for a hearty vegan burger, giant bowl of pasta, or traditional Czech fare in vegan form. If you’re lucky, there might be a live music performance going on; but otherwise, there are always board games you can play, books to browse, and interesting memorabilia covering the walls. For even more vegan options, check out my vegan guide to Brno.
End the day with a drink at what is quite possibly the coolest and best-hidden place in Brno. The entrance is obscured from the street by a curtain, where you then ring the bell and wait to be admitted. Inside, you’ll find a whole secret world decorated with pop art and velvet, with tall, bearded bartenders serving up creative and generous cocktails.
Have you ever been to Brno or the Czech Republic? If so, what’d you think? If not, would you like to visit? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!