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A Short Guide to Olomouc

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

Olomouc: Horni Namesti, the Main Square and Town Hall
Olomouc: Horni Namesti, the Main Square and baroque Town Hall

The Hipster's Choice

For many years now, Prague has completely dominated tourism in the Czech Republic, so much so that most other towns are, unfairly to say the least, put in the shade. Even Lonely Planet has changed the name of its guide to ‘Prague and the Czech Republic’, devoting over half its publication to the capital. Whisper it quietly, but Olomouc ('Olo-moats') may just be the hip new choice to go in Czech for those weary with Prague’s sugar-coated sights. A lively student town with a population of around 100,000, Olomouc lies in central Moravia in the eastern half of Czech, roughly half way between Prague and Krakow. As the erstwhile Moravian capital, the town retains a sense of regional importance without ever feeling flashy. Locals are rightly proud of their graceful old town which dates from the 11th century; while the trickle of foreign visitors who make it here feel privileged to have discovered such an under-rated gem.

Olomouc: Dolni Namesti and the Church of St. Michael
View over Dolni Namesti and towards the Church of St. Michael

Feeling Horni?

After Prague, Olomouc has the second largest and second oldest preservation zone in the Czech Republic. Most visitors will find themselves drawn to Horni Namesti (Upper Square), which contains a wealth of architectural sights. The splendid 15th century baroque Town Hall in the centre of the square with a tapering tower features a highly unusual astronomical clock on one side, almost completely destroyed by the Nazis and remodeled during Communist years to display scenes of proletarians at work to mark the passing hours rather than saints. Just across from here is the UNESCO-listed Holy Trinity Column, a magnificent 18th century monument ornately decorated with sculptures of various saints. It is supposedly the biggest single baroque structure in Central Europe. Head via Dolni Namesti (Lower Square), east to the old city walls through pretty Bezruc Park – ideal for a picnic or romantic stroll - and up to the city’s grandest church, the Wenceslas Cathedral, dating from 1131 but rebuilt in the 19th century in neo-gothic style. The nearby Archbishop's Palace is also well worth a look, not least for its impressive 15th century frescoes. Another church just to the west of here and past the university buildings – St Michael’s – is recommended for a climb of its bell-tower and superb views of the city. A short stroll from here is the impressive Olomouc Museum of Art which features three levels of excellent contemporary Czech painting and sculpture. In 2018, an interactive museum experience opened up in the city's fortress walls, giving the visitor an impression of the previous importance of what is in the present day an unassuming, provincial city.

Street art, Olomouc
Olomouc is the king of street art in the Czech republic

Off the Beaten Path

Olomouc gradually reveals its layers and pays spending time just strolling around and soaking up the atmosphere, discovering its charms. There are many gable ends given over to imaginative street art. Its parks and rozarium (botanic gardens) are well worth seeing, while an unusual architectural project lies in the suburbs, where an old grain silo has been converted into a family house. One of Czech’s draw cards is of course its beer, and dropping into any of the countless cafes and bars to sample a brew or two is a must. One of the best in town is Svatovaclavsky Pivovar, a micro-brewery which also features a beer spa in which you can relax in a bath of beer for an hour!

Moravia isn’t only famous for its beer though, producing decent local wines too, which can be sampled in one of the many ‘vinarna’ (wineries) around town for a fraction of the price in western Europe. Another Czech passion is ice-hockey, and Olomouc has a pretty decent team and stadium to which, if you visit during winter months, you might go to see a fight and hope a game breaks out. Further afield, a stroll to the north-east of the town and over the Morava River takes you to Hradisko Monastery, a beautiful baroque building, whilst bus 11 from the train station takes you to Svaty Kopecek (Holy Hill), rising to the east of the town, containing another splendid monumental church and giving great views of the city and its surrounds. A short walk from here is the city zoo, containing over 300 species, and lovely forests which offer countless walking opportunities if you fancy exploring the environs. Hiring a bike would be a great idea to get here as roads are generally very quiet and cycle-friendly. A great day trip would be to Helfstyn Castle, a fantastic romantic ruin atop a hill some 40km to the east of Olomouc. Another very worthwhile castle within driving distance is Bouzov, an early 14th-century fortress. Built on a hill between the village of Hvozdek and the town of Bouzov, it also commands great views and is in very good condition. The nearby Javoříčko Caves are a superb choice for anyone with kids - a guided tour around this magical underground world full of weird rock formations and stalactites, costs about €10 each and takes 45 minutes. Bring a jacket, as the temperature down there is always about 10°C. Finally, Litovel is a small town nearby which is well worth a day trip. Famous for its brewery and delicious beer, it's a pretty town in its own right and deserves a wander and of course a few beers on one of the bars on its square.

Hitting the Hay

Although Olomouc lacks any kind of hostel scene, the superb Poets’ Corner Hostel more than makes up for this. Centrally located, right on the edge of the old town, it is one of the best hostels in central Europe. Comprising two dorm rooms and four cosy privates, all decorated with stylish old-school wooden furniture, it is reasonably priced with dorms starting at €10 and private rooms starting at €30. Run by friendly, knowledgeable and sociable staff, the hostel is also the best place for local information, tips and ideas about what to see and do in Olomouc. The hostel is calm, relaxing and friendly. If you are looking for something a bit upmarket, look no further than the Hotel Arigone, a great li