Brno

Overview

Introduction

Brno, the Czech Republic's second-largest city, lies 115 mi/185 km southeast of Prague and merits at least a day to enjoy its impressive medieval architecture. Sites in the Moravian city include the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, Old Town Hall and the Capuchin Monastery.

The 13th-century Spilberk Castle, a prison before World War II, has a wonderful view of the city and countryside. Near the castle is the Augustinian monastery where Gregor Mendel first discovered the laws of genetics using pea plants. Part of the monastery houses a museum, and Mendel's experimental garden can be toured. The Reduta Theater (facing the medieval market square) performs colorful operettas based on local folklore.

Modern architecture buffs will want to visit the Tugendhat Villa, built by Dutch architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the villa is the first masterpiece of modern architecture in the Czech Republic. Aficionados of the bizarre should visit the crypt in the Church of the Holy Cross, which displays 20 preserved and fully dressed corpses of monks and aristocrats.

After seeing the town, take a day trip to nearby Slavkov (formerly known as Austerlitz), where Napoleon won his stunning victory over the Austrians and Russians in 1805. About an hour's drive from Brno is Moravsky Krumlov. The chateau on the edge of that town contains the Slovanska Epopej (The Slavic Epic), a series of monumental paintings by art-nouveau artist Alfons Mucha. The paintings were inspired by Slav history.

Castle lovers should not miss the Gothic Pernstejn Castle. Set in the forests of the highlands (a half-hour drive north of Brno), it is one of the largest and most picturesque castles in Moravia. Pernstejn Castle has been the set location of several films.

Easily the most popular day trip from Brno is to the Moravian Karst region. Famous for its hundreds of limestone caves, it lies just outside the town of Blansko. Continuing north, visitors will reach the lush beauty of Kromeriz, a worthwhile day trip about 30 mi/50 km north of Brno. The city's baroque chateau and the magnificent baroque flower gardens (which date from 1666) are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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