Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. It’s not as well-known as Prague, but it’s still worth a visit.
I spent three nights in Brno, Czech Republic. I went on a walking tour, drank beer in an underground Cold War bunker, and had the most awkward brewery tour of my life.
What should you do in Brno? Should you visit Brno? Find out today.
Top 5 Things to Do in Brno
1) Do the Brno Free Walking Tour
I always like to do a walking tour first. Yes, I know every travel blogger recommends the same thing.
Brno’s free walking tour is one of the better ones I’ve done. In fact, it’s the #1 rated tour in Brno. It’s led by a guy named Martin. I visited in August 2019, and Martin was away. His friend, a Brno local, took over the tour and did great.
The free Brno walking tour takes you throughout the city center, which isn’t very big. You start at the astronomical clock, then do a rough loop to hit all the major sights around town. I learned a lot about the history of Brno – including wtf is going on with that big, black Astronomical Clock.
2) See the Astronomical Clock
I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff when traveling. The Brno Astronomical Clock (Brněnský orloj), however, is still pretty weird.
In the main square of Brno, you’ll see a big, black cylinder. It looks like an alien spaceship, and it’s particularly out of place surrounded by 19th century buildings.
Every day at 10am, the clock completes a 24h cycle, releasing a glass marble from the top of the clock into one of four slots at the base of the clock. It’s random: nobody knows which slot the ball will come out of. Locals start gathering around the clock at 9am, with one person at each slot. They leave their hands in the slot for an hour. Then, they either get a glass marble – or they don’t.
It’s weird. I don’t get it. But tourists gather around the lucky local like a celebrity after the ball drops, taking photos and touching the glass marble.
Anyways, the walking tour starts the moment the glass ball drops, so it’s a good introduction to Brno.
My second day in Brno, I walked past the Astronomical Clock at the same time – and three of the four locals standing there were the same as the day before. I guess it’s good to have hobbies? I’ve gotta be honest: I don’t fucking get it.
3) Visit Nuclear Shelter 10-Z
Nuclear Shelter 10-Z is one of the top-rated tourist attractions in Brno. The bunker has an interesting history. The Nazis build it as a civil defense shelter during World War II. After the war, a Czech businessman ran a wine wholesaler from the bunker.
Then, the communist Czechoslovak government realized they needed an atomic shelter, so they seized control. The end result was a bunker capable of sheltering 500 people for three days – say, during a nuclear strike.
Here’s the neat part: the bunker was under Czech army control and classified top secret until 1993. Some locals knew there was something there. It’s hard to hide a hollow hill from everyone. But it was still a big, local mystery.
Today, the bunker is a museum. Anyone can visit, walking through the creepy old tunnels. It’s a must-see for any Cold War history buff. It’s all written in English and Czech. It’s not overly polished, and it still feels very much like a usable Cold War bunker.
The bunker also has World War II history from the original Nazi era – like the Brno City Council table Hitler once sat at. Yes, Hitler once visited Brno, arriving on May 15, 1939.
At the end of the tour there’s a full-service restaurant. You can order chlebicky (Czech open faced sandwich) and a pint. I think it was 6 EUR total. Not bad for a complete meal in a former Cold War bunker.
Anyways, Nuclear Shelter 10-Z is a must-see in Brno if you’re into Cold War history.
4) Climb Spilberk Castle for a View
For a great view over the city, climb the hill to Spilberk Castle (Hrad Spilberk in Czech). It’s not the biggest or most impressive castle in Europe, but it offers a nice view over the city and countryside.
Spilberk Castle is a medieval fortress that has been nicely restored. The castle also has a small museum and art gallery. You need to pay to go up to the highest viewpoint, but it’s worth the $1 or $2. There are also a couple bars or restaurants on the castle grounds. There was a wedding here when I visited in summer 2019.
Alternatively, for a similarly impressive view, climb the tower at the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul (Katedrála svatých Petra a Pavla) on the edge of the city center. It’s an equally as incredible view.
5) Visit the Brno Ossuary Under St. James’ Church
Have you ever walked through an underground bunker packed with thousands of skulls and skeletons? I hadn’t.
The ossuary under St. James’ Church (Kostnice u sv. Jakuba) is worth a visit. It’s the second largest ossuary in Europe behind only the legendary Paris catacombs.
For those out of the loop, “ossuary” is basically a fancy word for “underground graveyard”. During the plague and various pandemics, they ran out of room above ground, so they had to bury people in mass tombs underground.
6) Take the Starobrno Brewery Tour
Starobrno is a popular Czech domestic beer, although a lot of people dislike it, claiming it gives them upset stomach and a bad hangover. I wasn’t a huge fan of Starobrno. The fact that it’s served in 1L or 2L plastic bottles doesn’t help.
You can tour the Starobrno Brewery. I checked the website, saw they offered English tours daily, and rolled up at the correct time.
It ended up being the most awkward brewery tour of my life.
I got to the brewery. There was nobody there except a random security guard. I sat in the nicely-decorated waiting area by myself for 30 minutes. Finally, the previous tour finished. A Czech guide and two Czech guys had just finished the Czech language tour.
The guy looked at me, gave me a hi-vis vest, and asked if I spoke Czech. I said no, but I told him I could understand a bit of German. He didn’t speak German or English or anything else. Just Czech.
There was nobody else on the tour. Not a soul. Just me and this old Czech guy walking around an empty brewery on a Sunday afternoon (it wasn’t a bottling day). He spoke Czech to me, writing numbers on a napkin to communicate. It was adorably awkward.
At a certain point, the guy just kept throwing up his hands and saying “No anglicky” and storming to the next section of the tour. A 60-minute tour was condensed into 15 minutes. I was okay with it.
Hey, I got a great story out of it. My $6 tour ticket also came with a free beer at Pivovarska Starobrno across the street. The beer was the best part of the tour.
7) Get Lost in the Labyrinth Underneath the Vegetable Market (Zelny trh)
Brno has a huge underground complex beneath one of its squares (the square with the vegetable market on certain days). You can take a guided tour, and I definitely recommend it.
The tour is technically available in Czech and English. However, if you’re taking the tour in English, then you’ll be listening to a handheld radio thing while the guide speaks in Czech. The guide spoke perfect English, although there were only two English speakers on the tour, so he stuck to Czech.
The labyrinth is really cool. You get to see genuine cellars, bars, and restaurants that existed in medieval Brno. You enter the labyrinth at one side of the square, then exit at the complete other side.
Where to Stay in Brno
Brno has plenty of hotels, hostels, Airbnbs, etc. available on all the usual websites.
I ended up staying at the Grandhotel Brno, a four-star hotel in the city center next to the train station. I got a big, beautiful room and bathroom with a bathtub all to myself. It was amazing after a month of traveling Europe – and it wasn’t overly expensive even in mid-summer.
Popular hostels in Brno include Hostel Mitte, Wake Up Wellness Hostel, Ruta 80 Hostel, and Franz Kafka Spital.
Where to Eat and Drink in Brno
Brno had plenty of cool places to drink and eat, including a surprisingly good craft beer scene. Some of the places I tried or had recommended to me included:
Pivnice Pegas: Located in Hotel Pegas, this brewery serves amazing beer and food. It was so good that I ate here both nights I was in Brno (don’t judge me, I was traveled out at this point). They serve excellent Czech food and seriously good beer. My mouth is watering just thinking about. Seriously. Go here.
Super Panda Circus: This is a secret speakeasy style bar. It’s hard to spot if you don’t know where to look. Finding this place is part of the adventure. If you want cocktails in a unique setting, Super Panda Circus is the most popular spot in town. I’ve seen this bar described as “the best bar in the Czech Republic”, which is sorta like calling yourself the best hockey rink in Canada – it’s a big fucking deal.
U Alberta: I never found out why it’s called “U Alberta”, but growing up in Calgary, I obviously had to visit. It’s a small, hillside pub that serves excellent craft beer. The staff were friendly. There were plenty of people with dogs outside. Check it out.
U Bláhovky: A classic Brno spot for traditional Czech food.
U Richarda: More traditional Czech food.
Božský kopeček: A local legend serving vegan ice cream on the square with the vegetable market. It’s so good, you seriously can’t tell it’s vegan.
Stopkova Plzeňská Pivnice: A touristy Czech restaurant just off the main square in Brno. Food and beer were fine.
See the Honest Guide video below for more restaurant recommendations from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.
How to Get There
Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. It’s well-connected to every other Czech city by rail and bus. I’m the Wandering Boozebag – not Google Maps. Figure it out.
I visited Brno from Prague, then headed to Wroclaw, Poland after.
What’s Brno Like?
When researching Brno, you’ll see words like “industrial” thrown around a lot. That’s partly why I didn’t visit Brno until my third trip to the Czech Republic.
Brno was great. It has plenty of tourist infrastructure and sights to see. There are fantastic bars and restaurants – including a surprisingly strong craft beer scene.
There’s plenty of unique history in downtown Brno. The city center is beautiful. There was a large open air market in the town square in the summer filled with food and drink.
The thing I liked most about Brno, however, was that it felt like a real Czech city. Prague is Disneyland. Cesky Krumlov isn’t much better. But Brno still has plenty of normal people going about their normal lives.
Honest Guide, one of my favorite travel YouTubers, does an excellent guide to Brno here:
I didn’t feel alone as a tourist in Brno – but I didn’t feel like I was one of thousands of visitors, either. It was a good blend of “off the beaten path” and “busy enough I didn’t feel weird”.
I visited in summer, which should be high season. However, there are schools in Brno, so it may have a different vibe in the fall and winter.
Final Word: Is Brno Worth a Visit?
I spent two full days in Brno, although one full day would probably be enough. All the touristy stuff is in the city center, which isn’t very big.
You can easily clear through my top things to do in Brno in a full day. Start with a morning walking tour. Check out the Cold War bunker in the afternoon. Finish with sunset at the castle and drinks/dinner in town. You’ve conquered Brno.
If you’re going to skip one thing on this list, skip the Starobrno brewery tour. The underground labyrinth beneath the vegetable market was really cool.
Yes, Brno is worth a visit. Czech it out (get it?) before it becomes more crowded.