Quiet Czech walled city with a love of churches and fountains that boasts surprising depth.
When people visit the Czech Republic it’s almost guaranteed that their destination is Prague and with good reason. Prague is a grand and vibrant city full of iconic spots. If people go further afield they might visit Cesky Krumlov, a city with a gloriously picturesque old town. But there is so much more of this intriguing country to explore. Both of the above cities are in what used to be the country of Bohemia, but the Czech Republic also consists of another former kingdom, Moravia. The Moravian part of the Czech Republic feels more subdued, but still has an elegance of its own. The city of Olomouc certainly typifies this.
Olomouc is a modest city, host to a compact old town inside some subtle city walls. For a small and little heard of place, Olomouc has a surprising number of things to see with an abundance of fountains and churches. The best place to start a visit to Olomouc is the Upper Square, the city’s heart. Here you’ll find the stately Town Hall with a beautiful astronomical clock as well as several of the city’s ornate fountains. The big landmark of the square though is the UNESCO heritage-listed Trinity Column, the largest sculptural monument in Central Europe. It’s so large, there is even a chapel inside the monument’s base. Walk in any direction from the Upper Square and you’ll find more churches and fountains.
The town’s old city walls run though Bezruc Park a short walk from the city centre. It isn’t until you walk through here that you notice the walls and realise how elevated the town actually is from the landscape. The city was once the royal capital of Moravia and given the region’s history for warfare, eg. Thirty Years War, the need for fortifications should be obvious. Across town from the park, the Theresian Gate helps indicate where the other walls once were.
When it comes to churches, Olomouc has a surprising variety. The giant spires of the St Wenceslas Cathedral are visible everywhere in the city. Photos in the church show past visits from Pope John Paul and even Mother Teresa. Then there is the St Maurice Church, with its large monolithic, brick South Tower supposedly with great views of the city. Unfortunately it was closed when I visited.
Probably the most interesting church in the city though is St Michaels Church. The interior of St Michaels Church will momentarily stun you when you enter. You would hardly expect to find such a magnificently built church under its unassuming exterior. Also, if you enter the crypt in the attached monastery, you will find a natural spring next to a tiny chapel. Make sure to have a torch/mobile phone light handy as it is pitch black down there and apparently people have fallen into the spring before.
The Archdiocese Museum, found inside the small Premyslid Palace hosts several floors of exhibits within renovated rooms of the Palace. The exhibits include local archaeological pieces, painting collections, a lavish treasury room and even some sheet music from Mozart. Attached to the palace is the circular Chapel of St Barbara. The chapel is quite a sight with its high ceiling and lavishly painted walls. There is free entry to the museum on Sundays.
It wouldn’t be a proper Czech experience without the country’s lifeblood: beer. The city hosts a number of brewpubs which seem very popular with locals. I particularly enjoyed the food and service at the Drapal restaurant. The other popular establishment in Olomouc is the Czech tea house, usually outfitted with a dated/charming interior. Good kind of place to get out of the cold, rain or snow.
There are a few options for your stay in Olomouc, one being the Cosy Corner Hostel. Formerly known as the Poets Corner, it is run by an affable Czech/Australian couple who will give you a great run down on Olomouc and all the information you’ll need to make the most of your visit. The hostel really does live up to its name in the common areas, where books and comfy armchairs provide a very homey feel.
Getting around Olomouc was surprisingly simple. Being not a terribly large town, walking is an easy option but the tram network covers the main areas and was also simple to use. 14 crowns gets you a short trip ticket and will serve any immediate needs, but longer tickets are also available. Machines can be found at the tram stops, but note they only take coins.
If you’re keen to see more of the Czech Republic outside Prague, Olomouc will help you explore the country’s culture, history and yes, beer. For more information on Olomouc, visit the Olomouc Tourism website.
Have you been to Olomouc? Let me know how you liked it in the comments below.