Czech Republic – Tale of Two Cities

Prague Castle in Czech Republic
Prague Castle - Photo by Peter Čech, Visit Czechia

We all love a rebel. Architect Antonín Pilgram proved to be one of the finest when he sought revenge for an unkept promise.

And his quirky retaliation has become quite a tourist attraction in the Czech Republic’s second city of Brno, with its beautiful wide streets and pastel coloured 19th century architecture which blends wonderfully with communist era apartment blocks and slick modern buildings.

Antonín had been commissioned to work on the old town hall and promised huge amounts of money for a beautiful façade and gate.

He stuck to his end of the bargain, but the money men didn’t and Antonín was so annoyed that he left the turret above the statue of righteousness, well and truly crooked to remind everyone of the corruption!

The old town hall is a good place to discover the legends of the city which centre round the Brno dragon which looks like a crocodile and a wooden wheel.

Antonin’s genius is the spirit which runs through this fabulous spot, the fun place to neighbouring and main city Prague, with equal beauty but a more laid back style.

Beautiful Brno
Beautiful Brno – Photo by Aleš Motejl, Visit Czechia

Just two and a half hours by train from Prague or a 90 minute drive from Vienna, Brno is a lovely city to visit.

With 13 universities, Brno has a youthful vibe about it and the Náměstí Svobody (Freedom Square) is abuzz with restaurants full of customers drinking the delightful and cheap craft beer while they watch the mesmerising trams slide gently up and down.

The square is also home to the bullet shaped astronomical clock. Centred around The Thirty Years War in 1645, when the Swedish army laid siege to the city for nearly three months. All seemed lost for Brno as the Swedes exhibited great military strength. However, becoming frustrated that they still lacked control of the city, the Swedes decided to return home if they had not seized the city by noon. Overhearing this, a brave Brno citizen alerted the clock bellringer, and the two devised a plan to ring the noon bell an hour early, tricking the Swedes into retreating. To mark the saving of Brno, a glass marble comes out of the clock’s four openings every day at 11am.

A compact city, Brno is easy to walk round, and a great base is the 10 storey Hotel International, with modern rooms overlooking the Špilberk Castle, lit up at night and the former seat of the ruling Moravia class.

Close by is The Bunker 10-Z, originally an air-raid shelter built during World War II against American and Soviet bombs, which was intended for the great and good of the city. It became a wine store in 1946 but was confiscated by the Communist Government two years later. Today it is a museum and a backpacker style hotel for those who want to experience the grim old days. Equally fascinating is Europe’s second largest ossuary where more than 50,000 people were buried. Today a simple but poignant display of the remains is open to see.

A new discovery is the restored underground water tanks which date back to 1874, 1894 and 1917, the trio made from brick and concrete are almost cathedral like and impressive to tour. And a fun attraction for all the family, is the Vida Science Centre.

Astronomical Clock in Prague
Astronomical clock in Prague – Photo by Matthew Dixon, Visit Czechia

Brno is a UNESCO music city, a nod to its wide range of culture and this adds to the energy of the city which is also known for its outdoor standing bars, classic cuisine and vegetable market.

Its real fizz keeps you buzzing and wanting more, and the main city of Prague is jumping with architectural heaven. Not many cities have seemingly never ending beautiful baroque buildings and gothic churches. Nicknamed “The City of A Hundred Spires”, the mesmerizing journey from the airport to the centre has the wow factor of so much beauty on offer.

Miss Sophie’s Downtown is a great wee boutique hotel to stay in, with all the must see attractions just a 10 minute walk away. With fabulous views over the rooftops of Prague, the hotel has comfy rooms and splendid breakfasts.

A great way of seeing all the city’s landmarks with ease is via the Big Bus Tours which have two routes to ensure you see the historical area and all the main must-sees.

Up high you can see the mighty Vltava River and the infamous medieval stone arch Charles Bridge with excellent views of Prague Castle and the city’s old town or watch the ancient and grand figures of the astronomical clock dance on the hour.

Packed with places to visit, the Prague Cool Pass allows you to visit and save more, with the Illusion Museum, TV Tower and Museum of Decorative Arts, among the must-sees.

Picturesque Brno in Czech Republic
Picturesque Brno – Photo by Pavel Gabzdyl, Brno City Municipality

With so much grim history, Prague’s rises from the ashes is summed up well with the strangely fascinating Dancing House, a deconstructed shape, meant to resemble leaning or moving of the building to metaphorically illustrate the moving of the Czech nation from its communist past. It’s a symbol of the arrival of democracy and freedom in the 1990s.

At night the city comes alive with colourful restaurants and bars, but its dark secrets are told through guided shadow and tale tours, with guides dressed up in medieval costumes, leading the way by lantern light.

The tale of two cities, so similar, but so different, sums up the real draw to the fabulously welcoming and inspiring Czech Republic.

Fact Box:

Both low cost carriers and major airlines fly into the Czech Republic and Václav Havel Airport Prague from most UK airports, while can help with airport parking, lounges and transfers.

For friendly advice and suggested itineraries for both Czech cities, please visit: and, and the Prague Cool Pass is available via:

Author Bio:

Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.

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