While we were in the Czech Republic, I decided to take a reader’s suggestion and visit Olomouc, a medium-sized city on Czech’s eastern side.
We were already in Brno, a train ride lasting less than 1-1/2 hours from Vienna. Olomouc is located about 1-1/2 hours from Brno, so I figured what did we have to lose? Since it had been a while since we had couchsurfed, I decided to make an attempt and we found a host pretty easily. Apparently, the couchsurfing community in Olomouc is fairly active.
The city has a year-round population of 102,000 people, but it grows by 30,000 when the universities are in session. She began with the immigration of Slavs during the 6th century.
The region has an unfortunate history of anti-Semitism. Jews began inhabiting the area in the 900s. In 1060, they were forced into a ghetto and forced to wear yellow badges, a practice that Hitler would emulate almost 900 years later. In 1454, the Jews were expelled. Another wave would return in the late 1890s. As tensions with the ethnic Germans in the area during World War II increased, the area experienced its own Kristallnacht, and the synagogue was destroyed. Later 800 Jewish men would be arrested and many of them sent to Dachau. Soon after, the rest would be sent to other concentration camps in Poland. Fewer than 300 of the town’s Jews survived.
Olomouc has a rather fortunate geographical placement, especially for using it as a base of travel. Within 3 hours by train you can be in a number of places in Europe. The Czech train system is pretty good and very affordable, so it’s a perfect combination.
Considering this fact and that it is second only to Prague in the amount of its historical monuments, I was a bit surprised to find that it gets comparatively little tourism.
As we toured the old town with our hosts, and I viewed the wonderful fountains and beautiful architecture, I was even more amazed that Olomouc remains fairly undiscovered on the tourism path.
Located prominently within the square is the Holy Trinity Column. It is the largest Baroque sculptural group in the Republic, and in 2000 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site. Not only is it impressive to look at, but it is also probably the only Holy Trinity column in Europe that also has an inner chapel.
Attached to the beautiful town hall building is an astronomical clock. Rumored to have been built in the mid 1400s, historical documentation places its construction in 1517. The clock is a must-see when visiting Olomouc. It is extremely beautiful and has remarkable details. While it gorgeous, it lacks its former beauty. As the Nazis withdrew from the area, they fired on the clock, and only a few pieces remain. The Soviets rebuilt the clock, but it bears their Communist mark extensively.
While exploring the old town, I would highly recommend stopping by the Saint Wenceslas Cathedral (Katedrála Sv. Václava in Czech). The cathedral has been rebuilt at least a few times during its history, with the last major reconstruction effort completed in 1892. Although she does appear much older.
For tremendous views of the city, visit the Church of Saint Maurice and climb the tower. Admission is by honor system and costs 20 CZK per person (about $1 USD), and students and pensioners pay half that.
Other things to do in Olomouc
There is a zoo and aquarium in the city that is quite reasonably priced (80 CZK for adults and 50 for kids). We didn’t have time to visit there, so I can’t really comment on its merits, and unfortunately its website is only available in Czech or Polish.
The city has some surprisingly beautiful parks, one of which runs along the defensive walls of the town. It is absolutely gorgeous and has a wonderful asphalt pavement for bikes, scooters, roller skates, etc.
If you’re a more active person, there is a nice system of bike paths, some of which are themed.
Outside the main area of town is the Aquapark, a sprawling complex that has heated indoor and outdoors pools, massage pools, as well as some spa services. The kid’s area is fabulous with sprayers, things to climb on, a stream channel (a nice current that is fun to ride in), water cannon, and 2 impressive indoor waterslides. During the summer, the outdoor pool has some larger slides. There is also a swim-through connection between the indoor and outdoor pools. For smaller children, there is a separate toddler-safe pool. We were pretty impressed, and Tigger gave it an 8/10.
Even their website is pretty cool. You can visit the site to check the water temperatures for the different pools and even find out how many visitors are currently enjoying the pools so that you can plan accordingly. The cheapest rates are at night followed by earlier in the day. They’re open from 9 AM to 9 PM, so you have lots of flexibility.
Lockers are included in the admission price, and they are operated by the chip bracelet you are given to wear while in the park.
Fees vary by the length and time of your visit and the day of the week. We paid for a 3-hour visit during the peak time (between 2 and 7:30 PM). It was 230 CZK ($11.47) for me and 150 CZK for Tigger. There are different price ranges for children, so make sure to check out their site. Also, there is a family rate if you have at least 2 adults.
Visiting in winter
While it’s still a great place to visit in winter, keep in mind you will be missing out on some of the best offerings in the region. Unfortunately, the caves, castles, some of the UNESCO sites, etc., are closed during the winter.
One of the things I really enjoyed about Olomouc was the international flare. Being a university town, there are lots of hip cafes, teahouses (including one called Dobrá čajovna that serves incredibly low-priced sushi between 6-9 PM), and international restaurants.
Naturally, you’ll also find a great assortment of pubs serving fabulous Czech beer and wonderful local cuisine.
The bottom line
So, should you plan on visiting Olomouc while in the Czech Republic?
If you’re still asking that question, you need to go back to the top and read this post again! YES! In fact, if your time is limited in the country, I’d place Olomouc high up on the list. It’s a beautiful town with a great vibe and is a must-visit while in Czech.
Have you been to Olomouc? Have any great recommendations?