The Czech Republic is certainly no stranger to foreign tourism, with foreign visitor numbers falling well over 18 million annually. However, most tourists visiting this Central European nation tend only to set their limits on Prague, perhaps taking a day trip to Cesky Krumlov or maybe a brief stopover in Brno while en route from Vienna or Bratislava. What often gets overlooked, however, is the Czech Republic’s third-largest city: Ostrava.
Located roughly equidistant between Krakow and Brno, Ostrava is a logical stop on a Central Europe itinerary. However, its reputation as an industrial, workaday city has prevented it from seeing the tourism it deserves. Though certainly not as beautiful as many other Czech cities, its history as the epicentre of the country’s mining industry makes it a fascinating place to visit.
How to Get Around Ostrava
Ostrava is quite a large city and certain attractions may be too far apart from each other to easily see on foot. Luckily, however, the city has an extensive public transport system that is simple enough to navigate and can effectively get you from point A to point B.
Though there is no underground metro network in Ostrava, however, the city is well served by both buses and trams. The ticket prices are the same for both options, and there are machines at most stops where you can purchase tickets. Single-journey ticket prices vary on the length of your trip. There are also tickets available for 24 and 72-hour periods. If you do purchase a paper ticket, please make sure that you don’t forget to validate them once on the tram or bus, as you might be fined if you don’t.
It is also possible to use a contactless card on the transit system: just tap in upon entering the bus or tram. There is no need to tap out upon exiting.
Things To Do In Ostrava: 3-Day Itinerary
There is certainly no shortage of interesting things to do in Ostrava and, due to the fact that it is still fairly off the beaten path for this area of the world, it is highly unlikely that you’ll have any crowds to contend with, save for the occasional school tour. Despite the fact that Ostrava isn’t highly visited yet, the tourism infrastructure is actually quite well-developed and the city is actively trying to attract more visitors.
It is worth noting, however, that the level of English in Ostrava is on a lower level compared to other destinations within the Czech Republic. While many museums and attractions do offer English audio guides, there aren’t many guided tours that are given in anything other than the Czech language. This can make visiting the tourist sites a bit more of a challenge.
Because of its size and the fact that sites can be quite far away from each other, we would recommend spending three full days in Ostrava. This will allow you to spend enough time actually experiencing the city without exhausting yourself and even take a day trip.
Day 1- City Centre Highlights
Spend your first full day in Ostrava exploring the city’s many attractions that lie close to the centre and the Ostravice River. All of the attractions on this day are easily reached on foot, as well, which can help you get a lay of the land and find some hidden gems within the city.
New City Hall Tower
The first stop on your first day in Ostrava should inarguably be the New City Hall Tower’s viewing platform. Located at the New City Hall, or Nová Radnice in Czech, this tower is 73 meters above the ground and offers spectacular panoramic views of Ostrava and the surrounding areas. It is also, conveniently, where the tourist information office is located making it a very logical first stop on a visit to Ostrava.
Entry to the viewing platform costs 60 CZK for a full-price adult ticket and 40 CZK for students, seniors, and those under the age of 26. There is also an English-speaking guide at the viewing platform who can help point out the sites around the city.
It is also a good idea to pick up a map from the tourist office on your visit, as there are detailed descriptions of all of Ostrava’s attractions with the current bus and tram routes. This can be very helpful as we didn’t find Google Maps to be particularly helpful when it came to navigating the city.
Like most Central European cities, Ostrava has a picturesque main square that is very worth taking a stroll around. There are a number of cafes and pubs lining Masaryk Square and it is also home to the Ostrava Museum.
If you are curious about the more broad history of Ostrava beyond just its mining industry, then a visit to the Ostrava Museum is a great idea. Located in the Old City Hall, there are a number of exhibits within the museum that are of interest. It is also home to a small astronomical clock that rings every hour. Though it’s not quite to the proportions of those in Prague or Olomouc, it can still very well be worth checking out.
About a ten-minute walk from the main square is the Silesian-Ostrava Castle. Though this fortress has existed in one form or another for hundreds of years, it has faced a significant amount of deterioration due to the impact of mining carried out in Ostrava.
Because of mine tunnels collapsing underneath, the castle has sunk by 16 meters from where it originally stood. Today, however, the castle has been restored to its former glory and it looks just as it did in the Middle Ages.
Entry into the castle costs 60 CZK for adults and 40 CZK for concession tickets and one could easily spend an hour or so exploring the castle and its exhibits. Though it is very well-restored and attraction in the city, don’t be surprised if you are the only visitor there — we were as well! It is only a testament to how Ostrava truly deserves more tourism.
The castle is not only home to interesting grounds, however. In the former dungeons, there is a bizarre exhibit called the “Museum of Mysteries.” Filled with a strange aquarium, models of aliens and dragons, and creepy artefacts, we weren’t really sure what to make of it. All of the descriptions are written Czech, so we never quite figured out the significance of this odd exhibition but it was still entertaining to check out.
After spending a sufficient amount of time at the castle, spend some time enjoying a green oasis in Ostrava: Comenius Park. Situated on the banks of the Ostravice River, this park is a popular spot amongst active locals and families alike in the city. If you walk along the main path, you will come upon an imposing Soviet-style monument commemorating the Red Army soldiers who liberated Ostrava in 1945.
While it is popular amongst locals to sit on the riverside and enjoy a picnic or a beer, there is also a lovely pub called Dáma Pyková that can be a great respite from all of the exploring you have been doing today. So grab a table outside, order a fine Czech pilsner and maybe a snack, and enjoy some people watching.
Day 2 – Ostrava’s Mining History
On your second day in Ostrava, take some time to learn more about the mining history in the Czech city. Though there hasn’t been any coal mining in the city since 1994, there is no denying that the industry has shaped Ostrava into what it is today.
This former ironworks and coal mine that dates back to 1828 is now a national cultural monument in the Czech Republic and there is really no better place to learn more about Ostrava’s industrial past. Dolni Vitkovice encompasses a massive part of the city and it is free to enter and explore the grounds around the mine.
If you’re keen to see the blast furnace or go into the bolt tower, however, you need to be on a paid guided tour. Multiple tours leave per day but do keep in mind that they are only given in Czech, however, there are English, German, and Polish audio guides available at an additional cost.
If you don’t feel like going on a tour, it is still very worth wandering around and exploring this cool industrial site. You can really see how the mining industry has shaped Ostrava into the city that it is now.
Located close to the Ostrava Zoo is the Ema Slag Heap: a 315-metre artificial hill overlooking Ostrava. This hill was formed by a pile of mining waste and, because much of the waste is still burning underground, the slag heap has its own unique subtropical climate. Even in the coldest winter months, snow never settles here and flowers grow all year long.
It is a pretty easy hike up the hill and the path is well marked, so it is suitable for any fitness level. While the views from the top are certainly not at the same scope as from the Vez Tower, they are beautiful and you get to see a different side of Ostrava. Also, don’t worry about the burning mining matter, it is far beneath the soil and it is perfectly safe to hike up the hill — people do it all the time.
Located just a bit farther east from Halda Ema, the Michal Mine is a fantastic place to visit if you want to see how a coal mine in Ostrava functioned before it was shut down. Tours of the well-preserved mine take you in the same footsteps the miners followed every day when they started their shifts. You do not, however, get to go underground into the actual mine here. If you would like to do that, head to the mining museum at Landek Park in the north part of the city.
It is 110 CZK for English language admission and 220 CZK if you would like an English language tour. It is recommended that you call at least one day in advance to ensure that you can get a tour in English, as they aren’t always on offer if you show up on the day.
Day 3 – Day Trip to Opava
On your third day in Ostrava, it can be worth taking a day trip to explore another area of the beautiful Silesian region of the Czech Republic.
While the charming town of Opava is located only about 30 kilometres from Ostrava, the difference between the two cities is night and day. Where Ostrava is large and industrial, Opava is small, walkable and quaint. It can be a great palate cleanser to introduce a bit of Central European charm after exploring so much of Ostrava’s mining history.
Trains to Opava only take about 45 minutes and leave multiple times per day from Ostrava’s main station, so it is very easy to get to. When you’re there, take the time to wander through the beautiful main square, enjoy one or two if Opava’s cafes and restaurants, stroll through its lush park, and take the time to get lost in its picturesque streets.
There is a tourist information office in the city centre where you can get more ideas on what to do in Opava, but we just greatly enjoyed the laid back pace of the city and enjoyed exploring on our own. We also had a fantastic lunch at U Bileho Konicka which is located in the main square and has a great outdoor seating area.
There are quite a few great places to eat and drink in Ostrava with many places not only offering hearty Czech cuisine but also some international and more trendy fare. These are some of our top picks:
Restaurace U Rady
Restaurace U Rady was easily our favourite place to eat in Ostrava. They have a great food menu serving up delicious traditional Czech dishes such as Silesian garlic soup, venison goulash with dumplings, and duck leg confit with red and white sauerkraut. And, while the food is fantastic, what really takes the cake is their pilsner, which is one of the best we tasted in the city. It also has a nice atmosphere and a helpful staff, making this a great place to eat in Ostrava.
Hogo Fogo Bistro
If you’re sick of eating all of the hearty Czech food on offer in Ostrava and want something a bit more international and trendy for lunch or dinner, the Hogo Fogo Bistro is a great option. This lovely cafe offers a nice escape from the city with its scenic garden and the menu is very good. They also have a few vegetarian options which can be great after indulging in the meat-heavy cuisine of this country. The prices are slightly more expensive compared to some other restaurants in the city, however, the food, service, and atmosphere are good so it is worth it.
Where to Stay in Ostrava
Ostrava isn’t a hopping tourist destination yet, so there aren’t as many accommodation options available as there are in other, more popular Czech cities. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great places to stay, however. Here are some of the top picks:
Hostel Moravia – This is the only hostel in Ostrava and it is brand new, but it can be a great option if you’re a solo traveller and want to save some money on accommodation. It is also located close to most major bus and tram lines, so you can get anywhere in the city with ease. Read the latest reviews on Hostelworld or Booking.com
Hotel Villa Ostrava – If hostels aren’t quite your speed and you would prefer to stay in a hotel, then Hotel Villa Ostrava is a great option. Located close to the city centre and within easy reach via public transport to all of the main Ostrava attractions, this is a perfect base for your trip to Ostrava. Click here to read the latest reviews on Booking.com
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Ostrava might well be one of the most underrated cities in the Czech Republic. A thriving city with a fascinating industrial history, there are many things to do in Ostrava that make it worth a visit.
Before setting off on your trip to Ostrava make sure you have a valid travel insurance policy. We personally used World Nomads however it’s important to read the policy details to ensure it’s right for you. Click here to get a quote from World Nomads!
Have you been to Ostrava? Are you planning on visiting? Let us know in the comments!