I first visited Olomouc in May 2010. I had never heard of this city before but I met a traveller in Slovakia who spoke very fondly of it. He described it as having the beauty of Prague without the hordes of tourists. This piqued my interest significantly as, at that point, I had spent a month in some of Central Europe’s most popular destinations and was eager to find more off-the-beaten-path destinations.
I ended up spending four days in Olomouc in 2010 and that traveller’s description was completely on the mark. I found a town that was as beautiful as Prague and Krakow that had somehow managed to escape any mainstream tourism. I spent hours sitting in Olomouc’s gorgeous squares, watching the handful of people walk by but never seeing a tour group or a rowdy stag do that was so common in the surrounding cities.
The town was filled with students having just finished their university exams so nights were spent hanging out in local watering holes and drinking beers at a fraction of the price found in the country’s capital.
I clearly remember one exchange I had a with a local student outside a bar who, after finding out I was from Australia, exclaimed: “Why have you come all this way to visit Olomouc?” He was genuinely surprised that tourists would want to come to his city rather than Prague or even smaller Czech cities like Cesky Krumlov or Brno, which were already more firmly established on the tourist map.
After my four days in Olomouc were up, I knew that this was a place that I would want to return to one day, however, I was always sceptical as to whether I would ever see the city in the same light as my original visit.
Six years later, in the summer of 2016, the stars aligned and I ventured back to visit Olomouc for three days. In that time, I had seen a handful of articles written about Olomouc in the mainstream media and I half-expected to find the town overrun by tour groups, particularly as I was visiting in peak European travel season.
Instead, I found a city that was in transition.
Sitting in the main square this time around, there were a handful of tour groups but it certainly wasn’t overrun. The hostel that I had stayed in six years ago was still the only one in town, (as of 2018, more hostels have opened up!) however, it was now also a pit stop for Busabout tours, meaning that more travellers were being introduced to this city through conventional tourism rather than through word of mouth whispers as had been six years previously.
Nevertheless, Olomouc’s charm is still firmly intact. All the reasons why I fell in love with this city are still here. The beautiful open squares, the delicious and affordable Czech and international food, the Turkish tea houses and the feeling that you’re seeing something with your own eyes that is truly special and will undoubtedly not be this way forever.
I think a change in Olomouc is inevitable as more travellers and conventional tour groups look for destinations in Central Europe that aren’t packed to the brims. The time to visit Olomouc is now and I urge you to see this city before a weekend stag do in Olomouc becomes a common occurrence.
Here’s everything you need about visiting this beautiful Czech town.
When to visit Olomouc?
The best time to visit Olomouc is in the shoulder seasons of April-May and September-October when the weather is mild and the students are in town ensuring bustling nightlife. The summer months are also pleasant to visit, but I found there was less going on as most of the students here leave Olomouc during their summer holidays.
If you’re a fan of Christmas markets and don’t mind the Central European cold then visiting around Christmas is also a great option. The main squares of Olomouc come alive with traditional market stalls, ice skating rinks and plenty of Christmas charm!
How to get to and around Olomouc
Olomouc is located a 2.5-hour train ride east of Prague and is well connected to other cities in the Czech Republic such as Brno which is only 1.5 hours away. Olomouc can also be a logical stop from other nearby countries such as Poland, Bratislava or the High Tatras in Slovakia and Vienna, Austria.
Olomouc train station is located about a 25-minute walk away from the city centre. If you don’t feel like walking then you can take a tram to the centre for 14czk. Tram tickets can be purchased from the machines at the station and then need to be validated on the tram. As of 2018, they don’t take credit cards and you will need coins to purchase tram tickets.
Once in the centre, Olomouc is a very walkable city and there isn’t a great need to use public transport. Renting bikes can be a good option if you want to get somewhere a bit further outside of the main city.
Things to do in Olomouc
1. Explore the squares
Horni Namesti (Upper Square) and Dolni Namesti (Lower Square) are where all roads lead to in Olomouc. In fact, it’s hardly fair to label the squares as just one thing to do in Olomouc as they are in fact filled with multiple points of interest.
The most striking feature of Horni Namesti is arguably the 35-metre tall Holy Trinity Column. Originally built in the early 18th century, the Baroque style column is a popular meeting spot and hanging out location for locals. Right next to the column, is the Olomouc Town Hall with its very own Astronomical Clock. The clock is the second largest of its kind in the Czech Republic (the biggest one being in Prague!) and goes off every day at noon. There are also guided tours of the Town Hall organised by the Tourist Office. These run several times per day in the summer months.
There are also a number of beautiful fountains that can be found in both squares including Hercules and Caesar’s Fountains in Horni Namesti and Neptune’s and Jupiter’s Fountains in Dolni Namesti.
Aside from the historical monuments that can be found in the squares, you can also find a number of cultural and modern events throughout the year. Whether it’s farmers’ markets, Christmas stalls or a beach volleyball tournament (as was happening on my last visit in June 2018!), there is always something going on in Horni Namesti!
2. Visit the churches
There are three churches that are undoubtedly worth a visit during your time in Olomouc. The first is St. Wenceslas Cathedral, a thousand-year-old cathedral which is the second tallest in the Czech Republic. Its imposing Neo-Gothic architecture and chilling sub-terranean crypts make it worth the ten to fifteen-minute walk from Horni Namesti.
St Michael’s Church is characterised by its three domes visible throughout parts of Olomouc. The Baroque-style church was built in the middle of the 13th century and is considered one of the most beautiful in the region.
Finally, the St Moritz Church, which was built toward the end of the 14th century, can be found just behind Horni Namesti. It houses a magnificent organ and visitors can climb the tower for fantastic views of the city centre.
3. Enjoy the city’s parks
Olomouc is surrounded by a number of parks that ensure you’re never too far away from some nature when exploring the city.
Bezruc Park is a lovely area to relax in that sits just below the city walls. It’s a popular hangout for students and you won’t have to look too hard to encounter some street art. You can also visit the lovely Botanical Gardens that houses hundreds of different floral species.
A unique attraction to visit in the area is a Cold War Nuclear Bunker built as a refuge for the city’s leaders in the event of an attack on the city. You can only visit with a guide during the summer months. It costs 20czk and can be organised through the tourist office located in the Town Hall.
4. Pop into a tea house
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow Turkish tea house culture is extremely prevalent throughout Olomouc. There are a number of tea houses that are a perfect place to pop in for a relaxing cup of tea and shisha. One of my favourites and most popular tea houses in Olomouc is Dobrá Čajovna.
They have an extensive tea menu featuring drinks from all regions of the world. There are also plenty of comfortable couches and cushions that are perfect for a relaxing afternoon! Their sections are divided into shisha smoking and non-smoking.
Cajovna Sofie is another great tea house in Olomouc.
5. Get lost in Olomouc
One of the joys of visiting this city and why I have now returned three times is that it’s simply a lovely city to walk around in and get lost.
You can see the sites in a day or two but the beauty and magic of the city can only be discovered by taking the time to people-watch in the squares, walk down random streets and through hidden tunnels (make sure to check out the Tunnel Gallery on Denisova for some great street art!) or pop into one of the many great cafes, bars or restaurants in the city.
It’s for these very reasons why I will keep returning to this wonderful city.
Where to eat and drink in Olomouc
These are some of my favourite places to eat and drink in the city. If you spend long enough here, I’m sure you’ll encounter many more! After all, wherever there are students, there are always great and affordable places to eat and drink!
Hanacka Hospoda – located in Dolni Namesti, this traditional pub is a great place to try classic Czech dishes and other modern dishes.
Restaurace U Morice – this modern restaurant can be found right next door to St Moritz Church. It also serves traditional Czech food with its own unique gastronomic twist. Also has fantastic beer from the barrel!
Moritz Microbrewery – it might be a controversial statement but Moritz microbrewery might just have the best beer in all of Olomouc! Their own microbrew can be enjoyed in the lovely garden and also accompanied by all your favourite Czech dishes.
Taste of India – if you want to take a break from hearty Czech meals then this restaurant serves some fantastic Indian food. Their weekday lunch buffet for 99czk, in particular, is amazing value!
Cafe La Fee – a Parisian style cafe in the heart of Olomouc, this place is perfect for your morning coffee accompanied by a light crepe, a delicious cake or a filling bagel. They also have an extensive lunch menu and is a popular spot for an evening cocktail.
Where to stay in Olomouc
Poet’s Corner Hostel – run by a friendly American-Czech couple this was the first hostel in Olomouc and continues to be one of the best places to stay in the city! They offer both dorms and private rooms and upon checking in, they will give you a comprehensive map of the city, highlighting some of their favourite spots. Check the latest prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com
Long Story Short – a newly-opened boutique hostel with a unique design, they also offer a range of dorms and private rooms. They have their own adjacent cafe that opens early and closes late. Check the latest prices on Hostelworld or Booking.com
Miss Sophie’s Olomouc – This boutique hotel located right in the city centre is one of the best places to stay in Olomouc. It comes very highly rated, they have a range of rooms for single travellers to families alike and there is a buffet breakfast option available. Check the latest prices on Booking.com or Hostelworld.
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Despite having now visited Olomouc three times in the span of eight years, I can’t wait to return one day and spend even more time discovering this beautiful Czech city.
Have you been to Olomouc? What are your recent experiences? Let us know in the comments below!