Prague is a forced to be reckoned with, and synonymous when one thinks of travel in the Czech Republic. Aside from a few outlying landmarks, tourism often remains concentrated to Bohemia. While Prague has stolen the spotlight for it’s beauty and grandeur, it’s time for some other Czech towns to step out of that shadow and Miss Sophie hopes to be the one changing the light. Olomouc, the gateway to Moravia, may just be the hidden gem of the south you were looking for and we’ve got about 10 reasons why (and another 10 here).
1. UNESCO Perhaps the most iconic landmark in the city, is the Trinity Column, a UNESCO World Heritage Landmark located in Horni namesti. The column is a pinnacle of history for the city, built during the 18th century by local artists and craftsmen and adorned with various saints who had significance to the city. Olomouc connects the UNESCO path from Prague to Krakow, making it an easy stop in between the two to soak in a bit more Czech culture.
2. Dolni and Horni Namesti or lower and upper squares, which divide up the down center. Both vast and airy, boasting buildings with colorful facades, numerous baroque sculptures and fountains, and a 15th century town hall that features an Astronomical clock. The square tells a story through various architectural movements, making it an outdoor art museum in its own right.
3. A Different Kind of Astronomical Clock acts as a focal point to the city. It is located on the side of the Baroque town hall that lies in the center of the square is the Astronomical clock. Destroyed by the Nazi’s durring World War II, it was rebuilt during communism with a different representation. The 600 year old clock shows the time, seasons and solar positions of the planets - it also depicts images of communism. Decorated with scenes of proletarian archetypes rotating through time, it adds another element of historical documentation to what the city has endured over the centuries.
4. The Historical gateway to Moravia, the south-eastern region of the Czech lands. Since the genesis of Olomouc in the 11th century plays a huge role in the regional importance of the city, there are many and marks that make the city beautiful and photogenic. It is, after all, oldest and largest preservation zone in the Czech Republic, only second to it’s Bohemian sister, Prague. Simply wandering the city center by foot is a passage through time and a great way to absorb the city's atmosphere.
5. Monumental baroque buildings are found throughout the labyrinth of streets in the city center, such as the Church of St. Michael distinguished by its three Baroque domes. It might look like a simple Baroque cathedral from the outside, but don’t judge a book by it’s cover. The inside is intricate with it’s details and dark frescos. Walking in, it’s hard for your eyes to not wander up, looking at the ornate details with leaks of light playing off the walls. The Roman Catholic church construction commenced during the 13th century, later rebuilt during the 16th century in Baroque form.
6. The Bell Tower with a View is a bit more of a hidden feature, making the Saint Michel's church even more special. Find the hidden door and climb a few flights of stairs to grab a bird’s eye view of the city. See the red roof tops collide with the various architectural styles and snap a few photos.
7. Outdoor Architecture Museum, like Prague, Olomouc boasts an impressive collection of architecture. Ornate Baroque columns and Gothic cathedrals to Roman fountains and facades freckled with Art Nouveau, Cubism and Functionalism all existing in the dense old town and providing a passage through time.
8. Slower pace of life found in smaller towns. With a compact historical city center, most everything is reachable on foot. From the minute you step outside Miss Sophie’s door on Denisova street, wandering the cobblestoned lanes made for pedestrian traffic you feel like a local. The city’s laid back vibe is idyllic for a getaway, possessing the same charms as Prague, but with more intimacy and a fraction of the tourists.
9. The Parks in Olomouc are plentiful and spacious, providing a space to enjoy that pace of leisure we described in the last point. The city center is about seventy-five percent surrounded by green spaces, Bezručovy Sady includes a botanical garden, a bike path and a small creek running through with a more wild nature feeling. Smetanovy Sady is narrow and hugs the western side with a more manicured 19th century landscape.
10. It’s Intellectual Spirit - Olomouc is a student town and provides a never ending amount of bookshops to feed those hungry minds. The city contains one of the biggest populations of students in central Europe becoming an inseparable part of the city’s beat, creating a thriving and progressive collective mentality that runs through it's viens.
This brings us to part two. Olomouc is as rich in history as it is intellectualism, both mutually driving the city into a new chapter of it's life. Stay tuned for 10 more reasons to visit this smart city, just two hours from Prague.
Edit: Part two available now.