“Where is Olomouc?” For most people, the sheer beauty of its ever so popular capital, Prague has essentially overshadowed any other place in the Czech Republic. Ask any regular Euro-tripper and they’d be hard-pressed to name more than one city in the Czech Republic – much less one in the east – which is a shame as the country has so much to offer.
turtle fountain in horni namesti in olomouc
One of those less-known destinations is the town of Olomouc, in the traditional region of Moravia. This town has mostly been under the radar, even when considering it against other secondary cities in the Czech Republic such as Cesky Krumlov and Karlovy Vary. In its free downloadable guide, Lonely Planet actually lists this town as the most overlooked destination in Europe! Despite this apparent lack of awareness among travelers, I found Olomouc to be a really beautiful city. I stopped here for a day on my trip between Wroclaw and Budapest and found it to be a more manageable town to navigate in, but just as captivating as the other great cities of Europe.
Olomouc is said to have the second largest old town square in the Czech Republic, next to the one in Prague. Stepping into the Horni Namesti for the first time, I can’t help but notice the similarities. The sight of buildings built in the Baroque style, pastel colors and Gothic churches took me back to my trip to this same region just a year ago. The scene was unmistakeably Central European, an imperial remnant of the Austro-Hungarian empire that until today is still visible not just in Vienna or Budapest but also in places like Zagreb, Bratislava and Ljubljana.
town hall of olomouc
The Horni Namesti is dominated by the white Town Hall, from which the town’s principal activities seem to emanate. It is graced by a 75 meter tall tower, from which visitors can climb up for a view of the city for a small fee. The tower is also adorned by an astronomical clock. For those who have seen the astronomical clock in Prague, the one in Olomouc doesn’t boast of elaborate shows every hour but offers a peek into the Warsaw Pact interpretation of such a clock. Rather than using religious imagery, the design here is dominated by workers, farmers and scientists and has a hint of art deco into it. At noon, there is a “mini-parade” of figurines for those looking for some simple entertainment.
at the astronomical clock of olomouc’s town hall
Another undeniable fixture of the Horni Namesti is the impressive 35 meter Holy Trinity Column standing solo in the northwestern side of the square. While the town has several of these columns scattered all around, this particular UNESCO World Heritage Site is truly outstanding. It contains elaborate religious sculptures and is big enough to house a chapel inside. From afar, it actually resembled a Buddhist stupa, sans the golden color. It was built in the 18th century to give thanks to the end of a plague that struck Moravia in the early 1700s.
holy trinity column
For a great view of Horni Namesti, I went over to the Church of St. Maurice from where there is a tower (donations appreciated) with a great view. I climbed up from the seemingly deserted church entrance to find a few teenagers hanging out there. Olomouc has plenty of other religious buildings, the most outstanding of which is the neo-gothic St. Wenceslas Cathedral. The Hradisko Monastery just outside the downtown area is also worth a look, and is open for tours on Thursdays.
bird’s eye view of olomouc old town
Before leaving the Czech Republic the next day, I went to the small town of Kromeriz around 40 kilometers away. The town is well-known for the Archbishop’s Palace and its accompanying gardens, which are both listed as a joint UNESCO World Heritage Site. I had a minor confusion when I visited the gardens, thinking it was the one just behind the palace. In reality, it is actually around a kilometer away to the west. I visited it, half-expecting I would see a hedge maze which didn’t turn out to be the case unfortunately!
gardens of kromeriz
How to Go to Olomouc:
From Prague, your best bet is via train where it takes about 2.5 hours to get to Olomouc. There are regular departures daily.
How to Go to Kromeriz:From Olomouc, there are regular buses and trains to Kromeriz which is only about an hour away.