In this guide we visit Olomouc, a delightful city in the Czech Republic famous for its Art Nouveau, Baroque and Belle Epoque beauty.
A day trip to Olomouc
While I was staying in Prague I decided to take a a day trip to Olomouc, a city in the eastern part of the Czech Republic.
Although Olomouc might not be well-known internationally, I knew from first-hand experience that it is actually a very beautiful city.
Many years ago I briefly visited the city during an unplanned visit.
Coming from Poland, I missed my connecting train to Slovakia at the station of Olomouc and was forced to spend three hours or so in town while waiting for the next train departure.
Although most of those hours were spent having lunch and drinking a beer or two, I was impressed by the apparent beauty of Olomouc.
I vowed to come back to see more of the city – and this was an excellent occasion to do so.
From Prague, I took a luxurious Leo Express train to Olomouc, where I had an entire day to look around before I would need to head back to the Czech capital.
Into the city
The train station of Olomouc is located on the east side of the city.
To get from the railway station to the old town of Olomouc, you can either take a tram or simply walk.
It’s about a 20-minute walk to reach the outer edge of the old town while it takes 30 minutes to get to the central square.
I decided to walk and didn’t regret doing so.
On the way to the city centre you cross three rivers: The Morava River and the smaller Bystrice and Mlynsky Potok rivers.
As you cross the bridge over the Mlynsky Potok and enter a cobblestoned street lined with stately buildings called 1st of May (1. Máje in Czech), you already get a glimpse of what will await you in the old town of Olomouc.
The first major sight I encountered on my walk through Olomouc was the city’s cathedral.
Called Saint Wenceslas Cathedral, this Gothic church with three spires can be seen from almost everywhere in town.
Inside the cathedral, you can find the relics of Saint Jan Sarkander, a priest who was tortured and killed by protestant Hussites at the start of the Thirty Years’ War.
Baroque and Belle Epoque
After my cathedral visit, I walked back to 1st of May Street and continued my walk around the old town of Olomouc.
This Olomouc street already featured plenty of beautiful buildings in Belle Epoque architectural style.
Those who love older styles should definitely stop at the Church of Our Lady of the Snows on Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky) to admire its fine baroque interior.
Republic Square museums
On Republic Square you can also find a couple of interesting museums, although sadly I didn’t have the time to visit any.
One of these museums is the Olomouc Art Museum.
The Olomouc Art Museum is located in a beautiful Art Nouveau building which once housed the city hospital.
Despite the Art Nouveau exterior, the exhibits in this museum do however mainly feature modern art.
Right next to the Art Museum you can find the Regional Museums of Olomouc.
The Regional Museums are located in a late baroque building from the 18th century which used to be a convent of the Order of Saint Clara.
Among others, you can visit exhibitions here about the history of Olomouc and natural sciences.
Deeper into the old town
From Republic Square, the heart of the old town is just a stone throw away.
On the way to Upper Square – the main old town square of Olomouc – I passed by another famous city church.
Called the Church of Saint Maurice, this 15th century church was built in Gothic style and features an unique stone tower.
Upper Square (Horní náměstí) is the heart of the old town of Olomouc and on this massive plaza you can find some of the most famous landmarks of the city.
In the middle of Upper Square stands the City Hall of Olomouc.
The City Hall was built in the 15th century in Gothic style, although lots of Renaissance elements were added during renovations and expansions in the following centuries.
If you want to visit the Olomouc City Hall and climb up the 75-metre high tower, you can hop on one of the two daily tours held at 11am and 3pm.
On the northern side of the City Hall, there is a highly interesting astronomical clock to admire.
The astronomical clock was first made in Baroque style in the 15th century, although this was later replaced by a Neo-Gothic design in 1898.
However, this Neo-Gothic astronomical clock was destroyed at the end of the Second World War by an artillery shell.
After World War II, Czech artist Karel Svolinsky redesigned the astronomical clock in socialist realism style.
Unsurprisingly, the figures depicted on it are all from the proletariat such as a worker and chemist.
Holy Trinity Column
Although the City Hall will probably be the first structure on Upper Square that will catch your eye, it isn’t the most famous one.
The biggest sight in Olomouc is the Holy Trinity Column, which has even been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The Holy Trinity Column of Olomouc is one of the most elaborate baroque monuments in Europe.
Just like other such columns found throughout Central Europe, the Holy Trinity Column of Olomouc was constructed by the local citizens out of gratitude towards God for helping to end the plague.
Between 1713 and 1715 a plague devastated the Czech region of Moravia in which Olomouc is located.
When the plague finally disappeared, the best local craftsmen and artists from Olomouc contributed to this monument in order to celebrate their Catholic faith.
On the top of the column you can see gilded sculptures of the Holy Trinity, the Archangel Gabriel and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The sculptures on the lower levels depict saints, many of them who were somehow connected to Olomouc and the wider Moravia region during their lives.
Other sights on Upper Square
Standing on Upper Square you can’t help to be amazed by the splendour of the surrounding buildings.
Although the styles of these buildings do vary, they somehow blend extremely well together.
Two noteworthy buildings on Upper Square are the Edelmann Palace built in Renaissance style and the Art Nouveau post office.
Make sure you also admire the many fountains on this square.
Adjacent to Upper Square lies Lower Square, another magnificent part of the old town of Olomouc.
This square has some notable buildings as well such as Hauenschild Palace, a Renaissance townhouse with an elaborate cylindrical bay window.
Just like Upper Square, Lower Square has its own baroque column.
This Marian Column features a statue of the Virgin Mary and was also built after the plague just like the Holy Trinity Column.
A walk to the north
Towards the north of the old town squares there are a couple of picturesque streets to explore.
One of these streets immediately to the north of Upper Square had some colourful decorations floating above the cobblestones.
Nearby, the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is another Olomouc church which is well-worth a quick visit for its faded wall paintings.
For lunch, I randomly stopped at a local pub and restaurant called Mikulda as they advertised a cheap lunch menu.
The Budvar beer and Svíčková – a traditional Czech dish of thinly-cut sirloin steak with bread dumplings in a cream sauce – were certainly tasty.
Old city walls and fortifications
After lunch I headed towards the west of the old town as I knew this area of Olomouc is famous for its many Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau buildings.
On your way you can admire some of the old fortifications of the city.
At some parts, the old walls and casemates still remain, although they have now been turned into coffee shops, restaurants and pubs.
Just to the west of the old town you can also visit the Theresa Gate (Terezská Brána), one of the old baroque entrance gates to Olomouc which was named in honour of Austrian empress Maria Theresa after she visited the city.
Belle Epoque Olomouc
Perhaps the most beautiful ensemble of Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau buildings in Olomouc can be found in the area around Theresa Gate.
This upscale residential district is absolutely wonderful to explore – you are best off wandering around at random as there are architectural marvels at every corner.
Art Nouveau beer
If you want to drink a beer in Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque surroundings, then you should definitely head towards the Olomouc microbrewery Moritz.
The beer at Moritz is excellent and from the lovely outdoor terrace you can admire all the Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque splendour of Olomouc around you.
Even the Moritz logo on the beer glass oozes Art Nouveau style!
After the beer, I wandered a bit more around the neighbourhood and came across some more architectural delights.
It isn’t only Baroque or Art Nouveau what you will encounter in Olomouc, as there are also plenty of Renaissance Revival and Neo-Gothic buildings to admire to name a few different style.
Take for example the Eduard Hamburger Villa, which was designed in an eclectic historicist style with some Baroque and Renaissance elements.
The Eduard Šrot Villa with its unusual façade is a fine example of neo-Renaissance architecture and the beautiful building wouldn’t look out of place in the Italian Med.
Another interesting building is the Neo-Gothic Pöttingeum.
This school building was named after Count Pötting, who started the first Czech-language women’s school in Olomouc in this building at the end of the 19th century.
Even though Count Pötting himself was ethnic German, he was quite involved in Czech cultural life in Olomouc and the greater Moravian region.
Although the lingua franca in OIomouc was Czech until the 18th century, the city slowly Germanised during the 18th and 19th century.
While the countryside was still predominantly Czech, Olomouc itself became a cosmopolitan and multicultural city with a predominantly German character,
According to historic population data, in the 19th century there were three times as many ethnic Germans than there were Czechs living inside the city Olomouc.
Because of this, Olomouc was primarily known under its German name of Olmütz for many centuries.
Back into the old town
After a fun walk around some residential neighbourhoods of Olomouc I returned to the old town.
Also here there are a few notable Art Nouveau buildings.
One of these is a the U Jakuba pension, which is housed in a 15th century building with an Art Nouveau façade from 1907.
Another notable Art Nouveau building can be found on Riegrova Street.
The streets towards the south of Upper and Lower Square are great to explore if you want to get a flavour of Medieval Olomouc.
All the streets and alleys in this part of town are somewhat more narrow and the buildings look older, creating an entirely different kind of atmosphere.
In the southern part of the old town you can also find Vila Primavesi, which is the most famous of all Art Nouveau buildings in Olomouc.
Vila Primavesi is a gorgeous Art Nouveau city villa which can be visited on a tour for a minor fee.
Whether it’s the exterior walls resembling some waves, the gorgeous entrance portal or the magnificent interior, the villa is just Art Nouveau perfection.
There is a nice outdoor garden café at the villa and you can even stay the night in one of the Art Nouveau rooms if you book ahead.
If you walk down some steps right next to Vila Primavesi you will arrive in a large park.
Called Petr Bezruč Park (Park Petra Bezruče in Czech), this Olomouc city park is certainly nice to visit on a sunny day.
Parts of the park almost feel like a forest, especially the areas right next to the river which streams right through this green urban space.
However, Bezruč Park also features a well-kept botanical garden and a Mausoleum which contains the remains of more than 1,000 Yugoslav soldiers who died in local hospitals during World War I.
The Rosarium at the far eastern end of the park next to some of the local university faculties is a more modern landscaped park.
At the southern edge of the park you can find Crown Fortress, one of the old defensive bastions of Olomouc.
Back to the station
After a highly pleasant visit to Olomouc it was time to slowly head back to the station to catch my train back to Prague.
However, I couldn’t resist one more beer at a local bar before catching my train.
Although it might not be very well known internationally, the city of Olomouc is a gorgeous city which you should definitely add to your itinerary when you visit the Czech Republic.
Especially architecture and history lovers will be impressed by Olomouc.
There is just so much Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau beauty to be seen throughout Olomouc that the city can only be described a postcard-perfect image of early 1900s Europe.
However, Olomouc is also world famous for its Baroque architecture and you can admire a couple of fantastic Baroque churches and buildings as well as the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Holy Trinity Column in the old town.
Olomouc is simply an extremely picturesque and well-kept city to walk through and with its many quality cafés, pubs and restaurants a visit here is highly unlikely to disappoint.
Trip report index
This ‘Trains, Planes, Beer and Tapas: A Trip to Prague and Madrid’ trip report consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Ryanair Bucharest to Chania (Boeing 737-800)
2. A Rainy Chania Stopover
3. Ryanair Hell: My Bad Chania to Budapest Flight Experience
4. Review: T62 Hotel, Budapest, Hungary
5. Review: EuroCity Train “Hungaria” Budapest to Brno
6. A Walk Through the Historic Old Town Centre of Brno
7. Review: EuroCity Train “Metropolitan” Brno to Prague
8. Review: K+K Hotel Central, A Prague Art Nouveau Delight
9. Beer Boozing in Prague: Sampling Some Czech Brews
10. Praha Hlavní Nádraží – Prague’s Stunning Art Nouveau Station
11. Review: Leo Express Train Prague to Olomouc
12. Olomouc Guide: Baroque and Belle Epoque Beauty (current chapter)
13. Review: RegioJet Train Olomouc to Prague
14. Review: Erste Premier Lounge Prague Airport
15. Review: Air France HOP Business Class Embraer 170
16. Review: Air France Schengen Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F
17. Review: Air France Business Class Paris CDG to Madrid (Airbus A220)
18. A Madrid Tapas Crawl: Bar Hopping in Spain’s Capital
19. Review: Ibis Madrid Aeropuerto Barajas
20. Review: Puerta de Alcala VIP Lounge Madrid Airport
21. Review: Air Europa Economy Class Madrid to Milan (Boeing 787)
22. How To Transfer Between Milan Malpensa and Bergamo Airport