Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, so I thought it might be a place worth visiting. Since in a couple of months’ time, I’ll have a Czech visa, it might even be a place worth living in. Here is what I found…
The second I stepped off the train in Brno, I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. I made my way on foot to our hotel which, given the name Old Town Hotel, I assumed would be a short walk from some lovely square. But as I got closer and closer, walking through Czech projects and derelict storefronts, I realized that in this case Old Town meant Czechoslovakia circa 1979. When we ventured into the historical center of town, we encountered all the squares and loveliness I was hoping to see. But this is a fairly small part of town, and it doesn’t even begin to make up for the fact that the surrounding city is a patchwork of old factories, torn up streets, and ghettos that look like they still exist in communism.
Things to Do
Despite looking a little worse for the wear, there are some nice cultural activities to enjoy in Brno. There are a handful of large museums and some interesting rotating exhibits in the city’s cultural spaces like Spilberk Castle, where you can find art and live music. But once you’ve spent an afternoon doing that, you’ll quickly realize that the main thing to do in Brno is get drunk and forget you live there. By sundown, the city’s main square, Namesti Svobody, is full of people enjoying a nice cold one.
I have to admit, the city does have pretty decent eateries. Whether you’re having authentic Czech or you’re in the mood for some French pastries and coffee, you’ll be able to find a nice variety of options in Brno. The part of the city that isn’t terrifying has some pretty decent places to sit down and have a drink or enjoy a meal. And if you’re in the mood to stay in and enjoy the AC on a hot day, you can actually get authentic Italian pizza delivered to your door, provided that you speak Czech or Italian so you can order it.
The city has a solid system of trams that will take you everywhere you don’t want to go if you’re not careful. If you don’t want to risk it, you can always go it on foot. Everything in the center of the city is certainly walkable and safe. But if you’re staying outside of that area, it might be good to arrange transportation back home so you don’t risk getting mugged after a fun night out.
Brno is actually a bit cheaper than Prague, which suffers from inflated tourist prices. That’s a nice byproduct of the fact that the city is a shithole. That’s a plus but all the affordability in the world doesn’t make up for the fact that at the end of the day, you have to live in communist-era Czech Republic. So to paraphrase the great Lucille Bluth, “I rather be dead in Prague than alive in Brno.”
Total Livability Score: 1/10
If I become completely destitute, Brno is a good place to get an apartment for $250 a month and live out the rest of my days as a pickpocket. Otherwise, this is a good place to visit once and never return.