Olomouc

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Olomouc  has the second largest and second oldest historic preservation zone in the Czech Republic (after Prague).

Olomouc lies astride the Morava River and is surrounded by the fertile Hana plain. It was the capital of Moravia until 1641 and is the fifth-largest city in the country, with approximately 99,500 inhabitants. Understand : The first written mention of a settlement at Olomouc is almost 1,000 years ago when the Kosmas Chronicle described a fortified castle watching over the important Morava river ford on the road between Krakow and Prague. Between 16th and 19th centuries, Olomouc served as a strategically important fortress.

The city today is the seat of the regional government, the Moravian archbishopric and the oldest university in Moravia, Palacky University (Universita Palackeho). Legend claims that the city was founded by Julius Caesar. It’s almost certain that Caesar never visited in person, but it is known that the city began as a Roman military camp with the name Julii Mons (Julius’ Hill). This name was gradually corrupted to its present form, Olomouc – which is pronounced ‘Olo-mowts’. The Roman influence is a proud heritage of the city, and manifests itself in numerous areas.

Olomouc is doubtless the undiscovered gem of the Czech Republic. It is home to countless beautiful buildings, great culture (home of the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra), and hundreds of unique restaurants, bars, and pubs. Olomouc is totally off the radar of most tourists, feeling quietly normal and relaxed even on a nice day in July.

As the home to Palacky University, Olomouc is the country’s largest student city by percentage of population. Palacky University (named after Frantisek Palacky, the most influential figure of the Czech National Revival in the 19th Century) is one of the largest and most prestigious universities in the country and only Charles’ University in Prague has a longer history. During the academic year, the population of the city is increased by roughly 20,000 students, giving the city a vibrant feeling of life and energy.

This is important to remember if you want to enjoy the thriving nightlife of the city – many bars and clubs depend on the student population and close for the summer vacations. Olomouc has been the seat of the Catholic Archbishop for almost 1,000 years, and thus has some of the most beautifully decorated churches in Central Europe – though they will not appear in many travel guides.

Access : Coordinates: 49.593889, 17.250833 / By train : Prague: 2½h, hourly IC/EC trains; 2h, SC Pendolino/RegioJet/Leo Express (with compulsory reservation) each leave every two hours ,  Fast trains (category R) are useless at this route, they’re slower and cost the same as IC/EC.    Regular fare is 324Kc, second person in a group (of 2 or more) pays 195 Kc, extra people pay 162 Kc, SporoTiket is 190 Kc.  Brno: 1½h, every two hours
Beware that apart from these, there are trains Brno–Olomouc via Breclav and the journey would be 2 hours longer. /  Ostrava: 1h, IC/EC trains every two hours
Beware of some fast trains (category R) from Ostrava to Olomouc, they go longer way through Jeseniky mountains for more than 3 hours. /  Warszawa: 5½h, EC Praha
Krakow: The only direct train is a night train Silesia arriving in Olomouc at 4:45AM. Other connections require at least two changes.  Vienna: several train connections; with changes either in Prerov or in Ceska Trebova, it will take you about 3 hours
Long distance trains stop at Olomouc hlavni nadrazi (Olomouc Main station).

By bus : Student Agency operates buses between Prague and Olomouc, but they are much slower than trains, because their route leads all the way down to Brno before turning up towards Prague.

Highlights :

  • Olomouc is an exploring sightseer’s paradise. A good place to begin is the main square (Horni namesti or ‘Upper Square’), with its huge Town Hall and the Holy Trinity Column (the largest column in Europe), which was enscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. It is the second largest historical square in the Czech Republic. Don’t miss the astronomical clock on the Town Hall. It is said to once have rivalled the beauty of Prague’s, but was seriously damaged in the World War II and then rebuilt and repainted at the beginning of the Communist regime to reflect worker’s values.
  • Upper square :  The  Upper Square (Horni namesti) is the main square of Olomouc, a beautiful place full of history where you can find some of the most important
  • monuments: The baroque Holy Trinity Column was built in the early 1700s and consecrated by the Empress Marie Theresa in 1754. With a height of 35 metres.
  • The renaissance Olomouc Town Hall occupies the centre of the main square (Horni namesti).
  • On the north face is one of only two astronomical clocks in the country. On the west side, there is the Hygieia fountain from 1945, one of the many fountains in the city.
  • The Astronomical clock was constructed in the 15th century, The baroque Caesar’s Fountain is the largest fountain in Olomouc.
  •  The baroque Hercules’ Fountain depicts Hercules fighting Hydra. Another from the series of the six great baroque Roman-themed fountains you can find in the city.
  • The modern Arion’s Fountain depicts the legend of a poet thrown overboard and saved by a dolphin. The bronze model of the city.

Churches and monasteries :

  • St. Wenceslas Cathedral (Katedrala sv. Vaclava), Vaclavske namesti. Open daily, variable times, usually 07:00–17:00.
  • St. Moritz church (Kostel sv. Morice), 8. kvetna. Daily Mar 09:00–16:30, Apr–Jun 09:00–18:00, Jul–Aug 09:00–19:00, Sep–Oct 09:00–18:00, Nov 09:00–16:30.
  • St. Michael’s church (Kostel sv. Michala), Zerotinovo namesti 1. 07:00–18:00 daily.
  •  Basilica Minor on the Holy Hill (Svaty Kopecek). The church is open 08:30-17:00 daily,  afternoon closed.
  •  Hradisko Monastery, Susilovo namesti (Buses No. 15, 20, 21 – bus stop Klasterni Hradisko),  Apr-Sep every first Sat of the month: 08:00, 09:00, 10:00 and 11:00 Every working Thu: 14:00 and 15:00.
  •  The Archbishops’ palace (Arcibiskupsky palac), Wurmova 9,  Apr, Oct: M–F upon previous booking, weekends and holidays 10:00-17:00 May–Sep: Tu-Su 10:00-17:00; Nov–March: M–F upon previous booking.
  •  The Premyslid palace (also known as Romanesque Bishop’s Palace, Premyslovsky palac, Zdikuv palac), Vaclavske nam. 4,  Tu-Su 10:00-18:00.

Museums and galeries

  • Museum of Modern Art (Muzeum moderniho umeni), Denisova 47, Tu-Su 10:00-18:00.
  • Regional Museum in Olomouc (Vlastivedne Muzeum), namesti Republiky 5,   Apr-Sep Tue-Sun 09:00-18:00, Oct-Mar Tue-Sun 10:00-17:00. . The museum is closed every Monday. 60 Kc / 30 Kc.
  • Commercial Art Galleries Czech and Moravian artists produce a lot of very unusual ceramic/pottery pieces and small works of art, which make great original souvenirs or gifts, and there are several shops/galleries in Olomouc filled with them. Some of the best are situated on
  • Ztracena Ulice which heads off the square from the Caesar fountain. Next to Cafe Caesar in the town hall building is
  • Gallery Caesar. It almost always exhibits contemporary art from local Olomouc or Czech artists.
  • Gallery Mona Lisa (also a cafe), on the corner of the square near the Arion fountain (turtle fountain) is a similar exhibition space focused on contemporary art. In the beautiful
  • Villa Primavesi right next to St Michael’s Church there is another small gallery worth visiting if only for the chance to wander through the entrance hall of this historic house.
  • Fountains : Baroque Fountains :  The city’s impeccable series of six stone baroque fountains are all within easy walking distance of the Main Square. They are based on Roman themes, and depict Neptune, Jupiter (both on Dolni namesti), Mercury (near the Prior store), Triton (on Namesti republiky), Hercules, and the legendary founder of Olomouc, Julius Caesar (both on Horni namesti, the main square). There are also two more baroque fountains that were damaged and lost their central statues, Saturn fountain in the Hradisko monastery and Dolphin fountain near the Virgin Mary church. The missing statue of a child with a dolphin on the latter fountain was replaced a with lion head.
  • Modern fountains. There are also several remarkable modern fountains in Olomouc. The Arion fountain in the main square (Horni namesti) depicts the legend of a poet thrown overboard and saved by a dolphin. It was specially designed to allow easy access to the water and is a favourite among children. Hygieia fountain can be found nearby in the west wall of the Town Hall. Bronze Living Water fountaincan be found next to the Chapel of St. Sarkander. There are also two fountains located near the Main Railway Station, one of which ‘dances’ along to recorded classical music.

Parks and gardens

  • Olomouc Zoological Garden, Darwinova 29. Open daily: Oct-Feb 09:00—16:00, Mar, Sep 09:00—17:00, Apr-Aug 09:00—18:00 (ticket counter opening hours  the visitors must leave 2 hours after the ticket counter is closed at latest).
  • Bezrucovy Sady (Bezruc gardens) is a lovely park that runs between the massive Fortress walls and the Mill channel, providing a great place to stroll and relax, also nice views of the University and St. Michael’s Church.
  •  Botanic Gardens . Apr-Oct Tu-Su 09:30–18:00. The Botanical gardens are in two parts; the outdoor exhibits and rose gardens are across the stream from Bezruc gardens. 50 Kc / 30 Kc.
  •  The  greenhouses are behind the Flora exhibition complex  near where the footbridge goes over the main road to connect the two parks together.
  • Others
    The University is spread throughout the city, but the most interesting parts to visitors are between the main square and St. Wenceslas’ Cathedral. The fine arts faculty has 19 a sunny terrace courtyard with a cafe and views over the city walls from above. Also notable is the 20 law campus on 17th. November Ave, which was formerly the headquarters of the Communist party.
  • City Walls A series of defensive fortifications and moats once completely enclosed Olomouc. The best preserved parts are visible from the Bezruc gardens, below St. Michaels church. The water barracks that today house the Russian and Irish pubs and the 24hr espresso bar were also part of the system. There were also sixteen outlying forts, some of which still exist. Most still belong to the military and are off limits to the public, but one is home to ‘Exit discotheque’, and another is within the grounds of the botanic gardens. Enter just across the mill channel from Bezruc gardens, via the footbridge guarded by the four statues of Hercules.

Activities : Theater (Moravske divadlo Olomouc), Horni nam. 22,   The theatre in the square is home to the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as numerous musicals, operas, and plays.
2 Ice Hockey stadium, Hynaisova 9a. The Ice Hockey stadium is on Hynaisova, behind the supermarket.
The Letni Kino (summer cinema) is only open in the warmer months and shows films four nights a week, beginning as soon as it gets dark enough.

Events
Flora Olomouc In Spring, you should not miss the Flora Fairgrounds and nearby parks full of flowers. The information about exhibitions is available at the Flora Fairgrounds website (in Czech only).
Academia Film is an international festival of documentary films in April. Most venues are close to the fine arts faculty of the university, with some being shown outdoors on a screen in the main square.
Dvorak’s Olomouc is a series of concerts of classical music taking place during May and June. The Moravian Philharmonic and visiting orchestras perform on the square and in the churches.
The Festival of Songs in June gathers choirs from as far as Singapore and the United States to perform and compete.
International Organ Music Festival is organised by the Moravian Philhamonic Orchestra and takes place in various venues around the city, including on the largest pipe-organ in central Europe-in St Moritz church in September.
Festival of Film Animation A four-day festival of film animation and modern art is held annualy in December in several locations in Olomouc.
Traditional Christmas Markets take over the main square from the beginning of December. There are free concerts every day, roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and other warming foods and traditional crafts ranging from blacksmith-work to the finest beeswax and honey products.

Go next : Svaty Kopecek / The Litovelske Pomoravi nature park / Podebrady / Swimming at Vykleky / Bouzov castle / The Javoricko caves / Helfstyn castle / Kromeriz / Litomysl

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