In the northeast corner of the country, just over three hours from Prague, you’ll find a city with a surprising array of high art and live music, offbeat architecture, rich history, and debaucherous late-night partying. You might not know it, but Ostrava has a little of everything.
An industrial center on the border with Poland, Ostrava certainly isn’t the most beautiful city in the Czech Republic—it as, after all, known as “the steel heart of the Republic” (ocelové srdce republiky)—but it’s worth an overnight trip. Several busses and trains travel there each day through Brno, and there are plenty of good hostels and hotels. It’s a little off-the-beaten-path from Prague, but it’s definitely worth the journey.
Here are 10 reasons to go there:
If you want to get the lay of the land and see the whole city at once, the New City Hall Viewing Tower should be your first stop. A 50 CZK ticket will get you to the top of this 86-meter tower, which offers impressive views of the entire Ostrava basin, including the Upper Silesian plateau to the east, the Jeseníky Mountains to the west, and the mountains of Beskydy to the south. From up here you can plan your next steps through the city.
Especially if you’re traveling to Ostrava with children, Zoo Ostrava is a great way to take a walk on the wild side. With more than 350 species on display in a huge zoo area, along with a petting zoo, playgrounds, a mini train, and friendly staff with evident enthusiasm for their animals, the zoo is a nice diversion. It’s a popular attraction, however, so you’re best avoiding the lines by going on a weekday or early in the morning. Don’t miss the elephants!
The Gallery of Fine Art is the best destination for a taste of arts and culture while you’re in Ostrava. The museum has a valuable selection of European art, including work by Klimt, along with Czech art from the 19th and 20th centuries, a collection of Russian realists, and 20th century Spanish art. Established in 1922, the gallery is housed in a Functionalist building built in 1926 by notable Czech architects František Fiala and Vladimír Wallenfels.
If you’re looking for a place to relax with a picnic lunch or just take a breather, Komenského sady is a gorgeous park located on the left back of the Ostravice River near New City Hall. On the weekends it’s full of people jogging, cycling, rollerblading, and just hanging out. This is the Czech Republic, of course, so there are plenty of stands to get a cold beer, a soda or a sausage. It’s a nice change of pace just outside the city center.
Ostrava’s history is bound up in the mining and steel industries, so it’s not surprising there are numerous former industrial sites to see. Even if visiting a coal mine doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you might be surprised by what you find here. It’s like stepping back into the industrial age, with a touch of communist kitsch. You can get a guided tour or explore the grounds on your own.
If the weather is hot, a visit to Sareza should definitely be on the agenda. There’s an indoor swimming pool open year-round, with a water slide, a children’s pool, saunas and much more. But the big attraction during the summer is the open-air pool. The largest pool of its kind in central Europe, it has water slides, diving boards, a wooden castle, and numerous bars as well as lounge areas. It’s a place where the whole family can chill out.
What would a Czech town be without a brewery? In this regard the Ostravar brewery museum doesn’t disappoint. Dating back to 1842, the brewery still produces the local suds using the traditional method of bottom fermentation. Here you can tour the brewing and tap rooms, and view historic photographs and beer labels. The real attraction awaits at the end of the tour, when you can sample the beer straight from the source.
Comparable to Prague’s National Museum, the Ostrava Museum houses everything from prehistoric plows to 16th century violins, stuffed macaws to ancient arrowheads, and even a current exhibition about Ostrava as the 2014 European City of Sport. Located in Old Town Hall on Masaryk Square, it’s a pretty central attraction. The pride of the museum is the 225cm high indoor astronomical clock with 2,500 working parts, completed by Jan Mašek in 1935.
Ah, Stodolní Street. This 24-hour party zone is probably the most (in)famous street in the Czech Republic. Packed wall to wall with more than 60 clubs, pubs, cocktail bars, and everything in between, it’s a must-see destination for all visitors to Ostrava—provided you’re over 18. Since Ostrava is a little out of the way, you’ll avoid the hen and stag parties that often crowd the streets of Prague. Just don’t forget where your hotel is when it’s time to go home!
Taking place each July, Colours of Ostrava is a family friendly festival that boasts a rich cultural program extending from music to poetry and theater. With some of the biggest international names in rock, jazz, electro and world music, the festival is held at Dolní Vítkovice, the site of former blast furnaces, mines and ironworks, which give it a totally unique atmosphere to compliment the impressive performances.
Will you make the trip to Colours of Ostrava this year? What are your must-see Ostrava sites?