Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Olomouc in winter? Yes.

Olomouc rooftops and church towers under a dusting of snowI’ve recently had a couple of emails asking if Olomouc is still worth visiting in the winter, and it occurred to me that there are two types of town from a tourist’s point of view; the ones you go to see something specific, a castle, a museum, the birthplace or grave of somebody famous, and the type you go to just for the pleasure of being there and taking part, as far as possible, in the rhythm of local life.

Olomouc definitely falls into the second category, and winter is probably an even better time to visit than summer.

A concert on the main square of OlomoucBecause it’s such a big university town (the Czech Republic’s biggest by percentage of population) concerts and festivals and special events tend to take place during the academic year, not during the summer holidays. Through the winter the Jazz club, U-Klub and 15 Minut student club have regular programs of live music, during the Christmas markets there are free concerts on the square every afternoon, and there are film festivals, music festivals and of course traditions like Mikuláš, New Year’s Eve and Three Kings’ Day that are celebrated everywhere across the country.

Unesco-listed Holy Trinity Column, OlomoucBut even Olomouc’s specific historic sights stay open year round. Many of them are large outdoor public sculptures and monuments; the UNESCO-listed Holy Trinity Column, the series of baroque fountains, the astronomical clock in the front of the town hall and the old city walls would all fall into this category.

The Archdiocese museum is another standout. Even for people who are sick to death of museums, this is one is worth the entry price just to see the interiors of the places, all of which started their lives as part of the Olomouc castle. And if you’re not convinced they would be worth the 2 euro entry fee, the museum, along with the Modern Art Museum, is completely free every Wednesday and every Sunday. For everyone, not just students.

Interior of St Wenceslas' cathedral, OlomoucAnd then there are the churches. There are 12 or 15 churches in Olomouc’s historic centre, but probably the main three or four will be enough for most visitors. St. Wenceslas cathedral has the tallest spire in Moravia (second tallest in the country) and displays the skull of Saint Jan Sarkander in a glass case, St. Moritz has the largest pipe organ in Central Europe and the best tower to climb for a view over the city and St. Michael’s has as spectacular a Baroque interior as you’re likely to see anywhere.

Cafe 87 chocolate pie, OlomoucThere’s also the regional cuisine to complement anybody’s visit at all times of year. Olomouc ‘stinky’ cheese, Traditional Haná meals from the Hanácká Hospoda, local beer from the St. Wenceslas or Moritz breweries, and the famous chocolate pie have all earned reputations that extend far beyond the boundaries of the city.

Of all the guidebooks, Lonely Planet sums it up best:
“the glorious cityscape of Olomouc (possibly Central Europe’s most underrated) hosts an urbane population inspired by a lively influx of students. Thanks to a profound lack of tourists, Olomouc provides the truest sense of what Prague would be like without the crowds: in a word, fabulous.”

The kind of place you can go just for the pleasure of being there.

And if you choose the right accommodation, you can even have your room prepared by ninjas...


Francie said...


sansIcarus said...

Truer words were never spoken, Captain.

Though I must say that, from experience, every season is a good season to be in Olomouc.

Lucie said...

Yeeeei, I will be going to Olomouc again at the end of December since my crazy brother has decided to get hitched there. I hope my room comes with the remote-controlled Ninjas too!!!