Sunday, 22 February 2015


Spilberk castle, Brno

I am a great fan of the Czech Republic's second city. Indeed at times I think I prefer it to Prague. The two are very different in their feel. Prague to my mind feels like a Northern European city, whilst Brno has more of the Mediterranean about it. In Prague everyone seems to be going somewhere, whereas Brno has more of a relaxed cafe culture. It helps that the climate is milder there, and also that the historic centre is pedestrianized. As a result people sit at tables outside the city's many cafes and restaurants and chat to friends over coffee or maybe the local wine. 

I have visited the city many times over the years and each time I find something new to do. Brno's most famous building is Villa Tugendhat, and it certainly should be on any visitor's to-do list, but there is much more to see. The Villa isn't even the only major modernist building in the city. If you are interested in the architecture of previous periods, you will find Gothic and Baroque churches, Renaissance palaces, Art Deco villas and Art Nouveau apartment buildings and shops within easy walking distance of the city centre.

Called the "Moravian Manchester", Brno boomed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries on the back of a vibrant textile industry. As in Manchester the industrialists invested in the best architects and artists to create the buildings and institutions appropriate to their city's status. These included the Moravian Museum of Applied Arts. The permanent collection of this excellent museum has free entry and features some stunning examples not only of textiles but of furniture (including pieces designed by locally-born Josef Hoffmann), glass, graphics (Alfons Mucha was also a local) and other objects.There is currently a temporary exhibition on display at the museum entitled Brno - Moravian Manchester. 250 years of the capital of the textile industry. Frustratingly the exhibition closes a month before I bring a textiles tour to the city, but so it goes. My suspicion is that the exhibition is actually the one that will eventually be permanently installed in the Loew Beer Villa, which is due to open a month after the tour.

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