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Olomouc

A quiet place in the heart of a fertile land, protected by strong walls. Olomouc is a city that used to belong to the Church, however today it is a metropolis with a strong student atmosphere that pleasantly contrasts with its long cultivated spirituality.

Olomouc is a beautiful lady with baroque shapes that humbly averts her eyes from her cousin Prague. However, those who know Olomouc also know there’s no reason for that. While Prague is boastful and welcomes visitors with sharp elbows, Olomouc quietly opens its arms graciously, and is even friendlier than Prague. The city centre is the second largest heritage site reserve (the first being Prague) in the Czech Republic, and it combines this history with the beat of a university town. Students represent about a fifth of Olomouc’s inhabitants, thus being a student has importance here. Don’t forget to bring your ISIC card with you.  It will save you money on admissions to exhibitions and cultural events, as well as in coffeehouses or trips by taxi or public transport.

The historical city centre is definitely worth seeing on foot. Lonely Planet included romantic Olomouc with its unusual collection of chapels, churches, temples and fountains in its “Hidden Gems of Europe” guide. Take the opportunity to stroll through the peaceful parks, get lost in the complex streets and meditate under the domes of splendid temples, or in the chiaroscuro of chapels such as the beautiful Chapel of St John Sarkander (Kaple svatého Jana Sarkandra), where sunrays fall down through the cupola and softly illuminate frescos with scenes from the life of the Saint. No-one would think that this impressive space used to be the town prison where Jan Sarkander died, at least not until you look through the floor to see the horrifying shadow of the instrument of torture in the basement. Jan Sarkander was canonised in 1995 but the local people honoured him so much that they had his sculpture erected two centuries ago: it decorates the monumental, 35 metre high Holy Trinity Column (Sloup Nejsvětější Trojice) from the 18th century, which is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of the most exceptional examples of central European Baroque art.

Baroque in Olomouc

The radiant impression that Olomouc gives is created by its curves. Dynamic sculptures with clothes ruffled by the wind and wings of chubby angels ready to take off in the dramatic play of lights and shadows. Every building, every staircase, every stone fascinates our senses and reminds us the Baroque was an era when sensibility ruled sense.

The Archdiocesan Museum (Arcidiecézní muzeum) is a place to admire ecclesiastic treasures and art collections founded by the bishops and archbishops of Olomouc. Church of St Michael (Chrám sv. Michala) and the Hradisko Monastery (Klášterní Hradisko) boast beautiful decor and finally, as the sheep following their shepherd, you can take the old pilgrim’s path up to Svatý Kopeček. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the Czech Republic with the impressive Minor Basilica of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Navštívení Panny Marie).

Olomouc, however, isn’t only Baroque. On your stroll through the city, pay a visit to the magnificent Neo-Gothic St Wenceslas Cathedral (katedrála sv. Václava) with the tallest church tower in Moravia. You can contemplate the transience of ages in front of the almost one-thousand year old Romanesque Bishop’s Palace (Biskupský palác) and admire the art of old masters in the noble Archbishop’s Palace (Arcibiskupský palác) with rich Rococo, Empire and Neo-Baroque décor. If you would like to experience something unusual, visit the local churches at night. Every year in the spring you can visit as many dark vestries, mysterious monastery gardens and church crypts as you like on the Night of Churches (Noc kostelů). There are also concerts, workshops and theatre performances, and in some places they will even let you play the organ.

Student Olomouc

Even though Olomouc is strongly linked to spirituality and history, there is a fresh young student esprit in the air. Students organise many interesting events that take place in the stylish scene of old church buildings or in underground clubs in the historical fortification. In April 2015, you can visit some of the impressive interiors, for example during the 50th year of the Academic Student Film Festival (Akademický festival studentských filmů).

At the beginning of May, you shouldn’t miss the Olomouc majáles by the Palacký University (Olomoucký majáles Univerzity Palackého) a crystalline essence of student life with all that it encompasses: girls, boys, music, fun… It is a festival that mainly focuses on student activities, in addition to the beer and profiteering. There are theatre performances, exhibitions, workshops, presentations of student organisations or study abroad programmes.

In September, visit the Festival of Light and Video Mapping (Festival světla a videomappingu) and enjoy light design shows. Olomouc, unlike other cities where such events take place, spices the light installations and projections up with an unsurpassable spiritual level.

Advent

The spiritual atmosphere of the city increases during the time of the Christian festivities. At Easter and during Advent, the old Olomouc dresses up in lights. The streets drown in the scent of incense and in the melancholic tones of Ave Maria or Ryba’s Czech Christmas Mass (Rybovy České mše vánoční).
You can feel the history in all corners of the city and time suddenly slows down. If you find yourself in Olomouc just before Christmas, visit the Christmas market at Horní Square. Taste the sweet punch, hot mead or admire the magic of traditional folk crafts.

Transport

The best way to reach Olomouc is to take a train or the regular bus service by Student Agency from Prague. You can also find some cheap train tickets offered by Leo Express, a private railway carrier. In the city you may use public transportation

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The Brno International Airport is a base for trips to Moravian towns. Take a look at all of the regular and charter flights to the Moravian capital.

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Arriving in Prague

You will arrive at Václav Havel Airport in Prague, and can set off on a journey throughout the Czech Republic. Click here to find out from where and on which airlines you can get to Prague.

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