City breaks, Czech Republic

10 reasons why you must visit Ostrava

Ostrava is the capital of the Moravian-Silesian region and the third largest city of Czech Republic. It is an extraordinary city which took my heart from the very first moment I arrived. It was a rainy night and I needed to take the tram from the train station to my hotel. But I couldn’t buy a ticket because I didn’t have spare change to insert in the ticket machine. A woman saw me in front of the machine and came closer to me speaking in Czech, but I couldn’t understand a single word. And she couldn’t understand English. However, despite the language barrier she understood the problem and bought a tram ticket for me. And then she kept talking and trying to communicate with me (without success) for about ten minutes, until my tram arrived. And I couldn’t do other than smile while she was talking about who knows what. I was maybe very lucky, but this warm welcome made me soon realise I was in a very special city.

Ostrava - Masarykovo náměstí
Ostrava – Masarykovo náměstí

Ostrava is deeply characterised by its industrial history which is strongly evident in every corner of the city. And it is the ability to convert and valorise its industrial heritage which makes Ostrava a unique place. Today this city is a vibrant place where many old factories are used by artists, actors and musicians and serve as a unique background for exhibitions, shows and festivals. In the dynamic city centre, you can find many cafés, pubs and bars, and the surroundings are plenty of green areas. The combination of all these factors makes Ostrava an unmissable city to see in Czech Republic. But if you still don’t know if you want to visit this city, here you can find a list of 10 reasons why you should definitely visit Ostrava:

  1. The surreal Lower Vítkovice area
  2. The street art in every corner
  3. The vibrant city centre
  4. Bolt Tower
  5. Partying at festivals and Stodolni street
  6. Ema slag heap (Halda Ema)
  7. Ostrava city hall
  8. Ostravice river
  9. Ostrava cathedral
  10. Mining Museum Landek Park

The surreal Lower Vítkovice area

Lower Vítkovice is an impressive former industrial complex, which is able to astonish everyone with its labyrinth of iron towers, pipes and conduits. This unique industrial site is in the heart of a European Heritage Protected Site where mines, iron and steel-works used to be located. The Vitkovice area includes the entire steel-manufacturing supply chain, and this is what makes this area so special. This town of steel has been recently converted into a community and cultural centre. Here you can admire the remarkable conversion of a historic gas tank into a multi-purpose auditorium known as the Gong.  This is the area where the deadly festival Colours of Ostrava takes place (click here if you want to read my post about the festival), but it is also the set of several other events.

Lower Vítkovice area
Lower Vítkovice area

The street art in every corner

Another reason to visit Ostrava is the street art! In this city, there is the largest street art piece of Czech Republic! It is the Madonna “Ostravica” and it is one of the most beautiful pieces of street art I have ever seen. When you are in front of this piece of art you cannot help but wonder what she is dreaming of. The Madonna Ostravica was created by the famous American street artist Nils Westergard in 2016 over a weekend, on the façade of a crumbling building which used to be a shopping centre. Cool street art is also present in the Lower Vítkovice area, and I was especially impressed by the one at the Důl Hlubina tram station.

Madonna Ostravica in Ostrava
Madonna Ostravica in Ostrava

The vibrant city centre

Ostrava is often described as a grey and polluted city, that’s why I was very surprised by all the colourful buildings I found in the city centre. Stroll around the colourful streets of this city to admire the beautiful architecture of the buildings and get lost drinking beer in the several pubs you can find around the city. The centre of Ostrava is the main square (Masarykovo náměstí), where you can find the Old city hall which currently hosts the Ostrava Museum with an exposition dedicated to the city’s history.

Ostrava main square
Ostrava main square – City hall

Bolt tower

The Jamaican Olympic hero Usain Bolt has shared a special bond with Ostrava since it was invited to run in the IAAF World Challenge Golden Spike meeting in 2004. He loves Ostrava so much that he returns to the city every year. And the love is reciprocal. That’s why in Ostrava there is a tower which is called after him. This tower is located in the Lower Vítkovice area, and from there you can admire a breathtaking view of the all city of Ostrava and the surrounding area. The tower used to be a blast furnace, but now it hosts a cool cafè.

Colours of Ostrava 2018
View from Bolt Tower – Colours of Ostrava 2018

Partying at festivals and Stoldoni street

Ostrava residents embrace the “work hard, play harder” outlook. Partying is indeed an old tradition in this city, where miners needed to relax after hard working days. In this city there is a particular street, packed with clubs and pubs, in which you can dance the night away. It is Stoldoni street, and it is known as the street that never sleeps. During warm evenings this street is full of people who enjoy a drink while doing bar hopping for a fun night.

Colours of Ostrava - Main stage
Colours of Ostrava – Main stage

Ostrava is also famous because several festivals are held there. The most important is Colours of Ostrava, which is one of the best festivals in Europe! I attended the 2018 edition and I was impressed by the line-up offered between 21 different stages, and I absolutely loved the laid-back and chilled-out atmosphere during the festival. The location of the festival is the Lower Vítkovice, which background makes this festival even more special.

Click here if you want to read my post about the festival.

Colours of Ostrava 2018
Colours of Ostrava 2018

Ema Slag Heap (Halda Ema)

Ema Slag Heap is a man-made hill composed of waste material from mining.  The hike to the top of the hill is really nice and the view from the top is amazing. Ema is nicknamed the volcano of Ostrava because the middle of the pile is still burning and you can see steam rising from it. This burning heap reaches a temperature of up to 1500 ° C inside, so that there is a subtropical climate on the hill and snow never settles there.

Ema Heap
View from Ema Heap

Ostrava New City Hall

The New Town City Hall of Ostrava is the largest town hall complex in Czech Republic. The construction of a new city hall was necessary because of the rapid expansion of the city after the discovery of rich coal deposits nearby. This building is located on the left bank of the River Ostravice, on Prokešovo náměstí, and it has an interesting socialist architecture. The complex includes the city hall tower, which offers an amazing view over the city of Ostrava from the top. From there, you can also see the nearby Beskydy Mountains, and, on clear days, even the neighbouring Poland. Beneath the tower, there is the Ostrava City Information Centre which provides all sorts of information about the city, in several languages. In the city website (www.visitostrava.eu) you can find all info about prices and opening times of the tower.

Ostrava New City Hall
Ostrava New City Hall

 

Ostravice river

Ostravice river is a green gem in the heart of the city of Ostrava. It demarcates the limit between the Moravian and Silesian areas of Ostrava. Walking paths run by this river, and strolling along them is one of the most relaxing activities you can do in the city. But, if you want more adrenaline, you can also rent a canoe and raft down the river!

Ostravice river
Ostravice river

Ostrava cathedral

Ostrava cathedral is the second largest cathedral in Moravia and Silesia, and its dimension is due to the explosive development of Ostrava. The cathedral can hold up to 4,000 persons, but today it’s almost always empty because just about 10% of the Czech population is Christian. What makes this church unique is that it has electronic screens displaying art on window glasses instead of static coloured glass. It is the most high-tech cathedral I have ever visited!

Ostrava view with the cathedral
Ostrava view with the cathedral

Mining Museum Landek Park

The Mining Museum Landek Park is the largest mining museum in Czech Republic. It is a very interesting place if you want to know more about coal mining. During your visit to the museum, you can learn everything about the daily routine of miners. Here you can see the authentic equipment, bathrooms for the crews, lamp room, registration room, the changing room and also the machine room and the boiler room. You can basically pretend to be a miner for one day!

Mining Museum Landek Park
Mining Museum Landek Park

How To Get Around Ostrava

Despite its size, Ostrava is a very easy place to get around. The public transport is excellent, and it is well-connected to the rest of the Czech Republic and Poland via the Ostrava train station. Bus and tram timetables are available online at IDOS website or on the IDOS app. I also created a map on mapy.cz where you can find all the places I mentioned and you can also find the public transport connections in the beta version of the app.

On the Ostrava website of public transport (dpo.cz) you can find ticket prices for public transports. The ticket machines are located near the stations or you can pay by card on the tram.

What to do after Ostrava

Visiting other towns in Moravia

Ostrava is one of the most interesting towns in the Moravia region, but it is not the only one. Brno, Olomouc, Telč and Kroměříž are other towns which deserve a visit if you are in this region. Each of these cities is unique and all of them host Unesco World Heritage sites.

Visit Jeseníky Mountains

The Jeseníky Mountains are the Czech paradise for adventure seekers. From Ostrava, you can easily reach the Jeseníky Mountains in about 2 hours. For example, you can drive or take a train to Karlova Studánka, and start your adventure from this cute spa village.

Click here to find out all the outdoor activities you can do there.

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Thanks to Moravian-Silesian region, Czech Tourism and Ostrava city for giving me the chance to know Ostrava so well thanks to several organised tours around this fantastic city.

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