Many travellers backpacking or interrailing around Europe simply visit the capitals and big cities. In Czech Republic, Prague is unmissable. However, a real Czech experience is not complete until one visits Ostrava in the north-eastern region of Moravia and Silesia. Ostrava is the third largest city in this landlocked Central European country. In essence, Ostrava is a young city that is reclaiming it’s industrial past, with many youth-driven projects and initiatives, that make the city more attractive and welcoming to visitors.
City: Ostrava, Czech Republic
As I arrive on a cloudy and rainy day to Ostrava, the most noticeable part of the city is it’s industrial heritage. I had the same feelings when visiting Birmingham in the UK. But Ostrava is now enjoying the surge of tourists as it opens up most of its industrial plants to tourists. And trust me, they are so interesting!
I’m one lucky visitor because every step I made and every place I visited, I know that sooner or later, this city will be discovered by higher numbers of tourists. I feel like I did something different from other travellers, I saw new things and got to experience a different Czech Republic, absolutely not the same on display in Prague. On this blog post, I will take you with me on the trip and show you what I have done in 2 days in Ostrava.
How to Get to Ostrava
Ostrava is well connected to other European cities. There are daily buses connecting the city to neighbouring countries such as Germany, Poland and Hungary. Flixbus is a great option but even better is Leo Express, which is a local Czech bus company.
Ostrava Airport is connected with direct links to London Stansted and Milan Bergamo with Ryanair. Strangely, there is a direct flight to Dubai as well. There is less choice on flights but there’s a direct link to London Stansted, I’m personally happy with that! It’s also possible to get to Ostrava from Katowice Airport, which is 120 km away, in Poland. Then there are direct links from Katowice Airport by bus to Ostrava.
There are also 2 main train stations around the city with the bigger one being Ostrava hl.n. connecting the city to other parts of Czech Republic but also other big European cities such as Vienna, Bratislava, Warsaw and Moscow.
Ostrava: Steel Heart of the Republic
Following World War II, Ostrava developed its industrial expansion as Czechoslovakia concentrated on mining, steel industry and other heavy industries. These expansions made Ostrava “city of coal and iron” and “steel heart of the republic”. But most importantly, it made Ostrava what it is today. Nowadays, it is a city that reclaims this past, it embraces that era and creates new opportunities.
As a foreign visitor, I could witness that on its streets and buildings so it really felt like my trip was an “industrial city break” rather than a “city break”. I even think “industrial tourism” should be a big thing, not only for engineers on a field trip but something accessible to an average tourist. Well, Ostrava succeeds in incorporating some technically inaccessible attractions to a traveller’s agenda. So here’s how I enjoyed 2 days in Ostrava.
Seeing the highlights of Ostrava in two days
Let’s start from the top, The Vítkovice Area is for Ostrava what Praha Castle is for Prague. It is the highlight that one should see even during a short stopover in the city. This industrial area produced raw iron and coal. It dates back from the first half of the 19th century and has known many renovations and expansions during the years. In 1998, it stopped operating but it states remained quite intact so it was declared as National Cultural Heritage in 2002.
I was amazed by this visit especially by the quality of the group tour and the views from the Bolt Tower. From the tower, it is possible to see Ostrava and beyond. Or simply, have a cafe in the sky with impressive panorama at the Bolt Cafe.
Continuing on my discovery of the industrial heart of Czech Republic, I visit Landek Park Mining Museum. Another thrilling adventure in the outskirts of the city! Ostrava might look like a city where everything is spread out due to its territorial organisation but distances are short. The tram and buses are practical to get around as they are well-developed.
Just like a proper miner at Landek Mine Museum’s under grounds!When arriving to Landek Park Mining Museum, I already observed similarities with Vitkovice Area, however, this time, we were going under ground. Following the footsteps of miners, I was taken to another world. Literally, I was following the footsteps of miners as the tour guides of these tours are all retired miners. So their explanation is on point. However, they mostly speak Czech only, so an audio guide is provided for non-Czech speakers.
It is the only place in Ostrava where visitors can go down the mining pit in a cage to the former Anselm Mine, which was the oldest mine in the city. Overall, it was another fascinating discovery for me that I highly recommend.
For those who want to get away from all the industrial history, it’s possible to have a walk around the city centre to discover another side of the city. The Old Town is very cute and small, quite compact so it’s easy to walk. The heart of the Old Town is centered around Masaryk Square where it’s possible to see some of the oldest buildings in the city including The Ostrava Museum which used to be the old Town Hall. Right behind the square, there is the imposing Cathedral of the Divine Saviour.
One thing I particularly liked about the cathedral, is that it has electronic screens displaying art on the glasses instead of paint. It was so high-tech for a cathedral!
Few minutes walk from there, can be found the new City Town Hall of Ostrava. It is huge but what is most noticeable is its tower. The tower is around 85 meters above the ground, so it offers some interesting viewing perspectives. There are views over the city, over several mines, over the Ostravice River and they can expand even further to Poland on a clear day.
It was a cloudy day in my case, but the view was already extraordinary. When looking down over the square in front of the town hall, it’s possible to notice the coat of arms of the city on the tiny garden in the middle of the street roundabout.
For other sights around the city centre, it’s possible to head over The Miniuni to witness small models of historical landmarks from around the world such as Big Ben, Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids of Giza. It’s perfect for kids and adults alike.
Explore North Moravia and Silesia
If you made it to Ostrava, why not explore the whole region? There are few cute towns around this mountainous region such as Pribor, which is the birth place of Sigmund Freud. The town honours Freud with a museum at his family home. I also visited Stramberk, another picturesque town known as the “Moravian Bethlehem”.
My highlight was also a visit of the “Czech Pisa”, Saint Peter of Alcantara Church in Karvina. This church is leaning due to mining activities in the village. Worth visiting! But I will tell you all about my discovery of the North Moravia and Silesia region on my next blog post!
Disclaimer: I was guest of North Moravia and Silesia Region on this trip. I appreciate their support on my trip but all views are my own.
Have you been to Ostrava before? Would you like to visit?