1“Oh, have a nice time in Prague!” was a frequent phrase I heard from friends who got to know I was going to the Czech Republic. I really like Prague but this time my journey took me elsewhere. Thanks to being kindly invited by the Czech tourism board, I got to visit Ostrava – home of the significant Colours of Ostrava music festival.
Ostrava used to be an industrial center and was quite polluted, which has changed since the closing of most of its mines. Some industrial giants, like a steel factory with smoking chimneys, remain near the city, but nowadays Ostrava has a lot to offer its visitors.
- Climb the Bolt tower
Industrial heritage is Ostrava’s strongest magnet. The most popular place to visit is Lower Vitkovice – the site of a former mine and ironworks, which has now been turned into a unique space for social, cultural and educational events. Enjoy breathtaking views from the top of Bolt tower and some peace and quiet at the cozy concert hall in the tower called Gong.
- Explore the mines
Some of the town’s former coal mines have been transformed into tourist attractions. The Michal mine has been preserved as if it were still working yesterday. Tourists can follow in the footsteps of a miner by taking the route from the entrance point to the dressing rooms, showers, kitchen, doctor’s room, machinery halls etc. The other ex-mine – Landek Park – takes you underground to tell the miners’ stories there. If you have time both are worth visiting but if you need to choose one, I’d vote for Michal’s.
- Come for an event
Two huge music+ festivals take place in Ostrava – Beats 4 Love and Colours of Ostrava. Both take place in the industrial area of Lower Vitkovice. In fact, there’s no shortage of events taking place in Ostrava (https://www.visitostrava.eu/en/events/), so I think combining the one that interests you with some local sightseeing sounds like a good idea.
- Another beer, please
Beer is so good and cheap in the Czech Republic, and Ostrava is no exception. No wonder that Czech people are the biggest beer drinkers in the world by far! The main brand you can find all over Ostrava is Radegast, but there are plenty others around, including microbrewery specials.
- How about some gulaš?
Not only do the Czechs know their beer, they also know their food. It tends to come in big portions, consists of a lot of meat, potatoes and knedlíky – steamed and sliced bread-like dumplings. Another beer is needed to wash it down. Soups are also very common. My favorite was the garlic soup.
- Walk or bike the streets of the old town
Despite its industrial history, Ostrava has a very beautiful old town, especially the main square, which is full of pubs and cafeterias to chill out and drink some coffee or beer. A bike can help you explore the city center and help you reach the old mine sites.
- Get inspired by the modern art
5000 m2 of a former Bauhaus store have been devoted to contemporary art. Temporary structures around gallery PLATO include the Library area with over 10 000 art books and space to study them and the Garden of the Future showing an apocalyptic perspective on a world without humans. You can also find a lovely bistro among the sculptures and have a snack while “digesting” the art.
- Get an adrenalin rush at the sky walk and on a downhill scooter ride at Stezka Valaška
At around half an hour’s drive from Ostrava are the Pustevny mountains. A ski lift will bring you 1 km above sea level where numerous attractions await. One of them is a walking trail with a short sky walk from which you can enjoy the beautiful scenery. Add some adrenalin by taking a scooter ride down the mountain. Make sure your brakes work well!
- Go shopping
Ostrava is home to a few recently opened shopping malls full of well-known brands as well as local specialty stores. A few stores around Ostrava retain some Soviet “charm”. Dig out some pearls there or at the boutique stores in the center.
- Go somewhere else
When you feel like you’ve had enough of Ostrava, taked advantage of its central European location to travel somewhere else. A few hours’ drive will take you to Krakow, Brno, Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava and other great places! Train and bus connections are good and ticket prices affordable.