Latest update: 1 November 2022
The steel heart of the Czech Republic. The black city of the Czech Republic. The nicknames refer to the industrial character of Ostrava. Rough and raw. And fully in development. That is why it’s a good idea to add a visit to Ostrava to your Czech Republic bucket list NOW. Find out what to do in Ostrava.
Where is Ostrava anyway?
Never heard of Ostrava, no idea where it is? I get it. I only heard about it when I got invited to a press trip to discover this unknown part of the country, so I had to look it up too. Ostrava is in the northeast of the Czech Republic, in the Moravian-Silesia region. It is the second largest city in the country after Prague and Brno. From the major cities, you can easily reach Ostrava by train. Or take the Flixbus: it takes me 4.5 hours to travel from Vienna airport to Ostrava.
Ostrava is upcoming
Not so long ago, industry in Ostrava was in full bloom: coal, iron, steel, factories, and mines. Much of it has since closed and has either been demolished or repurposed. Because the city was so focused on industry, it is mainly a functional city. Lots of straight lines and no frills. The buildings are usually blocky, the streets long and straight.
But, if you look around, you will also see that the city is modernizing. A cool mural, a lovely coffee cafe, and a prominent art museum. You may have to put a little more effort in as a tourist in Ostrava to discover the nice places, but I like those contrasts. And it means that the city is not yet overrun by tourists, it is just upcoming, and it’s great to see how the city is developing.
You can do a lot in Ostrava: active, culture, nature, and culinary. I want to give you some inspiration so you’ll get the most out of your visit to Ostrava!
Tip 1 – The Masaryk Square
Masaryk Square is in the center of Ostrava. This large square has impressive light-colored buildings and some shops and restaurants. It doesn’t really radiate a lot of atmosphere in the autumn rain, but I can imagine it is pleasant in the summer at the outdoor cafes.
The square has a plague column: a memorial that is made when an epidemic that ravages a city comes to an end. In this case, the plague. This is the Mariánský column, which has been back in its original position on the square since 1992. The plague column was placed here in 1702, but in 1960 it was removed and made its way back via a castle nearby and the zoo’s repository.
Tip 2 – Tower of the new town hall
The tower of the new town hall of Ostrava is more than 85 meters high. And yes, you can visit it to have a beautiful view of the city and the mountains. Even better news: there’s an elevator. The viewing platform is at a height of 73 meters. A guide will accompany you and explain some things, and of course, you can also ask questions. Check the website for current opening times and prices.
Tip 3 – The museums of Ostrava
Ostrava has an excellent, varied range of museums. What about:
- Science & Technology Center: especially fun with children.
- Toy Museum: a small museum with toys from around the world. For a bit of nostalgia.
- Railway Museum: full of model trains and the history of the railway in the region. The information is mainly in Czech.
- Brewery Museum: beer, beer, beer.
- Gallery of Fine Arts: Ostrava’s oldest gallery with mostly modern art.
The Gallery of Fine Arts exhibitions can be found in Dům umění. Some collections are always free to visit, but for some, you have to pay. On Sundays, your entire visit is free. The museum has more than 24,000 objects: from paintings, drawings, and sculptures to media objects. During my visit, one of the rooms showcases local artists’ work; in another room, I see work by Gustav Klimt. In another room, I am confronted with the facts about animal suffering with impressive photography. That really hits me.
Tip 4 – Coffee in Ostrava
Thirsty for a nice cup of coffee? I tested several coffee cafes for you. Because the vending machine coffee in the hotels… phew. Horrible. So definitely check my blog about coffee cafes in Ostrava.
Tip 5 – Rafting on the Ostravice river
The Ostravice River crosses through the city. An excellent place to find some greenery and take a walk. But you can also raft and kayak on the river. There are several water sports options. You can arrange it on the spot or contact Tzunami Ostrava (contact details). Fun for the active water lovers among us!
Tip 6 – Climb a volcano in Ostrava?!
Ok, admittedly, the Ema isn’t actually a volcano. It’s a mine rock mountain, a slag heap. It means that waste has been dumped from the coal mines for years, and now it’s a mountain of 315 meters. The garbage deep in the slag heap is still smoldering, and smoke comes out. So now you understand why it’s referred to as the volcano. It is not dangerous to climb it. Many people use the hiking trails to get to the top and enjoy sunset views. There is also a small box on the top of the volcano where you can write your name in a booklet.
You can park the car nearby and start the walk. Or start at one of the three walking routes: behind the Sýkora bridge, the castle, or the zoo.
Tip 7 – Ostrava’s highlight: Dolní Vitkovice
Dolní Vitkovice is a massive industrial complex. For years, this was where iron was produced and coal was extracted. Until 1998. Then it was ready for demolition, but luckily someone bought it to preserve the site and give it a new purpose. So now it houses a climbing gym, the Science Center, cafes, and more.
But the coolest thing is actually the complex itself. The buildings are impressive and photogenic. You can walk around on your own or join a tour. Here’s more information about the tour options. I would for sure buy a ticket for the Bolt Tower. The tower got its name from the athlete Usain Bolt. He regularly trained in Ostrava and has put his signature on the tower. A bit random if you ask me. But the tower is cool.
You take the elevator up to 80 meters and then walk around the tower on a walkway that you can see through – if you have nerves of steel. It is not at all suitable for people with a fear of heights like me. But, you can also just have a drink in the Bolt Café and admire the Dolní Vitkovice from behind glass.
Tip 8 – Into the mines: guided tour in Landek Park and the Michal mine
“If you haven’t been to Landek Park, you haven’t been to Ostrava.” That’s quite a claim. But it’s true. The mining history is so crucial to Ostrava. Landek Park is outside the city center, and public transport takes a long time, so I recommend arranging a taxi or rental car.
There is a museum on the site, and you get the chance to enter the Michal mine. Lagislav, who was with the mine rescue squad for twenty years, takes us into the museum. It’s nice to walk around with someone who has worked here. He clearly enjoys being a guide and takes plenty of time to explain every detail. I’m just sad about the language barrier. In the museum is a memorial stone for the people who died in the area’s mines and all kinds of equipment.
With another guide, we enter the mine. I think we are about 5 or 6 meters underground, but the elevator we take wants us to believe that we are descending 600 meters. Unfortunately, we have a fairly large group and no English-speaking guide. They should be available but do ask about them when you make a reservation to be sure. Another option is to bring an audio guide. Here you will find all information about the tours. You can skip the train unless you are with children. We thought it would make a site tour, but it is a small circle around the building. The older men who oversee it are a roguish duo.
Tip 9 – Restaurant tips in Ostrava
There are several excellent restaurants in Ostrava. For example, try Hogo Fogo Bistro (Google Maps location). This is a modern restaurant, cheerfully decorated and serving generous portions.
You get real pub food at Frankie’s (Google Maps location). Think burgers and grills. Sturdy and a little greasy but tasty.
I eat well at the Belgian restaurant La Petite Conversation (Google Maps location). If I hadn’t known it was a Belgian restaurant, I would have guessed French. It feels like a cozy living room restaurant. Breakfast is supposed to be excellent here.
Looking for vegan food? You are in the right place at the restaurant chain Forky’s (Google Maps location). It offers many choices, but because you order at the counter, I would choose another restaurant for a nice long evening dinner. Good for lunch or just a quick dinner.
Tip 10 – Festival Colours of Ostrava
We have so many fun festivals in the Netherlands, but Ostrava has its own to match. The Colors of Ostrava festival is organized annually on the grounds of Dolní Vítkovice. What a cool location! It’s a great chance to see some famous artists: from OneRepublic to The Killers. In 2022, a few Dutch folks also took the stage: Martin Garrix and Chef’Special. So if you have plans to go to the Czech Republic in July, see if you can get a ticket.
Tip 11 – Day trip to Karlova Studánka and the Jeseníky mountains
The spa village of Karlova Studánka is about a two-hour drive from Ostrava. You see spas everywhere, thanks to the extremely clean air and the (stinky but apparently very healthy) spring water. It attracts many people: people who want to spend a nice day at the spa, but also people who have problems with their respiratory tract and are undergoing treatment here.
I skip the spa and breathe in the fresh air of the Jeseníky mountains. You can enjoy beautiful walks in the area. The Bílá Opava trail is about five kilometers long and goes through the forest along a river. Even on a rainy day, it is a nice hike. There are waterfalls, mushrooms, and even deer along the way.
A little further, there is a bike park at the Mountain Resort Kopřivná pod Praděde. You can mountain bike through the forests and mountains. You can even ski during the season. Please make a reservation in advance. If you want to stay a little longer to do all the activities, the hotel is also a great place to stay. It has a small spa, and the rooms are neat.
Tip! You can arrange a rental car at SunnyCars or Easy Terra. These are reliable car rental companies where you can fix all the necessary insurance at once. So you don’t have to fight over it at the counter anymore.
Tip 12 – Day trip to Štramberk
In the Beskydy Mountains lies the cute village of Štramberk. Sweet, petite, and ideal for a day trip from Ostrava. Count on about a 45-minute drive. It only takes about two minutes to walk around the square, so why go to Štramberk? Because of the beer spa, the cookie ears, and the castle. I’ll tell you more in this blog about the cute village of Štramberk.
During my press trip, I stay in two different hotels in Ostrava: the Imperial Hotel and Mercure Ostrava Center. The Imperial Hotel is traditional, and the Mercure hotel is modern. I want to give the rooms in the Imperial Hotel a makeover. It’s all perfectly fine, but it has been out of fashion for years in terms of design.
The Mercure hotel is a lot newer, and the bathroom is luxurious. The breakfast buffet is very extensive; I wish I was more hungry in the morning!
More Czech inspiration?
Useful links for your Czech trip
- Travel guides. Call me old-fashioned, but I still enjoy flipping through paper travel guides. Get them at Bol.com, Amazon, and Book Depository. The latter has longer delivery times but is often cheaper.
- Flights. Compare all your options! Definitely check out Momondo, Skyscanner, and Kiwi.
- Train and Bus Travel with NS International or FlixBus to the Czech Republic. And reserve bus seats with Busbud, 12Go or Omio.
- Accommodation. All-time favorites: Booking.com, Natuurhuisje, and Airbnb. Or try BelVilla. Would you rather stay in a hostel? Check Hostelworld.
- Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. For tours with locals, go to WithLocals. For ‘free’ walking tours, try Freetour.com, and for bike tours, try Baja Bikes.
- Attractions and museums. Be sure to check out Tiqets for entrance tickets to museums and attractions (get a 5% discount with coupon code KIMOPREIS22)
- Car rental. My go-to car rental companies are EasyTerra and Sunny Cars as they have all-inclusive / worry-free offers.
- Travel gear. Buy your gear at Bever or Decathlon, or simply at Bol.com.
- Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? The Dutch among us can try: ANWB vakanties or Sawadee, or maybe Tui and Vakantie Discounter?
Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, I might receive a small commission – at no extra costs to you of course!
Czech Tourism invited me to Ostrava. They created the schedule but had no say in what I’d write in my article.