Olomouc at the top
Three years, three excellent awards by the world’s prestigious guidebook. Lonely Planet made a list of the most beautiful, yet lesser known tourist destinations. It wasn’t the hot springs of Iceland, Gibraltar Rocks, Odysseus' Ithaca or Luxemburg that ranked in first place but the historical center of Olomouc!
The mini guidebook, Secret Europe, presents tourists with fifty cities from different parts of Europe. The largest, world-renowned guidebook publisher attracts tourists to Olomouc by saying that “in terms of tourism Olomouc can be equated to an authentic restaurant which is your own, small, personal secret. The Main Square is amongst the most enchanting in the country. It is surrounded by historical buildings. It is adorned by the Holy Trinity Column listed as the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Magnificent churches, many of which host an exciting history, are scattered in the streets of the historical center. Explore the foundations of the ancient Olomouc castle in the Archdiocese Museum which is a must-see and then set out to one of the many pubs or mini-breweries”. In 2012, the publisher also awarded Olomouc by ranking it in the top ten most beautiful hidden treasures in Europe. One year later it was once again on the list of the recommended destinations in Moravia. “It’s beautiful as well as surprising for us. Lonely Planet is to tourist guidebooks what Michelin is to gastronomy. I perceive it as a win in the tourist Olympics,” responded Olomouc mayor, Martin Major, when he first heard of the award. “I am very pleased that the professional editor-in-chief of this publication truly appreciates the beauty of our city, its picturesque atmosphere and its uniqueness.
Apart from other things, Olomouc captivated them by the fact that it offers the same architectural treasures as Prague but without the crowds of tourists. It is definitely Olomouc’s advantage in comparison with our capital. However, despite repeated acclaim from the renowned guidebook, it may only be temporary”, mentioned the mayor, Major, with a smile. The deputy mayor, Jan Holpuch added, “I believe that this is an opportunity to introduce our beautiful city to many other tourists.” “I think that being awarded as a hidden treasure or undiscovered city will give Olomouc an even stronger stamp of attractiveness and will evoke more interest in potential visitors.”
Olomouc has been trying to advertise its beauty in a high-quality and systematic way. In the past years, this attempt has proved effective. Statistically as well as simply looking into the streets of the city center confirms that the number of tourists to Olomouc has truly increased. Olomouc is on the list of destinations offered by travel agencies as for example, one-day trips from Prague or as a part of the Vienna – Krakow route. “Greater advertising in cooperation with the agency CzechTourism certainly helped.
This agency gives Olomouc more space than before”, says Karin Vykydalová, head of the tourism department. “Acclaim from Lonely Planet obviously helps. Ideally, a visitor comes here based on the recommendation, is satisfied here and then recommends Olomouc to his friends back home”, adds Dušan Gavenda of the same department. Lonely Planet Secret Europe can be downloaded for free at: www.lonelyplanet.com/secret-europe.
Horní náměstí (Upper Square)
Town Hall's archway
779 11 Olomouc
Opening hours: daily 9:00am –7:00pm
Tel.: (+420) 585 513 385, 392
Olomouc region Card
Olomouc Region Card is a tourist discount card that allows you to visit Olomouc significant savings. Its purchase to make sure you completely discounted or free admission.
The exact foundation date of the royal city of Olomouc is not known, as its foundation charter has not survived. It happened probably before the year 1246 under King Wenceslas I. The arrival of the mendicant religious orders indicates a gradual absorbing of neighbouring settlements.
After the Minorites, who founded a monastery with a Church of the Virgin Mary “at St. Francis” in the western part of Předhradí, came the Dominicans who settled on Michael‘s Hill between 1238-1240. They were followed by nuns of the Order of St. Claire who settled near by the Minorites.
The St. Catherine's Monastery, first mentioned in 1287, was the latest of the early medieval monasteries. It belonged to the Dominican nuns and was located in the city’s southwest outskirts. The trading centre of the town moved from Předhradí into the new town centre after the Upper and the Lower Squares had been built-up. The Premyslid King Ottokar II granted the city permission to build merchant's houses in 1261. From 1267 comes the oldest known city seal imprint. The motif of the chequered eagle in the city’s coat of arms has been preserved throughout the whole existence of the city until today.
The first mention of Olomouc city walls dates back to 1283, but the city has had its defensive walls earlier than this. According to sources, it withstood an onslaught of invaders in 1253 already. This year, a battle took place at Olomouc between the Czech army of Margrave Ottokar II. and the Cumans led by the Hungarian King Bela. The Czech army surrendered in this battle, the invaders, however, failed to conquer Olomouc.
In 1247, the number of important Olomouc bishops, politicians and royal advisors was extended by Bruno of Schauenburg, the co-creator of the state policy of Wenceslas I and Ottokar II. Bishop Bruno participated in both Ottokar’s crusades to East Prussia in 1254 and 1266-1267 and supported the king's efforts to obtain the Holy Roman crown. He colonized large areas in northern Moravia. The Olomouc bishop's coat of arms, six silver spikes in two rows on a red field, originates from this time as well. Another fire in the Cathedral in 1265 caused the Bishop Bruno to become one of its builders. Under Bruno’s reconstruction the Romanesque appearance of the Cathedral almost disappeared, with the exception of the western face and the crypt.
The date 4th August 1306 assures Olomouc’s place in the history books, infamously however. On this day, the last Premyslid king of Bohemia, Wenceslas III, was assassinated in the house of the Cathedral Dean. A hand of an unknown assassin not only stopped the king's military campaign against Poland, but also caused the extinction of the important Czech royal dynasty in the male line.
The era of the Luxembourg reign was a period of prosperity for the town. In a privilege of King John of Luxembourg from 1314 the city was mentioned as "the first in Moravia“. In 1352 it was declared the capital of Moravia by Margrave Jan as well. The reality, however, was that Olomouc was still fighting with Brno for superiority. Two land registration records were conducted for both parts of Moravia; the regional court had to meet alternately in both towns. Yet business thrived in the city, both local and international, the number of annual fairs was growing and first reports on guild-association of craftsmen appear around the year 1340.
Since 1352 the city was governed by the Magdeburg Law and in 1378 Margrave Jost gave permission to build a Town Hall. Moreover, at the end of the 14th century around 300 breweries had the right to brew and serve beer. We cannot neglect to mention the fact that Jan Volek, Chancellor of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the illegitimate son of Bohemian King Wenceslas II., filled the episcopal seat of Olomouc in the years 1334-1351. He too was close to the Czech ruler. Charles IV, when still a margrave, founded a castle on Tepenc hill near Olomouc on his initiative. During his time as bishop, the Diocese of Olomouc together with the Margraviate of Moravia and Opava principality became a direct fief of the Bohemian Kingdom. The major building works of Bishop John Volk worked among others on the construction of the cloister at St.Wenceslas Cathedral and on the Cathedral vaulting.
During the Hussite Wars, Olomouc was a stronghold of the Roman Catholic Church. Already in July 1415, two Hussite followers were burned at the stake here – a student of the Prague University and his companion. The only wrongdoing of the un-named convicted “heretics” was their public opposition against an anti-Hussite preaching of a priest in an unidentified Olomouc church. After the election of Jan Železný as the Bishop of Olomouc in 1418, there was no doubt that the city stands, in contrast to its surroundings, on the anti-Hussite side. Despite the imminent danger Olomouc remained unconquered. In its neighborhood the Carthusian monastery in Dolany was razed to the ground in 1425 and the Hradisko Monastery suffered considerable damage in 1432. The Carthusians then moved to Olomouc Předhradí, close to the Augustinian Monastery. The economic stagnation was partly offset by granting of additional annual fairs and by a privilege issued by Sigismund of Luxemburg in 1422 which allowed the city to mint its own coins. By the way, it is the oldest preserved city's privilege of minting coins in Moravia.
By the mid 15th century Olomouc became a base of missionary journeys of the vicar general and preacher John of Capistrano in the years 1454-1468. His preaching against Utraquists and Jews found fertile soil here, and in 1454 Jews were expelled from all Moravian royal cities, including Olomouc. On the site of his Olomouc preaching a Franciscan Monastery was founded on Capistrano’s initiative. It was revealed by recent archaeological research that, over many centuries, believers trod unwittingly on Jewish gravestones used during construction as a building material for the floor in the monastery church.
Another turbulent period was the time of the Czech-Hungarian wars. The Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus was even crowned Czech King in Olomouc in 1469. Disputes between the Hungarian and Czech King were settled only by the so-called Peace of Olomouc in 1479. In 1469, however, a destructive fire broke out in Olomouc due to the carelessness of the Hungarian troops. Another big fire disaster occurred in 1492 when more than a third of the city was burnt to the ground. Construction activity in the 15th century included both newly-built and renovated houses of burghers and nobility and many important buildings such as the Town Hall with the Astronomical Clock or the parish Church of St. Maurice.