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 Olomouc Exhibition Centre includes greenhouse plant collections, ones of the largest in the country. Tens of exotic plant species are sprouting, blooming and bearing fruit here every season. Therefore, they are open to visitors most of the year with the exception of the winter months.
The oldest and largest is the Palm House, a showpiece of the Olomouc Exhibition Centre, built in the Smetana Park in 1927-1930. On an area of 1500 m2 intended for planting exotic and tropical flora, visitors can admire up to 70 pieces of different kinds of palm trees, many of which are now well over a hundred years old. The most massive are the Canary date palms; a unique group in the middle of the greenhouse consists of elegant, slim East Asian Trachycarpus excelsa palms. There are to be seen other interesting species in the greenhouse - Livinstonia australis, with trunk covered by fringy remnants of leaf petioles, and areca betel palm with green glabrous stem and a thin plume of pinnate leaves. Low, thorny, shrubby chamaerops palms (Chamaerops humilis and Chamaerops excelsa), originally from the Mediterranean, grow here in dense clusters.
Other interesting exhibits include the palm-like but evolutionarily more ancient gymnosperms dioecious species of the Cycadaceae family. Hibiscus plants enliven the greenhouse with the beauty of their flowers and the supporting pillars on the greenhouse’s sunny side are decorated with bunches of pink and purple bracts of Bougainvillea lianas, known for example from the Greek islands. In the Palm House, there are also ficus trees, citrus trees - lemon and orange trees, and Araucaria trees.
Monstera deliciosa and the several meters long thorny liana Asparagus falcatus are the most striking among the herbs. The yellow flowering Hedychium gardnerianum produces a heady scent and the shady palms undergrowth hides numerous ferns.
This exotic flora is complemented by exotic fauna - birds, fish, amphibians and spiders who add up to the remarkable atmosphere of the greenhouse.
The Cactus House which builds on the Palm House was set up together with the tropical flora greenhouse in the 60s. Its collection now includes an impressive range of 3,000 pieces of cacti and succulents in more than 700 species, varieties and forms. It includes cacti of America, aloe and euphorbias of Africa and coloured varieties of cacti from Japan.
Perhaps the most important is the collection of the Astrophytum genus. The largest of these neat, greyish cacti with huge fins, with or without thorns, are more than seventy years old. Visitors are often amazed at full-grown, mainly columnar cacti of various shapes, thorn colours and sizes of flowers and fruits. The decorative Echinocactus grusonii species covered by groups of waxy yellow thorns resemble tabouret stools.
The largest species in the collection is the Brasiliopuntia bahiensis with a thorny trunk.
Other attractions of the Cactus House include the Selenicereus grandiflorus, commonly referred to as "Queen of the Night", creeping right above the greenhouse’s entrance. It blooms only one night a year and its flowers are among the largest and most beautiful. Succulent plants are further represented by less grown agave species.
This glasshouse is full of colours, different shapes and sizes of plants and an abundance of flowers. In five interconnected pools, there are blooming tropical water lilies, of which visitors favour especially the greatest of them, Victoria regia, characterized by large floating leaves.
The most abundant group in the greenhouse is that of decorative bromeliads with coloured inflorescences which decorate the plants for many months. The collection includes also the original form as well as brightly coloured varieties of the Ananas comosus species which bears the well known tropical fruit - the pineapple.
Visitors can admire the elegant Dracaena and the bananas-related South American herb Heliconia psittacorum. In spring, the Tropical House gets decorated by pendulous pink flowers of the Philippine shrub Medinilla magnifica. Among herbs, the most noticeable in the greenhouse are the big-leaved species of the Araceae family - Alocasia macrorrhiza and the dark purple Xanthosoma violaceum.
Originally conceived as an "Israel's Garden", today this glasshouse is sometimes called the "Citrus House" due to its characteristic species. Visitors can please themselves with plants from the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. Today commonly known tangerines, lemons and oranges alternate with less known citrons whose large, up to two kilograms heavy, fruits are used in perfumery. Kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis) also attract the attention of visitors by its large tomentose leaves. This luxuriant creeper can be planted in our country too, but rather as a decorative plant. Mediterranean flora is further represented by common fig with very tasty, sweet fruits, Olea europea – olive tree with glaucous leaves, Laurus nobilis, known as laurel or bay leaf - a very hardy plant suitable for containers and winter gardens, gorgeously scented and insect repellent rosemary or a large myrtle shrub, popular in wedding bouquets.
Diospyros lotus or date-plum boasts tomato-like fruit of bright orange colour, known as "kaki" in our country. Behind the pool there is to be seen tamarillo - Cyphomandra betaceae, a shrub with large leaves and elongated red-orange berries. The way back to the exit of the greenhouse is lined with "strawberry trees"- Psidium cattleyanum with black-purple fruit of excellent strawberry flavour and fragrance, as well as with camellias, ferns, dwarf bamboos and excellent lemon tree Citrus meyeri.