Ostravaganza! The Great Overlooked City of Ostrava, Czechia

Main square of Ostrava; see how few people know to visit!

Even most citizens of the Czech Republic, called Czechia in most of Europe, haven’t been to Ostrava, Czechia’s third largest city, with a population of about 350,000, with significant architecture. Unlike other unknown places, you can safely drink the water, eat the food and walk the streets at all hours throughout Czechia. And in a city of this size, there is no traffic, nor crowds.

Ostrava has a long history, but in the last century, Ostrava was a pretty disgusting place, known for its heavy industry focusing on coal mining and iron production. It gained the reputation of the “black” city because merely walking around here would lead you to have black soot on your skin and clothes.

But things have changed! Ostrava is now a booming tourist destination and jumping off point for seeing the wonderful sites of Moravia, the portion of Czechia where it is located. Ostrava is the home of Czechia’s M.I.T., its main technology university, as well as several other universities. The old, massive iron production facility, several acres large with huge towers and pipes everywhere, is now a major convention center and houses two museums, both worth visiting. The old oil storage tank, about a city block round, has been cleaned out and subdivided into meeting spaces and a large auditorium in an ingenious re-purposing of this old industrial space. It’s now called The Gong for short.

Part of The Gong is a re-purposed industrial tower, now the highest in Czechia, named Bolt Tower for Usain Bolt, the famous Jamaican runner who visited and ran the stairway to the top. Not to worry, you can take an elevator. The price of admission includes a voucher worth about $5 to enjoy a drink at the café on top. If you can’t get to Bolt Tower, the tower at City Hall also has a great view.

Even though Ostrava was once called the black city, today it has re-positioned itself as the “green” city. Everywhere you see parks and greenery, and adventure travelers will enjoy a wide range of hiking opportunities in the nearby mountains and along the Ostravice River, which runs through the center of the city. Hike to the top of a 315-meter mountain which is actually a hillside covered with vegetation different than the surrounding areas because in reality the hill is a slag heap of mining debris from the old days of Ostrava. The “Ema Slag Heap” never gets covered with snow in the winter, and the locals call it the “Ostrava Volcano.”

There are plenty of places to hang out at coffee bars; pubs serving superb, locally brewed Czech beer; and excellent restaurants; all at a fraction of the cost you would pay in most places in the world. Ostrava even has an “entertainment” street geared to music, restaurants and bars, akin to 6th Street in Austin, Texas.

Ostrava boasts an excellent fine art museum, museums devoted to mining, a science and technology museum, and many examples of fine architecture. The cathedral is a magnificent example of Neo-Renaissance style and contrasts to the nearby Saint Wenceslaus Church, dating back to 1297 and an excellent example of Neo-Gothic style, a few steps from the marvelous center square, Masaryk Square.

When I stayed in Ostrava, I stayed at the Mercure Hotel, an Accor brand. It is one of my favorite hotel brands in Europe. My stay was excellent, and I recommend the hotel as one of the best in Ostrava. It is well-located and has good services. So I feel good about recommending Accor hotels. That is why I offer a way to reserve with Accor by clicking here,. If you stay with Accor as a result, you will get a good deal, and you will support this blog, as I will get a commission.

Ostrava can be reached easily by a three-hour train ride from Prague, click here for more information, or four-hour train ride from Warsaw, Poland. Come in July, when Czechia’s largest annual music festival, akin to Woodstock, known as Colours of Ostrava, takes place at The Gong. If you are a sports fan, some of the European soccer rounds use Ostrava as their venue. Whatever your motivation, Ostrava will surprise and delight you.

2 Comments

  1. Mike, despite having been to Ostrava for TBEX, I didn’t know half the things you mentioned here. Insightful, is the adjective that comes to mind for this post! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Ajay! That’s what I do…uncover the little known, but fascinating, things about places, people, and travel.

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