Olomouc (pronounced oh-loh-moats) is a handsome district capital, with some beautifully restored baroque houses along its broad central squares and the country's largest Trinity column—another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its laid-back, small-town feel and the presence of a charming, inexpensive pension right in town make it an easy choice for an overnight stay.
Olomouc owes its relative prosperity to its loyalty to the
Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the revolutionary days of the mid-19th century, when the rising middle classes throughout the empire were asserting their independence from the nobility, the residents of Olomouc remained true to the ruling Hapsburgs. During the revolutions of 1848, the royal family even fled here from Vienna for protection. Mozart, Mahler, and other famous composers stopped by on occasion, leaving behind a musical heritage that is still alive today with an active classical music scene.
The most prominent open space in Olomouc is the triangular Horní náměstí (Upper Square). Four of the city's half-dozen renowned baroque fountains, depicting Hercules (1687), Caesar (1724), Neptune (1695), and Jupiter (1707), dot the square and the adjacent other large square, Dolní náměstí (Lower Square) to the south.
A discount card called the Olomouc Region Card is valid for most tourist sights in and around the city, and is available for 180 Kč for 48 hours and 360 Kč for five days. Admission to the Town Hall tower, botanical gardens, zoo, Hrad Bouzov, Hrad Šternberk, and other sites is included. The card also provides discounts at some restaurants, pools, fitness centers, and hotels. You can buy the card—and get more information on discounts and deals—at the main tourist information center at Horní náměstí 1 and at many hotels, travel agencies, and tourist venues. The information center also can tell you about local tour operators that organize half-day outings to the area's castles.