What Lies Beneath: Seven Unique Attractions From Brno’s Underground

Brno has many hidden secrets from history, including a wealth of fascinating architectural treasures beneath our feet. From the 13th century Ossuary to nuclear shelters, each underground attraction has its own unique story and architecture, reflecting the rich cultural heritage of Brno. Here we bring together some of the most famous and interesting, to help you get acquainted with Brno’s underground. Photo: Denis Bomb Shelter. Credit: Michal R / TIC Brno.

  1. Underground reservoirs at Žlutý Kopec 

Have you ever wondered how people used to meet their water needs and those of a big city without the availability of any of our modern technology? The underground reservoirs beneath the grassy banks of Žlutý Kopec, constructed in the 19th century, are a fine and unique example of a brilliant water storage system developed for mass population.

Underground reservoirs in Žlutý Kopec. Photo Credit: Jan Caga / brnenske-podzemi.cz

The reservoirs served as an extra water source for the City of Brno, after the water from the Svratka river. However, they ceased operation in 1997 after being disconnected from the water supply network. These underground halls powerfully evoke the remnants of some long-dead civilization from another world, and have even been likened to Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern.

Underground reservoirs in Žlutý Kopec. Photo Credit: Jan Caga / brnenske-podzemi.cz

The underground reservoirs in Žlutý Kopec topped our list as they won the first prize in the Tourist News 2020 poll on the Czech Tourism website.  

  1. The Labyrinth under Zelný trh

You might have visited the famous Vegetable market (“Zelný trh”) at the very center of Brno, but did you know that there is an ancient cellar complex beneath it?! Zelný trh is one of the oldest squares in Brno, with a very long history, and started life as ‘Horní trh’ (the Upper Market) during the 13th century. After descending 212 stairs down into the darkness, the passageways of the Labyrinth under Zelný trh lead you to unique and mysterious places, including medieval cellars. 

The Labyrinth under Zelný trh. Credit: Pavel Gabzdyl / brnenske-podzemi.cz

These cellars primarily served as storage spaces for their owners and local merchants as well as shelters during wartime. Occasionally during special events, tourists are offered a taste of Moravian wine during their visits to the wine cellar. Moreover, you can also find the remains of the alchemist’s laboratory, which recalls the doctors, pharmacists, and physicists who lived in Brno and made the city famous throughout Europe.

The Labyrinth under Zelný trh. Credit: Pavel Gabzdyl / brnenske-podzemi.cz

  1. The Ossuary at the Church of St James, Jakubské náměstí

Central Europe’s bloody and violent history of war and disease gave the City of Brno a big problem: where to bury all the dead bodies from the great pandemics and wars of the Middle Ages? The answer can be found at the Ossuary at the Church of St James, believed to date back to the 13th century, the second-largest ossuary in Europe after the Catacombs of Paris. This site of reverence contains the remains of over 50,000 people buried during the cholera and plague pandemics, as well as victims of several different wars. The site, under Jakubské náměstí (St. James Square), is well preserved, and can give you insight into how people were buried during medieval times.

The Ossuary at the Church of St James. Credit: Michal R / TIC Brno. 

  1. The Mint Master’s Cellar, Dominikánské náměstí

Are you curious to know how coins were minted during the medieval era? The Mint Master’s Cellar (“Mincmistrovský sklep”) and the reconstructed cellars of the New Town Hall, under Dominikánské náměstí, remind us of the almost-forgotten craft of coin mining in Brno and Moravia, and at the same time are a reminder of the historical development of this urban locality, from the Middle Ages to the present.  

The Mint Master’s Cellar. Credit: Pavel Gabzdyl / brnenske-podzemi.cz

The exhibition at the cellar complex includes an audiovisual presentation of the history and present of the City of Brno, followed by an experienced mint master demonstrating the art of coin mining.  

  1. 10-Z Bunker, Spilberk Castle

The 10-Z Bunker was built during World War II to provide shelter for 500 people during a time of emergency, complete with its own water tank, diesel unit, and a telephone exchange. Fortunately, it has never been used for its original purpose. Until 1993, it was classified by the Czech Army as top-secret. 

10-Z Bunker. Credit: 10-z.cz

At the entry of the shelter, you are given a map that allows you to explore the shelter on your own. The complex also includes doors from the death cells from the former prison in Brno’s Cejl with messages from those sentenced to death. It is even possible to stay in the facility overnight, if you would like the unique experience of staying in a nuclear shelter.

10-Z Bunker. Credit: 10-z.cz

  1. Denis Bomb Shelter, Nové Sady

For another fascinating trip to a nuclear shelter, you could visit ‘Denis’, a 66-year-old shelter that has been preserved as untouched as possible: empty corridors, old equipment, personal belongings stored here and there… every effort has been made in the name of authenticity. The shelter was excavated into the massif below Petrov in three stages between 1946 and 1955, gradually extending to the current system of 900 meters of corridors, going down to 35 meters in some areas. The complex has three entrances: a main entrance from the corner of Nádražní and Husova, as well as emergency exits leading to the Capuchin Gardens and directly into the cellars of the Capuchin Monastery. In the event of a serious emergency, up to 3,000 people could hide in the corridors.

Its long and empty corridors now serve as a place to keep stonework fragments of the King’s Chapel (Královská kaple), which used to be displayed on the corner of Veselá and Dominikánské náměstí.

Denis Bomb Shelter. Credit: Michal R / TIC Brno. 

  1. Temple of Stone, Spilberk Castle

The Temple of Stone, the first publicly accessible water tank facility, is definitely worth a visit to see the impressive stonework by artists from the past. These two water tanks were made in 1870–71 and 1900 to store water for the city, and were in use until the 1920s. The lapidarium is a collection of around 30 stone artifacts, which include sculptures, sarcophagi, epitaphs, milestones, tombstones, and more, exhibited together in the same space.

Temple of Stone. Credit: Michal R / TIC Brno.

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