Have you ever heard of Ostrava?
Nope me neither!
Or at least I hadn’t until I headed there as part of my eastern Europe summer tour.
Tucked in the corner of Czechia (formerly known as the Czech Republic), this unassuming little city barely makes it onto the tourist radar, meaning it was exactly the sort of place I wanted to visit after my time in the country’s most travel-famous city of Prague.
And wow, these 2 Czech cities couldn’t be more different!
For what Ostrava lacks in fairytale beauty, it more than makes up for in authentic charm and gritty realness.
So if, like me, you’re looking to counterbalance the sometimes sickly over-crowded and over-snapped nature of Prague with some real Czech vibes, then get Ostrava on your list… you won’t regret it!
Here’s 9 totally underappreciated things about this city I LOVED!
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#1 The Art and Creativity on Offer
Let’s be clear, Ostrava is not a typical art lovers’ destination… but this place is booming with creative talent.
It feels like just about every corner has a pop-up gallery, exhibition or sculpture on it.
Otherwise, there’s young designer stores, street mosaics, urban murals and even contemporary art pieces hidden in ordinary city locations care of a platform called Kukacka, which means cuckoo in Czech… cute!
Sometimes it feels like just walking the streets of Ostrava is an artistic endeavour, so keep your eyes peeled for hidden miniature buildings on the top of street lamps, the famous painting of Madonna and art under the arches of the museum – walk too fast and you’re likely to miss them!
And don’t miss the Gallery of Fine Art as well as stores City Folklore, TY Identity and CVRK, or one of the many other wonderful antique and vintage stores either!
#2 The Delicious Coffee Culture in Ostrava
Delighted to say that Ostrava has a roaring coffee industry – I mean honestly, who knew?!
Yes, this seemingly traditional city is shaking off its provincial, unrefined image and launching itself anew with funky cafes and delicious coffee being brewed up all over the shop.
But the best thing is that while gentrification will surely come, right now Ostrava is still raw and real in its spirit.
That means that the people who like coffee are the ones in the cafes, not the people who like to Instagram coffee rather than drink it!
Proving this point is the fact that Ostrava actually hosts its own Barista Cup annually and winners around town proudly display their awards.
With so many great cafes it’s hard to choose my favourites in Ostrava, but my pick of the bunch have to be U Cerneho Stromu, Kofi Lab and Industrial Café.
And if coffee ain’t your thing, then check out the amazing tearoom of Cajovna U Sykorova Mostu instead!
#3 The Real Authenticity
Because as I said, one of the most underappreciated things about Ostrava and one thing I hope it never loses, is its authenticity.
With a proud mining heritage and a population described as distinctive, people from Ostrava are known for being down-to-earth, straightforward and tough!
One of the last remaining havens for tobacco smokers in Europe until recently, the people of Ostrava also like to party and the city used to be known as “Schnaps Stadt” – the city of booze!
Perhaps this gives you some idea of what Ostrava is like… or what it used to be like!
For while things are changing in this city, much of the past remains and there is a gritty urbanness and a rough industrialism that lends an exciting edge to this city.
There’s also a distinct lack of chain businesses here and instead, small local companies predominate, which adds to the feeling of authenticity and earthy charm!
All in all, this means Ostrava is really hard to resist falling in love with!
#4 The Top Location of Ostrava
Another truly underappreciated thing about Ostrava, a practical element that can’t be overlooked for us travellers, is how well-positioned this city.
Yes, slap back on the crossroads between Prague and Poland, if you’re heading off on an eastern Europe trip, Ostrava makes the perfect stopover on the way to either Krakow or Warsaw. Indeed the Polish border is only 8km from the city.
In the other direction, Ostrava is also very near to Slovakia, with the amazing mountains of this country, as well as its cute capital of Bratislava only an hour or 2 away.
#5 The Varied Food
And while we’ve spoken about the great caffeine offerings of Ostrava, I haven’t got onto the great culinary offerings yet!
And what offerings they are!
I was totally bowled away by the variety of foods on offer in Ostrava and how varied and delicious they all were. And this is coming from a vegetarian travelling in Czechia!
So from raw cafes like Superfood Bar Black Kale, to veggie restaurants like Burfi, through to traditional Belgian fries at Faency Fries, Italian treats at Pupik or hearty soups from Polivkarna, it’s all on offer in Ostrava and all independently-owned too – hoorah!
#6 The Price
And for a budget traveller like me, surrounded by some much good food, coffee and beer, one can start to get worried about one’s wallet!
But not in Ostrava!
Located in the east of Czechia and with not a hint of the Euro around (this country uses Czech Crowns if you were confused for a minute there), this city is wonderfully cheap to explore and would be a great spot for digital nomads or intrepid backpackers looking to discover some off the beaten Czech destinations.
Ostrava is also great for those who want to visit a Czech city without the price tag of the capital Prague!
I’m calling it a budget travel win!
#7 The Rich History
One thing I love about travelling to lesser-visited destinations, in particular, is learning the unique stories that each place has.
In fact, you quickly realise that no matter how small a town is, or how off the map it might be, each spot has its own tale to tell.
And Ostrava is no different.
In fact, Ostrava’s story is fascinating and definitely one of the most underappreciated things about this city.
With a rich mining heritage, old mine shafts scatter the city and can now be visited by tourists.
So too can the slag-heaps – hills made from waster coal mine material – where hiking the trails up to the top to admire the views and see the smoke still rising from the smouldering piles is a popular pursuit!
Otherwise, another great place to take in the history of Ostrava is from the viewing platform of the New City Hall.
Or why not try Landek Park or Dul Michal? These national heritage sites have been preserved in exactly the same way as when the workers left after the last day of mining.
And finally, don’t miss the life-sized statues of miners that dot the facades of many of Ostrava’s stone buildings, including on the grand Elektra Palace.
#8 The Squares and Public Spaces in Ostrava
And when we talk about the history of Ostrava, I can’t fail to mention the many public squares and spaces that dovetail into the heritage of this city and are definitely one of the most underappreciated things about it.
From Comenius Park to the Most Milose Sykory Bridge, the Cooltour Cultural Centre to Mala Kodan – each has its own vibe, but all are worth checking out.
#9 The Films and Festivals
And finally, the last thing on my list of the most underappreciated things about Ostrava in the Czech Republic is the cultural scene, including all the festivals that take place in this city.
From the epic cultural centre of The Gong – which is formed in the shell of an old mining plant – to music festivals, film festivals, dance festivals, street theatre festivals and many more, it seems like there’s always something going on in Ostrava.
I actually attended one of the biggest festivals here – Colours of Ostrava – and can definitely attest to the fact that this unique site certainly adds a lot to any event held here.
There’s also a cute independent cinema located in Ostrava that I loved, as well as countless bars boasting live music.
And who could forget the delicious local craft beer you can wash it all down with?!
So the only question that remains is… which festival are you coinciding your visit with?!
Mini Travel Guide to Ostrava
When to Visit Ostrava?
I highly recommend visiting Ostrava in the summer months of May through September.
This is when most of the city’s festivals occur and when the weather is good enough for you to enjoy strolling the centre and the beautiful countryside around.
How to Travel to Ostrava?
If you’re already in Prague, then it’s easiest to take a train from city’s central station to Ostrava.
This is a comfortable and direct journey that only takes 3 hours.
Book your train tickets for Czechia using Omio – they make comparing trips, times and prices really easy in English.
Alternatively, you can also drive to Ostrava from Prague.
If you opt for this, then I recommend stopping in at the cute historic city of Olomouc on the way.
If you’re looking to pick up a good rental deal in Czechia, have a look at Discover Cars.
If you’re coming from Poland, then you can fly into Katowice airport which is just an hour from Ostrava and is serviced by many budget airlines. As always, I use Skyscanner to find the best deals on flights.
Alternatively, you can get public transport or a private transfer from the city of Krakow, which is just a couple of hours away.
How to Get Around Ostrava?
With a small city centre, it’s easy to navigate Ostrava on foot.
There’s also a great tram system here, which you can pay for onboard using contactless.
Where to Stay in Ostrava?
If you’re looking for a budget accommodation option in Ostrava, then Kampus Palace deserves a strong mention here.
Designed as student accommodation, you can nevertheless rent a small apartment here for your time in Ostrava and with modern, clean facilities, great wifi and a super central location, it’s an absolute no-brainer for the price!
For something with a bit more comfort and space, take a look at the Sting Boutique Apartments, which get great reviews thanks to their top service, location (some have cathedral views) and value for money.
4 Packing Essentials for Ostrava
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Ostrava and will need a good camera to do this unique city justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Ostrava, it’s as simple as that! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. I love mine.
#3 Good Water Bottle – All the city sightseeing is thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because Ostrava tap water is drinkable… and free!
#4 Good Backpack – And to carry your water bottle, camera and guidebook, you’re going to need a decent backpack that will help you balance the weight as you walk the city streets. In my opinion, you can’t go past the Bobby Anti Theft Backpack, which is also perfect for helping you avoid pickpockets too.
Travel Insurance for Czechia
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Recommended Tours of Czechia
If the sound of Ostrava appeals to you, then check out these top-rated tours to other destinations (besides Prague!) in Czechia too.
Alternatively, if you haven’t visited this country before and would like to see Prague (you really must visit at least once in your life), then have a look at these great Czechia tours that do include the capital in their itinerary.
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So there you have it, the 9 underappreciated things I loved most about Ostrava in the Czech Republic.
Have you visited this quirky city?
Did you love its undiscovered vibe too?