‘Hidden gem’ city crowned Europe’s ‘Capital of Christmas’

When you think of Christmas city breaks, your mind might immediately go to the bustling streets of Prague, the sparkling streets of Krakow or the more than 20 Christmas markets of Vienna. However, the winner of Europe’s ‘Capital of Christmas’ for 2024 is a city that is much quieter than its neighbours.

Brno may be best known as the second-largest city in the Czech Republic, yet despite this, it enjoys a slightly slower pace of life.  When visiting Brno earlier this year, Express.co.uk reporter Phoebe described the city as a “hidden gem”, adding: “After visiting, I’d have to agree that it is an excellent spot for those looking to dodge a mass of tourists.”

The Czech city was awarded the status as ‘European Capital of Christmas’ by members of the international jury of the European Capital of Christmas at a meeting held in Madrid earlier this month.

The quality of Brno’s festive activities and their relevance to European values were just two of the deciding factors in the jury’s decision.

Katarina Hobbs, CzechTourism Director for UK & Ireland said: “Brno, our second largest city in the Czech Republic is something of a hidden gem for people who might think Prague is the only place to go in Czechia.”

She added: “Gradually, the city is becoming more popular and growing in stature all the time. There’s just as much to see in Brno and it’s an exciting new place for people to take city breaks. It has a delightful atmosphere and visitors will be sure of a warm welcome.”

What to do in Brno at Christmas

You can start by simply walking around, taking in all of Brno’s sparkling Christmas lights and decorations. Coupled with the ornate architecture of the city, there really is a sense of magic in the air in Brno.

In the heart of náměstí Svobody, or Freedom Square, lives a Christmas tree located in the same spot as the very first public Czech Christmas tree was placed back in 1924.

This year, the tree towers 13 meters high and was brought from the woods of nearby Bílovice nad Svitavou.

At Dominikánské náměstí (Dominican Square), you can see the famous life-size nativity scene sent to Brno by Czech woodcarver Jiri Halouzka. The nativity set is unique in that it is the second biggest of its kind in the world.

And of course, what is a Christmas city break without a Christmas market? Zelný trh (Vegetable Market), has its own twinkling Christmas market dotted with stalls. You can also find additional festive stalls selling decorations at the courtyard at the Old Town Hall.

Along with its magical Christmas offering, the modern city of Brno has also shown considerable commitment to its own cultural heritage and global identity.

It is known for its modernist buildings, like the restored  Villa Tugendhat, and the mediaeval Špilberk Castle, but the city is also home to an array of Baroque-period buildings, such as the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul which houses baroque altars, and several stunning buildings in the main square which are home to modern cafes, bookshops, bars, and even a unique roleplay hotel. You can read all about how to spend a weekend in Brno here.

How to get to Brno

Ryanair flies directly from London Stansted to Brno.  At the time of writing, Ryanair has flights to Brno for just £14.99 on select dates in January 2024.

The average flight time is just two hours and five minutes and journeys are easy to book directly with your chosen airline, or if you want to make sure you have the absolute best price, you can always compare prices with Skyscanner.

Alternatively, you can fly to Prague with British Airways, Jet2 or easyJet and then connect to the city of Brno by train. If you are looking for a deal on a flight to the Czech Republic with another airline, you can find out about the latest British Airways sale here or read our full guide to all of the latest deals and sales with Jet2

At the time of writing, Jet2 has flights to Prague from as little as £40 per person on select dates throughout December 2023 and January 2024, when flying from a number of UK airports.

British Airways is offering cheap flights to Europe, with some one-way tickets on sale for as little as £29 per person. Dates and routes may vary.

British Airways’ latest flight deals mean you could jet off to Prague from £41 per person on select dates in November 2024 or from £44 on select dates in February 2024.

Then, once you have arrived, take the train from Praha Hlavni Nadrazi to Brno Hlavni Nadrazi. These run every 30 minutes and can be booked online on Czech Railways website or you can compare prices and find deals with the booking platform Omio.

Where to stay in Brno

There is no shortage of places to stay in Brno, with options for luxury hotels, budget hotels and rentals available. Barceló Brno Palace is the perfect central spot for visitors to lay their roots in the city. The hotel is at the heart of the city, close to a range of atmospheric bars, authentic Czech restaurants, and modern coffee spots hidden in Baroque buildings. 

If you’d prefer to stay in a holiday rental, Apartment Brno is one of the top-rated apartments on Booking.com, with a score of 9.3. The apartment can be rented out from £80 per night, is within 1.1 km of the city centre and has family rooms.

Alternatively, both Booking.com and Hotels.com are great places to hunt around and compare prices.


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