The Moravian-Silesian region of the Czech Republic is a spectacular area that is greatly under-visited by travellers. While the vast majority of foreigners are quite familiar with Prague and the Bohemia region, few venture to the country’s east. Those who do simply pass through on their way to Poland or Slovakia. Fortunately, due to the country’s size, the Moraian-Silesian region is easily accessible as a side trip from Prague!
In the south, the low, rolling Beskid mountains are dotted with picturesque medieval villages. The kind of towns where the locals seem completely indifferent to the goings on outside their borders.
Further north, the rugged Jeseniky range is quickly emerging as the adventure capital of the entire country. With some of the highest peaks in the region, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s playground.
Fortunately for us, we had the opportunity to explore this wonderful region.
Alternative Czechia – the Moravian-Silesian Region
Set up a Base in Ostrava
Until fairly recently, Moravia-Silesia was known as the “Ostrava Region,” after the city of the same name. We spent a bit of time in this third largest city in the country while attending TBEX this past summer. Ostrava’s location makes it the perfect base for exploring the Moravian-Silesian region. However, you should certainly consider giving a few days of your time in this former industrial capital.
The old town square is packed with the classic European architecture found throughout the country. Dolní Vítkovice, the former steelworks turned event venue, is an absolute must-visit during your time in Ostrava. Wandering the industrial complex is truly an experience you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the continent.
When you’re tired of all the unique sights, you’ll have no problem finding some outstanding food in Ostrava. You’ll certainly find the traditional Czech restaurants, serving heaping portions of hearty stew and dumplings. With the newer generation taking the reigns, hip new bistros and cafes are popping up across the city.
Explore Sovinec Castle
During World War two, this 14th-century castle was converted into a prison camp for French officers. With all of that behind us, it is slowly being reconstructed and used primarily for tourism. The castle is open during the weekends and holiday Mondays from April to October and costs 100czk per adult and 50czk for children under 15.
If you get the chance, we recommend booking a guided tour. During the tour, you get to find out what each of the rooms in the castle was used for and get to witness weapon demonstrations of shooting and fencing.
If you opt out of the tour, you will still see an interesting swordplay presentation, where bottles are filled with water and sliced in half. Some of the swordsmen slice them while stationary and some try to catch them on the end of their swords, some even slice them in the air! It’s quite an entertaining display and something especially interesting for kids.
As you are walking around the castle you will also see demonstrations of traditional methods of cooking over open fire, the making of armour and the sharpening of weapons. Also, keep an eye out for the resident birds of prey.
After checking out the duals and catching a view from the lookout from the top of the castle, it’ll be time to grab a snack. And there is no shortage of food! Grilled, smoked cheese, ribs, sausage, beer and more are all available in different parts of the castle. There is no going hungry at Sovenic castle, not these days anyway!
Hiking in the Czech Republic – Lysa Hora
Known as the “Queen of the Beskids,” Lysa Hora is the highest mountain in the range. Located near the village of Ostravice, there are several reasons to visit this area, but the real attraction here is the hiking.
There is a multitude of trail options on several sides of the mountain, catering to all skill levels. While we chose to take the eight-kilometre ‘easy’ route, there are many steep and technical trails available as well.
A lot of people use these trails for altitude endurance training and will actually run the entire distance to the summit, only to turn around and run back down! Not my style, but it’s wildly impressive!
During our visit to the summit, we spent the evening night at the Emil Zátopek-Maraton Lodge. While the food is quite good and the beer cold, the dining area itself is cafeteria style – fitting for the ski-hill location. However, the rooms were spacious and incredibly clean, with large, comfortable beds and a hot shower. It was perfect after the long hike up.
Watching the sunset is a nice touch, but the real gem is waking up early enough to catch the brilliant sunrise!
Picnic at the Slezska Harta Dam
The Slezska Harta Dam is one of the largest reservoirs in the country and is located deep in the Jesenik mountains. This is a great place to spend a day, go for a swim, and bring a blanket and picnic.
For only a couple dollars rent a paddle boat with a slide off of the back and paddle to the middle of the dam. You can even bring your fishing rod and fish here. Located on site is a small shop where you can buy drinks and snacks.
Hike Bila Opava Valley to Peak of Praded
The gorgeous hike starts off from the spa town Karlova Studanka. It begins quite flat and climbs gradually, alongside a clean, clear running stream. The water is so clean in fact, you can drink from it!
There are numerous bridges switching back over the stream as you climb up the hill. Farther up the hike you will reach places where you will have to climb up a ladder and scale some rocks. Although this does get a bit more challenging, it’s still a lot of fun. The last leg of the hike, as it opens up to a restaurant, is a paved road to the tower of Praded.
Praded is an old radio tower sitting high up on the mountain with amazing views of the whole of the Jeseniky mountains. You can grab a beer and some food from their restaurant and if you feel exhausted from the hike you can even stay the night. If you choose to stay the night make sure to be outside for sunset, it is just spectacular!
Relax and Detoxify at Karlova Studanka
Karlova Studanka is a tiny village made up of less than 250 residents and is said to have some of the cleanest air in the country. The beautiful, early-19th-century buildings make this little mountain town very appealing to the eyes. Their claim to fame is the apparent healing spring water which you can sample from the drinking pavilion. As well, due to the quality of the air, the town also has a facility with some of the best medical care in the country for respiratory illnesses.
You can swim in the saltwater pool, or relax in the salt cave then get pampered in one of the seven spa houses with a massage, or hop in a Carbon Dioxide bath or get peat moss wraps to detoxify your body.
Karlova Studanka is also the starting, or ending point for the Bila Opava hike, so come for the hiking and stay for the relaxation. A great day would be to catch a ride to the top of Billa Opava and hike down to finish in this amazing spa town.
Visit the Birthplace of Freud
Just a little south of Ostrava, you’ll pass the little town of Pribor. Though you likely don’t recognize the town itself, you surely know it’s famous son. The legendary neurologist and founder of the practice of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud was born here.
Though on our visit we didn’t have a lot of time to explore the rest of Pribor, we certainly visited the former home-turned-museum. It’s not the most fascinating museum in the country but does have a fairly informative and interactive self-guided tour available in many different languages.
Explore the “Town of Hats,” Novi Jicin
The “Town of Hats,” Novy Jicin, is a wonderful town with a magnificently preserved town centre. Only 30 kilometres from Ostrava, Novy Jicin is a great place to spend a day wandering the cobbled streets and marvelling at the architecture.
For history buffs, there’s an interesting exhibition of famous Austrian General Ernst von Laudon, who died in Novy Jicin. However, the real feather in the cap (pun intended) is the local hat shop. Novy Jicin has been making traditional felt hats since the early-19th century and continues to do so today. While technology has improved the process of the craft, they have a informative showcase of the classic production methods. I was legitimately impressed with how interesting felt hat making is!
Even if you aren’t going for the educational experience, simply visiting and seeing their selection of custom hats is worth a visit. From conservative bowlers to all-out flamboyant feathered top-hats, they’ll put almost anything on your head!
Explore the town of Stramberk
Stramberk is definitely one of the prettiest towns in the entire region. Situated in a deep, green valley, the colourful houses dot the hillsides as the steep roads wind through the town. It’s one of those little towns where the locals move at their own pace. It doesn’t feel like there’s any schedule to follow or that anyone is in a hurry. They’re all just enjoying life in their little village.
The main attraction, aside from simply taking in the relaxed vibe, is the Trúba tower. Perched high above the valley, this medieval relic is all that remains of a former castle of the same name. Be sure to climb to the top of the tower for spectacular views of the entire countryside.
As a popular destination for local weekenders, there are several boutique hotels scattered throughout Stramberk, as well as some really fantastic restaurants. I highly recommend the pork knee from Mestsky Pivovar, right in the main square.
Try the Stramberk Ears
Much like Champagne, Cognac and Parmigiano-Reggiano, Stramberk ears are a protected name and can only be produced in the Moravian region. Not only that, but its history comes with a rather gruesome legend.
In the summer of 1241, to protect their town, residents destroyed a storm dyke, which flooded the camp full of invading Mongols. In the wake of the flooding, bags of severed ears were found scattered about the abandoned camp – collected as trophies for their Khan.
Residents soon began a yearly celebration where they would bake these sweet, spicy treats, in commemoration of this victory. With only a few certified makers, this delicious gingerbread-like snack is much more than a simple cookie. And given its strongly guarded recipe, you’re unlikely to find anything like it elsewhere.
Go Downhill Mountain Biking at the Koprivna Resort
If you’re looking for more activity than simply hiking or boating, definitely head Northwest of Ostrava to the Koprivna resort. Nestled in the Jeseniky mountains, this place is perfect for activity year-round. As a popular ski destination during winter, come summer the mountain becomes a lively spot for downhill mountain biking.
Stay on-site in one of there several different accommodation options and spend a day or two shredding the gnar in the bike park. In the evenings, relax in the spa and take in the spectacular sunset while enjoying their restaurant.
Check out our full review of the experience!
Golfing in the Czech Republic
Fancy taking a swing at a few balls? Head into the upper Beskids to Prosper Golf Resort near the little village of Celadna. The TWO 18-hole courses are surrounded by steep hillsides and beautiful, dark green forests. Prosper is so well designed, it’s hosted three European PGA touranments!
If you’re like me, and couldn’t hit a ball straight if your life depended on it, you can hack-n-slash all day at the driving range. When you’re done showing off your skills (or tired of making a fool of yourself) you can head into the clubhouse for a fantastic lunch. The steak is unreal!
Give them a shout and book your tee-time!
Delouhe Strane Resovoir
A huge water reservoir built on the top of the Dlouhe Strane mountain in 1996. There are a couple of ways of getting to the Dam, the first – and most recommended – is a great hike to the top of the mountain. However, if you are tired out from the other adventures on this list, you can simply take the ski lift up the side and a shuttle to the summit.
If you can, choose a day when the weather is good, it makes for a better photo opportunity, it’s quite an impressive sight to behold. During construction, they blasted the entire top of the mountain off to store water for the hydro-plant. Also, if you have been to Preded already, you will see it from here across the mountain range.
Now that you have made it to the top of the mountain, you could take the shuttle back down. Then again, why would you, when you can ride scooters the entire way!? Grab a helmet and scooter and head down the 17km, mostly paved road.
Be careful though, these scooters go a lot faster than you expect and don’t always have the best handling. Make sure to wear jeans and a jacket to protect from falling. The views from on the way down are magnificent and should not be a missed adventure.
Czech Tourism, the Moravian-Silesian region, the town of Štramberk, the Novy Jičīn Visitor Centre, Prosper Golf Resort, Praded Hotel and Karlova Studánka – Thank you all so much for this wonderful experience!