We crossed the bridge with the sun slanting its rays across our path and continued forwards past a pub on the left, an office building on the right. A hundred meters on, we turned right onto an unobtrusive back path with old villas and overgrown lawns. There were yellow signs up ahead – just a little further. Through the gates, I waited until I saw that familiar image of a monkey….
We weren’t walking in an Old World zoo; rather, I was trying to catch sight of the logo of one of my favorite craft microbreweries in Czech Republic. And after being a fan for years, I was finally visiting!
Though we only got to spend a day in Krnov, there’s plenty to experience in this charming little town in Upper Silesia – in existence since 1240 – and I’d like to give you the key.
Let’s take life by the wine opener and drill into the history and sights of Krnov, shall we?
If you’re not Czech and the thought of having to pronounce a word like “Krnov” scares you, I got you.
The easiest thing to do is break it down into two syllables, “Krr” + “nohv.” If you can roll the “r” in that first syllable, you’ll be an expert and impress everyone you meet 💪
1. Tour Nachmelená opice craft microbrewery
Who am I kidding? 😉 This was the main reason for our trip to Krnov (and transit via Opava), and it was 100% worth it.
Nachmelená opice – literally, hoppy monkey, but punning on both the fact that they brew beer and that opice can mean a hangover – was born in autumn of 2015. The řemeslný pivovar (craft brewery) is located in Textilní street across the bridge from the main part of town in a former textile factory (makes sense) once called Karnola.
You approach from the back and will recognize the entrance from its welcoming monkey-themed logo on the delivery trucks and bright yellow paint.
If you reserve ahead of time, Šárka, one of the founders and main administrators, will give you a tour. The brewery is small and narrow, but their success is allowing them to expand, and there was active construction while we were there. Not only are there monkey stuffed animals throughout the brewery, if you’re lucky, you’ll actually see the company mascot in full ape costume hanging around 🙂
Nachmelená opice is known for its large range of beers (some even themed by country), they focus mainly on top-fermented beers, or ales. There is surely something for everyone. Šárka took us through the brewing steps and thought process behind their seasonal beers, including special editions for Easter and Valentine’s Day. From there, we entered a room tightly-packed with tanks of ready beer, and Šárka was generous with samples of their staples, from the Ležák (lager) to the Single-Hop Mosaic, to multiple types of Citra-hopped beer and finally the Sun APA.
In the front, you can buy a brewery t-shirt, sticker, or some chilled beer to take away for yourself.
In CZ, it’s common for pubs to phrase their names with an “u” structure – ex. “u dřevěných vlků” (by the wooden wolves), “u zelené kočky” (at the green cat). But I found this tongue-in-cheek “Pub at My House / Pub by Me” to be a hilarious play on this naming structure. Lazy… or very, very clever?
2. Admire the “Swedish Wall”
What makes the Švédská zeď, or Swedish Wall, Swedish?
Not much…except some old grudges.
This recognizable element of Krnov was actually named after the enemy Swedes who invaded Krnov during the 30 Years War. This Renaissance arcade, made of brick and decorated at the top with half and quarter-circle shapes, began construction in 1523 and was once connected to the local chateau. In the 20th century, it survived a few demolition attempts.
You may also notice the Swedish wall is foregrounded by a fountain with the figure of Neptune at the center, which dates to 1750. This area provides a lovely view onto the large main square.
3. Peek inside the Church of St. Martin
You’ll find this Roman Catholic church conveniently located just behind the Swedish Wall, with its high towers making a bright impression against the sky. Dating to the 13th century, it was pronounced a cultural monument (a protected place eligible for UNESCO funds) in 1958.
Originally built in a Gothic style, The church has both Baroque and Renaissance elements on the outside and inside, including a polygonal chancel. In 1967, two crypts were found in the basement.
4. Visit the Jewish synagogue
There are very few synagogues in Czech Republic that were not ruined in World War II, but the Krnovská synagoga is one of them. (The largest and perhaps most impressive can be found in Pilsen.)
The synagogue was built in 1871 by Ernest Latzel. It was built in a New Roman style inspired by Sephardic Jews, and was a symbol of the prosperity of the local Jewish community. Services stopped here in 1938 with the arrival of the Nazi army, but the synagogue was saved from destruction by its transformation into an archive. A Jewish inhabitant was also able to save the synagogue’s Torah.
As often happens with former synagogues in Czech Republic, the Krnov synagogue was reborn as a place for spiritual and cultural life starting in 2003, including celebrations of Jewish tradition. It contains a permanent exposition about Jewish industry, business, and invention.
See also: 10 Things to Do in Pilsen That Are Not Drinking Beer
I absolutely loved the architecture of the nearby City Library, its exterior embellished with cheerful columns, leaves, and curls. The building dates to 1902, but it has been a library since 1945, with its most recent incarnation dating to 2003.
5. Climb a view tower or two
Vyhlídková věž Radnice / Town Hall Viewtower
Dominating the main square in Krnov, you’ll find the Town Hall (Radnice) next to the old Savings Bank (spořitelna). The colorful and cheerful Radnice was built in the 16th century and restored in the first decade of the 20th century. The viewtower is 52 meters / 171 feet tall and is a copy of the 18th-century Viennese-style viewtower in Währing. This might be the best place to get a picture of the surrounding buildings you can’t quite capture from the square!
Rozhledna na Ježníku / Ježník Lookout Tower
Dating to 1894, the Ježník Lookout Tower is a wooden view tower within an hour’s relaxing walk from Krnov. Standing at a total height of 558 m / 1831 ft tall, it gives a beautiful view over Krnov and the nearby lookout tower on Cvilín Hill. If you’re lucky to visit on a clear day, you might see the Beskydy Hills, the highest point of the Jeseníky mountains (Praděd), and a part of Poland to the northwest.
Rozhledna na Cvilíně / Lookout Tower on Cvilín Hill
See #10 for more!
6. Try to fit the whole Town Hall in a selfie
I dare you!
7. Have a coffee in the Městská Kavárna (City Café)
If you’re as impressed as I was in this gorgeous square – even when it’s half-frozen – you might want to experience the building interiors firsthand. This brightly-lit restaurant boasts an Art Nouveau style from the First Republic era. It’s not just a café – you can get food and beer here as well.
8. …or in the third-wave Malé Café
Krnov has a really lovely and winding shopping street with colorful Viennese-style buildings, extensive arcades and lots of hidden gems.
Halfway down the street, you’ll find Malé Café, its name a play on the phrase “small café / small coffee.” It narrow wooden interior makes it all the more cozy, yet means you have to be a lucky arrival to find a seat!
What I like about the café is the fact that, alongside an extensive list of teas, classic coffee drinks and coffee drinks with a twist, you’ll find a robust menu highlighting its focus on worldliness and sustainability. Meal options range from gourmet hamburgers to Vietnamese pho soup. These options change regularly, as does their rotation of sweets in the glass case at the counter.
You can see the creativity and quirkiness of the café in its dishware, which includes a tin cup (plecháček) in the style of the Communist period, with the silly story of its origins and purpose written on the side. Drawing from both the country’s recent history and forward-looking future, Malé Café is a pioneer among modern Czech coffee shops.
9. Visit the Krnov Chateau
The first mention of the Zámek (chateau) in Krnov is from the early 1300s. Originally built from wood by the Přemyslov rulers, it was rebuilt from stone with financial help from the local citizens in the 16th century. The chateau was apparently so well-planned that this saying emerged about it: „Je jako býčí hlava připravena vzít útočníka na rohy“ (It’s like a bull’s head, ready to take an attacker to its horns). Many aspects of city life took place here, including markets and knighting tournaments. Despite its “bull-like” solidity, a lot of the chateau burned down in 1779! The courtyard, where you can find a café and pub, is open for visits.
10. Climb Cvilín Hill
Above these many sites rises Cvilín Hill, which gives its name to this lookout tower. If you embark on this roughly 40-minute walk from Krnov, you’re in for a treat. Turn it into a day trip: Not only will you find the lookout tower, standing 25 m / 95 ft tall, you can visit the pilgrim Church of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary of Seven Pains (18th century) as well as the grassy ruins of Castle Šelenburk (13th century).
Going to Krnov? What will you include on your trip itinerary?