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Getting There

Driving to Brno from Prague is simple but a bit nerve-wracking. The main country's main freeway, the D1 (also called the E50), in theory, whisks you the 200km (120 miles) from Prague to the center of Brno in around 2 hours, but traffic can be heavy and road-construction delays are frequent. Be especially careful in winter when icy roads make the drive particularly treacherous.

If you're not a fan of white-knuckle driving, train travel between Prague and Brno is much more relaxing and takes just 2 3/4 hours. Special high-speed Pendolino trains (www.pendolino.cz) cut the journey to about 2 1/2 hours. Trains leave approximately once every half-hour during the day and hourly in the evenings. Any train heading to Budapest and Bratislava and the majority of Vienna-bound trains will stop in Brno. Most trains depart from Hlavní nádrazí (Main Station), though many also leave from nádrazí Holesovice. Second-class express fare is around 300Kc. Brno is an excellent jumping-on spot for onward trains to Bratislava (1 hour), Budapest (4 hr.), and Vienna (2 hr.).

Brno's aging train station is long overdue for a thorough face-lift, and there's even talk of shutting down the station altogether and moving it to another location. The good news is that it's within easy walk of the center of the city, at the foot of the main pedestrian walk, Masarykova ulice. To reach the center from the train station, follow the signs to "centrum," first descending into a confusing passageway of shops and kiosks and then climbing the stairs on the other side, which brings you into the old town.

Buses are as convenient as trains and have the added advantage of being cheaper. Most buses depart from Prague's Florenc station to Brno every hour. The trip takes 2 1/2 hours and costs around 140Kc. Reservations are recommended during peak hours. Buses will either drop you at the city's main bus station (located behind the train station) or in front of the Grandhotel Brno. Student Agency (tel. 800-100-300), which in spite of the name sells tickets to travelers of any age, is the leading local operator for buses to Brno and back to Prague.

Visitor Information

The Turistické Informacní Centrum (Tourist Information Center/TIC; tel. 542-211-090; www.brno.cz or www.ticbrno.cz; Radnická 8; open 9am-5pm Mon-Sat, 9am-3pm Sun) is situated in the Old Town Hall. The English-speaking staff hand out free maps with excellent walking tours already sketched out. The staff can also advise on hotels but usually will not book rooms. There are also two computers on hand for checking e-mail. The tourist office has branches at Nádrazní 8 (tel. 542-221-450; open Mon-Fri 9am-1pm, 1:30-5pm), across from the main train station, and at the Exhibition Grounds, Hall E (open during fair times).

Special Events

Usually when the words special events and Brno are mentioned in the same sentence, the phrase trade fair isn't too far behind. Many fairs held at Brno's BVV exhibition grounds are world-class displays of technology, industrial machinery, and even well-groomed pets.

Brno celebrates music as well, hosting the Janácek Music Festival each June and the Brno International Music Festival (Moravský Podzim) in September and October. However, probably the most attended event occurs each August when the Motorcycle Grand Prix tour rolls into town to tackle the Brno Circuit. For details on all events and a list of fairs at the BVV fairgrounds, contact Informacní Centrum or go to www.brno.cz.

Orientation

Brno is a large rambling city, but most sights are concentrated in its inner core. At the center is námestí Svobody (Freedom Square), connected to the train station by Masarykova ulice. Just west of Masarykova is Zelný trh (Cabbage Market), the largest square in town. Cars can't pass through the Old Town, but tram no. 4 barrels through with little regard for the pedestrians in its way.

The city is small enough for walking. All hotels, restaurants, and sights are close to each other, so you will likely not have to use public transportation. The only exception is for those staying at the Holiday Inn or Voronez.

If you need information on public transportation, the Tourist Information Office can provide a good map. Brno has a comprehensive network of trams and buses (www.dpmb.cz). Tickets range in price from 14Kc for 10 minutes of travel on one tram or bus without any transfers, to 18Kc for 15 minutes including transfers and 22Kc for 60 minutes with transfers. You can buy tickets at kiosks and tobacconists, or from yellow ticketing machines at some stops. You can also buy 30Kc tickets from the drivers allowing for 60 minutes of traveling including transfers. Be sure to validate your ticket on entering the tram or bus.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.