When you think about the Czech Republic, your mind probably springs to Prague’s iconic Charles Bridge or the cheap beer which attracts hordes of tourists and stag and hen parties every year, or Brno’s famous phallus-shaped astronomical clock. However, another city may be firmly planting itself on the digital nomad map. Prague, not surprisingly, is the Czech Republic’s digital nomad hotspot, followed by Brno (according to NomadList). But the country’s sixth city – Olomouc – is quickly becoming increasingly popular with tourists and exchange students, and looks set to attract digital nomads as well. Here’s why you should definitely consider Olomouc as your next destination.
Apartment rental costs vary widely wherever you go, depending on what you’re looking for, but some places are still generally cheaper than others. Olomouc is one of those places; there’s something to suit everyone’s budget, even those with very shallow pockets. To give you some examples, I paid under $250 for a fully-equipped studio flat in the historic center through Airbnb when I spent ten days here in March. I’m currently spending two months here in the city, and renting a flat – again a studio in the historic center – through someone I know, and paying approximately $320 per month. Looking at the long-term rental site www.sreality.cz, you can get some lovely flats for between 8,000 – 10,000 Czech crowns (approximately $360 – $450) per month. This is the same price you might pay for a room in Prague, so you’re getting more for your money in the end. Of course, you can also bring costs down further by renting a room rather than a whole apartment.
If you prefer to stay in hostels, there are three good options.
There are two backpacker hostels – Poet’s Corner and Long Story Short. Both are located in the historic center and offer cheap dorm beds (approximately $16 per night). There’s also a boutique hotel, Miss Sophie’s, again in the historic center and has had rave reviews since it opened just under two years ago. In my opinion, it may be an idea to compare prices between these accommodation options and AirBnB apartments; sometimes, particularly in high season, there’s not much difference in price, so may make more economic sense to get an apartment. But if it’s the social aspect of staying in hostels that you’re looking for, you have three excellent options right in the center.
Low cost of living
There are, of course, hundreds of cities which offer great value when it comes to cost of living. But if it’s the Czech Republic you’re planning on setting your digital nomad roots down in for a while, you might want to think twice before immediately heading to Prague.
In my experience, Prague is getting more and more expensive – on average, a beer is twice the price in Prague than it is in Olomouc when drinking in like-for-like pubs in the historic centers – so if you want your money to go further, head to Olomouc instead. And it’s not just the beer that’s cheaper. The Czech Republic, in general, is known for its lunch deals, and the majority of Olomouc restaurants offer soup and a main meal for less than $5. When drinking, the average beer costs approximately $1.30; an evening meal in a good restaurant with three beers will set you back about $15.
Food shopping is cheap when compared with western standards; I currently spend about $30 per week, but this obviously depends on how much and what you buy. A one-way transport ticket is around 60 cents, with the monthly pass costing about $15 (whether you would need one is another thing altogether – more on that later). As in a lot of places, it’s becoming common to include utilities in the rent payment, but if not, you’re probably looking at paying an average of $80-100 per month altogether.
Olomouc itself is a real gem of a town. Imagine a mini-Prague without large groups of tourists waving selfie-sticks blocking every path. It has a wealth of beautiful buildings and strolling around the historic center’s cobbled streets is a treat, whether on a snowy winter’s day or a balmy summer’s one.
Olomouc is the second largest and oldest historic preservation center in the country, so there are naturally many architectural gems to be found. It’s particularly famous for its collection of baroque and modern fountains in the central and lower squares, as well as the renaissance town hall with its astronomical clock and the UNESCO-listed Holy Trinity Column. If churches are your thing, its cathedral is over a thousand years old and boasts the tallest spire in Moravia. Olomouc is an extremely compact city, so you can easily navigate the city and see these sights on foot. And while you’re walking around, you should be able to spot some of the street art which is dotted around the city.
As well as looking beautiful, Olomouc has an engaging array of things to do. Walking tours exist if you want to know a little bit more about the history of the city. There are also various museums, art galleries and theatres, and a summer outdoor cinema. A short bus ride away from the center is the zoo, located on Holy Hill next to the basilica minor, one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Central Europe. If it’s sporting excitement you’re looking for, the city’s ice stadium offers one of the country’s most popular sports – ice hockey – for a low price.
I’ve already mentioned the low prices of beer in the city. But it’s not just the prices which are great. Olomouc is rumored to have between 50 and 70 pubs in its center alone, discounting the pubs which exist in the outer suburbs. So if you visited three different pubs every day, it would probably take you about three weeks to see them all.
Of course, with this number of drinking destinations, there’s a wide variety to choose from, from old man-style pubs to flashy cocktail bars. They even have what they call ‘bar herna,’ 24-hour bars with gambling machines. Personally, I love the old man-style Czech pubs, catering to the local Czech clientèle, as they tend to have the cheapest beer and the coziest environments. However, I’m also quite partial to some of the great cocktail bars around. My current favorite is 47 Opic (47 Monkeys), a specialist gin and tonic bar. Another favorite is Rasputin, a Russian-themed bar. There’s also a number of microbreweries in the center; more on that later. Basically, there’s no way you could get bored here.
Dedicated co-working space
For any digital nomad, a good working space is essential. If your living space doesn’t offer what you need, then you might be interested in a co-working space. At present there is only one dedicated co-working space in Olomouc – Vault 42 – but it provides entrepreneurs and freelancers with everything they could possibly need, equipped with meeting rooms, permanent work spaces, three kitchens, a cafe, LAN and WiFi, a wine cellar, gallery space, and even showers. You can have a free test day, then you can rent either by the day or month. It’s also possible to rent the meeting rooms by the hour. They even hold regular events for digital nomads to meet up and socialize.
Great cafe culture
If co-working spaces aren’t for you – as a proofreader and writer, I don’t necessarily feel the need to use them myself – then Olomouc has an abundance of cafes with good WiFi and pleasant surroundings. My personal favorite is Coffee Library, set in the grounds of one of the buildings of the city’s university, with a great patio in the courtyard of the university for those lovely summer days. It also has some of the best cakes I’ve eaten here in the city, plus the staff members are extremely friendly. Other pleasant cafe spots include Cafe La Fee, Cafe 87 and Cafe Jak Lusk.
A mixed community
Of course, it’s always great to try and get to know the locals whenever you spend an extended time in a particular place; it’s an excellent way to get to know the city itself. However, Olomouc has what you might call a very different expat scene in that half of the expats happen to be Czech.
In the city there are very popular language evenings – for example, the Facebook group Only English. Olomouc runs an English meeting in a different pub or restaurant every Monday – and there is also a couchsurfing community here. So unlike other cities like Prague and Krakow, where you regularly see large groups of expats hanging out with each other, Olomouc is more of a balance. It is probably the place where I have the widest group of friends and contacts; aside from the Czech Republic and the UK, I’ve met people from Ireland, Slovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, China, the USA, France, Finland… the list goes on. So if you like having a diverse group of friends, Olomouc is an excellent place to be.
Cultural events and activities
Olomouc is the largest student city in the Czech Republic by population percentage, and this is probably one of the reasons why there are a number of cultural events taking place throughout the year.
One of the most popular is the AFO, a film festival which takes place every spring. Mostly it screens documentaries covering a wide range of topics. As the festival takes place in numerous venues across the city, there’s plenty of options to choose from. Also in spring is the famous Flora festival, showcasing beautiful flowers in the city’s parks. Olomouc is also home to the Moravian Philharmonic, and a series of classical concerts takes place during May and June.
Another relatively recent addition to the events scene is a monthly comedy event. Run by a comedian from Hong Kong who moved to Olomouc, English-speaking comedians of different nationalities are invited to perform once a month at Divadlo na cucky, a theatre in the city’s lower square. This has proven to be hugely popular. If you fancy trying your hand at stand-up comedy, the organizer has also held workshops on writing and performing comedic material.
Other events include the yearly Burning of the Witch, held in April to celebrate the beginning of spring and to banish evil spirits; the annual Beerfest and wine festival, usually held in May; and December’s Christmas markets. There are also activities such as vintage fairs, poetry readings, dance nights, and an English-speaking writer’s group, so you can be sure to find something which peaks your interest.
The best beer in Europe… probably
Czech beer has a reputation for being excellent, with good reason. Craft beers are becoming more and more popular in the Czech Republic, and Olomouc boasts many fantastic microbreweries and pubs specializing in local craft beer. The most well-known ones are Moritz and Svatovaclavsky, both in the historic center and both serving delicious food as well as producing their own excellent beer on site.
My favorite craft beer pub is Local Lokal, an industry pub with a different selection of beers each week. A little bit out of the center is Pivovar Chomout, where they make one of the most popular beers in the area – obviously named Chomout. As it is such a popular beer, the majority of pubs in Olomouc serve it, so while it’s definitely worth getting up to the brewery if you can, if you’re feeling lazy, you can still enjoy it in the historic center.
I believe Olomouc is truly a great place to base yourself as a digital nomad.
It’s a beautiful historic city with plenty of eating and drinking options, a vibrant cultural side, an option for co-working, and, best of all, living there won’t break the bank. So if you’re wondering where to make your next digital nomad home, Olomouc would be a perfect choice.