Once nicknamed the "steel heart" of the Czech Republic, due to its status as a coal-mining and metallurgical center, Ostrava no longer mines for the black stuff.
The city's industrial past lives on in the city center where you will find a coke production and ironworks complex "Dolni Vitkovice" that is a national monument, boasting a collection of historic industrial architecture where you can poke around. This is also the venue for the famous Colors of Ostrava festival, held each year in its sprawling gasometer that has been transformed into an enormous performing arts venue.
Ostrava, sitting in the northeast of the country, is the capital of the Moravian-Silesian region and only a hop skip and a jump to the border of Poland. It is the largest urban area in the Czech Republic, apart from Prague. A modern multi-cultural city with 2 universities, it co-hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in 2004 and 2015 with Prague.
Often overlooked by tourists, possibly because of its rap as a somewhat "dirty" city due to its mining past, Ostrava will surprise you. It is home to one of the best music festivals in Europe and the place where adrenalin junkies get their rocks off rafting down the Ostravice River. For the agile monkeys, the climb to the top of the viewing tower of the new City Hall is worth the effort to see the coalmines and blast furnaces dotted around the area.
If you have ever dreamt of putting a hard hat on and exploring underground coalmines, this is your chance at the Landek Park Mining Museum. It is a 19th Century complex with a makeover into an interactive museum where you can actually take a ride down an elevator shaft and walk a labyrinth of tunnels. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Michal Coal Mine (dated 1843) is where you can check out drilling sections and control and surveying rooms. This is real boys' stuff.
When you finish gawking at Ostrava's industrial past, sit in Masaryk Square people watching whilst sipping your coffee, or head to party central on Stodolni Street for its clubs, bars and restaurants.
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