While not exactly a tourist attraction in its own right, Palacký University influences life in Olomouc as strongly as universities in Oxford, Austin and Oulu. 20,000 students in a city of 100,000 people is the highest percentage in the Czech Republic and when you ask someone to describe Olomouc, ‘university town’ is usually among the first things they say.
It’s the oldest university in Moravia and second oldest in the entire country, with only Charles University in Prague having a longer history. In 1566 a Jesuit college was founded in Olomouc’s former Jewish quarter to help re-catholicize the city after the war between the Catholics and Hussites. In 1573 the Jesuit school was upgraded to university status and began its 400yr+ tradition of educating the nation’s doctors, lawyers, teachers, and historians.
The most famous students of the university are Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics and the prominent military commander Albrecht of Wallenstein. The university today is known especially for arts and humanities, with linguistics, political sciences, environmental sciences, and medicine also attracting students form abroad..
While there are now faculties spread right across the city the former Jesuit college houses the Fine arts faculty and is a focal point for cultural activities around the university. The courtyard is open to the public and is one of the nicest in Olomouc. It’s the one place you can look over the city walls from the top, there’s a preserved medieval gate tower, a discreet fountain and a café/restaurant with tables outside under shady trees. Painting, sculpture, theatre and music are taught in the building and you’ll often hear snatches of piano, violin or cello music escaping from the upstairs windows.
Inside the building are a student club (open to the wider public), a theatre and a small cinema which is used for film club events and in the six or seven small film festivals that take place throughout the academic year.
The best of the film festivals for non-Czech speakers are the Festival of Animated Film in early December, and the International Documentary Film Festival in spring, with some open air screenings in the courtyard.
Student bars and music venues
The student library in the former Theresian Armoury also has a beautiful ivy-lined courtyard with a fountain and café, and while they are not strictly part of the university there are several student bars around Olomouc that are worth knowing about. That is if you’re interested in meeting local students?
The most popular and long-established is Vertigo almost directly across the street from the entrance to the fine arts faculty. It’s a small and smoky bar known for having some of the cheapest beer in the old town. In the cellars beneath the library Klub 15 Minut is one of the best live music venues in the city and the U-Klub, outside the centre on the law campus hosts larger concerts and a raucous student dance party every Tuesday night. Kaldera is the newest of the student bars and has a beautiful sunny outdoor area beside the mill stream near the city park.
771 47 Olomouc
Tel. 585 631 111, or 587 441 111