When choosing the best place to study, the prestige of the university is not the only thing to consider. You also need to think about your future classmates and the city where you will live. According to the highly regarded Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) rankings, Brno is one of the top ten best student cities in the world. In a survey of nearly 90,000 students and recent graduates, Brno ranked sixth, putting it ahead of cities such as Prague and London.
The survey asked students to rate various categories including arts and culture, nightlife, employment opportunities and friendliness. According to this year’s ratings, Brno is a particularly good place to meet new people.
1. Students as far as the eye can see
This year’s QS rankings rate Brno as the city with the highest proportion of students. With around 380,000 inhabitants, the city is also home to up to 80,000 university students during the academic year. As there are six public universities in Brno, the students you meet here specialise in a wide variety of disciplines. Masaryk University (MUNI) is the largest local university with over 30,000 students, which includes about 2,000 international students (plus several thousand students from neighbouring Slovakia who are not included in the international student count). This makes it really easy to make friends.
The MUNI Erasmus Student Network is an organisation that can help you feel at home. “While we mostly work with exchange students, those who are planning to spend several years in Brno are also welcome. We help students become familiar with the university, their study schedule and, of course, Brno itself. We also organise various events ranging from language courses to volunteering at the local zoo and with as many as ten events per week, there is no shortage of things for students to do,” says Adéla Smejkalová, the president of the network.
2. Everything within easy distance
While Brno might not be the easiest place to get to as the local airport is quite small, its location makes it perfect for those who would like to see more of Europe than just one city. Two hours on the bus or one and a half on the train will get you to Vienna in Austria, and still leave you with enough money for a cup of the famous Viennese coffee. Visiting the Slovak capital of Bratislava will also take two hours, while the journey to Budapest in Hungary or Katowice in Poland will take about four. Just a few hours are all you need to get to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, and it takes the same amount of time to reach almost anywhere else in the country including the twelve Czech UNESCO sights, which are certainly worth a visit.
3. Abundance of sports activities
If sport is your thing, there is no need to drop the ball while you are in Brno. The local facilities cater to a wide range of sports including aerobics, floorball, swimming and volleyball. In addition to the private and city-run sports halls and grounds, you can choose from among the hundreds of sports classes on offer at Masaryk University. And if you want to meet up with your friends for a regular game of football, you can hire one of the university gyms at a discount.
“Brno is also great for outdoor activities. I love being outside and a short ride on the bus or train, or even a walk, will take me to a tranquil place where I’m surrounded by nature. Compared to big cities, Brno itself is very green and the air is clean,” says Mert Dogan, a PhD student from Turkey who has been living in Brno for two and a half years.
If you prefer spectator sports, Brno still has much to offer. You should definitely go and see at least one match of Kometa, the Brno ice-hockey club that holds the most titles in the history of the top Czech ice-hockey league. In recent years, the team has competed for the top positions in the league. Brno also boasts excellent basketball and baseball teams while August sees the popular annual Moto GP races in Brno.
4. From the stands to the auditorium
For those who prefer cultural events, there are ballet and opera performances and concerts by the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra on one end of the spectrum and a number of music clubs with a wide selection of concerts and events on the other. Film lovers can see all the new releases from the major film studios and you should not forget to check the programme of the University Cinema Scala in the city centre. The cinema might actually be one of the first university buildings you see as it hosts part of the welcome week for new international students in early September.
Several years ago, the university took over the 90-year-old former city cinema, which was about to be closed down. While the university uses the building to host conferences, lectures and various cultural events, it remains primarily a cinema.
“The university cinema only rarely shows films dubbed into Czech, so you can come and enjoy any film from an English-speaking country. There are also regular live broadcasts of performances at the Metropolitan Opera and the National Theatre in London. Our staff are mostly students and young people, so you can speak English at the checkout, bar and the Scalanteria university shop, which offers a wide selection of Masaryk University merchandise,” says Scala manager Petr Dimitrov.
5. Foodies are welcome
Only a few years ago, finding a delicious meal or a good cup of coffee in Brno would take some time. These days it is overflowing with gastronomic delights and offers something for everyone, from the tempting seafood options in top-notch restaurants to Vietnamese cuisine in GÔ, vegetarian and vegan specialities in Forky’s, bite-sized delicacies in 4pokoje and lots of sweet treats in the ever-popular patisseries.
Going out for a beer is something that will be hard to avoid in Czechia. The selection is wide and includes traditional Czech beers, local craft beers and international brands. One thing you should not miss out on is getting a beer at one of the squares in the city centre, Jakubské or Moravské náměstí, and drinking it outside on the pavement along with the hundreds of other people who sit around with their beer. From spring to autumn, these places have a unique vibe about them.
“Brno is student-friendly. There is an excellent mix of bars, pubs and clubs and you’ll almost certainly find what you like or what you need for any occasion,” says Mert Dogan.
Brno is also part of a well-known wine region and you will find a number of wine bars offering local Moravian wines and other Czech and international options. And if you get too tired while getting to know the city and visiting the bars, you can always sit down and relax in one of the many excellent cafes. You no longer need to go to Vienna to get a good cup of coffee.
6. A little big city
There is no need to worry that exploring Brno and all its attractions will cost you a fortune in bus tickets or new shoes. Even though it is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, it is actually quite compact and pleasant.
Most of the attractions, from sights to cafes, are within a 15-minute walk from the city centre. Most importantly, Brno has an excellent public transport system, so an inexpensive city transport pass will get you anywhere you need by bus, tram or trolleybus. This will particularly come in handy when travelling to the MUNI university campus or perhaps going on a day trip to Brno dam or to the countryside and forests on the city outskirts.
Public transport will also come to the rescue when a party goes on into the small hours. There is always a bus to take you home: the city transport buses leave the main train station every hour on special night routes that cover the whole city. Taxis are only used as a last resort in Brno.
“This is something I really love about Brno. I come from Istanbul, so for me, the city feels really small and it was very easy to find my way around the centre and some of the more distant areas. It’s also great when you need to come home late at night from a party: wherever you are and whatever the time, you can usually do it in 30 minutes.” says Mert.
7. Life in Brno will not break the bank
Costs are undoubtedly one of the factors that you look at when deciding between universities. In this respect, Brno and Masaryk University are certainly one of the more cost-effective options. Dormitories will set you back 70 to 160 euros per month, while shared private accommodation costs from 80 to 380 euros per month.
If you would like to rent private accommodation on your own, the prices could be much higher. Due to the popularity of Brno with students and international employees, rents have been rising steeply in recent years. However, student flats at good prices are still available – you just need to spend a bit more time looking.
With respect to other living costs, the Czech Republic and Brno are an affordable option for students. The basic city transport pass costs around 11 euros for a month, 26 euros for three months and 91 euros for a year. If cooking is not your thing then the student canteen provides meals for one to four euros.
According to Eurostat, prices in the Czech Republic are lower than the European Union average. This is certainly true for restaurants, cafes and – especially – beer, which is the drink of choice for most Czechs. A set lunch menu costs between four and six euros; if you like to dine out, be ready to pay about 15 euros including drinks. Beer is very affordable and half a litre (which is the usual glass size) costs around 1.5 euros.
8. Innovation rules
Brno thrives and prospers not only because of the local students but also because of the local companies. The good location, city support and the presence of universities attracted top IT companies such as Red Hat and IBM to Brno, which is also the birthplace of the global online air ticket search and booking service Kiwi.com. The city is also home to technology companies such as Honeywell and electron microscope manufacturers – the Czech Republic is actually the leading country in the world in electron microscope production.
Many international companies offer attractive work options to students and work with Masaryk University on supervising students’ degree theses. And if you would prefer to run your own business, you can find support for your innovative ideas in Brno too. The South Moravian Innovation Centre has been supporting start-up companies for 16 years.
9. The city and the university in good shape
Most of the faculties at Masaryk University have been refurbished and brought up to date in recent years. Regardless of whether you would like to study IT, economics or languages, you can look forward to new buildings and facilities. Medical and dental students can look forward to something brand new in the new academic year, as their campus is now being extended with a new building that will include a cutting-edge teaching simulation centre.
Brno as a city continues changing and developing, whether it is the parks, the streets or the buildings. Some of the major buildings that were recently renovated include the UNESCO-listed functionalist Tugendhat villa and the Janáček Theatre.
The main train station is also currently being refurbished. While this has temporarily made travelling by train a bit more complicated, all the repairs are scheduled to be finished by mid-December.
10. Brno is safe
The Czech Republic is one of the safest countries in the world and currently ranks tenth in the Global Peace Index. The number of traffic accidents and the crime rate in Brno have both dropped significantly in recent years. The only type of wrongdoing where the rate has remained steady is minor transgressions (about 150,000 a year), which are dealt with by the municipal police. As Mert notes, “Sometimes you can run into homeless or drunk people at night, but I never had any problems, even when I was walking back home late at night from different parts of the city”.