If I had to pick one Czech city that surprised me the most during my visit, it’s definitely Zlin. And you know why? Because it’s an incredibly progressive city that has everything young people like – great food, first-class cafes and especially a sense of architecture, fashion, design and art – and you don’t find that everywhere in the Czech Republic.
I visited Zlín for the fourth time this year when I was creating content for my travel app Placehunter, and I’m finally putting together a little guide that you can be inspired by whether you’re just passing through or it’s your weekend destination.
What to see?
1 Tomáš Baťa Memorial
If you only had time for one thing, it should be the Tomáš Baťa Memorial. It is unique not only in historical terms, but also thanks to its architectural design. It was built just a year after the death of the founder of the famous shoe brand Baťa, the mayor and visionary, who tragically died in his private plane near Otrokovice airport as he was going for a business trip to Switzerland. From the outside, it resembles a large glass case that glows like crystal over the city at night. The interior is dominated by white columns and a massive staircase. A Junkers mock-up plane and a few period accessories such as lamps play an extraordinary compositional role.
The monument underwent reconstruction in 2016 and today holds all sorts of exhibitions and events. We were lucky enough to see it empty, making the elements of this functionalist structure stand out. You can buy a ticket for the guided tour at Infopoint just a few meters to the left of the Monument.
2 Krajská galerie výtvarného umění (art gallery)
Zlín is packed with design and art. For example, in buildings 14|15 of the Baťa Institute, you can go see Toyen, Úprka, Čapek or Zrzavý, get to know young authors, or see the development of Zlín architecture. The permanent exhibition “Princip Baťa” at the Museum of Southeast Moravia offers you an introduction to Tomáš Baťa from all angles. On the walls in the background of the gallery, you can admire the metre-tall letters of House of Art that once dominated the glass-walled Tomáš Baťa Memorial building. Whatever it is you’re coming here for, the premises of a former factory with lighted rooms and admitted air conditioning make art look very nice.
3 Baťa houses
The famous Baťa houses are now private, so you won’t be able to get into their interiors, however, there is an Infopoint that will give you an idea of what it felt like to live in one. Baťa was obsessed with order, and everything that passed under his hands had a meaning and purpose. Even the houses, intended for factory workers, are incredibly elaborate. You can use the Zlín architectural manual to walk around the Letná district where these houses are located.
4 Baťův mrakodrap
If you’ve never ridden a paternoster, you should definitely visit Baťův mrakodrap, aka the 21st Building. Its 17 floors are no longer officially considered as a skyscraper today, but in its years it was the second tallest building in Europe! From the 16th floor there is a spectacular view of the city, and the famous and only elevator office in the world is certainly worth seeing, equipped with a desk, a map of the world and a functioning sink and air conditioning. It was said to be used for faster communication between heads of different departments.
Where to eat?
Zlín also has a lot to offer in terms of cozy bistros and cafes. If a burger doesn’t offend you, then be sure to go to the Bůrger. You can sit in Komenský Park, which is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon. We enjoyed the coffee very much at Kafec Zlínský or KAFÖ, where you can have a good meal in addition to your choice of coffee. I also have heard a lot of good things about bistro jedním tahem, or the Valacha Bistrotéka, but we never made it on our visit.
To conclude this, I would like to recommend the website zlinsko-luhacovicko.cz, where you can find all cool places in Zlín, Luhačovice, Vizovice, Otrokovice or around Valašské Klobouky. It was from this site that I myself drew inspiration when planning our trips. I haven’t seen a website this well designed in a long time! If the site isn’t enough for you, then check out their Instagram feed for up-to-date travel tips or links to blog articles.
One last thing to say – Zlín hosts this amazing Festival of Architecture every year. As the title says, architecture will be in the lead role. The program is really awesome and admission is free! 🙂
P.S.: If you’re planning a multi-day trip to Moravia, check out my article “7 Places in Moravia you should see”!