April 2011 marked the grand opening of a large maze of underground tunnels, corridors and rooms, known as the “Labyrinth underneath Zelný trh”. Visitors can look forward to mysterious nooks and crannies of medieval cellars. Surprises are prepared for underground world explorers and enthusiasts, including a genuine medieval pillory. Guided tours through the labyrinth are offered every 60 minutes to groups of five to twenty-five people. The entrance to the labyrinth can be found in the building at Zelný trh 21.
Zelný trh is one of the oldest squares in Brno. It was first mentioned in 13th century sources, at which time it was named Horní trh (Upper Market). The present-day name was given to the square in the 15th century. It has always been a very busy place where vendors offered their produce and other goods on a daily basis.
The cellars underneath the houses around the perimeter of the square were built since the medieval times. Most of them were dug during the Baroque period. Typically, they were used as storage units for food, for the maturation of beer and wine or as hideouts during wars. More often than not they were used as cool storage rooms for the busy marketplace above them.
Originally, these individual cellar units were not connected. They remained unknown for centuries until they were discovered during present-day research projects. In order to preserve and open this landmark to public, the city had to reinforce it to eliminate the risk of destruction.
In 2009 the cellars underwent complete renovation to allow present-day use and they were connected into a unique network of cellars and corridors, hence the term “labyrinth”.
In fact, the labyrinth comprises two distinctive parts. The first one – located in the lower part of the square near the Reduta Theater – hosts social gatherings and cultural events. The second one is where tour guides dressed in medieval clothing take tourists back in time. The route underneath the square leads towards a group of historical houses known as Malý Špalíček.
The part of the labyrinth were guided tours are offered gives tourists a better idea as to how these cellars were used when they were built. They will find out how food was preserved in times when cellars were used in lieu of present-day refrigerators: beer and wine barrels were placed on oak-wood grates, along with foodstuffs in various canisters and bags. Tour guides will also instruct them in various sources of light used in the labyrinth, from the first torches to candles and oil lamps. The tour includes an exhibition of items found during archeological surveys of the square.
The tour includes a visit to an “alchemist lab”, which serves as a reminder of medieval doctors, pharmacists and experimenters who worked in Brno and made it famous throughout Europe. An old wine cellar and pub serve as reminders of the winemaking tradition of the region. Darker chapters in the history of Brno are told by replicas of the city’s pillory or the “fools’ cage”, both of which were installed on the market in the 17th century. Finally, tourists will learn about forms of punishments of cheating vendors, craftsmen and traders.
Audio-guide devices are offered to foreign tourists in five languages: English, German, Russian, Italian and French.
Contrary to popular myths and legends, there are no scary creatures in the labyrinth. You will be accompanied by tour guides in historical clothing.