Brno, the second city in the Czech Republic, has an impressive collection of modern architecture.
Villa Tugendhat is a world famous attraction and one of the highlights of any visit to Brno.
It’s also been referred to as one of the most beautiful houses in the world.
Designed by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who adopted “less is more” as his motto, this villa is a minimalist masterpiece.
It’s one of the classic examples of the international style in architecture (and especially of Functionalism, which Brno is famous for).
From the outside, you see mostly clean, straight lines behind a locked gate.
The side of the building facing the street gives little away. That’s why you need to go inside.
Taking a Guided Tour of Villa Tugendhat
I joined a guided tour in English with a group of about 15 other visitors.
Some were obviously architects or designers and showed interest in technical details, others were there to admire the unique aesthetics of the house.
The tour starts with a view of the city and the garden from the terrace upstairs.
It was a lovely, sunny autumn day and the view was delightful.
We then entered the house through a huge front door, and stepped into a very minimalist entrance hall.
To explore this preserved villa, you have to cover your shoes (there’s a machine by the entrance just for that), because the floors are original, as are the wooden walls and doors.
The furniture, some designed by the architect himself, are mostly replicas.
That’s because the house went through a lot throughout its history… but more about that later.
In the first part of the tour inside the villa, we saw the bedrooms and the children’s rooms.
The minimalist design inside is pretty impressive, but it’s the living space downstairs that’s the most striking part of the villa.
It is very large and very calm, with spectacular panoramic views through the windows and an amazing sense of space.
There are no pictures on the walls.
Instead, it was the architect’s intention that the massive living room windows would frame the view of the garden and the city. They certainly do.
The stylish 20th century furniture, especially the Tugendhat armchairs and the Brno Chair , designed by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, decorate the house with bold colours.
Around a beautiful wooden curved wall, there’s a huge round table which was the family’s dining table, though it looks more like a conference room.
The architect had no financial limits in designing the house and it shows.
In fact, 40 family houses could have been built for the cost of this single villa!
We spent quite a bit of time in the gorgeous living space, and later explored the huge kitchen and other rooms, including the original heating system in the basement, which was way ahead of its time and still functions today.
The tour takes about 1.5 hours and ends in an exhibition room downstairs, where you can see the plans and sketches of Villa Tugendhat.
After you finish the tour, take some time to enjoy the garden if the weather is nice. It’s so calm and beautiful.
The Fascinating Story Behind Villa Tugendhat
The villa isn’t just a beautiful house with beautiful furniture; it has a very interesting background story too.
Greta Tugendhat, daughter of a wealthy industrialist, grew up not far from there, in Villa Low Beer.
That’s another famous house in Brno that you can visit (and I’ll write about visiting it in my next post about architecture and design in Brno).
It is an Art Nouveau building and Greta Tugendhat wanted her own home to be completely different.
Her father gave her the land to build her own family home and when you visit the two houses, you’ll see how different they are.
She and her husband, Fritz Tugendhat, hired prominent architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design their family home.
They gave him a lot of artistic and financial freedom. He designed not only the house itself, but also some of the furniture and the wonderful garden outside the house.
The result of that freedom he was given was a historical masterpiece that has influenced many other buildings and architects over the years.
One of the reasons why Villa Tugendhat was listed as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site is because Mies van der Rohe used modern architecture principles which were new and even radical at the time.
It was part of a revolution in the world of architecture in Europe.
The villa was completed in 1930 and the family moved in. Unfortunately, they didn’t stay there long.
This is where the story of the villa gets dark…
In 1938, the Tugendhats left for Switzerland and from there went to Venezuela.
They were a Jewish family with connections in Germany, and so were informed about political developments there.
That’s how they could anticipate the Nazi invasion and were fortunate enough to flee in time.
Inevitably, that meant they had to leave their beautiful villa behind.
From that point on, the villa went through all sorts of weird and unexpected phases, very far removed from the luxurious family home it was meant to be:
First, it was confiscated by the Gestapo. Later on, the Soviet army used it as horse stables. It was damaged considerably during WWII.
After the war, it turned into a ballet studio, a medical rehabilitation centre for children and a government guest house.
It was in this villa that the Czech and Slovak republics decided on their Velvet Divorce in 1992, separating Czechoslovakia into two countries.
In the late 60s, Greta Tugendhat returned to Brno and gave a talk about the history of the villa, describing her life there with her husband and children.
The villa was later restored and opened to the public in 2012.
These days, you might describe it as a 3D museum piece, architectural artwork that the public can visit and appreciate.
Cafe Era and More Great Architecture Nearby
There’s another modernist building worth checking out while you’re in the area.
When you exit the villa, take the 5 minute walk to Era Cafe, for a complete minimalist experience.
This late 1920s cafe, designed by Jozef Kranz, is one of Brno’s many functionalist buildings.
Go inside to see the beautiful red and blue staircase and the striking red floor.
For more interesting buildings in the same areas as Villa Tugendhat, use The Brno Architecture Manual.
It offers comprehensive self-guided tours in Brno. Select the Černá Pole trail and follow the audio guide and pictures around the area.
How to get tickets to Villa Tugendhat
You can visit Villa Tugendhat only with a guided tour and you want to book that tour way in advance.
It’s on the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage sites and the most popular attraction in Brno, so Villa Tugendhat tickets are not always easy to get.
You want to book 3 months ahead on the official site.
If you can’t find a slot on the site, here’s a useful tip I got from Brno’s Tourist Information Centre:
With the Brno Pass and you’ll have a better chance of joining one of the tours (even if they’re sold out on the official site).
If you want to take photos inside the villa during the tour, make sure you buy a photo ticket.
The tours are offered in either Czech or English.
If you cannot get a ticket, you can still visit the garden for a small fee of 50 CZK. From there you can see the villa through its massive glass window.
How to Get to Villa Tugendhat
It’s quite easy to get around Brno on foot or by public transport.
Villa Tugendhat’s address is Černopolní 45, 613 00 Brno.
From the main street in Brno, Česká Street, take tram 3 or 5, get off at the Children’s Hospital stop and walk up Černopolní Street.
It is about 20 minutes from Brno’s central railway station. Take tram number 9, get off at Tomanova and walk on Tomanova street.
From the central bus station in Brno, Zvonařka station, take bus 67, get off at Schodová and walk to the villa on Schodová street and Černopolní street.
Find Out More about Villa Tugendhat
- The Brno Tourist Information Centre has all the up-to-date info about visiting the villa.
- Take the Villa Tugendhat Virtual Tour here (and if you like virtual architecture tours, check out this post).
- Simon Mawer’s The Glass Room is a fiction book based on the Tugendhats’ story. The novel was also adapted into a film by the same name.
More about Architecture and Design in Brno
My complete guide to Brno for architecture and design lovers covers the other famous villas in Brno, great modernist buildings, art galleries, design festivals and much more.
More about Architecture Around the World
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I am grateful to the Brno Tourist Information Centre and Tourist Authority South Moravia for their collaboration. All opinions are my own.