Brno’s icon of modernism
Tugendhat Villa, Brno, Czech Republic
I peer inside through the large window that stretches from ceiling to floor, hand up against the glass to try to block out the reflection. Inside I can see a black circular table with about 15 chairs around it. There a curved wooden interior wall behind the table, blocking my view any further in that direction. Between the window and the table are a few narrow metal columns. Beyond them, I can just make out another collection of furniture.
This is as close as I am going to get to seeing the inside of the Tugendhat Villa. I have come all the way to the city of Brno in the Czech Republic to see it… but apparently I should have booked ahead.
As I’ve travelled through the Czech Republic, one of the things I have tried to do is see all of the country’s 12 World Heritage Sites, as you probably know I like to do. The Tugendhat Villa is one of them.
It’s not that the villa isn’t open – it’s not like the rather annoying privacy at the Stoclet House in Belgium. In fact, the Tugendhat Villa is open from 10am until 6pm from Tuesday to Sunday. But you can only go in as part of a guided tour and these tours have a limited number of people allowed. The numbers are so limited and the villa is so popular that it’s recommended you book two or three months in advance!
Now, to me, this is preposterous. Booking a tour for a particular day and time months in advance might be ok for locals who are interested in seeing the villa but it’s not going to work for most international visitors. Often, you don’t even know you’re going to be in a particular country that far in advance. And if you do, it’s still unlikely you’ll know that you can definitely be in Brno on that day. I wonder how many travellers like me have missed out on seeing inside Tugendhat Villa for this reason.
There is some consolation, though. You don’t need to make a reservation to go into the garden at the back of the villa and from here you can get good views of the exterior architecture of the building. It’s from a terrace in the garden that I’m trying to look in the window and get a glimpse of some of the interiors.
The history of Tugendhat Villa
You might be wondering why the Tugendhat Villa in Brno is so popular. Well, for those interested in architecture, it is a an extremely important example of the modernism movement.
The villa was designed by a German architect called Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for Fritz and Greta Tugendhat (hence the name, obviously). It was built between 1928 and 1930 and was quite pioneering for its time. What was particularly revolutionary was the use of an iron framework, which meant supporting walls weren’t needed and the interior could be arranged to get a feeling of space and light.
But the building also has an interesting history, beyond just the architectural details. The Tugendhats abandoned the villa in 1938 because they could see what was happening politically and feared for their lives under Nazi Germany. This began a fascinating ride for the building.
It was claimed by the Gestapo in 1939 and was used for various purposes over the following years – mainly as an office, accommodation and even horse stables for the Soviet military. It wasn’t until 1967 that Greta Tugendhat was able to return and begin to restore it.
From this point on, the villa became a heritage listing and became more visible to the public. It was used as the location for signing the document that split Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. It was used as a set in the filming of the movie ‘Hannibal Rising’ and inspired the novel ‘The Glass Room’.
Between 2010 and 2012, the villa was restored at a cost of about US$8 million. The idea was to bring it back to its glory, the way it looked in the 1930s, the way architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe wanted it, the way the Tugendhats lived in it.
Maybe if I imagine they still live here, I can justify the way I am seeing their house. Peeking in the windows from the garden, unable to go in. Sure, it’s creepy, but I like the story better than not being organised enough to book a tour three months ago.
Where is the Tugendhat Villa?
The address of Tugendhat Villia is Černopolní 45, 613 00 Brno. You can see it on a map here.
There is no particular public transport stop that services the site. However, there are a lot of bus and tram stops nearby, depending on which direction you’re coming from. From the main railway station, take tram 9 to Tomanova stop and then go along Tomanova street.
How can I visit the Tugendhat Villa?
As I mentioned in the article, yes, you can visit the Tugendhat Villa BUT you need to book in advance – preferably two or three months before you plan to visit. Tours take place every hour and you can book your tickets here.
Tugendhat Villa is open from 1000 – 1800 (10am – 6pm) between March – December (but closed Mondays).
It’s open from 0900 – 1700 (9am – 5pm) in January and February (but closed Mondays and Tuesdays).
The basic tour takes 60 minutes and costs 300CZK (US$11.70) for adults and 180CZK (US$7) for concessions.
You can get into the garden without a reservation whenever the villa is open. Admissions costs 50CZK (US$2).
Are there tours to the Tugendhat Villa?
Other than the official tours that the villa runs, there are no other tours that you could join to see inside Tugendhat Villa. However, there is a cycling tour of Brno that goes past the villa and you can see it from the outside. You can see more about that tour here.
Where should you stay in Brno?
If you’re looking for a budget option, the 10-Z Bunker hostel is pretty cool because it’s in an old bunker!.
For something affordable but trendy, Brno Apartments Downtown is a great place.
For a cool and stylish option, you should try Apartmánový Dům Centrum.
And if you want to splurge for somewhere really fancy, have a look at the Barceló Brno Palace.