Olomouc had always been among the most important cities of the Kingdom of Bohemia. With its convenient location, ancient university and spiritual, cultural and craft traditions Olomouc has been for centuries a natural centre of Moravia, attractive to artists, intellectuals and businessmen.
The city was officially founded in the mid-13th century and became one of the most important trade and power centres in the region. In the Middle Ages, it was the biggest town in Moravia and competed with Brno for the position of capital. Olomouc finally lost after the Swedes took the city and held it for eight years (1642–1650).
Olomouc contains several large squares, the chief of which is adorned with the Holy Trinity Column, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The column is 115 ft (35 m) high and was built between 1716 and 1754.
The city has numerous historic religious buildings. The most prominent church is Saint Wenceslas Cathedral founded before 1107 in the compound of the Olomouc Castle. At the end of the 19th century, the cathedral was rebuilt in the neo-Gothic style. It kept many features of the original church, which had renovations and additions reflecting styles of different ages: Romanesque crypt, Gothic cloister, Baroque chapels.
Olomouc is proud of its six Baroque fountains. They survived in such number thanks to the city council's caution. While most European cities were removing old fountains after building water-supply piping, Olomouc decided to keep them as reservoirs in case of fire. The fountains feature ancient Roman motifs; five portray the Roman gods Jupiter, Mercury, Triton , Neptune and Hercules. One features Julius Caesar, the legendary founder of the city. In the 21st century, an Arion fountain was added to the main square, inspired by the older project.
The monumental Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary on the Olomouc's Holy Hill (Svatý Kopeček) is among the most significant sights of the region. This is one of the most popular pilgrimage churches in Central Europe, and was honoured by Pope John Paul II. The best way to reach it is to take the bus 11 to Svatý Kopeček from stand 'E' in front of the railway station.