Brno (German: Brünn, Moravian dialect: Štatl) is the second largest city in the Czech Republic and the largest city in the historical Moravian region. Founded around the year 1000, the city acted as one of historical capitals of the region, and today is home to many institutions related to Moravian history and culture. At the same time, Brno represents the administrative center of the contemporary South Moravian Region, and is the headquarters of the republic's judicial system. With a population around 380,000, Brno is located in a beautiful natural environment between South Moravian vineyards and the Moravian Karst, and is an easy drive to the nearby Austrian border.
Brno was founded about a thousand years ago, receiving city status in 1243. Surviving sieges from the Hussites in 1428 and 1430, the city also successfully defended itself from Swedish armies during the Thirty Years' War. With the original capital of Olomouc falling into Swedish hands in 1641, Brno became the seat of administration for the Margraviate of Moravia (a borderland region of the Austrian Empire), which stayed long after the war's end. The city flourished during the 19th century as it rapidly industrialized and its population exploded. Brno would later serve as the capital of the semi-autonomous Moravian Land in the First Republic of Czechoslovakia. After surviving World War II intact, the newly-installed Communist Party abolished Moravia's autonomous status to subdivide the country into regions (kraj) in 1949, ending Brno's high political prominence. Contemporary Brno is a mixture of different architectural styles, ranging from the Gothic, Baroque, Art Noveau, and Socialist. Arguably the Czech Republic's second most important cultural centre that often competes with Prague in prestige, Brno has the second largest historic preservation zone in the country (the largest in Prague, the third in nearby Olomouc). Three castles are located in the immediate proximity of the city: Špilberk (a former royal castle for the rulers of Moravia dating to the 13th century, and later an Austrian military bastion), Veveří Castle (near Brno Lake), and Líšeň Castle (to the city's east).