Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic by population and area, the largest Moravian city, and the historical capital city of the Margraviate of Moravia. Brno is the administrative center of the South Moravian Region in which it forms a separate district (Brno-City District). The city lies at the confluence of the Svitava and Svratka rivers and has about 400,000 inhabitants; its greater metropolitan area is home to more than 800,000 people while its larger urban zone had a population of about 730,000 in 2004.
Brno is the seat of judicial authority of the Czech Republic – it is the seat of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court, and the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office. The city is also a significant administrative centre. It is the seat of a number of state authorities, including the Ombudsman, and the Office for the Protection of Competition. Brno is also an important centre of higher education, with 33 faculties belonging to 13 institutes of higher learning and about 89,000 students.
Brno Exhibition Centre ranks among the largest exhibition centres in Europe (23rd in the world). The complex opened in 1928 and established the tradition of large exhibitions and trade fairs held in Brno. Brno hosts motorbike and other races on the Masaryk Circuit, a tradition established in 1930, in which the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious races. Another cultural tradition is an international fireworks competition, Ignis Brunensis, that usually attracts tens of thousands of daily visitors.
The most visited sights of the city include the Špilberk castle and fortress and the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on Petrov hill, two medieval buildings that dominate the cityscape and are often depicted as its traditional symbols. The other large preserved castle near the city is Veveří Castle by Brno Reservoir. This castle is the site of a number of legends, as are many other places in Brno. Another architectural monument of Brno is the functionalist Villa Tugendhat which has been included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. One of the natural sights nearby is the Moravian Karst.
Brno is located in the south-eastern part of the Czech Republic, at the confluence of the Svitava and Svratka rivers and there are also several brooks flowing through it, including the Veverka, Ponávka, and Říčka. The Svratka River flows through the city for about 29 km (18 mi), the Svitava River cuts a 13 km (8 mi) path through the city. The length of Brno is 21.5 km (13.4 mi) measured from the east to the west and its overall area is 230 km2 (89 sq mi). Within the city limits are the Brno Dam Lake, several ponds, and other standing bodies of water, for example reservoirs in the Marian Valley or the Žebětín Pond. Brno is surrounded by wooded hills on three sides; about 6,379 ha (15,763 acres) of the area of the city is forest, i.e. 28%. Due to its location between the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands and the Southern Moravian lowlands (Dyje-Svratka Vale), Brno has a moderate climate. Compared to other cities in the country, Brno has a very high air quality, which is ensured by a good natural circulation of air; no severe storms or similar natural disasters have ever been recorded in the city.
Brno is the former capital city of Moravia and the political and cultural hub of the South Moravian Region. The city has over 400,000 residents. Its urban agglomeration has about 450,000 residents. Its larger urban zone had a population of about 730,000 in 2004 while its greater metropolitan area is home to more than 800,000 people. The estimated population of the South Moravian Region is 1.2 million. According to the Eurostat population estimate Brno had 367,729 inhabitants, which ranks it among the 100 largest cities of the EU. Brno is situated at the crossroads of ancient trade routes which have joined northern and southern European civilizations for centuries, and is part of the Danube basin region. The city is historically connected with Vienna, which lies a mere 110 km (68 mi) to the south.