Although the first settlement here is dated back in the 13th century, there are no medieval buildings preserved anywhere in the city. The reason is that the settlement was quickly growing and the medieval houses and churches were either replaced (as the town hall) or rebuilt several times (as the castle or the Church of st. Anthony the Great). The prevailing architectonic style of the town center is neo-renaissance. The fact that there are no super-old buildings does not mean the city is not interesting, quite the opposite.
The dominant of the “old town” is the neo-renaissance town hall; it was built in 1891 by the Viennese architect Franz Neumann, disciple and later co-worker of Friedrich von Schmidt, the author of the town hall in Vienna (which was finished just 8 years before the town hall in Liberec). Other notable buildings in the walking distance from here are:
- the theatre (right behind the town hall), also neo-renaissance building from 1883, partly reminding the Prague National Theatre, which was opened the same year)
- the Church of st. Anthony the Great (originally built in a place of the old wooden church in 1579 in gothic style but rebuilt several times, so the current style is neo-gothic).
- Valdštejnsé domky (Valdstein houses), remains of three wooden houses built in 1670s-1680s. They were whole until the neighboring high school decided to cut them in half so they could build a new ugly annex to their original building in 1976. Now only the front parts of the houses are preserved. Ironically, the school is specialized in construction. Its original building next to the three houses is also interesting, built in 1794 in classicist style by a cloth merchant.
- Church of the Finding of the Holy Cross (next to the Valdstein houses), baroque building from 1761, with a nice garden and the Way of the Cross in it)
- Liberec Castle (also a short walking distance but on the other side of the town hall) built in 1587 and rebuilt several times. A nice garden outside; there used to be an interesting glass exhibition inside (one of the largest in the world) but after the end of communism, the castle was bought by a private company and the glass exhibits were sold out.
Other interesting places in Liberec are a bit farther away but easily accessible by a tram; it is worth to visit:
- ZOO (the oldest one in Czech Republic) and Botanical Garden nearby
- North Bohemian Museum
- Centrum Babylon (aquapark and amusement park including iQLANDIA science center with planetarium and lots of scientific exhibits and interactive programs for children)
- Ještěd (the dominant of the region, a hill with a sharp-shaped hotel building on the top); nice but steep walk up the hill from the tram final stop. Also accessible by the cable car, built in 1933, just 5 years after the Predigstuhl cable car in South Germany, supposedly the oldest preserved cable car in the world. In winter a great place for downhill skiing.
- For passionate walkers, there are hundreds of routes in the hills around the city. In winter, these routes are well maintained for ski runners.
A curiosity for car fans: guess where Ferdinand Porsche (the designer of VW Beetle and father of Ferry Porsche, the founder of Porsche car make) was born? It was in 1875 in Vratislavice nad Nisou, which is now part of Liberec.