Reading books in Czech Republic seems like kind of national characteristic. When you are in Prague, you can easily notice that people are reading books just everywhere – especially in public transport and while waiting.
No matter how crowded the tram/metro/bus is, no matter whether they have some place to sit or have to stand up – reading is something natural here. Also reading on the bench in the parks is nothing unusual but why not do it while walking? Kind of a problem? Not at all. Not in Prague! The fact that books are for everyone is confirming that homeless people are reading too (!). Personally I was a bit surprised and – at the same time – impressed, when I saw this for the first time. Reading has no boundaries here!
Find out more about book lovers and libraries where you can choose something for yourself to gain more of a local touch.
How to become more Czech?
As it was mentioned, Czech people love books and love reading – no doubt of that. The number of flourishing bookshops is testament to their love of reading. To be Czech, you need to be a bookworm too. But don’t confine your reading to fifteen minutes in bed before you go to sleep. No – read a book wherever you are.
What does that mean? It means reading on the tram, metro or bus and whilst standing & waiting for the tram, metro or bus. But don’t just restrict yourself to these locations. The real test as to whether you are Czech is being able to read and walk along at the same time! Yes – you need to be able to read a book, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.
Where to find a book?
When you’ve already decided that you want to be more local, it’s time to find some good reading material. Of course – except bookstores, in Prague you can find plenty of amazing libraries. But where exactly? Here you’ll find some advices.
Libraries in Prague
Some Prague libraries are real community centers where you can go read current newspapers, talk to friends over a steaming cup of coffee, connect to the Internet or browse through a wide range of magazines and journals. Many Prague libraries feature foreign language sections with books in English, French, German, Russian and possibly other languages.
The Klementinum sits on over 2 hectares and is one of the largest complexes in Europe and is home to the Czech Republic’s National Library.
The Baroque complex is the second largest complex in Prague after the magnificent Prague Castle and features beautiful architectural facades, lush courtyards with numerous sundials and attractions such as the 68 meters high Astronomical Tower, which affords exquisite views over the labyrinthine city of Prague, the frescoed Baroque Library Hall and the extraordinary Mirror Chapel. For further information regarding tours, classical concerts and more, you can visit the website listed below.
Address: Křižovnická 190, Praha 1, +420 222 220 879, www.klementinum.com
Goethe-Institut in Prague
Goethe-Institut at Masarykovo Nábřeží is the center of German culture in Prague that organizes not only language courses of all levels, but also various cultural and educational events and spreads awareness of the contemporary cultural and political life in Germany.
If you are interested in contemporary Germany, it is worth visiting also Goethe-Institut’s website www.goethe.de/prag. You will learn a lot of interesting information there about events held in Prague and the Czech Republic relating to Germany, as well as about interesting events that take place in German cities that are close to the border.
Address: Masarykovo Nábřeží 32, Praha 1, + 420 221 962 111, www.goethe.de/prag
Library at the Italian Cultural Institute
Throughout the centuries Italy and the Czech lands have had rich cultural contacts including strong artistic bonds ever since the 16th century when members of the Jesuit Order from Italy made up a minority of Prague’s foreigners. It is also easy to see Italian influence throughout the city regarding the architecture and design in Prague, even in more modern times. Two major buildings that serve as historical evidence for this tight relationship are the Italian Chapel in the spacious Klementinum Complex and the Italian Hospital in Mala Strana.
The institute also offers a well-stocked library with over 18,000 volumes in Italian. The rich selection of books covering many genres is accessible for browsing at your home via the Internet thanks to the Institute’s online library. The library also features a select offering of Italian newspapers and magazines to be read onsite. The opening hours are the longest on Mondays and Tuesdays (9:30 to 18:00). On Wednesdays the library is open in the evening, from 16:00 to 19:30 and from Thursday to Sunday the library is closed. Access to the library as well as on-site book borrowing is free, however, if you wish to borrow books, you will need to become a registered member and pay the registration fee.
Address: Šporkova 14, Praha 1, +420 257 090 689, www.iicpraga.esteri.it/IIC_Praga
Prague City Library
Located in the center of Old Town on Marianske Square is the headquarters of the Prague City Library. The Prague City Library (Mestska Knihovna in Czech) network is user-friendly and surely has a lot to offer with an extensive list of titles to borrow from prose to poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and much more. While the library’s branches are located throughout Prague the headquarters is most impressive with an attractive interior complete with two floors of books in Czech and other foreign languages, a cute library café with small snacks, coffee, tea, wine and beer for affordable prices, lecture rooms where Czech language classes are sometimes held and a spacious gallery. In the foyer of the main building you can see the intriguing and unique tower of books (picture below), an installation piece by Slovak artist Matej Kren. The building is worth a visit and if you so choose, you can also register for a library membership, which costs approximately 80 CZK per year.
Address: Mariánské Náměstí 1/98, Praha 1, +420 222 113 555, www.mlp.cz
Institut Francais de Prague
The French Institute is located in Prague near Wenceslas Square on Štěpánská Street and is an irreplaceable cultural resource for all the inhabitants of Prague interested in French language and culture. The Institute features a well-stocked library and media center offering currently over 70,000 documents including fiction, non-fiction, reference books (dictionaries, encyclopedias and directories), comic books and French-as-a-foreign-language teaching and learning resources.
Address: Štěpánská 35 , Praha 1, +420 221 401 011, www.ifp.cz
Prague Multicultural Center Library
Visit the Prague Multicultural Center and open doors to the world! If you are interested in different cultures, intercultural coexistence and communication, ethnic minorities and refugees you might already be familiar with the positive work and activities accomplished and organized by the Prague Multicultural Center. This accomplished civil association aims at providing priceless information to the general public about ethnic groups in the Czech Republic and around the world as well. Besides organizing lectures, discussions and exhibitions, the center runs a public library, which focuses on these issues. The Prague Multicultural Center Library is located in Lucerna Palace and boasts over 2,400 titles. A yearly membership costs only CZK 50.
Address: Vodičkova 36 (Palác Lucerna), Praha 1, +420 296 325 345, www.mkc.cz
The Library at the American Center
Operated by the American Embassy in Prague is the Library at the American Center. If you are searching for a wide selection of English books to read, this is the place with the best selection of English books available. Everyone knows that the selection of English books is okay in Prague, however if you wish to purchase English language books the prices can be quite steep. One of the best ways to avoid overpaying for English books is to visit the Library at the American Center. The library has over 1,000 books to read or browse through onsite. The majority of the books deal with American culture and life including a large amount on foreign policy, diplomacy and security issues. All of the books can be read or photocopied for free in the center. The Library at the American Center also features encyclopedias and photography books plus individual video-units are available for films and documentaries. One of the top reasons to visit this library is to search their up-to-date selection of US published magazines and journals including popular and scientific publications. The American Center also offers a cultural and educational program that includes movies, exhibitions, discussions, lectures and more. Whether you are missing American culture, planning a trip to America or simply wish to know more about the culture of the United States, the Library at the American Center is worth visiting time and time again.
Address: Tržiště 13 (1st floor), Praha 1, +420 257 530 640, www.americkecentrum.cz