Famous for its fairytale castles, potent Pilsners, and eerily charming puppets, the Czech Republic is a great tourist destination. But wait!
This landlocked gem in Central Europe has yet another feather in its cap – a bouquet of libraries. These literary havens are so remarkable that they could make Franz Kafka turn in his grave out of sheer delight.
So, buckle up and prepare for a journey into the heart of Europe’s bibliophilic paradise with our top 10 libraries in the Czech Republic.
1. The National Library of the Czech Republic, Prague
The grandeur of the Clementinum complex, where the National Library is housed, is enough to make you whisper “Prosim!” (Please!) in sheer awe. As a magnificent baroque building near the Charles Bridge, the National Library is a testament to centuries of accumulated knowledge.
The journey of this institution began in 1781. Once a Jesuit college, the site was later transformed into a hub for learning, with the National Library becoming its beating heart.
As you enter its halls, the grandeur is immediately palpable. Boasting over 6.5 million volumes, the library’s collection is staggering. From ancient manuscripts, and incunabula to modern classics, the library offers a veritable feast for the intellect.
While the allure of the books is undeniable, the architecture itself is a siren call, too. Marble staircases, gilded banisters, and celestial ceiling paintings create an ambiance that feels sacred – a cathedral for the written word.
For every book lover venturing into Prague, the National Library of the Czech Republic offers a rendezvous with history, art, and the undying spirit of human inquiry.
2. Strahov Monastery Library, Prague
Perched atop Prague’s picturesque Petrín Hill, mere steps from the imposing Prague Castle, the Strahov Monastery was built in 1143. As you approach the complex, its serene ambiance beckons. And what awaits inside the library is nothing short of breathtaking.
The Strahov Library consists of two main halls: the Theological Hall and the Grand Philosophical Hall. The Theological Hall, with its vaulted ceilings adorned with frescoes depicting biblical scenes, houses ancient theological texts.
The Philosophical Hall, however, is the show-stealer. A cavernous space lined with dark wooden bookcases, it boasts a ceiling fresco that seems to pull the heavens themselves into the room.
Completed in the late 18th century, this hall holds thousands of philosophical texts. The library’s collection is immense – over 200,000 volumes. Its gallery of illuminated manuscripts and early printed books is a sight to behold.
Amongst its many secrets is a quirky collection of oddities: a secret compartment contains a collection of old maps, globes, and… a Dodo bird. Yep, extinction couldn’t keep this birdie out of such a prestigious venue.
For anyone charting a literary map of Prague, missing this library is simply not an option. Monastic life never looked so appealing!
3. The Moravian Library, Brno
The second largest in the Czech Republic, the Moravian Library is a perfect blend of ancient texts and modern digital media. With its futuristic architecture and easy accessibility, this library is no less than a literary symphony for the modern bibliophile.
Located in the enchanting city of Brno – a city crowned with spires and red rooftops – the Moravian Library echoes tales from its inception in 1808 to contemporary times.
The library’s stately architecture whispers of neoclassical elegance with modern design elements chiming in, telling of the library’s constant evolution.
Step inside, and the sheer volume of its collection will leave you in awe. With over 5 million books, this isn’t just a library; it’s a universe unto itself.
While its general collection is impressive, the library’s true crown jewels are its special collections. The Manuscriptorium, a digital catalog of historical documents, is a feast for researchers. But it doesn’t stop there.
In essence, the Moravian Library is a testament to the timelessness of knowledge. Every moment spent here is an unforgettable chapter added to your life’s story.
4. National Library of Technology, Prague
The library has its origins in 1718. However, in 2009, it moved to a modern, ecological building. Located in the heart of the Dejvice Engineering and Technology campus, the library’s facade tells a tale of minimalism. Clean lines, vast windows, and open spaces dominate its architectural ethos.
The collection? An astounding 1.5 million documents. From ancient engineering manuscripts to the latest journals on Artificial Intelligence, it’s a trove for those with an appetite for knowledge. Its reading rooms bathe in natural light.
However, it’s in the Special Collections where the Library truly flaunts its feathers. You can find here rare books from the 15th to 18th centuries, antique maps that pirates would have killed for, and a plethora of patents that bear witness to humanity’s ceaseless inventiveness.
5. Municipal Library of Prague
A library that doubles up as a cultural center? Yes, please! The Municipal Library of Prague not only caters to your reading fantasies but also spoils you with concerts, exhibitions, and theatre performances.
Founded in 1891, this library cradles the soul of the city. Boasting over 2 million items in its collection, the library promises a literary feast for all the bookworms.
On the inside, you will find a curated selection of rare manuscripts that date back centuries, maps that charted unknown territories, and first editions of literary masterpieces that once stirred revolutions.
Beyond its literary offerings, the library surprises with art. The ‘Idiom’ installation by Matej Kren is a particular show-stealer.
This optical illusion created with books seems to spiral into infinity, embodying the endless nature of knowledge and imagination.
A visit to this literary destination promises more than just a reading experience.
So, when in the City of a Hundred Spires, will you heed the call of its literary heart? After all, in the words of Carl Sagan, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Why not start here?
6. Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Just a short stroll away from the Vltava River and nestled along Národní, one of Prague’s principal thoroughfares, lies the Library of the Academy of Sciences. The library’s prime location means that once you’ve had your fill of scholarly pursuits, the city’s historic charms and culinary delights await.
Established in 1784, the Library of the Academy of Sciences is a smorgasbord of specialized literature and unique archival materials. This temple of knowledge offers plenty to feed your intellectual appetite.
The architecture is a seamless blend of the regal and the academic. Vaulted ceilings and elegant frescoes tell tales of scientific quests and philosophical musings. Long wooden tables, dotted with reading lamps, beckon visitors to delve into the vast ocean of over half a million books.
Among its special collections, there are rare manuscripts and a collection of globes and maps. These rarities are not just books; they’re relics of mankind’s insatiable quest for understanding.
7. Olomouc Research Library
In the eastern province of Moravia lies a serene city called Olomouc and nestled in Olomouc is a literary gem. The Olomouc Research Library, founded in 1566, is one of the oldest and most significant libraries in the Czech Republic.
Like other libraries in the Czech Republic, high vaulted ceilings and wooden bookshelves adorn this library, too. The collection here is massive, too, housing over 1.5 million items.
It boasts a plethora of manuscripts, incunabula, and early printed books. One of its highlights is the extensive collection of old maps and illuminations, also showcasing the craft of bookbinding in preserving the age-old treasure.
So, fellow readers, while you traverse the Czechia lands, ensure that Olomouc and its resplendent library find a spot on your itinerary.
8. The Regional Library of Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary is a historic spa city in the west Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. The city is also renowned for its thermal springs, and the famous International Film Festival. Not many know of an impressive library in Karlovy Vary though.
The Regional Library of Karlovy Vary was established in 1899. Nestled amidst picturesque boulevards, its location alone makes it an essential pitstop. The library houses over 450,000 volumes which is an impressive testament to its dedication to knowledge and learning.
You’ll find a wealth of periodicals and newspapers, some of which date back to the early 20th century. For art lovers, the library presents an array of fine arts literature, showcasing the rich artistic tapestry of the region.
So, bibliophiles, if you happen to be in the Czech spa town, make sure this library is on your itinerary.
9. Jiri Mahen Library, Brno
Named after the famous Czech playwright and novelist, Jiří Mahen, this library was founded in 1921 and Mahen played a pivotal role in setting it up.
The story goes that Mahen – a famous bibliophile – once dramatically pledged to donate his entire personal book collection to establish a library in Brno. True to his word, this act of passion set the foundations for the library that stands tall even today.
Housing over a staggering 1.5 million volumes, the library offers an extensive array of both Czech and international literature.
The “Mahen Collection” houses the personal collection of 800 books of the library’s namesake, including rare first editions and manuscripts penned by Mahen himself. Additionally, the “Moravian Literature Collection” is an immersive journey into the region’s literary heritage, showcasing works that date back centuries.
So, friends, when your travels take you to Brno, ensure that this library is atop your list. Because, in the words of Jiří Mahen, “A city without a library is like a graveyard,” and Brno is very much alive with stories!
10. Silesian University Library, Opava
The first thing that catches the eye as you approach the Silesian University library is its modern architecture.
Founded in 1991, this library, though younger than some of its other Czechia counterparts, has swiftly made its mark in the academic landscape. Situated in the picturesque surroundings of a city that dates back to the 12th century, the library itself serves as a bridge between the historic environment and the modern academic pursuits inside its walls.
The collection is not as huge as other libraries, but the library boasts an extensive collection of Silesian history, literature, and culture, making it one of the premier destinations for anyone keen to delve deep into this region’s rich past.
As for tales that intrigue, the library regulars speak of a particular 19th-century diary in the Silesica Collection. This diary, penned by an anonymous author, reportedly offers a firsthand account of life in Opava during the Napoleonic Wars.
Keep this on your bucket list of literary destinations if you are planning a visit to the northeastern part of the Czech Republic.
From the historic halls of monasteries to the cutting-edge ambiance of modern edifices, the top 10 Libraries in the Czech Republic are an enchanting mix of the old and the new.
So, next time you’re in this beautiful country, ditch the crowds at Charles Bridge and take a detour into one of these havens of knowledge. Because like Kafka said, “A book must be an axe for the frozen sea within us.” Czech libraries are the skilled lumberjacks you didn’t know you needed.
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