36 Hours in Prague: If you’re a bibliophile

Prague, situated in the heart of Europe and straddling the Vltava River, is known for its towers, bridges and rich history. But if 36 hours is all you have, finding a way to spend it can take the fun out of your time here. For those whose hearts lie within the pages of a book, you can enjoy the city by following a literary trail through the cobblestone streets. From sites celebrating Franz Kafka to baroque libraries and unique places to enjoy good books and drinks, your 36 hours will be unforgettable.

See a guided walking tour here!

Day 1 – Breakfast
1. Kafka Snob Food (Birthplace of Franz Kafka)

See the impact that Franz Kafka made on the Czech Republic by walking down Siroka street, where you’ll find Kafka Snob Food (a great spot to stop for lunch) and the Franz Kafka monument.

Italian brothers Giovanni and Fulvio, along with friend Renato, own and operate Kafka Snob Food, a cafe that now occupies the building where Franz Kafka was born. Although original features are not visible, the space was made as Kafka-esque as possible by the previous owners. His name spelled out in yellow on a giant peg board above the archway into the dining room reminds patrons of the cafes famous namesake. Leather couches reminiscent of something you might see in a psychiatrist’s office and mismatched chairs beckon you to sit and enjoy a cigarette with a cappuccino. Descend the spiral staircase to the restrooms for a dizzying experience reminiscent of the Franz Kafka Museum with it’s abstract and thought provoking decor. Giovanni said that they bought the space in 2014 and don’t plan to continue using Kafka’s history with the building as the main attraction. Instead, they plan to focus on an international vision for the cafe, which attracts a clientele that is half-tourist and half-local. From Italy, Giovanni has a passion for good coffee — the macchiato is of a caliber hard to find in Prague, in my opinion. Book lovers will appreciate Kafka’s early ties to the area and pair good books with good espresso.

Address: Kafka Snob Food, Siroka 64/12, 11000 Prague, Czech Republic
Phone: 420725915505
Hours: Monday-Saturday 8:00am-10:00pm, Sunday 10:00am-10:00pm

Day 1 – Post-Breakfast
2. Franz Kafka Monument

FullSizeRender
The Franz Kafka Monument

In 2003, the Franz Kafka Monument was commissioned by private funders and the Kafka Foundation. The statue symbolically rests in what would have been a tense area in his time — between a Jewish synagogue and a Catholic church. It was also the neighborhood he lived much of his life in and would have often walked past the square where his memorial now stands. The statue depicts Kafka sitting atop a hooded figure without face or hands. According to Katarina, an information clerk at the Kafka museum, Jaroslav Rona, the artist who constructed the statue, was inspired by Kafka’s short story “Description of a Struggle.” In the story, Kafka describes leaping onto the shoulders of an acquaintance and prodding him forward.

 

Day 1 – Afternoon
3. Baroque Library

Ascend 172 stairs of the astronomical tower in the Clementinum to get a 360-degree view of Prague from the city center and see a Baroque library with manuscripts dating back to the 16th century. More than 20,000 Latin, Italian, French and German books line the two-story library, which was built for the Jesuit college in Prague in 1722. See 18th century decorations, clocks and globes, including one that depicts the state of California as an island. A preserved ceiling fresco by Jan Hiebl is rich in religious symbols. Some of the shelves look bare, but it’s with reason — books are being scanned and immortalized digitally. If you pay for a tour, you’ll see astronomical tower artifacts dating back to 1775, when astrologers made observations and measurements of the heavens from the tower. Measurements such as daily temperature and rainfall are still conducted here, making it the longest running astronomical observatory in history. Before leaving you’ll also see the mirror chapel built in 1725, where more of Jan Hiebl’s frescoes are juxtaposed with Baroque mirrors fixed to the ceiling.

Address: Marianske Namesti 5, Praha 1, Czech Republic
Phone: 420-733-129-252
Hours: Tours daily starting at 10:00 am, every half hour
Price: 220 CZK, 140 CZK for students/children 8-18, Free for children under 7
Website: www.klementinum.com/en/baroque-library-hall-2

Day 1 – Evening
4. Palac knih Luxor

IMG_5341
Palac knih Luxor (Palace of Books) in Wenceslas Square

Neo Luxor is the Barnes & Noble of the Czech Republic, with 13 branches in Prague alone. The first and largest store to be opened in the chain was Palac knih Luxor in Wenceslas Square, located in the center of town, its name in English means the Palace of Books. The store celebrated its 10th year in 2015 and is now the biggest bookstore in central Europe, says Veronika (who preferred not to state her last name), a clerk at Palac knih Luxor. The space houses four floors, a cafe where you can stop for coffee and dessert, a children’s area, and information kiosks help readers to navigate. The first floor features books in languages other than Czech.

Address: Wenceslas Square 41, 110 00, Prague 1
Phone: 420-296-110-351
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00 am-8:00, Saturday 9:00-7:00, Sunday 10:00-7:00
Website: www.neoluxor.cz

Day 2 – Brunch
5. Globe Bookstore and Cafe

Centrally located and a haven for English speakers, Globe Bookstore and Cafe is a great starting place for the avid bibliophile, with plenty of seating to enjoy a cup of coffee from the English-speaking staff and perhaps brush up on some Czech vocabulary before exploring the city. The bookstore features a large collection of English-language books, with the space overflowing into a second-story balcony. Take your new book into the cafe where warm red walls and dramatic windows offer an intimate setting for enjoying beer, wine, tea or coffee. A moderately priced menu (about 200-250 CZK, or $10-$13, on a meal and drink) includes a wide variety of dishes. This cafe is easy to navigate for those unfamiliar with the Czech language and a comfortable starting point for your literary adventure through Prague.

Address: Pstrossova 6, Prague 1, 110 00, Czech Republic
Phone: 420-224-934-203
Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00-midnight, Saturday-Sunday 9:30-1:00 pm (Kitchen open until 11:00 pm)
Website: www.globebookstore.cz

Day 2 – Afternoon
6. Franz Kafka Museum

_MG_2230
The Franz Kafka Museum

“Let this space talk. Let the sound guide you,” reads a plaque as you enter the Franz Kafka Museum. Get into the right mindset for this existential journey through the life of one of Prague’s most famous authors. Buy your tickets across the square before entering, and leave your bags, cameras and phones in the lockers in the lobby of the museum. Leave behind your reservations as well — you’ll need an open mind to fully experience the museum. Installations featuring light, sound and, in some cases, disturbing imagery, draw you into the mind of Kafka. First opened in Barcelona in 1999, the exhibition traveled to New York in 2002 before a permanent relocation in the Mala Strana section of Prague in 2003. Two sections make up the museum: Imaginary Space and Existential Topography. According to urban legend, Kafka never intended for his work to be made public. As you’re exploring the museum, imagine how he would view this spatial interpretation of his life.

Address: Cihelna 635/2b, 118 00, Prague 1, Mala Strana, Czech Republic
Phone: 420-257-535-507 or 420-257-535-373
Hours: Open daily 10:00-6:00
Price: 200 CZK, 120 CZK for students/children/seniors/disabled, other discounts and services available
Website: www.kafkamuseum.cz

Day 2 – Evening
7. Bar and Books

A day steeped with literary prestige should end at Bar and Books on Tynska, located in the labyrinthine streets of the old city center. The establishment of the venue is a love story in itself. Raju S. Mirchandani started the Bar and Books family in New York on Hudson Street. After falling in love with Martina Pestova, a Czech woman, in New York, he opened the Tynska Bar and Books because she desired to return to her homeland. Prague now has two locations, with the second on Manesova street. Now Mirchandani splits his time between New York, Prague and Warsaw, where the sixth location is set to open its doors this summer.

In the Tynska location, James Bond films play continuously on the small TV in the corner. The male bartenders dress in Bond-like suits, and the women wear red dresses and heels. Expats make up half of the clientele, with tourists about 30 percent and locals the remaining 20 percent, says Mirchandani. The dark wooden walls, low lighting and collection of antique books — some dating back to the 17th century — make for an ambiance worthy of 007 himself.

The bar specializes in “classic American cocktails,” including the old fashioneds, sours, manhattans and martinis. Mirchandani’s vision for Bar and Books is that “the bar should be like your living room,” as Czech bartender Jury puts it. “Sit down, take a shot of whiskey with a good cigar,” he says, offering Bar and Books’ personal brand of cigars produced in New York City. Mirchandani oversees the production himself. Have a drink, indulge in a smoke, peruse the collection of antique literature and, depending on the night you stop by, catch a live musician or burlesque show.

Address: Tynska 19, Prague 1, Czech Republic
Phone: 420-224-815-122
Hours: Sunday-Wednesday 5:00 pm – 3:00 am, Thursday-Saturday 5:00 pm – 4:00 am
Website: www.barandbooks.cz