Prague's Infinite Book Tunnel: A Must Visit Sight
Updated: Aug 15
Prague is a dream destination in Eastern Europe, not just because of the stunning architecture and lively night scene, but also because it’s a fantastic city for book lovers. In fact, Prague was named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2014, making it one of 24 Cities of Literature in Europe.
There are plenty of sites to entertain the traveling bibliophile in Prague, from beautiful Baroque libraries to amazing indie bookstores in Prague. But in this post you’ll find out how to visit one of Prague’s top destinations for book lovers: Prague’s tunnel of books.
I’ve been traveling Europe non-stop for the last year and hunting down the best literary travel sights in Europe. Today, I’ll tell you all about this unique Prague activity and why Prague’s book tunnel needs to be on your itinerary.
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Whenever possible, I recommend buying books at local bookshops or through Bookshop.org, because shopping there puts the profits right into the hands of indie bookstores all over the country.
What is the Prague book tunnel?
The Prague book tunnel, sometimes called the Column of Knowledge, is one of the most unique sites in Prague. It is a book sculpture created by Slovak artist Matej Krén, who lives and works in Prague.
Although it’s commonly referred to as the book tunnel, it is actually titled, “The Idiom.” The Idiom is a book sculpture made up of 8,000 books stacked on one another, arranged into a cylinder that extends from floor to ceiling. Supposedly, all of the books used for the installation were either donated or saved from a landfill.
In the front of the Prague book tunnel, a tear drop-shaped opening allows visitors to peer inside, and what you see when you do is truly unforgettable.
Strategically and almost seamlessly placed mirrors above and below you in the book sculpture make it appear as though the book tunnel extends infinitely in both directions. You have the feeling of falling down a rabbit hole of books. Any book lover’s dream!
The book tunnel is lit from within, but the lights are also disguised as books, so the spiraling effect isn’t disturbed. The arrangement of spine colors also gives you an impression of a vortex. Prague’s column of knowledge is indeed an awe-inspiring book sculpture.
The Idiom originally appeared in the 1995 Sao Paulo Bienniel exhibition but found its permanent home in Prague in 1998.
Where is the Infinity Book Tower in Prague?
The famous book tunnel by Matej Krén can be visited in the Prague Municipal Library, where it found its permanent home in 1998.
Conveniently, the Prague Municipal Library main branch is located right next to the entrance to one of Prague’s other must-see literary destinations, the Baroque library in the Klementinum. It’s right in the heart of old town Prague and can be reached easily by bus or tram.
The tunnel of books is impossible to miss, as it’s located in the front entrance hall of the Prague Municipal Library.
Interestingly, Prague Municipal Library is so much more than just a library. It’s also the number one publisher of e-books in Prague, especially books by young authors. They offer all of their e-books for free online without any limit.
How to visit the Prague book tunnel
To visit the famous Prague book tunnel is very easy, and it’s a perfect place to stop in while exploring Old Town Prague. Simply locate the main branch of the Prague Municipal Library at Mariánské nám. 98/1, 110 00 Josefov.
Walk in the main entrance of the library, and you will see the amazing column of books directly in front of you.
Some things to keep in mind about visiting the Prague book tunnel:
The Prague Municipal Library is closed on Sundays and opens late (1 pm) on Mondays and Saturdays
The Prague book tunnel is very popular, so you will likely need to wait in line.
So, plan your time accordingly to visit the Prague book tunnel at opening times, and make sure you’ve given yourself enough time to wait in line to get a proper view of The Idiom.
How much does it cost to visit the Prague book tunnel?
Visiting the book tunnel, or the Idiom, is a free activity in Prague. You will not need to purchase any ticket to see this one-of-a-kind book sculpture. The only potential costs would be associated with your bus or tram fare to get there.
Is the Prague book tunnel worth waiting for?
I can answer with a resounding, yes! The Prague book tunnel is absolutely worth waiting in line for. When I arrived on a Monday afternoon, the line led from the top of the stairs where the exhibit was to the bottom of the stairs near the front door. I was surprised at first, but not really all that surprised at the same time.
Fortunately, the line for the book tunnel only took about 15 minutes, then I had my time to enjoy the book sculpture. I’ve heard that at times the line goes out the front door, in which case you can expect longer wait times.
But in my opinion, the book tunnel is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of visit, and it’s not one you should miss in Prague.
In my experience, the people waiting in line were both respectful and patient. There was no jostling or complaining. Everyone was there for the same thing -- to experience this one-of-a-kind book sculpture for themselves.
So people patiently waited for their turn and allowed everyone enough time to peer inside the book tunnel and take pictures of and in front of it. Someone waiting behind me even offered to take my picture for me. I didn’t feel rushed at all.
That being said, be mindful of the people waiting behind you, and keep your turn to a reasonable time!
Find the cheapest flights to Prague
More bookish sights in Prague
If you’re a book lover in Prague, there are a few sights you absolutely cannot miss:
Kafka’s rotating head
The Baroque libraries at Strahov Monastery
The beautiful Klementinum library
And if you’re a Kafka lover, the Kafka museum
Other book sculptures by the artist behind The Idiom
I would be remiss to not talk a little bit more about the artist behind the Idiom, Matej Krén. While he is a remarkably versatile artist who has worked with all kinds of mediums, books and the knowledge they represent are a recurring theme in his works.
Here are some more of his book sculptures I’d love to visit one day:
The Passage in Bratislava, Slovakia
Literally a passage between walls entirely made of books, “The Passage,” according to the artist, “represents a kind of symbolic ‘shortcut across the worlds’ in which we exist or live: through the factual, real world, into the world of human culture, where reality is mistaken for another reality - virtual - for the reality of a word, text, sign, symbol, image and then back.”
This book sculpture is on display and can be visited at The Pálffy Palace.
The Book Cell in Lisbon, Portugal
The Book Cell was a temporary exhibit installed by Matej Krén in Lisbon’s National Museum of Contemporary Art. It was an entire house constructed of books, and visitors could walk inside and be surrounded by books and the knowledge they represent.
Finding Accommodations in Prague
As you look for somewhere to stay in Prague, I recommend checking for lodging on Hotels.com. I almost always book my accommodations through Hotels.com, because you can earn rewards for every night you stay without having to choose only one hotel chain to be loyal to. You can even book locally owned aparthotels and bed and breakfasts.
If you're looking for privately owned vacation rentals in Prague, I recommend checking VRBO. I've personally had much better experiences with their owners and rentals than I have with their primary competitor.
Travel Resources At-A-Glance
All of the following are links to sites and services I actually use to book and plan my travel or to purchase books or travel gear.
For flights: Skyscanner is my number one go-to resource for booking flights. I love using the “explore” function to find the cheapest places I can fly during a given time, or using the fare calendar to identify the cheapest days to fly.
For hotels and lodgings: For hotels, hotels.com and for vacation rentals, VRBO.com. I’ve had much better experiences with private rentals through this website than through other popular private vacation rental websites.
For car rentals: Kayak allows comparisons across a wide range of booking agencies and lists reviews of companies as well. I’ve found this to be the most user-friendly and efficient way to compare car rental prices.
For tours & excursions: Viator is my top choice for booking excursions and tour experiences in a new destination.
Best travel credit card: My favorite travel rewards credit card for European travel has been the Chase Sapphire Rewards card. Visa is accepted just about everywhere in Europe, and there are no foreign transaction fees on the card. Some of the travel benefits I love on the Chase Sapphire include free TSA pre check or Global Entry (worth it every time), an annual $200 travel credit, an annual $200 hotel benefit, built-in rental car and trip insurance, and points are worth 50% more when used to book travel. I travel around Europe a LOT, and I end up with many free flights and hotel stays from using my points on my Chase Sapphire.
For books: Bookshop.org often has prices as good as Amazon or sometimes better, but profits go to indie bookstores all over the country. Whenever possible, consider buying your books from this online indie bookshop resource.
Prague really is an incredible city to visit, and no one should leave without visiting the Book Tunnel.
What other literary cities are on your bucket list?
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