Nikola Balaš is a PhD candidate in ethnology at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. In this post, he tells us about the best bookshops in Prague. If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, find more information about contributing below.
The Czechs like to say that Prague is the most beautiful city in the world and indeed most residents of the city would share this sentiment. As a local moves closer to the centre of Prague, however, that sentiment can sour. The walk that takes you to The National Museum through to the Old Town Square, across the Charles Bridge, and up the Malá Strana to the Prague Castle, is lined with hordes of tourists and their usual vultures of trade: greedy taxi drivers, fake jewellers, gangs of pickpockets, and kitschy souvenir vendors. Lucky for the bibliophile though, Prague’s bookshops are convenient havens away from these hordes.
On Pštrossova Street is The Globe, a bookshop and bar. Known for being a popular spot for the city’s expat community – here shop assistants greet you with a “Hello” rather than the usual Czech greeting “Dobrý den” – The Globe was the first shop in Prague dedicated to English language books. It has a relatively modest collection, but its cosy interior is the perfect setting for whiling away an afternoon with a good book.
Just a block away from The Globe is Křemencova Street, popular with visitors looking to sample the U Fleků brewery’s sourish dark lager. Café Rybka sits at the end of this street and is owned by Rybka Publishers, a Czech publishing house. If The Globe was a bit too neat and too full of expats for you, then you’ll find Café Rybka pleasantly authentic. Here, time seems to have stood still: the faded furniture and smoking-friendly atmosphere is from another era. English speakers should know, however, that Café Rybka stocks only Czech books.
Shakespeare and Sons located at Malá Strana, has a wide selection of fiction and comic books, in addition to academic books in philosophy, history, politics, and gender studies. Some shelves are, not surprisingly, reserved for Shakespeare’s plays. The lower floor is a cool place to sit-out the hot Prague summers on one of their nice, comfy chairs.
Ouky Douky near Strossmayerovo náměstí is, like The Globe, a bookshop and bar crossbreed. Ouky Douky sells mostly Czech books although there are some shelves with paperback fiction in English. Ouky Douky has a distinct atmosphere – old carpets, used furniture and the scent of old books permeates the air of this place. It is a great bookshop to sit down, order a snack or a drink and ruminate about a trip to Prague spent immersed in books, far from the crowds.
Nikola Balaš is a PhD candidate in ethnology at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. He is interested in theory of social sciences and he also organizes an independent seminar for PhD students and postdoctoral researchers.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, then now’s your chance to tell us all about it.
As part of a new weekly feature on LSE Review of Books, we’re asking academics and students to recommend their favourite two or three bookshops in a particular city, with the aim of building an exciting online series for our book-loving community of readers the world over.
Bookshops could be academic, alternative, foreign language, hobby-based, secret or underground institutions, second hand outlets, or connected to a university. We’d like to cover all world regions too.
If something comes to mind, we’re looking for around 100 words per bookshop, detailing why this place is a must-see. Our editorial team can then find suitable photos and links to accompany the piece, though you’re welcome to supply these too. We only ask that you focus on just one city or region, and two or three bookshops within it.
Email us now if you’d like to contribute: firstname.lastname@example.org