Prague library's tower of books becomes a viral tourist sensation

Following viral TikTok videos, Prague's Municipal Library has seen lines of tourists queuing up outside its doors to see Matěj Krén's Idiom. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 01.01.2023 14:15:00 (updated on 01.01.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague has a hot new tourist attraction in the city center, but it's one that has been in place since 1998, albeit hidden from the eyes of passersby. The Municipal Library of Prague has seen lines of dozens of people outside its front doors in recent days, with tourists eager to get a peek at Idiom, also called the Column of Knowledge.

A circular structure made out of 8,000 books, Idiom was created by Slovak artist Matěj Krén and unveiled at Prague's Municipal Library in 1998, after the library reopened following three years of renovations. Mirrors within the column give it the impression of being endless when viewed from the inside.

The Column of Knowledge has recently become a hit on TikTok, with videos featuring the structure gaining millions of views on the platform. They've led to lines of tourists dozens of people long outside the Library on Mariánské náměstí waiting to see the 25-year-old structure.

The Municipal Library hasn't seen such interest since the art piece was first installed in 1998.

“We attribute this to the power of social media, where Idiom is an icon. It is among several 'must-sees' in Prague and is apparently now trending among popular influencers," Municipal Library spokesperson Lenka Hanzlíková tells CzechCrunch.

While interest in Idiom has been high in recent months, the library saw a sudden spike in visitors last week. After they completely filled the lobby, blocking off access to the library for other visitors, librarians cordoned off an area for those who want to see the book column to line up, and even gave it a separate entrance.

While makeshift signs direct tourists who want to see Idiom to the line, which has been out the door over the past week throughout the library's opening hours, a more permanent solution will be found if high interest persists.

"Employees say that the last time the Central Library was under such a siege was in April 1998, when it was opened after a three-year reconstruction."

"Tourists are really only interested in [the Column], they don't enter the library, they just go to the lobby, a million of them. And it's a shame, the Municipal Library is a work of art in itself. It is enough to look around the entrance hall and see [the] stained glass windows, in the central hall there is a beautifully painted ceiling designed by František Kysela."

The Column of Knowledge was also recently profiled by Prague YouTube channel Honest Guide in a video looking at social media hits in the Czech capital, which also included City Hall's paternoster elevator. Janek Rubeš and Honza Mikulka recommended checking out the library's extensive collection of books on Prague while you're there.

As Rubeš notes, Krén originally created Idiom for the São Paulo Art Biennial in 1994, where it won multiple prizes. The artist has gone on to create book-themed pieces in locations across the globe, some of which can be seen on his official website.

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