A new tour lets visitors explore Prague's hidden-gem Baroque library

The library, which is often ranked among the most beautiful in the world, is part of a tour of some of the historical parts of the Klementinum.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 31.03.2023 19:00:00 (updated on 31.03.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Baroque library in Prague’s Klementinum is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. People will now be able to see inside it and other historical spaces when Prague City Tourism launches a new route on April 1.

The Klementinum, located near Charles Bridge on the Old Town side, is the city’s second-largest building complex after Prague Castle. It was built as a Jesuit college, with the oldest parts dating to the middle of the 16th century.

Completed in the early 18th century, the Baroque library and astronomical tower were among the last parts added. Weather observations have been recorded at the tower since 1752.

It is still the official site for weather readings, but of course with modern instruments. Most of the Klementinum is now overseen by the Czech National Library (NK ČR).

Only accessible with a guide

Prague City Tourism's new Baroque tour route will let people see places that are normally off-limits to tourists, which is why the tour can only be taken with a Prague City Tourism guide.

Visitors will see the Baroque library, the astronomical tower, and the meridian hall, which has late Renaissance astronomical mechanisms from the time of Emperor Rudolf II. Astronomer Johannes Kepler, who lived across the street from the Klementinum for a while in the early 1600s, likely would have used some of those instruments.

The tours will be in English or Czech (at different times), at intervals of every hour or half hour, and last about 50 minutes. The tour will also be included in the Prague Visitor Pass, a discount card aimed at tourists that offers entry to many of the city’s major sites. The operators expect over 50,000 visitors to the Klementinum this year.

Prague has another Baroque library that also makes lists as one of the world's most beautiful, the library in the Strahov Monastery complex.

Sculpture on top of the Klementinum's astronomical tower. Photo: Raymond Johnston
Sculpture on top of the Klementinum's astronomical tower. Photo: Raymond Johnston

Part of the push for more cultural tourism

Culture Minister Martin Baxa said the National Library is unique in its services to readers and researchers as well as its historical location. “I am delighted that it will open up to Prague tourists. The Baroque library tour will surely be among the highlights of a visit to the Klementinum for both visitors and inhabitants of the city,” Baxa said.

Prague Deputy Mayor Jiří Pospíšil, responsible for culture and tourism, said the new tour added a new dimension to the cooperation between the city and the Czech Ministry of Culture. “This route will contribute to our long-term goal of presenting Prague as a premium European destination with a wealth of history and culture,” Pospíšil said.

The new Baroque route is part of a city plan to promote less famous historical sites. Prague City Tourism hopes to attract visitors interested in local history who want to see something a bit off the beaten track.

“Tourists often focus on Charles Bridge, but few of them are aware that there is something this spectacular waiting for them mere steps away. We want to give visitors an alternative,” František Cipro, chairman of the board of Prague City Tourism, said.

Giving people more options also means that many places could become less crowded, as tourists have a chance to spread out.

The Klementinum ranks among the most important national cultural monuments, not just in Prague but all of Czechia, National Library Tomáš Foltýn said.

“It is not merely a silent witness to the cultural prestige of previous generations and the charm of Baroque architecture – it is a living space that promotes education and the intellectual evolution of European society,” he said.

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