Even if you have a limited grasp of Czech vocabulary, here’s a word that students, writers and artists, should definitely learn: “papírnictví.” Literally, this means “stationery,” in Czech, but when you spot a papírnictví shop, stationery is just the beginning of the paper products and accessories wonderland that you’ll encounter.

If you are in need of pens, markers, highlighters, pencils, brushes, notebooks, graph paper, rulers, glue, etc, a papírnictví should be your first stop. Again, the artsy-ness level varies from shop to shop. Also, when you walk into a papírnictví, don’t expect slow and easy browsing among the different pens and papers. Almost everything, at least on the papírnictví side of the store, will be behind the counter, so you’ll have to either ask for it in Czech or point as accurately as you can—and this can turn out to be a rather amusing (for you, not for the cashier) few minutes of vague navigation.

Some papírnictví are divided into two main parts: one section being more relevant to your paper needs, while the other is a jumble of whatever else the owner fancies and what type of neighborhood the store is in. For example, a papírnictví in family-friendly Bubenečská also carries a wild bunch of plastic toys, while a papírnictví in Staroměstská also offers laundry detergent and other cleaning products to those tourists who might be renting a flat nearby for the short-term.

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A couple of papírnictví shops to try:

·    Valentinská 3: metro/tram stop Staroměstská. Here you can find a great assortment of paper goods for school and work, but also some practical household items, such as detergent. Many items are behind the counter, but there are plenty others that are accessible to the customer.

·    Eliášova 1: metro/tram/stop Hradčanska. This shop combines student needs with “kancelářské potřeby,” or office needs. Here, the services include lamination, copying and faxing, and items like DVDs, CDs and even cassette tapes are sold. This is definitely a behind-the-counter type of papírnictví, and also advertises “dárky,” or gifts as part of its wonderfully diverse offering.

You may not find high quality writing journals at these shops, like the moleskins that expat writers tend to gravitate toward, but you can find lots of fascinating and rather inexpensive things that you never thought you needed (and you probably don’t): carbon copy paper for 2 CZK a sheet, a 6-pack of tempera paints for 50 CZK, decent wall calendars for 100 CZK or envelopes for 4 CZK. Remember, however, that even if you do not see something that you need on display behind the counter, it does not mean that the shop does not carry it. The carbon paper, for example, was in stocked in the back at the Valentinská papírnictví, so I had to ask for it in Czech. Carry a dictionary with you in case you come across this situation, and find that the item you require is actually not on display to point to.

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But if you are actually only in the market for a good writing journal, you might want to head over to the Shakespeare & Sons by the Malostranská metro, where you’ll find a wonderful assortment of  uniquely designed, hardcover journals that come in various sizes and even have handy little pockets on the inside back cover. The prices can be a bit steep, however, from about 200 CZK to 400 CZK. For something a little less expensive, hit up a Neo Luxor bookstore.

If you are searching for art supplies that you cannot find at any of the papírnictvís, check out the neighboring shops by Národní třída that specialize in materials for various types of painting and related crafts: Altamira, at Jilská 2 and Skořepka 1.

Suchi Rudra

Suchi is a freelance writer who left the US five years ago to see what there is to see in Europe and beyond. She writes on the topics of travel, sustainable design, business and education for publications in the US and Europe. In between assignments, she works on musical projects, short stories and experimental living.

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