There is nothing better than the pages of a good book, except perhaps the beautiful libraries that house those books. Across the world, in some incredible cities, there are libraries that are more than just buildings with books. These libraries will take your breath away and leave you in complete awe. These stunning libraries make a great stop in any of these destinations or may be reason enough to plan a trip. Will travel for beautiful libraries!
This list includes the most beautiful libraries in the world. Plucked from various countries and corners of the world, these libraries are exceptionally beautiful and are a book lover’s dream come true. Yet you don’t need to be a book lover to appreciate these libraries.
The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World
Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City, Mexico
Biblioteca Vasconcelos is a modern marvel in Mexico City. This library is no question one of the most beautiful libraries in the world and is a unique one at that. This steel, concrete, and glass structure appear to be more so a geometric maze rather than a library. Walking through the rows and rows of hanging bookshelves, housing more than 470,000 books, you will feel as though you transported to a sci-fi reality. The see-through floors make this library even more surreal.
The library opened in 2006 and is said to be one of the most advanced constructions of the 21st century. This 820-foot building sits in the middle of a lush botanical garden, creating quite the juxtaposition. Looking out of the windows at the lush greenery, it is easy to forget that you are in the middle of a busy city.
This library is a bit out of the way from most of the other tourist spots in Mexico City, yet is an easy Uber ride to get to. And it is well worth the effort to visit this unique library, as Biblioteca Vasconcelos will surely be unlike any library you have ever seen.
New York Public Library in New York, New York
The New York Public Library’s main branch is a site to see for any library lover. The main branch, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, is one of the most iconic spots in New York City and is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. This library has also been featured in various T.V. shows and movies, so chances are you are already familiar with the New York Public Library.
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is located in Midtown Manhattan and is located nearby plenty of other major attractions in New York City. The New York Public Library is free to visit, making it is an easy addition to any NYC itinerary.
The entire library looks as if it is a museum, yet the main attraction is the Rose Main Reading Room. The Rose Main Reading Room measures the length of two city blocks and has an impressively high, 53-foot tall ceiling. The ceiling is one of the most striking parts of the library, featuring murals painted to look like the sky.
As a visitor, you can only look at the Rose Main Reading Room from the entrance to keep distractions at a minimum for those using the library for reading and studying. Visiting the New York Public Library is a great thing to do on a cold or rainy day in New York City.
Library of Parliament in Ottawa, Canada
This beautiful library is tucked away in the Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa. It is certainly one of the most beautiful libraries in Canada and perhaps one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.
Due to its location, the only way to visit the Library of Parliament is through a free guided tour of the Parliament of Canada. The entire parliament is beautiful, so it will be well worth your time to visit. Tours are available on weekdays. Once you reach the library on your tour, you will be blown away by its beauty. The Library of Parliament is noted for its circular shape and its high ceilings and gives off serious Beauty and the Beast vibes.
The Library of Parliament was built in the Victorian Gothic style in the late 1800s. The librarian Alpheus Todd, insisted on having iron doors on the entrance to the library in order to protect the books. These doors actually saved the library from a fire in 1916.
As the Library of Parliament is a government building, you will only be able to look at the library from the roped-off area. While the gorgeous rows of books may be beckoning you closer, it is for government use only. However, this makes it a lot easier to take a photo of the library, as not many people will be walking around it.
Szabó Ervin Library in Budapest, Hungary
By Jessica Agostino from Jagsetter
Budapest, Hungary is an enchanting city full of medieval architecture and its famous thermal baths. Visitors of Budapest may feel like they’ve stepped into a storybook from the 19th century. And one of the most magical architectural spots in Budapest is the secret Szabó Ervin Library.
The Szabó Ervin Library was built towards the end of the 19th century and conceptualized by a man named Ervin Szabó. The library was first built within an aristocrat mansion. The mansion that it was built in no longer exists, but the small library—inclusive of its ornate furniture and historical text, was preserved. The languages of the text within the library vary—but most of the books are written in Hungarian.
The library is a hidden gem in Budapest because it’s not well advertised, and hard to find. Its ancient rooms are protected inside a new-age, modern-looking public library that was built around it. To get to The Szabó Ervin Library, visitors must go to the modern library that houses it. Once inside, ask a staff member how to get to the, “preserved Szabó Ervin Library.” There’s minimal directional signage so relying on staff help is crucial. Admission is free of charge but visitors will have to register for a day-pass upon entry.
Once inside the library, guests can move around the preserved rooms and admire its magnificent furniture. There are chairs throughout the library that guests can sit in to study, read the historical text, and relax. There’s also a cafe in the library that serves up great drinks and pastries.
Connecticut State Public Library in Hartford, Connecticut
By Vanessa Gordon from East End Taste Magazine
Photo credit: Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism
The most beautiful library in the state of Connecticut, and if not all of New England, is the Connecticut State Public Library in Hartford. The library is located in the center of Connecticut’s capital city within walking distance of the State Capitol and Legislative Office Building. The library was originally established in the mid 19th century.
Once you walk inside, you will instantly become amazed by the grand architecture. The library’s lobby has picturesque marble pillars with an Italian Renaissance style of architecture. The detail in the ceilings and chandeliers are also awe-inspiring. Above some of the chandeliers, you will see an intricate painting that resembles the sky and clouds during the daytime. One of the most beautiful rooms in the library is the Main Reading Room. The reading room has a gorgeous Beaux-Arts style ceiling with gleaming colors of gold, red, and green.
One of the most unique features, and a favorite of many who visit the library, are the four-story book stacks with translucent glass floors. The room features an electric book lift and steel shelves. Head downstairs to see the cavernous lower lobby which is referred to as the “rathskeller.”
In addition to the daytime, the public library also has a dramatic appearance at night with its uplighting.
The best time to visit the Connecticut State Public Library is in May when you can witness the cherry blossoms in full bloom across the way. Another beautiful time to visit is in the fall, or particularly the first two weeks of October when the fall foliage is at its peak.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, France
By Elisa from World in Paris
The BNF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) is France’s National Library. It is located in Paris, in different buildings spread around the city.
One of the most beautiful BNF sites is the Salle Labrouste, in the heart of the Richelieu Building. The Richelieu Building is located in Paris 2 (58 rue de Richelieu), not far from the Louvre and the Tuileries Garden, so people spending two days in Paris or more can easily combine the visit to these places with lesser-known sites like the Salle Labrouste.
Not many people know about the Salle Labrouste because it is reserved for students and researchers. However, from time to time, the BNF organizes guided visits for 3€, or one can just have a look at the hall from the entrance.
The Salle Labrouste was designed by Henri Labrouste in the second half of the 19th century. After his project’s success for the bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, he was naturally entrusted with the reconstruction and expansion of the Imperial Library (future BNF), located in the former Hotel Tubeuf.
The most important part of this project was the Salle Labrouste. Here, he used the square plan, extended to the south by a hemicycle, and he designed a metallic structure independent of the masonry. The hall’s sixteen cast-iron columns support nine cupolas, covered with earthenware panels and pierced with oculi. These oculi diffuse a uniform light in the room, perfect for reading. Finally, at the back of the hemicycle, two caryatids frame the monumental glass door of the central print shop.
The Salle Labrouste is considered Labrouste’s masterpiece, and this architectural model was used to build other lecture rooms around the world.
The Long Room at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland
By Constance Ray from A Well Read Wanderer
For anyone who is moved by the sight of a beautifully displayed collection of books and that inimitable old book smell, the Long Room at Trinity College should be at the top of your list of libraries to visit.
It is a stunning room to enter and to take in. It is 65 meters long with row upon row of bookshelves loaded with ancient books, carried up two stories high. Take in the dark mahogany of the bookshelves and the busts of influential philosophers and writers that line the shelves, including Aristotle, Cicero, Homer, Plato, and Isaac Newton.
Its most famous visual element, of course, is the barrel-vaulted ceiling to accommodate two levels of full bookshelves. The library dates back to the early 1700s, but the ceiling wasn’t vaulted until 1860. By then, the lower shelves had become far too full to accommodate the number of books, so the ceiling was vaulted and the second level added. The fact that it became so full is hardly surprising since the library at Trinity College contains a copy of every single book published in Britain and Ireland, totaling more than 200,000 volumes.
While you won’t be able to climb one of those magical looking ladders to get a closer look at the books, take your time walking up and down the length of the corridor, and appreciate the beauty in the details of this unique library, in addition to its overall grandeur.
Trinity College is located right in the center of Dublin. The Long Room is open to visitors seven days a week, with hours varying seasonally. Tickets with specific entry times should be pre-booked online for €16.
You can find out more literary travel tips at A Well-Read Wanderer, such as the three must-visit independent bookstores in Boston, Massachusetts.
Biblioteca Palafoxiana in Puebla, Mexico
By Bailey from Destinationless Travel
Located in Puebla, Mexico, Biblioteca Palafoxiana
Biblioteca Palafoxiana is not only gorgeous, but it is full of history as the oldest library in all of Latin America. The library was built in 1646 and features over 45,000 different books. Some of these books date back to the 15th century – they are really old!
Because of its age, visiting Biblioteca Palafoxian
It costs visitors 40 pesos to enter the library, but this small fee is totally worth it once you step inside. Antique wooden shelves line the walls all the way up to the tall vaulted ceiling. To be honest, the library looks like it should belong somewhere in Europe as opposed to Mexico, the décor and style is very European.
With all of that said, visiting this ancient library is easily one of the best things to do in Puebla, Mexico. And while Puebla isn’t one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations, it is a beautiful city located only a couple of hours from Mexico City. Well worth checking out even if it’s just for this beautiful library.
The Stadsbiblioteket in Stockholm, Sweden
By Phil from Journication
In Sweden’s capital, there is so much to discover and experience amidst the many islands and skerries. Here you will find world-famous sights such as the old town Gamla Stan, the Vasa Museum, the royal castle, and the Djurgarden. Even with limited time, you can do a lot: Here you’ll find the best things to do in Stockholm for one day.
But Stockholm also has a lot to offer off the beaten track. Less known to tourists is the city library, The Stadsbiblioteket, in the Vasastaden district (Sveavägen 73, 113 80 Stockholm). The striking round building was designed by the Swedish architect Eric Gunnar Asplund and built as early as 1924-28 at the intersection of Sveavägen and Odengatan. The architectural style can be assigned to Nordic Classicism.
The circular library hall in the center is particularly impressive. The rotunda gives the otherwise not overly large building something monumental. Current and historical books from a wide variety of categories and genres can be found across different levels. Today the library has more than 700,000 books, not just in Swedish. In addition, a large number of magazines and daily newspapers are kept and regularly updated.
Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Anthony from Green Mochila
Photo credit: mayumine on Flikr
Now how would it feel to read an old book in a cozy room built in the 1880s? That feeling is what readers get in the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, a historic library in the very center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
This is simply the world’s 4th most beautiful library, according to Time magazine. The walls of this small room seem to be entirely covered in books, from the floor to the ceiling. The bookcases are in sculpted wood and the floor of fine marble. It looks like a museum –fair enough, it’s often visited as such– but it is actually a public library.
The Cabinet has the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside Portugal and is perfect if you want to brush up on your Luís de Camões or Eça de Queiros. By the way, it is aptly located on the Luís de Camões street, a stone’s throw from the city cathedral or the Campo de Santana.
The white facade of the building is as pretty as its entrails, with its statues of famous authors, its ornate windows, and neo-Gothic towers. Reading 16th-century Portuguese literature in the original might not be every traveler’s cup of tea during a trip to Brazil, but the place is definitely worth a visit.
Rijksmuseum Library in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
By Samantha Karen from Sam Sees World
The Rijksmuseum Library is not only one of the most beautiful libraries in Europe, but one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. This library is located in the beautiful city of Amsterdam inside one of the largest and most popular museums: Rijksmuseum. Due to its unique location inside a museum, it is not super well known, but within recent years has become more and more popular with people visiting the museum with the goal to visit this library.
The full name of this library is the Rijksmuseum Research Library and has a very unique gothic feel that is rare for Amsterdam. You will find Rijksmuseum Library to be an architectural goldmine as from the viewing platform you can stand and admire the intricate wood detailing and stacks of books in all directions. This library is full of art history books that are used daily by museum staff to look up details on the artworks in the museum.
A visit to this museum is a must while visiting Amsterdam to admire one of the city’s best-hidden gems! It is the perfect place to visit in the winter months to escape the cold. Prepare to fall in love with the gothic details and old books that make up this unique and stunning collection.
The Calgary Central Library in Calgary, Canada
By Lotte from Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog
The Calgary Central Library is a must-visit during any trip to Calgary. The building opened in November 2018 and is one of the most beautiful libraries in Canada and possibly the world. This amazing building has received many awards, such as the Architecture Honour Award (American Institute of Architects), and has been mentioned by both the New York Times and Time Magazine (who named it one of the 100 Greatest Places of 2019).
The library serves not only as a place to read and lend books but also as a meeting place. Within the library, there is a theater, public gathering spaces, Performance Halls, and even a Native art showcase. It’s a popular place to visit, both for Calgarians as well as tourists, around 2 million people visit the Calgary Central Library annually.
The library is built above an LRT Station, an excellent engineering feat that formed the base of the design of this special building. Fun fact: within the skeletal structure of the Library, there is a large steel beam. This beam has been inscribed with almost 700 personal messages for future generations by Calgarians from all ages, thereby acting as a time capsule of steel.
Melbourne City Library in Melbourne, Australia
By Carol Guttery of California Crossings
Melbourne, Australia is a UNESCO City of Literature and is heavily invested in the written word. They have fantastic bookstores, a healthy population of authors, and a lovely library. Their City Library (or main branch) was built in 1864 and is not only Australia’s oldest library but one of the most beautiful in the Southern Hemisphere. The City Library is charged with preserving Victoria’s heritage by collecting items of historical and cultural significance for future generations.
The main reading room is a graceful rotunda with special collections on the upper floors, art, and history exhibit on the middle floors, and a stunning reading room on the ground floor. The buttery wood shelves and reading tables are contrasted by the cream walls. The walls are covered with literary quotes, such as this one from Isabel Allende: “Writers speak for those who are kept in silence”.
The Melbourne City Library is truly the people’s library. It’s always busy with people reading, working and playing chess. The library is a cornerstone of Melbourne’s Central Business District and any book lover visiting the city should prioritize a visit.
Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen, Denmark
By Derek and Mike from Everything Copenhagen
Photo credit: Daniel Rasmussen
One of the world’s most beautiful libraries sits on the waterfront of Copenhagen Harbor. It’s nicknamed the Black Diamond for the beautiful shape of the building and the way that the water reflects off the angled glass windows. The Black Diamond is Denmark’s Danish Royal Library. The beautiful building is a sight to admire from every angle and the marvelous architectural legacy of Copenhagen.
The Danish Royal Library is the largest library in the Nordic countries and among the largest in the world. Inside the library are numerous treasures of print and literature. Thanks to generous donations, the Black Diamond holds nearly all printed Danish works back to and including the first Danish books printed by Johann Snell in 1482. The library was created in 1648 by King Frederik III. It started with the king’s collection of fine European works and was opened to the public in the late 18th century. In 1983 the library merged with the Copenhagen University Library which was founded in 1482.
The Royal Danish Library is one of the best free things to do in Copenhagen. Visitors can tour exhibits, visit the gift shop, or get a coffee and cake in the cafe. The Black Diamond is a fantastic place to sit outside and take in the views of the harbor.
John Rylands Library in Manchester, England
By Bec from Wyld Family Travel
Photo credit: Marketing Manchester and Rich J Jones
The John Rylands library is located in Manchester and is simply stunning. You can’t be blamed for thinking this amazing library is actually a church or cathedral with its decor both inside and out. From sweeping corridors to some of the most ornate stonework there is so much to see…and you haven’t even reached the books yet.
The John Ryland library was designed and founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband in 1900. She set to work making the library’s collection which is one of the best in the UK. Because of this vast collection, the Library was merged with the University of Manchester’s library in 1972 and is one of the biggest in the United Kingdom with many special collections.
Walking through the corridors you can see beautiful stained glass windows with both the White Rose of York and The Red Rose of Lancaster among others. Large wooden doors give it a real medieval feel.
There is a large staircase that leads you up to the actual library. When you reach the library itself it is a wow moment. It is two-story with large ceilings and the small lights that illuminate the room make it feel like it is being lit by candlelight. It is amazing to see and feels like a scene straight out of Harry Potter. There are study nooks filled to the roof with books and all down the center are books on display so you can see them. The John Rylands Library is beautiful and is definitely a place you can spend a couple of hours wandering and taking in one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.
The Starfield Library in Seoul, South Korea
By Shelley from Travel Stained
The Starfield Library in Seoul, Korea is simply striking. With dramatic architecture, incredible art installations, and an unexpected location smack dab in the middle of Asia’s largest underground mall, it impressed from the moment it opened in mid-2017. This library is so awe-inspiring and photogenic, that it’s widely credited with singlehandedly increasing chronically low visitor numbers to the mall since its inception.
As you approach the library, the first thing you’ll notice is 3 absolutely humungous bookshelves stuffed with over 50,000 books and magazines. Standing at a height of 13 meters each, they soar high into the light and glass-filled ceiling. It’s visually arresting, to say the least. Be sure to snap some pictures while riding one of the escalators in the library.
The center of the Starfield Library’s massive two-story, 2,800 square meter space is reserved for large-scale art installations. These have included a stunning tower made of 14,000 books called “Wonderland in Starfield” and the gorgeous “City of Light.”
Most recently, the 11.6m-tall “Snow Pavilion,” wowed visitors with 900 individual snowflakes, encased in glass triangles, and shaped into an 11.6m-tall Christmas tree. It’s no surprise that these art exhibitions draw photographers, bloggers, and tourists to the library again and again.
The Starfield Library is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m, every day. It’s best to visit as early in the morning as possible if you’re looking for quiet and anything resembling the traditional idea of what a library is. Otherwise, you’re more likely to find a public cultural space that happens to include a lot of books, reams of tourists, and people posing for that perfect selfie.
Strahov Library in Prague, Czech Republic
By Margarita Steinhardt from The Wildlife Diaries
Words like enchanting and mesmerizing come to mind when describing the Strahov Library, tucked away behind the white walls of the 800-year-old Strahov Monastery in Prague. The monastery is located only a short walk up the hill from Prague Castle through the quiet neighborhoods of Uvoz Street, but it feels a million miles away from the buzz of the tourist hotspot.
The stunning library is arranged in two halls: the older Baroque Theological Hall established in 1674 and the more ‘modern’ Classicist Philosophical Hall, dating from 1794. The Theological Hall is the smaller of the two, but it is more exquisitely ornate. Its walls are lined with tall bookcases. The floor space is filled with terrestrial and astronomical globes. And its ceiling is covered with mesmerizing frescos that depict the wisdom of the librarians and the quest for knowledge.
After about 100 years, the library collection outgrew the space provided by the Theological Hall, and the new, bigger hall was built. With a 14-meter high ceiling and ornate walnut wood interiors, the Philosophical Hall is much grander than its original counterpart. In fact, this hall is so big, that the books on the highest shelves can only be reached from a gallery, which is accessed by the spiral staircases concealed by fake bookcases in the corners of the hall.
The combination of ancient knowledge and the spectacular beauty of the halls creates an awe-inspiring sight. But sadly, while you can peak through the doorways, you can’t enter the library halls themselves to wander among the bookshelves. Given how old some of the manuscripts are, they are susceptible to damage from the fluctuating humidity levels caused by the visitors’ breath.
Mortlock Wing, State Library of Australia in Adelaide, Australia
By Josie from Exploring South Australia
South Australia was a planned colony, and those first settlers who landed in 1836 from England had brought with them a collection of books with the intention of starting the first library. The library buildings have been added, removed, and renovated many times since, but the beautiful Mortlock Wing, first opened in 1884, has remained preserved as one of the finest examples of mid-Victorian era libraries.
The State Library of South Australia is located in a prime position on the main boulevard through Adelaide, flanked by museums and universities. It is a combination of modern library buildings and traditional areas.
The Mortlock Wing of the library is a lovely, timber paneled space, reminiscent of the library depicted in the Harry Potter movies. The top two galleries hold various historical book collections, including a full “gentlemen’s library” donated by Sir Josiah Symon in 1935. There are also plenty of study spaces available, usually filled with students from the nearby university looking for a peaceful setting for their study.
The bottom floor is a small museum containing displays on many unique aspects of South Australian life over the years, from sporting heroes to local inventions and events. This alone is well worth browsing through as you admire the surroundings.
Many of those original books that arrived with the first settlers in 1836 have survived the intervening years and some are on display in the Mortlock Wing for visitors to admire.
The University of Cyrus Library in Nicosia, Cyprus
By Elina Michaelidou from Empnefsys & Travel
“Stelios Ioannou” Learning Resource Centre serves as the main library of the University of Cyprus. It is located in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus at the university campus, and is the largest library on the island.
Biblioteca Joanina in Coimbra, Portugal
By Izzy and Phil from The Gap Decaders
Photo credit: aboutcentro