Reading a good book can transport you to another time and place, but so can a visit to one of the world many beautiful libraries. Filled with knowledge and splendour, just standing amidst these incredible books can be an incredible experience. There are tons of beautiful libraries around the world, such as those listed in the recent book The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries, by Italian photographer Massimo Listri.
Libraries are inviting cultural spaces, whether they are filled with gilded works by old masters or light-filled, modern comforts. From sleek modern interiors to gilded renaissance masterpieces and medieval reading rooms that look like something out of Hogwarts, here are 25 of the most beautiful libraries around the world:
1Trinity College – Dublin, Ireland
Built on the remains of a 13th-century monastery, Ireland’s Trinity Coece was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. The university’s spectacular Old Library houses the 8th century Book of Kells, an embroidered Latin version of the Bible. Its Long Room also has over 200,000 of the library’s oldest books, and busts of famous men.
Also Read: 11 Places You Must See In Dublin
2Strahov Monastery Library – Prague, Czech Republic
This Premonstratensian abbey in Strahov, Prague, founded in 1143. Its library contains over 200,000 volumes and manuscripts. While you can’t actually sit down and read here, it is still one of the most beautiful libraries a book lover could visit.
3Biblioteca Vasconcelos, Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City’s Biblioteca Vasconcelos (or the Vasconcelos Library) is truly the “mega-library” it was built to be. It is Dedicated to José Vasconcelos, the former president of the National Library of Mexico. The library is spread across over 38,000 square meters. Its intricate network of balconies and stories of intentionally slightly mismatched floors, allows visitors to truly get lost amidst the books.
4Rampur Raza Library, Uttar Pradesh, India
The Rampur Raza Library (or Rampur Raza Kitab Khana) in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, was founded in the 18th century by Nawab Faizullah Khan. Regarded as a national monument, it has long been a centre of Indo-Islamic cultural heritage and knowledge. The collection was built up by successive Nawabs of Rampur until the state was merged with the Union of India. It houses many rare manuscripts, miniature paintings, astronomical instruments and rare illustrated works in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Pashto, Tamil and Turkish. The library has over 300,000 books as well and is one of the largest collection in Asia.
5George Peabody Library – Baltimore, USA
The 19th century George Peabody Library was previously known as the Library of the Peabody Institute of the City of Baltimore. It was funded by the famous merchant and philanthropist George Peabody. The stunning Néo-Grec interiors were designed by Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind and opened to the public in 1878.
6Bodleian Library – Oxford, England
Oxford University is known for its magnificent libraries, and the Bodleian Library, the main research library, is no different. With over 12 million items, it is the second-largest library in Britain after the British Library, and its collection includes beautiful rare maps, a Shakespeare First Folio, and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible. . It is also one of six legal deposit libraries for works published in the UK.
Also Read: 6 Places You Have To See At Oxford
7Stiftsbibliothek – St Gallen, Switzerland
The Abbey Library of Saint Gall was founded by Saint Othmar. While the Abbey itself was destroyed during a fire in 937, the library, now a Worl Heritage Site, was left unharmed. Its magnificent Rococo style hall was built by the architect Peter Thumb between 1758-67. The library has over 160,000 volumes as well as thousands of manuscripts and is the oldest and one of the most important libraries in Switzerland.
8Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt
While the ancient library at Alexandria was said to be one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world, it was destroyed in a fire over 1,600 years ago. However, in 2002 a new Bibliotheca Alexandrina was built to recapture its spirit. With donations from all around the world, the massive buildings contain a planetarium, four museums, academic research centres, and over five million books. Don’t miss the façade covered in letters and characters from more than a hundred different languages
9Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria
The baroque Austrian National Library (or the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) in Vienna was opened in 1723 as a royal library of the Hapsburgs. The sumptuous interiors are full of grand marble sculptures, gilt and frescoed ceilings, and ionic columns. It is located in the Neue Burg Wing of the magnificent Hofburg Palace. It includes four museums (including the splendid Globe museum) as well as special collections and archives. In 1920, the library became a possession of the state.
10Bibliotheca Medicea Laurenziana – Florence, Italy
Known as the Laurentian Library this private library of the House of Medici was designed by Michelangelo in the Late Renaissance style. It is built between 1525-71 in a cloister of the massive Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence and contains over 11,000 manuscripts and 4,500 early printed books.
11Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana – Rome, Italy
The Vatican Apostolic Library, or just the Vatican Library, is one of the oldest libraries in the world, though it was only formally established in 1475. Its significant collection of historical texts has over 1.1 million printed books and over 75,000 codices. The Vatican Secret Archives were separated at the start of the 17th century.
12Real Gabinete Português de Leitura – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading is a library and cultural institution. It was built in 1837 in the Portuguese Manueline (or Gothic-Renaissance) style and has the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside Portugal. It has over 350,000 works, many dating from the 16th to 18th centuries, as well as a small collection of paintings, sculptures and ancient coins.
13New York Public Library – New York City, USA
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library is a historic landmark in Midtown Manhattan. Guarded by marble lions, it is the flagship building of the NYPL system. Opened in 1911, it covers over 60,000 square meters and has been featured in various films. Don’t miss the Rose Main Reading Room and the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division.
14Admont Abbey Library, Austria
Admont Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, is home to the largest monastic library in the world. While the Abbey itself was completed in 1074 the beautiful Baroque library (late was not completed until 1776. The impressive hall is filled with frescoes and sculptures and looks like something straight out of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It also has a collection of over 200,000 volumes.
15Library at the Palacio Nacional de Mafra, Portugal
The 18th century National Palace of Mafra, located to the north of Lisbon, was originally meant to be a modest Franciscan monastery. However, it soon evolved into a lavish palace with over 1,200 rooms. The most magnificent of these is the Rococo-style library. Designed in the form of a cross, it holds over 40,000 priceless gold-embossed books. These include the first true modern atlas; a trilingual Bible; and a prized first edition of Os Lusíadas. These valuable books are kept free form insect damage by a colony of homing bats that live in the eaves.
16Stuttgart City Library, Germany
The Stuttgart City Library (or the Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart) may look like a monolithic cube from the outside, but its dramatic interior is filled with wondrous delights. The library was moved to this new building was designed by Eun Young Yi in Mailänder Platz in 2011, and features an all-white interior, a five-story reading room shaped like an upside-down pyramid, and various cafés and terraces. It also has a “Library for Insomniacs,” where small selections of books are available all night long.
17Cuypers Library, Amsterdam, Netherlands
This beautiful reading room in Amsterdam’s famous Rijksmuseum houses the country’s oldest and largest collection of book on art history. The shelves of the recently restored 19th-century library are stocked with thousands of manuscripts, books, journals, and periodicals along with various art catalogues. The reading room is open to tourists, students, and art historians alike.
18Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., USA
The Library of Congress is considered the de facto national library of the United States and is the oldest federal cultural institution in the country. Housed across three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., it was originally moved to the city in 1800. However, fires in 1814 and 1851 destroyed large portions of its collection.The library slowly rebuilt and expanded over the years. Today, it holds that its “collections are universal, not limited by subject, format, or national boundary, and include research materials from all parts of the world and in more than 450 languages.” The library receives two free copies of every book, map, chart, musical composition, engraving, print, and photograph submitted for copyright in the US, with over 12,000 items added to the collections daily.
19British Library, London, England
While it may not be among the most beautiful libraries on this list, the British Library in London is worth a mention just for the sheer size of its collection. With an estimated to contain 200 million+ items from many countries in various languages and formats, it is considered the largest library in the world (along with the Library of Congress). The library is a legal depository; meaning that it gets a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland. It along gets many international books distributed in the country. It is located near St Pancras Railway Station and features numerous bronze sculptures and rare manuscripts.
20Klementinum Library, Prague, Czech Republic
While Prague’s Strahov Library might be better known, the baroque Klementinum library is just as spectacular. It was built as part of a vast 17th century Jesuit complex. The beautiful ceiling frescoes are meant to mimic sweeping domes ceilings. The rest of the space is filled with carved wooden Corinthian columns, scalloped balconies and antique globes. The library’s collection also holds over 20,000 books.
21Queen’s College Library – Oxford, England
Oxford’s Queen’s College Library is considerably smaller than the Bodleian Library but is famously beautiful. It was constructed at the end of the 17th century, and soon became a focal point for the College. It has over 120,000 items spread across the Upper and Lower Libraries. However, a modern extension was built in 2017.
22Mortlock Wing, State Library, Adelaide, Australia
The State Library of South Australia, located in Adelaide, is one of the largest in the country. It is known for its “South Australiana” collection, documenting South Australia from pre-European settlements to the present day. The library’s famous Mortlock Wing was opened in 1884. Inside, its two storeys are decorated with ornamented wrought iron and gold balconies. There is also a glass-domed roof which allows in natural light.
23Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice, Italy
The National Library of St Mark’s in Venice is one of the oldest surviving libraries in Italy. This Renaissance building holds one of the greatest collections classical texts and public manuscripts in the world, with over 750,000 books; 13,000 manuscripts; and 24,000 prints. It is located near the iconic Piazza San Marco and was designed by Jacopo Sansovino. However, Construction on the magnificent library began in 1537 and continued for over 50 years, well past Sansovino’s death. It is also decorated with masterpieces by artists like Alessandro Vittoria, Titian, and Tintoretto. Much like the British Library and the Library of Congress today, the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana profited from a 1603 law that required printers to donate one copy of every book printed at Venice to the library.
24Musashino Art University Museum and Library, Tokyo, Japan
The beautifully designed library at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo was designed by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. Covering 26,900 square feet, it is made entirely of wood bookshelves walled in with glass. The spiral-shaped design of the building implies a new relationship between the user and books, surrounding and sheltering visitors with them. The building also houses a museum, a folk art gallery and an image library.
Of course, there are lots of other stunning libraries around the world. Among these most beautiful libraries are the Starfield Library in South Korea, the Royal Library of Copenhagen in Denmark and the Central Library of Vancouver in Canada. You can read more about beautiful libraries here, or check out some other interesting destinations for bookworms here.