From heavy-ornamented baroque libraries to minimalist white interiors, the most beautiful libraries in the world have something for everyone.
And whether you like hunting down unique libraries like me, or just like picture-worthy spots, these libraries will make you swoon over them.
Let’s dive in!
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Year created: 1671-1679 (Theological Hal), 1794 – 1797 (Phillosophicall Hall)
Number of books: 200,000
Website: Strahovský Klášte
You don’t have to be religious to enjoy the breathtaking frescoes in the Strahov Monastery Library in the Czech Republic.
The Theological Hall boasts a Baroque style with a ceiling full of stucco decorations and paintings from the 18th century.
Although the Philosophical Hall is younger, it’s also worth your time.
You can’t access the halls with common tickets. You can only tour the facilities by coordinating a special tour through the website. Taking pictures has an additional fee.
Location: Maryland, United States
Year created: 1878
Number of books: 300,000
Website: John Hopkins Sheridan Libraries
Located inside Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the George Peabody Library is one of the free public libraries in the United States.
The Peabody Stack Room has five floors with ornamental cast-iron rails and an outstanding skylight roof.
The library’s collection includes over 30,000 volumes from the 18th and 19th centuries. Also known as “The Cathedral of Books”, it’s said this beautiful library was the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast’s library.
Entrance is free, but visitors are limited to the first floor. You can see more details on their website.
Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Year created: 2011
Number of books: +500,000
Website: Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart
Most famous libraries around the world are heavily-ornamented but, the Stuttgart City Library will impress you with its simplicity.
Don’t let its sober cube-shaped outside appearance fool you. The Stuttgart City Library features a five-floor white interior, with a skylight ceiling and inverted pyramid form that gives it a surreal look.
Visitors can tour it freely and even borrow guided audiobooks.
The Stuttgart City Library also has a rooftop terrace, meeting rooms, and a coffee shop perfect for coffee and book enthusiasts.
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Year created: 1592
Number of books: +7 million
Website: Trinity College Dublin
The Trinity College Library in Dublin is one of the most famous libraries in Europe for its visuals and vast collection.
The Long Room is a two-story room that hosts the library’s oldest books distributed in stacked dark wood bookshelves that blend in with the surrounding walls and the arched ceiling.
Harry Potter fans will feel like they are walking inside the movie.
The Trinity College Library houses over 7 million volumes, including antique gems like the Book of Kells. To visit, book at Trinity College Dublin’s website.
Location: Admont, Austria
Year created: 1776
Number of books: 70,000
Website: Benediktinerstift Admont
Once you get a glimpse of it, there is no denying that the Admont Abbey Library in Austria is one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.
Considered the world’s largest monastery library, Admont Abbey is home to 70 thousand volumes.
Rather than its collection, what amazes most visitors is the Baroque architecture with gold and white ornaments.
The ceiling displays frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte and the sculptures are a work of Joseph Stammel.
Getting to this library from Vienna requires multiple transfers. But, during the weekends, you’ll find a direct train from Wien Westbahnhof to Admont. You can buy tickets on-site.
With most of the complete Mafra National Palace being an architectural masterpiece, it’s not hard to believe the Mafra Palace Library is the best of it all.
This monochromatic Roccoco-style library with marble floors, heavily-ornated shelves, and arched ceilings is one of the most stunning libraries around the world.
The library’s collection isn’t any less impressive, with 36 thousand volumes from the 14th to the 19th century.
To make Mafra Palace Library even more interesting, it’s also the home to dozens of bats that serve as a pest control method.
There are bus routes from Lisbon, Portugal to Mafra in under 42 minutes, and you can buy your entrance ticket on-site.
Location: St. Gallen, Switzerland
Year created: 1758-1767
Number of books: 160,000
Website: Stiftsbezirk St. Gallen
Hidden in the small town of Saint Gallen Switzerland, the Abbey Library of Saint Gall might not be the largest monastic library in Europe, but it’s one of the oldest libraries on the continent.
This ancient library dates back to the 8th AD, and it presumes one of the most impressive existing collections of Middle Ages items.
But the beauty of the Abbey Library of Saint Gall for many visitors lies in its Roccoco ceiling and two floors of polished and ornamented bookshelves.
Sadly, you’ll have to keep the memory of this UNESCO heritage site to yourself, as photos are forbidden. You can reach the site by train or bus and buy your entrance ticket online.
Also known as the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, this incredible library is located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Royal Portuguese Cabinet houses a collection of 350 thousand volumes, earning the title of the largest Portuguese literature collection outside Portugal.
The three-floor reading room has dark wood shelves and arches with gold decorations, skylights in iron, and a majestic chandelier. If you’re into gothic architecture, you’ll love this Manueline-style library.
You can visit the Royal Portuguese Reading Room for free. It’s also close to other main attractions in the historical center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Location: Vienna, Austria
Year created: 1368
Number of books: +8 million
Website: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
Another library in Austria that joins the list of the top libraries in the world is the Austrian National Library.
Located within the Hofburg Palace complex in Vienna, and once the Court Library, the Austrian National Library is both a library and a museum.
The State Hall is the main attraction with two floors of bookshelves, sculptures, and exhibitions.
The Austrian National Library is the largest in Austria with over 12 million books and collection objects. One of the most popular collections among history lovers is the collection of antique and rare manuscripts.
You can buy tickets on their website.
Location: Tianjin, China
Year created: 2017
Number of books: can hold up to 1.2 million
Website: Binhai Cultural Center
The Tianjin Binhai Library is much younger than other libraries on the list, but its mesmerizing architecture earns it a place between the most beautiful libraries around the world.
Located in Tianjin, China, this library is a place for book lovers, but also curious visitors.
The sphere in the center known as “the eye” seems like out of a sci-fi movie.
Bookshelves go from the floor to the ceiling, and although the higher levels aren’t occupied with books the library isn’t any less stirring.
The five-floor library features an auditorium, reading rooms, meeting rooms, offices, and rooftop terraces. Tianjin is only 30 minutes away from Beijing by high-speed train and admission is free.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Year created: 1973
Number of books: +13,900 million
Website: The British Library
Even if there are far more beautiful libraries in the world they can’t beat the British Library in London in terms of collection.
The collection has over 170 million items surpassing even the Library of Congress. It’s also a functional library where anyone can go to study or work.
Although not as mesmerizing as others, this British Library sports a multi-tier impressive book tower. Admission is free and some of the exhibitions are too.
The Piccadilly underground line takes you directly from the London Airport to King’s Cross St. Pancras, which is within walking distance of the library.
Stepping into The Royal Library of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is enough to know it’s one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.
Established by King Philip II inside the complex of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, in Madrid, the library houses over 40 thousand books, rare baroque globes, and armillary spheres.
But beyond the collection, what captures most visitors is the ceiling’s colorful frescoes with images of classical history.
Visitors can buy their tickets online and take the train or the subway to get there.
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Year created: 2006
Number of books: +106,000
Website: Biblioteca Vasconcelos
The Jose Vasconcelos Library is another one of the Latinamerican libraries to make the list of the top beautiful libraries in the globe.
Here bookworms won’t find historical frescoes, but, they’ll discover one of the coolest libraries in the world, with unique multi-story structures that seem out of the movie Interstellar.
The Jose Vasconcelos Library is one of the largest libraries in Mexico City, and it’s said it can fit up to 2 million books.
You can roam the open structure for free. Families can take advantage of their calendar of activities.
If you’re visiting from the Mexico City airport, it will take a 34-minute bus ride to get here.
Location: New York, United States
Year created: 1895
Number of books: 55 million
Website: New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is the United States’ second largest library, after the Library of Congress.
Its 55-million items collection is divided into multiple buildings. But, if book lovers have to choose only one to visit, it should be the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in Manhattan.
This building of the New York Public library hosts the iconic Rose Main Reading Room.
The roof of this column-less room is famous for its moldings and paintings. History enthusiasts that want to know more about the building can book a free tour through their area of interest.
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Year created: 1854
Number of books: +2 million
Website: State Library Victoria
The State Library Victoria in Melbourne is not only the oldest public library in Australia but also one of the most significant libraries in the country.
Founded in 1854, the State Library Victoria’s collection has over 4 million items that preserve Victoria’s heritage.
As evidence that its also one of the most mesmerizing libraries in the globe, a quick look at La Trobe Reading Room and Dome Gallery is enough.
The octagonal structure of the main reading room has six floors and millions of books. The skylights give the room below an ethereal feeling.
Add to your visit a stop at the permanent and temporary art exhibitions on the 4th and 5th floor. Best of all, entrance to this public library is free.
Location: Oxford, United Kingdom
Year created: 1480
Number of books: 13 million (all Bodleian libraries together)
Website: Bodleian Libraries
The Bodleian Library is the second-largest library in Britain and one of the oldest surviving libraries in Europe.
This old library opened in 1602, and up to date, its collection amounts to 13 million prints and 31 network libraries.
Duke Humphrey’s Library inside the Bodleian Library, has a sober charm. Harry Potter fans will recognize the library from a few scenes in the movies too.
But whether you’re a history enthusiast or a Harry Potter fan, you can only visit with a guided tour. Book it through the Bodleian Library, Oxford, England website.
Location: Alexandria, Egypt
Year created: 2002
Number of books: can hold up to 8 million
Website: Bibliotheca Alexandrina
It’s said the Library of Alexandria was one of the most magnificent libraries of ancient times.
Although the old library no longer exists, its modern sister, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Egypt’s waterfront is still awe-inspiring.
The main reading room can fit up to 8 million books. Bibliotheca Alexandrina also features a planetarium, four museums, art galleries, niched libraries, and a manuscript restoration laboratory.
Visit early to buy one of the 300 tickets to get inside the library. You can also reserve online. Some attractions inside the library have additional costs.
See their website for more details.
Location: Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Year created: 1774
Number of books: 30,000
Website: Rampur Raza Library
There is no doubt India is home to many striking buildings and structures, and the Rampur Raza Library is one of them.
This library located in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, India, houses a unique collection of Indo-Islamic objects, including 30 thousand books.
The interior of Rampur Raza Library showcases an Indo-European style with big columns, ceilings with domes and arches, gold ornaments, chandeliers, and white marble statues that architecture enthusiasts will love.
The ride from New Dehli takes around 3 hours and admission is free.
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Year created: 1885
Number of books: 400,000
Website: The Rijksmuseum
Found in Amsterdam, The Rijksmuseum is a museum with an eye-catching art library inside.
From the third floor, you’ll witness the striking visuals of the open interior four-tier library with balconies and spiral staircases.
You’ll also get a glimpse of the thousands of books that make up this public library’s niched collection in art history.
Since the Rijksmuseum Research Library is inside a museum, you need to buy a ticket to visit.
Location: Seoul, South Korea
Year created: 2017
Number of books: 70,000
Website: Starfield Coex Mall
Located in COEX Mall, the largest underground mall in South Korea, Starfield Library is free to visit.
It sports floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that mesmerize visitors with over 50 thousand volumes including a vast collection of foreign texts. You can find the English texts under the D10 magazine shelves.
Visitors are welcome to sit in their preferred spot and enjoy some reading after a day of shopping, but the place is often a space for youngsters that want to relax.
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Year created: 2007
Number of books: +172,000 (between the two libraries)
Website: Tama Art University
Everything about the Tama Art University Library inspires balance and peacefulness.
Built in the Tama Art University in Tokyo, two different structures form part of this library: the Hachioji campus and the Kaminoge campus.
The Hachioji Library displays minimalistic interiors full of arches, glass windows, and soft curves.
Although free of charge, usually outsiders and visitors are limited to the grounds floor of the library. The trip from Tokyo Haneda Airport by public transportation takes about one and a half hours.
Location: Vatican City, Italy
Year created: 1451
Number of books: 1.1 million books
Website: Vatican Apostolic Library
Is there any structure in the Vatican that isn’t astonishing? Hardly, and certainly, the Vatican Library isn’t one of them.
The Vatican Library is one of the world’s oldest and most significant libraries with over 2 million texts.
The Sistine Hall on the library’s second floor hides one of the world’s largest frescoes that goes as far as the eye can see.
Access to The Vatican Apostolic Library is restricted to researchers, professors, and Ph.D. students. But, part of the collection is displayed in the Vatican Museums.
Location: New York, United States
Year created: 1906
Number of books: 350,000
Website: The Morgan Library and Museum
The Morgan Library and Museum in New York seems like a structure from the Renaissance era, but it’s barely over a century.
The library is divided into the east, center, and west rooms. The east room boasts paintings, tapestries, and a fireplace.
But what makes the Morgan Library memorable is the three-tier bookshelves topped with ceiling lunettes and frescoes.
Location: Washington, United States
Year created: 2004
Number of books: +1,360 million
Website: The Seattle Public Library
The Seattle Central Library in Washington is a one-of-a-kind library with a steel net around glass walls that bounds together multiple floating platforms.
It can fit 1.5 million volumes between its 11 floors.
But, even if you’re not visiting for the books, you can enjoy a treat in the library’s coffee shop or enjoy events promoted by the library. Admission is free.
Location: Coimbra, Portugal
Year created: 1717
Number of books: 250,000
Website: University of Coimbra
Biblioteca Joanina is an 18th-century Baroque-style library at the University of Coimbra, in Portugal.
Although heavily ornamented, the Joanina Library’s interior somehow blends graciously throughout the main room.
The two-tier bookshelves and gold ceiling its a sight worth seeing. Like the Mafra Palace, this library also uses bats to control pests.
You can only visit through a 20-minute tour. You must get your tickets online or across the Chemical Laboratory. There aren’t any tickets for sale on-site.
Keep in mind that from your parking spot to the building, there are stairs and the climb is somewhat steep.
So now you know what the most beautiful libraries in the world are.
How many have you visited? And which one do you plan to visit next?
Share in the comments!
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