The 25 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World

  • Zoe Wallace
  • |
  • February 28, 2024
  • |
  • < 1 minute read
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The 25 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World

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!

1. Strahov Monastery Library

Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Year created: 1671-1679 (Theological Hal), 1794 – 1797 (Phillosophicall Hall)

Number of books: 200,000

Website: Strahovský Klášte

Quick Facts:

  • has the Strahov Evangeliary (9th-10th century)
  • ceiling frescoes by Siard Nosecký and Anton Maulbertsch
  • can only see libraries from the outside door
  • tickets cost $11.50 Library and Gallery + $3 to take pictures

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.

2. George Peabody Library

Location: Maryland, United States

Year created: 1878

Number of books: 300,000

Website: John Hopkins Sheridan Libraries

Quick Facts:

  • has early editions of Don Quixote and Darwin’s Origin of the Species
  • collection from the 19th century mostly
  • free to visit, but visitors stay on the first floor

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.

3. Stuttgart City Library

Location: Stuttgart, Germany

Year created: 2011

Number of books: +500,000

Website: Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart

Quick Facts:

  • designed by Eun Young Yi
  • inverted pyramid open interior
  • free rooftop and audioguides
  • free to visit

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.

4. Trinity College Library

Location: Dublin, Ireland

Year created: 1592

Number of books: +7 million

Website: Trinity College Dublin

Quick Facts:

  • has the Book of Kells manuscript
  • legal depository for publishers in Ireland
  • the Long Room houses the oldest books
  • tickets cost $18.55

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.

5. Admont Abbey Library

Location: Admont, Austria

Year created: 1776

Number of books: 70,000

Website: Benediktinerstift Admont

Quick Facts:

  • world’s largest library in a monastery
  • frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte
  • has 1,500 manuscripts from the 9th century
  • tickets cost $15 + $4 per audioguide

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.

6. Mafra Palace Library

Location: Mafra, Portugal

Year created: 1771

Number of books: 36,000

Website: Cultura Portugal

Quick Facts:

  • has the Chronicle of Nuremberg from 1493
  • uses bats as pest control
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • tickets cost $6, closed on Tuesdays

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.

7. Abbey Library of Saint Gall

Location: St. Gallen, Switzerland

Year created: 1758-1767

Number of books: 160,000

Website: Stiftsbezirk St. Gallen

Quick Facts:

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • oldest collection in Switzerland
  • has Irish, Carolingian, and Ottonian manuscripts
  • tickets cost $18.21, no photos are allowed

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.

8. Royal Portuguese Reading Room

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Year created: 1837

Number of books: 350,000

Website: Real Gabinete

Quick Facts:

  • largest Portuguese literature collection outside the country
  • designed with a Neo-Manueline style
  • has Tu, só tu, puro amor manuscript
  • free to visit

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.

9. Austrian National Library

Location: Vienna, Austria

Year created: 1368

Number of books: +8 million

Website: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

Quick Facts:

  • biggest library in Austria
  • includes four museums within the complex
  • oldest library on our list
  • has a 17th-century Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem
  • tickets cost $8

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.

10. Tianjin Binhai Library

Location: Tianjin, China

Year created: 2017

Number of books: can hold up to 1.2 million

Website: Binhai Cultural Center

Quick Facts:

  • belongs to a cultural center
  • the youngest library on our list
  • has an auditorium and reading rooms
  • free to visit

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.

11. British Library

Location: London, United Kingdom

Year created: 1973

Number of books: +13,900 million

Website: The British Library

Quick Facts:

  • has one of the largest collections in the world
  • serves as a legal depository
  • has one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks
  • free to visit

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.

12. The Royal Library of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Location: Madrid, Spain

Year created: 1565

Number of books: 40,000

Website: El Escorial

Quick Facts:

  • located in the world’s largest Renaissance building
  • houses a collection of rare globes
  • frescoes by Pellegrino Tibaldi with the seven liberal arts
  • ticket costs $15

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.

13. José Vasconcelos Library

Location: Mexico City, Mexico

Year created: 2006

Number of books: +106,000

Website: Biblioteca Vasconcelos

Quick Facts:

  • can fit over a million books
  • has a botanical garden
  • has suspended bookshelves
  • free to visit

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.

14. New York Public Library

Location: New York, United States

Year created: 1895

Number of books: 55 million

Website: New York Public Library

Quick Facts:

  • the Stephen A. Schwarzman building is from 1911
  • listed in the National Register of Historic Places
  • has more than 80 branches
  • free to visit

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.

15. State Library Victoria

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Year created: 1854

Number of books: +2 million

Website: State Library Victoria

Quick Facts:

  • Australia’s oldest public library
  • the forecourt is a popular picnic spot
  • has a rare medieval manuscripts collection
  • free to visit

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.

16. Duke Humphrey's Bodleian Library

Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

Year created: 1480

Number of books: 13 million (all Bodleian libraries together)

Website: Bodleian Libraries

Quick Facts:

  • one of the oldest in Europe
  • has a medieval collection from 1487
  • used as a set in Harry Potter
  • tickets cost $10-$19

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.

17. Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Location: Alexandria, Egypt

Year created: 2002

Number of books: can hold up to 8 million

Website: Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Quick Facts:

  • tickets are limited and sold on site
  • has a planetarium and four museums
  • has a large francophone collection
  • tickets cost $3

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.

18. Rampur Raza Library

Location: Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, India

Year created: 1774

Number of books: 30,000

Website: Rampur Raza Library

Quick Facts:

  • serves as a repository for Indo-Islamic objects
  • library started by the first Nawab in Rampur
  • has Jami-ut-Tawarikh, a Persian manuscript from 13th century
  • free to visit

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.

19. Rijksmuseum Research Library

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Year created: 1885

Number of books: 400,000

Website: The Rijksmuseum

Quick Facts:

  • largest public art research library in Amsterdam
  • has all Royal Antiquarian Society’s works
  • museum visitors are limited to an area in the library
  • tickets cost $21

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.

20. Starfield Library

Location: Seoul, South Korea

Year created: 2017

Number of books: 70,000

Website: Starfield Coex Mall

Quick Facts:

  • located in the biggest underground mall in South Korea
  • has a foreign and overseas magazine section
  • hosts events, talk shows, and workshops
  • free to visit

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.

21. Tama Art University Library

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Year created: 2007

Number of books: +172,000 (between the two libraries)

Website: Tama Art University

Quick Facts:

  • consists of the Kaminoge Library and Hachioji Library
  • has 10,000 publications on Dadaism and Surrealism
  • designed by Toyo Ito
  • free to visit, some areas are restricted

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.

22. The Vatican Apostolic Library

Location: Vatican City, Italy

Year created: 1451

Number of books: 1.1 million books

Website: Vatican Apostolic Library

Quick Facts:

  • has the Codex Vaticanus Graecus
  • has one of the largest frescoes in the world
  • open only to researchers and professors

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.

23. The Morgan Library and Museum

Location: New York, United States

Year created: 1906

Number of books: 350,000

Website: The Morgan Library and Museum

Quick Facts:

  • has A Christmas Carol manuscript
  • has a large incunabula collection
  • researchers can request reading material
  • tickets cost $22

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.

This museum’s collection includes manuscripts and artwork. To visit, buy tickets online or at the entrance. You can visit for free on Fridays with previous reservations.

24. Seattle Central Library

Location: Washington, United States

Year created: 2004

Number of books: +1,360 million

Website: The Seattle Public Library

Quick Facts:

  • has aviation and genealogy collections
  • has a “Book Spiral” from the 6th to 9th floor
  • has indoor gardens
  • free to visit

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.

25. Biblioteca Joanina

Location: Coimbra, Portugal

Year created: 1717

Number of books: 250,000

Website: University of Coimbra

Quick Facts:

  • decorated with Chinese elements
  • has a 16th-century edition of Os Lusíadas
  • uses bats as a pest control method
  • tickets cost from $16-$20

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.

Most Beautiful Libraries – Final Thoughts

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!

Zoe Wallace

Zoe Wallace

Zoe Wallace is the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and contributing Travel Author of Culture.org. She is a leading expert in recruitment and a renowned travel influencer who journeys across the globe, capturing and sharing her extraordinary experiences. She uses her expertise to help people land jobs and advance their careers. Aside from that, her vibrant visuals and engaging storytelling immerse her followers in diverse cultures and breathtaking landscapes. Zoe's passion for exploration and commitment to responsible and sustainable traveling inspires many to embark on their own adventures and appreciate the world's myriad wonders.

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