What is the first thing you think of when it comes to visiting a library? It's a place for studying, book lovers, quiet, boring? Well, think again! Not only from it's architecture, but also depending on its history, libraries are another piece of wonder and art. What if for your next vacation, you could go visit some of the most stunning libraries in the world? We have already prepared a list.
As a young child you can pick up a book and suddenly your mind will be swept away to a world of fantasy and mysteries. As you grow older and start your academic year, you may turn to books without images. But no matter how old you are, if you raise your nose between two thorough readings, libraries are definitely a place that will take one into the world of 'oohs and ahhs'. Libraries always had some sort of mystical aura, a unique charm, hoarding vast amounts of knowledge and history, abiding by their own rules and sometimes shrouded in mystery.
One of the most impressive and iconic libraries in the world, the main chamber of the Trinity College Library can probably fit the fantasized idea we naturally have of an ancient library, that bears the weight of aeons (even though it is only 400 years old) and holds secrets of history. Take in the atmosphere while you're there: the solemn marble busts, the many dark wood shelves and the high barrel-like ceiling. It is as if everything there was designed to make you feel small... and it does.
The beautiful Handelingenkamer Library, located within the House of Representatives in The Hague of the Netherlands, displays a typical neo-Dutch Renaissance style, and is pretty vertical, with high walls, many splendid guardrails and an impressive glass dome ceiling. When visiting there, you might be intrigued by certain elements of the design, like the dragon heads on the walls, which comes from the Chinese inspirations C.H. Peters based the design upon.
This one is also quite impressive, with flying buttresses, a large circular main reading room and its Victorian high Gothic Style, which matches the rest of the Parliament. The Library of Parliament is actually still fully used by parliamentarians of Canada, providing them with the necessary information for their research and analysis. More than 350,000 visitors paid a visit to the library each year, so if you're in Ottawa, don't forget to add and enjoy a trip to see this architectural beauty.
The Library of El Escorial Monatery is located within the Royal Monastery of the historical palace of the King of Spain, in Madrid, which explains why its architecture is so beautifully detailed and luxurious. This royal library was meant to hold a strong symbolic meaning, by linking the monastery to the rest of the palace it embodies the union between the physical and spiritual worlds, which is why for instance books about profane subjects such as history or biology are stored close to the entrance.
More than 250 years old, the Abbey Library of Saint Gall, a Rococo style medieval library, is located in the Swiss city of St. Gallen, and holds such a cultural importance that UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1983. It was so well preserved and maintained that it looks like a movie set and it could easily be included as part of a trip to Switzerland, during a rainy day for instance!
We know that monastery libraries can be quite fancy, but this one might be among the fanciest of them all. Be marvelled by the hand carved wooden columns painted to resemble blue marble, white statues evoking ancient Greek art, decorated ceilings, and a lot of gold among the shimmering color of the Wiblingen Monastery Library. This library, located in the town of Ulm in Germany, will definitely make you feel like you are in a fairytale for a split second.
Another abbey? Many libraries are actually monastic because monks used to be among the only people literate enough to read and write, but this one is the largest in the world! The Admont Abbey Library is famous beyond Austria for its beautiful ceiling art, painted by Bartolomeo Altomonte, and its Baroque architecture. As a bonus to all that, there is a 40-min guided tour, but you can also explore the library on your own without a guide! Plan a trip and check out why this library is one of the popular sightseeing spots in person!
This institution’s purpose is to collect and preserve the state’s memory, and especially the history and culture of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plains. The State Library of South Australia is composed of 3 buildings, each with their own style: the contemporary Catherine Helen Spence Wing, the studious Institute building and the historic Mortlock Wing, which has been nicknamed the ‘Harry Potter room’ due to its resemblance with the movies’ scenery.
In addition to being the official library of the University of Oxford, the Bodleian Library holds more than 13 million printed items, among which priceless works like the Magna Carta, or Shakespeare’s First Folio. One of its buildings, the Radcliffe Camera designed by James Gibbs in neoclassical style, has even become pretty famous within pop culture after featuring in movies such as The Golden Compass or Young Sherlock Holmes. The library is one of the oldest in Europe and second largest in the world. So if you're in Oxford, don't miss this opportunity to walk and learn about the behind-the-scenes stories of this 'must-visit' destination by signing-up to one of the guided or self-guided tours!
Located in Baltimore, George Peabody Library fits more into the long-hall-with-high-ceiling type, and it is so beautiful that it was described as a ‘cathedral of books’. The collection ‘only’ counts about 300,000 copies, but among which are some of the most famous American authors, like Poe or Hawthorne, and even foreign authors like French philosopher Diderot. Unfortunately as of now the library is closed to the public, so you will have to postpone your visit.
Initially opened as part of the Jesuit University located in Klementinum, the Baroque library quickly grew into a renowned of education and culture, even to this day. The Baroque Library is also absolutely stunning, with ceiling frescoes, gold-and-mahogany pillars and a collection of astronomical globes and clocks. No wonder it is nicknamed ‘the Baroque pearl of Prague’, it is definitely a must see in this city as there hasn't been much change to the interior since the 18th century.
If you're planning a visit to check out the White House and various other monuments and historical buildings in Washington DC, the capital of the US, then don't forget to stop by the Library of Congress. The library holds over 171 million items and is the largest library in the world. Although tourists can visit the library, the materials can be viewed on-site, but is not available for checking out. The Thomas Jefferson Building is the home of the breathtaking 'Main Reading Room'.
The first and only library on our list to be located inside of a mall, so you certainly won't be lacking activities there! The Starfield Library in Seoul has a bit of a futuristic look, with a large glass ceiling that covers the entire main hall, and tall round bookshelves, filled with many different genres. If you're a shopper, then enjoy the stores and facilities within the COEX mall and then stop by the library! Don't forget to take a few selfies of this amazing background.
Nicknamed 'The Eye', the Tianjin Binhai Library is one of the five main attractions of the Binhai Cultural Centre, in Tianjin, China. Designed by a joint effort of both a Dutch and a local Chinese architectural firms and opened in 2017, not only the locals, but tourists stop by purely for the architectural design: the bookshelves are within the inner walls and go from the ground all the way up to the ceiling, in patterns evoking the shape of an eye. The building also has lounge areas and rooftop patios, so you have different opportunities for a good time there.
Named after Mexican writer Jose Vasconcelos, the Biblioteca Vasconcelos,inaugurated in 2006, has a unique interior architecture and decoration, with very tall shelves and see-through walls, turning your visit into an artistic experience. Art is indeed at the centre of the institution’s vision, as it also acts as a gallery for various artists, such as Gabriel Orozco's Ballena, a sculpture made from a whale skeleton.
Created by American-Norwegian and Canadian firms, the Calgary Central Library, located in Calgary, has both a smart and beautiful design: it’s oval shape and mix of clear and fritted glass make it stand out in the city centre with unique light patterns, while remaining sustainable and inspired by local ecosystems. You can book hour-long tours to learn everything about the library or simply enjoy its design while reading your favourite book.
The entire Public Library of Stuttgart is quite massive, consisting of 17 branch libraries in addition to the central one, not to mention the eLibrary and the mobile one. But the main attraction is definitely the central library, with its white staircases that form some sort of pit, surrounded by bookshelves. It is both a modern yet subtle and minimalist design, by Korean architect Eun Young Yi, and it really offers a unique scenery.
Founded upon the massive book collection of the Marquess of Mejanes after his death about 250 years ago, the Bibliothèque Méjanes located in the south of France, in Aix-en-Provence, is actually made of different buildings and a Mediabus, which brings books to people with limited access to the library. And the main entrance is quite typical, being made of three giant sized replicas of French literature classics.
As a symbol and commemoration of the legendary Library of Alexandria that was lost in Antiquity, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina aims to rekindle and represent in our modern age the spirit of brilliance that this former centre of erudition stood for. For that reason, this institution not only contains up to eight millions books, but also four museums, four art galleries and a planetarium, so you can have a full cultural experience.
With a critically acclaimed design that won many awards, such as the International Architecture Award in 2009, the Bishan Public Library is simply a little marvel. The building’s shape evokes a tree house, which is a metaphor for learning while having fun, and the iconic pods sticking out of the front glass facade are quiet individual reading spaces. You will have a pleasant and authentic experience there, as it is a local community hotspot.
21. Beitou Public Library (Taiwan)
The last entry on our list is a bit unique, because it is one of the only ‘green’ libraries in the world! Located in Beitou, Taiwan, it looks like a large treehouse, made mainly of wood and even solar panels on the roof. The entire building of the Beitou Public Library is eco-friendly and blends in with the surrounding environment, in order to offer the visitors a nice relaxing ‘forest bathing’, where they can enjoy their favorite book in the middle of nature!
These libraries definitely have some of the most impressive architectural feats, but there are many more to discover!