Is a city only as good as its libraries? Some would probably say no, but even Albert Einstein once said, “The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” From the historical cathedrals of Portugal to the modern lines of the Seattle Public Library, here are 25 amazing libraries throughout the world you should create a trip around.
Is a city only as good as its libraries? Some would probably say no, but even Albert Einstein once said, “The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” From the historical cathedrals of Portugal to the modern lines of the Seattle Public Library, here are 25 amazing libraries throughout the world you should start planning a trip around.
Bodleian Library, Oxford U.K.
The main research library of the prestigious University of Oxford, the Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, dating back to 1602. It is known to Oxford scholars as “Bodley” or simply “the Bod”, and has over 11 million items in it.
The City Library, Stuttgart, Germany
It’s all about design with this library in Stuttgart, Germany. Completed in 2011, Korean architect Eun Young Yi’s proposal was selected from almost 300 entries as the plan for the new central library. The library is essentially a monolithic cube with just two floors underground and nine above, and its decor and walls are mostly all white.
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney Australia
As the oldest institution of its kind in Australia, the State Library of New South Wales has been around since 1826. The main reading room has giant skylights that fill the room with light and bookshelves that take up the walls entirely. It has over 5 million items in it so you’ll need to cozy up in a comfy chair somewhere and take it all in.
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology Library, Galway, Ireland
This eco-friendly library in Galway, Ireland was designed by Dublin architects de Blacam & Meager. The sails on the exterior allow daylight to come in but still shield the inside from too much sun. The building doesn’t require a climate control system because of this feature. With 600 reader spaces, this progressive building is one of the most striking library buildings in the world.
Suzzallo Library, Seattle, Washington
Wizards and ghosts have dined at the Suzzalo Library in Seattle, well at least in Harry Potter’s world. The film franchise filmed it’s great hall dinner scenes here, and it’s easily the most recognizable building on the University of Washington’s campus. European gothic design was the focus of architects Charles H. Bebb and Carl F. Gould for the library.
Vennesla Library, Vennesla, Norway
Completed in 2011, the Vennesla Library has been acclaimed for its architecture and has won several awards for its design. The sophisticated elegance of the library inside and out makes it a must-see in Vennesla, Norway.
Seattle Central Library, Seattle, Washington
As far as libraries in the United States go, the Seattle Public Library is one of the most striking and interesting to explore and take in. Its geometric design strongly stands out in this Pacific Northwestern city, and its 11 floors are all consistently transparent. There are more than 1.5 million documents in the building as well as 400 computers for public usage.
Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, Chicago, Illinois
Given the nickname “the egg”, the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago plunges 55 feet underground and has space for 3.5 million volumes inside it. Murphy/Jahn Architects came up with the innovative idea in an effort to fit the library into a crowded campus. A visit to Chicago should include a stop at this library.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt
There’s not too many libraries that can claim to be on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, but the striking Bibliotheca Alexandria in Egypt is one of them and remains as a cultural center for Alexandria. With a blend of expressionism and contemporary, the library still exudes the culture of ancient Egypt. Inside there are four museums, numerous art galleries and even a planetarium.
The Iowa State Law Library, Des Moines, Iowa
Getting lost in a library sounds like a really good idea when you’re looking at the Iowa State Law Library. With movie-like spiral staircases, marble floors, chanedliers and an astute attention to design details, the intelligent atmosphere is contagious. Next thing you know you’ll be pouring over books and documents you would have never touched before—the power of a sexy library.
Biblioteca Real Gabinete Portugues De Leitura, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
There are reading rooms, and then there are reading rooms like the one at this library in Rio De Janerio, Brazil. The library was completed in 1887 and hosts some of the rarest books from centuries past. The richly decorated interior and dark wood features make the library an instant classic. Rio might be known for its beaches but, this is a library that makes even warm white sand an afterthought.
The Joanina Library, Coimbra, Portugal
This historic Portugal library is the Baroque library of the University of Coimbra. Built in the 18th century during the reign of the Portuguese King João V, the entrance door even has the national coat of arms above it. This is the library to go to you if you want to mainly find works of medicine, geography, history, humanistic studies, science, civil and canon law, philosophy and theology.
Mediatheque Sandro Penna, Perugia, Italy
The Mediatheque Sandro Penna library is a stark contrast to it’s classic Italian surroundings. The spaceship-like building with it’s pink exterior glass actually glows at night, and Milan-based architects Studio Italo Rota are the Italian brains behind the design. The building is a tribute to Perugia-born poet Sandro Penna, whose writings line the see-through panels at the building’s entrance.
The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, New Haven, Connecticut
This mesmorizing space is apart of the rare book library and literary archive at Yale University Libraries. The library even has a permanent display of the Gutenberg Bible, and consistently has exhibits featuring its rare documents and literary works.
George Peabody Library, Baltimore, Maryland
I would hardly mind writing papers and cramming for finals in the Greek-revival style George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. There is a collection of almost 300,000 volumes of documents and books, but who would care trying to find anything in the reading room with an atrium that’s 61 feet in the air.
The Admont Abbey Library, Admont, Austria
You’ll find the Admont Abbey Library in a Benedictine monastery on the Enns River in Austria. It contains the second largest monastic library in the world, and is known for its scientific collection and Baroque architecture, art and manuscripts. The library’s great hall was completed in 1776 and was done by architect Joseph Hueber.
National Library of Sejong City, Sejong, South Korea
Architect Samoo Architects & Engineers completed this library in Sejong City in 2013, and creates an interesting outline involving simple geometry that has easily become one of the landmark buildings of Sejong City. One of the main purposes for the library was to converge both analogue and digital formats for the ease of the user. The library is a must-see if you’re planning a trip to South Korea.
Stephen A. Schwarman Building, New York, New York
The frequent site of famous celebrity weddings and Hollywood films, the Stephen A. Schwarman Building is apart of the New York Public Library and should be on a priority list of places to visit while in NYC. You’ll probably get lost in the building but believe me, you won’t mind—you’ll be among some 15 million items. Some of these items include medieval manuscripts, Japanese scrolls, comic books, classic poetry and historic novels.
The Clementinum National Library Prague, Prague, Czech Republic
Breathtaking isn’t a good enough word for The Clementinum National Library in Prague. It has roots dating back to the 11th century, and has touches of gold within its spiral pillars. Which makes sense, considering it is described as “the Baroque pearl of Prague.“ Exploring this classic library will bring you to another time and place entirely.
Asconcelos Library, Mexico City, Mexico
The futuristic looking Asconcelos Library in Mexico City was designed by local architect Alberto Kalach, and puts the city’s architecture on the map. The library is a whopping 409,000 square foot, and has also been integrated with a botanical garden. The building also features some of Mexico City’s most famous artists—including a sculpture from Gabriel Orozco.
National Library of France, Paris, France
The National Library of France can trace its origin all the way back to the royal library, which was founded in 1368 at the Louvre Palace by Charles V. Most cultural sites in Paris are classic and historic in nature—but the National Library of France is the pinnacle of Parisian culture. You’ll be able to browse for literally forever if you want—the library has more than 30 million items.
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
If you haven’t been or don’t plan on going to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, you’re doing it all wrong in the library world. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States, and serves as the official research library for the United States Congress. You’ll really feel like you’re apart of American history strutting down these halls.
Austrian National Library, Wien, Austria
Even though most go to Austria to enjoy skiing its snow capped mountains, you’ll want to consider visiting the Austrian National Library, which dates back to the Middle Ages. With 7.4 million items in its collections, it’s the largest library in Austria. And it’s located in the Homburg Palance, where you might even catch a glimpse of the President of Austria.
Tama Art University Library, Tokyo, Japan
Tama Art University in Tokyo received an incredible new addition in 2007 after local architects Toyo Ito & Associates designed a library for the university. The building’s iconic steel and concrete arches are what make this library so unique, and they provide the perfect place for students to study, browse books and enjoy music.
Wiblingen Abbey Library, Ulm, Germany
The ceiling paintings in the Wiblingen Abbey Library in Ulm, Germany make it a library you need to see at least once in your life. Franz Martin Kühn was the artist behind the ceiling paintings that sit above a classically decorated interior that was designed by Christian Wiedemann. The space was completed in 1744, and remains as one of the most beautiful libraries throughout the world.