10 of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries

As a book lover, few things can compare to the pleasure of enjoying your book in a nice library.

And reading in one of the world’s most beautiful libraries is without doubt a very special experience.

You step in a large hall with walls and walls of books in the surrounding.

You look up the ceiling and see stunning paintings and frescos that remind you of people from generations before, people who built those shelves, who made those paintings, and who also came to read before you.

You sit at a table next to dozens of other people who are totally absorbed into their bookish world, but something in the way they quietly turn the pages that tell you they are all connected to you and to each other.

A beautiful library is like a different world. The world where knowledge, art, cultures, and peoples are in perfect harmony and tranquility. The world that while very different from your normal one, you feel completely belonged.

Let’s, together, explore the 10 most beautiful libraries in the world. Feel free to add all of them into your bucket list – I did.

1. Clementinum National Library, Czech Republic

Image courtesy of The Clementinum

The Clementinum (Klementinum in Czech), first founded in 1556, is a large building complex in Prague. It was the brainchild of some of the most prominent architects in Europe during the XVI – XVII century, including Carlo Lurago, Franz Maximilian Kanka, and Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer.

A library, the Baroque Library Hall, among other functional houses, was opened in the complex since the early time, together with a university. However, it was not until 1930 that the Clementinum became house to the National Library. Nowaday, it houses over 20,000 volumes of theological literature accumulated from the 17th century.

You can take a guided tour around the library and visit the Astronomical Tower, the Meridian Hall, and the Baroque Library Hall.

Website: http://www.klementinum.com/index.php/en/

2. Handelingenkamer, Netherlands

Image courtesy of Tweede Kamer

The Handelingenkamer is the library of the Netherland’s House of Representatives. For a long time (until the 1970s), it was under the management of the Dutch Department of Justice.

The place is where verbatim records of the proceedings and debates in the Dutch Parliament are kept. There believes to be more than 100,000 volumes of them in the library.

Built in the late 1800s, like most other buildings at the time, the Handelingenkamer was lit with candles and gas lamps. The stunning leaded glass dome ceiling is to allow natural light in during the day.

Website: https://www.houseofrepresentatives.nl/node/433

3. The Library of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Image courtesy of Diliff

The Trinity College Library was founded in 1592 as part of the school. Today, it remains the biggest library in Ireland.

The library is famous not only for its large volumes of books, journals, and other materials, but also for the rare manuscripts it holds. The most precious includes the 11-centuries-old Book of Kells, which is displayed to visitors in an exhibition together with other special manuscripts.

Visitors to the library will also be guided to the Long Room, a majestic house to 200,000 antique books.

Website: https://www.tcd.ie/library/

4. Palafoxiana Library, Mexico

Image source: Noticias del DF

The Palafoxiana dates back to 1773, when a Bishop order its construction to house the 5,000 volumes contributed to the Colegio de San Juan y San Pedro by another Bishop more than a century earlier.

The library originally had two tiers of shelves made of ayacahuite pine, cedar, and coloyote wood. Another tier was added in the 19th century, when the number of volumes had grown to 41,000.

The library was listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2005.

Website: http://en.palafoxiana.com/

5. The Admont Library in Admont, Austria

Image courtesy of Jorge Royan

The Admont Library Hall is the largest monastery library in the world. It was built in 1776 to designs by architect  Joseph Hueber, an adherent of the ideals of the Enlightenment.

The Baroque style library hall exhibits a large number of artistic works, among which are sculptures by Josef Stammel (1695 – 1765), Enlightenment-inspired frescoes by Bartolomeo Altomonte (1694 – 1783), along with 70,000 restored books and other antique manuscripts.

The library is open to visitors during working hours.

Website: http://www.stiftadmont.at/en/library/

6. George Peabody Library in Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Image courtesy of Matthew Petroff

The George Peabody Library was founded in 1857 with contributions from philanthropist George Peabody. The library building was built to the designs of Edmund G. Lind, in collaboration with the first provost, Dr. Nathaniel H. Morison.

The library now houses more than 300,000 titles, accumulated since the 18th century. It is famous for the valuable volumes of books in archaeology, art and architecture, Greek and Latin classics, among others.

Website: http://peabodyevents.library.jhu.edu/

7. Sainte-Geneviève Library, Paris, France

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Sainte-Geneviève Library was designed and constructed in the middle of the 19th century by architect Henri Labrouste. It is famous for the majestic glass and iron reading room.

The library holds an impressive 3 million volumes of various books, manuscripts, and other printed materials.

The library website, if you speak French: http://www.bsg.univ-paris3.fr/

8. Royal Portuguese Reading Room in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Image courtesy of tovima.gr

Built in the 19th century to designs of Portuguese architect Rafael da Silva, the Royal Portuguese Reading Room is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

The library’s famous reading room is surrounded by three storeys of books. On the top is a stained glass dome, which allows natural daylight to shine up the whole room.

It currently houses more than 350,000 volumes of books, including very rare manuscripts that date back to the 16th century.

Unfortunately, the website is only in Porturgese: http://www.realgabinete.com.br/portalweb/Biblioteca.aspx

9. Iowa State Capitol Law Library, Des Moines, Iowa

Source: House Beautiful

Built in the 1880s, the Iowa State Capitol Law Library is famous for its splendid iron spiral stairs, which connect the four storeys of books that surround the reading room.

It now houses more than 1.3 million volumes and microform volumes equivalent of academic law materials, making it one of the largest in the United States.

The library is open to the public during working hours (8AM to 4:30PM, Monday through Friday).

Website: http://www.statelibraryofiowa.org/services/collections/law-library

10. Abbey Library of Saint Gall, St. Gallen, Switzerland

Source: Wikipedia

The Abbey Library of Saint Gall was constructed in the middle of the 18th century under the direction of architect Peter Thumb.

It has the oldest collection in Switzerland, with some antique manuscripts dating back to more than 1000 years ago. After 12 centuries of collection, the library now holds about 160,000 volumes.

The spectacular Moroccan style library with beautiful ceiling frescos and wooden balconies was made a World Heritage in 1983.

Its baroque hall is open to public 10 AM to 5PM, weekdays and weekend alike.

Website: http://www.stibi.ch/

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2 thoughts on “10 of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries

  1. New goal in life – see all these magical libraries! 🙂

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