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11 of the World’s Most Stunningly Beautiful Libraries

Read in some of the world’s most stunning places.

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of a library may not be a “tourist destination.” It may, in fact, be “that place I owe money to” or “the place where I hung out in college pretending to study.” But, it’s time to re-train that mind.

There are unique, historical, and breathtaking libraries found in every corner of the globe, each with its own story to tell. Throughout modern history, libraries have been community centers, meeting places, and culture keepers. Because of how revered they were (and still are), little-to-no expense is spared when constructing these epicenters of society. Look closely and you’ll find intricate architectural details that pay homage to the past or subtle nods to the future. Take a brief walkthrough or find a place to curl up with a book for a few hours in some of the most beautiful libraries around the world.

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Abbey Library of Saint Gall

WHERE: St. Gallen, Switzerland

With all the bright light, staggering wood details on the railings and balconies, and painted ceilings, you may forget that the Abbey Library of Saint Gall  houses books. And some of the manuscripts and writings, too. The roots of this library extend back to the Middle Ages, although the library as it stands today was established in 1767 and shows off Baroque styling. Both public and audio tours are available, and there are a number of exhibitions that are put on during the year. It’s also the perfect place for bibliophiles to gather, as books printed before 1900 can only be read in the library’s reading room. 

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Admont Abbey Library

WHERE: Admont, Austria

Attached to the oldest monastery in Styria, Admont Abbey Library looks as if it has leaped off the pages of a storybook itself. Admont Abbey Library was created in a combination of Baroque and Gothic styles; it is adorned with wooden sculptures, gold accents, and extravagant ceiling frescos that are dedicated to the development of human understanding. It clocks in at an impressive 230 feet long and houses a collection of more than 200,000 volumes.

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The Stephen A. Schwarzman New York Public Library

WHERE: New York, New York, USA

While the New York Public Library has several buildings, the Stephen A. Schwarzman building is certainly the most impressive. Greeted by two lion statues, a sense of wonder only grows more intense as one walks in. Marble walls, frescos, and opulent lighting fixtures remind one of  the gilded grandeur of New York City. Collections here include art, multimedia, manuscripts, and rare books, so whether you’re just visiting or settling in for some heavy-duty research, this library is the perfect place for a treasure hunt.

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The George Peabody Library

WHERE: Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Part of Johns Hopkins and located on its Mount Vernon campus, this library is a “must-see” on any visit to Baltimore. Housing more than 300,000 volumes, the George Peabody Library is truly regal. Opened in 1878, the stack room contains five tiers of cast-iron balconies that rise more than 60 feet.

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Handelingenkamer Library

WHERE: The Hague, Netherlands

The Old Library of the Dutch Parlament, Handelingenkamer Library, was built at the end of the 19th century. A stunning, domed-glass ceiling was designed to let the maximum amount of light in, permeating down all four stories. Ornamental balustrades form the railings while open-style cast iron balconies done in red add charm to this library, while the rows of bound books give it a classic appeal.  

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Royal Portuguese Reading Room

WHERE: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Located in the city center, the Royal Portuguese Reading Room in Rio de Janeiro contains the largest collection of Portuguese texts outside of the country itself. The limestone exterior is bestowed with states of Portuguese explorers, like Vasco de Gama and Pedro Alvares Cabral; however, inside is the real gem. Dark wood arches, stained glass windows, and blue hues make this library look like a royal palace.

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Strahov Library

WHERE: Prague, Czech Republic

Said to be one of the best-preserved historical libraries, Strahov Library contains more than 200,000 volumes. Carved wooden cartouches with images indicating book categories and ornate Biblical frescos by Siard Nosecký and Anton Maulbertsch are just some of the ornamental touches that make this library breathtaking. This Baroque-style library is also close to Prague Castle, making it an easy pop-in while sightseeing.

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Tianjin Binhai Library

WHERE: Tianjin, China

The most modern library on this list, having only opened in 2017, the Tianjin Binhai Library is a wonder. Named one of Time’s World’s Greatist Places, this library is 363,000 square feet of terraced shelves that range from the floor to the ceiling surrounding a center auditorium. With room for 1.2 million books and five stories, the full glass facades are designed to include natural space, connecting the library to the adjoining park.

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Trinity College Old Library

WHERE: Dublin, Ireland

Like a scene from Harry Potter, the Trinity College Old Library is a sight to behold – especially what is dubbed The Long Room. With more than 200,000 of the library’s oldest texts, the amount of books isn’t the only thing that’s meant to impress. The Long Room is more than 210 feet long and contains 14 marble busts, dark wooden arches, and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. It also houses one of the last remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, as well as other national treasures, in its two stories.

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University Library of Bologna

WHERE: Bologna, Italy

When World War II hit, many were afraid the manuscripts in this historic library would be lost forever if they stayed in the city center. Unfortunately, the library itself was bombed, but the texts survived as they were taken out of the library and were hidden in the countryside. Now, the University Library of Bologna has a collection of both those antiques as well as modern manuscripts that make their home in this space of traditional Italian construction and design. With dark wood balconies accented by marble columns, this library houses more than 1.25 million volumes and an art collection with more than 400 portraits. It has been deemed one of the most important libraries in the country.

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Wiblingen Monastery Library

WHERE: Ulm, Germany

Bright and light, resembling more of a ballroom than a library, Wiblinggen Monastery Library thrives in its Rococo-style architecture. This two-story library is home to spectacular frescos, marbleized stucco columns, and entrance doors that were painted to look like marquetry. Eight statues carved from wood and given a marble finish adorn the bottom floor. As for texts, there are only a few of the original remaining, as many of these were stolen during the Napoleonic Wars.